Criminal Justice Degree

Getting a criminal justice degree is an entry point to a career, a step-up in a field you are already a part of, or a way to skip past some work experience requirements in certain jobs. There are many options for degrees, from associate’s to graduate and professional degrees, and you can find these degrees at a local campus or 100% online.

Associate’s Degrees

An associate degree in criminal justice is for those looking to enhance their skill set, get an entry-level position into law enforcement or somewhere in the criminal justice field, or gain access to extra pay. In an associate degree, you will have to take courses in general education such as English and Math, and you will also get exposure to courses relating to the criminal justice system such as Criminal Law and the Juvenile Justice System.

Bachelor’s Degrees

A bachelor’s degree is the next step in education for those looking to work in the criminal justice field. In fact, many positions, such as Border Patrol Agent or Level 1 Correctional Officers only need a four-year degree – they don’t even specify the type. However, a bachelor’s in criminal justice will better prepare you for the work you will be doing. With a bachelor’s degree, you will often have enough credits to add a specialization, and these can be things like Juvenile Justice, Forensic Psychology or Homeland Security.

Master’s Degrees

A master’s degree is typically what’s required for higher-level positions, certain pay grades within the government and many federal positions, including some work with the FBI. Some master’s degree curriculum includes advanced coursework in Advanced Criminological Theory, Law and Social Control and Criminal Justice Ethics and Decision Making. The graduate-level coursework includes about 10 courses and can be taken online in many cases, or through campus programs.

PhD in Criminal Justice

The demand for well-educated criminal justice professionals is higher than ever before, according to the Department for Homeland Security. If you are looking for a terminal degree in criminal justice, then a PhD (doctorate) in Criminal Justice is for you. You’ll learn advanced topics like Global Leadership and Justice Administration, and you’ll do a thesis and dissertation in topics relating to the world of criminal justice and the administration of justice.

What degree do I need to work in criminal justice?

We took a look at job boards and government websites at jobs from California to New York and Washington D.C. to see what degrees were required for various roles in the criminal justice field. Here’s a summary of what we found:

Border Patrol Agent – need a four-year degree in any subject to qualify for a GL-5 pay grade level.

Correctional Officer – Entry level corrections officers typically need a high school diploma. Level 1 officers need a bachelor’s degree and Level 2 need a master’s degree. Federal officers need a bachelor’s degree.

CSI – Bachelor’s degree preferred accredited by the CHEA and recognized by the Department of Education

Fish and Game Warden – Bachelor’s degree preferably in Fish and Wildlife Biology, Outdoor Recreation, Criminal Justice, or Park Management.

Background Investigator – Clearance required, plus military experience and a bachelor’s degree (non-specific).

Bailiff – High school diploma or GED plus one year of clerical experience. Can substitute clerical experience with higher level of education.

Computer Forensic Specialist – Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Engineering, or related, or equivalent technical experience.

Counterintelligence Analyst – Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution required.

Counterintelligence Officer – Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. A master’s degree is preferred.

Counterintelligence Subject Matter Expert – Minimum of a bachelor’s degree required.

Sr. Counterintelligence Officer – Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. An advanced degree is more desirable.

Crime Scene Investigator/Supervisor – Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college with major studies in criminal justice, forensic science, or other areas with instruction in management or supervision.

Crime Scene Specialist – Bachelor’s degree in criminalistics, forensic science or police science is preferred.

Criminal Justice Advocates – Bachelor’s degree required.

Customs Officer – A bachelor’s degree or successful completion of a full 4-year course of study in any field leading to a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university; GS-5 qualification.

Evidence Technician – Bachelor’s degree (non-specific).

Forensic Accountant – Hold a Bachelor’s and/or Master’s degree in Accounting or a related field, such as Finance, Forensic Accounting or Business Administration including 24 semester hours in Accounting.

Forensic Examiner – Bachelor’s in Information Science, Mathematics, Computer Forensics or related.

Forensic Identification Specialist – Graduation from an accredited college with a bachelor’s degree in criminalistics, police science, or a related field.

ICE Agent – some roles require a bachelor’s degree. Read job descriptions on USAJOBS carefully.

Insurance Fraud Specialist – Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college, preferred majors include administration of justice, criminal justice, criminology, psychology, sociology, accounting, finance, business administration, economics, or a related field.

Intelligence Analyst – Bachelor’s degree with 8-12 years of experience or master’s degree with 6-10 years of experience.

Intelligence Analyst (Junior level) Top Secret – Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.

Deputy Sheriff – Varies – some require an associate’s or 90 credits, some a bachelor’s in law enforcement, criminal justice or a closely related field.

Paralegal III – Paralegal certificate

Police Officer – can be hired without a degree in some areas but most departments offer pay incentives for a bachelor’s or master’s.

Personnel Security Specialist (PSS) – Grade 4 – Advanced degree in any field of study.

FBI Special Agent – Bachelor’s degree required.

Fingerprint Analyst (Latent Print Examiner) – Bachelor’s or master’s degree plus work experience and Latent Print certification.

DNA Analyst – Bachelor’s or better in Biology or related field.

Homicide Detective – Associate’s or bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.

Narcotics Officer – Bachelor’s or better or equivalent work experience.

Probation Officer – Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college in criminal justice, criminology, psychology, human relations, public administration, or sociology.

Public Defender Investigator – Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in Criminal Justice, Criminology, Forensics, or a closely related field such as Political Science, Sociology, Psychology or Journalism.

Public Safety Communications Officer – Bachelor’s degree in Criminology, Criminal Justice or Risk Management, with 5 + years of progressive claims or criminal investigation experience.

Secret Service Agent/Protective Service Specialist – Bachelor’s degree required.

Senior Desk Officer – Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited university or college. An Advanced Degree in relevant technical field is preferred.

Security Agent – High School Diploma or GED

Senior SIU Investigator – Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, Criminology, or Risk Management, with 5 years or more of progressive claims or criminal investigation experience.

State Trooper – Associate’s or higher.

Transportation Security Officer – High school diploma or GED plus work experience.

Victim Advocate I/II – Relevant coursework in social or behavioral science, criminology, or public administration.

FAQ

Is a criminal justice degree worth it?
People who are looking for a criminal justice degree are going to ask the question – is it worth it? Getting a degree costs both money and time, and those are important considerations when it comes to making the decision to go back to school. It is crucial that the degree earned helps get you a better position. Luckily, a quick look at top salaries of many jobs in criminal justice will help you make your decision. There are a lot of jobs with starting salaries from $55,000 to $130,000 – and these go up from there based on how much education you have, your level of experience or complexity of the job.
Do all careers require a degree?
Not all careers in criminal justice require a degree, but most do, and the higher pay grades and the better paying jobs do, as you can see by our degree review above. If you want to fast-track out of some of the work experience requirements of some of the jobs, then a degree is a great way to do that.
Do all careers require a degree?
Not all careers in criminal justice require a degree, but most do, and the higher pay grades and the better paying jobs do, as you can see by our degree review above. If you want to fast-track out of some of the work experience requirements of some of the jobs, then a degree is a great way to do that.
Should I get my criminal justice degree online?
The great news about online degrees is that no one will know how you earned your degree – that is – your degree doesn’t say ‘online’ on it when you are through. If you are a working person, then an online learning modality may be your best option. You can take classes and study and still fit in your work and family life. Don’t worry – you will still be busy – and have access to the same instructors and coursework that your campus counterparts have.
How long does a degree in criminal justice degree take?
How long a degree takes depends a few factors: how many credits you will transfer in to the program, if you can fast-track the coursework or double up on classes, and how long the program is. An associate degree is typically two years or less if you attend full-time, while a bachelor’s is four years if you are not transferring in any credits. A master’s degree can be anywhere from one to two years, and a PhD can be two years or more depending on your program and your dissertation. A lot of how long a program takes depends on you – do you stay in school, take breaks, or continue on no matter what. Before you know it, you can have your degree in your hands!