Individuals interested in working in the legal or law enforcement fields often wonder how long it takes to complete a degree in criminal justice. The good news is that the field of criminal justice offers programs at several degree levels. Depending on what type of job the individual chooses, he or she can be ready for employment in anywhere from two to six years. Criminal justice careers are either legal or law enforcement, which offers a multitude of career choices.
Various Degree Options in Criminal Justice
Individuals interested in earning degrees in criminal justice have several degree levels from which to choose.
- Associate Degree – Associate degree programs take two years two complete and are found at community colleges and technical schools.
- Bachelor’s Degree – Bachelor’s degree programs take four years to complete and are usually found at colleges and universities.
- Master’s Degree – Master’s degree programs take two years beyond the bachelor’s degree program and are found at colleges and universities.
- Doctoral Degree – Doctoral degrees take one to two years beyond the master’s degree and are found at colleges and universities.
It’s also possible for students to earn a degree in criminal justice through distance learning. Many of the courses can be completed online, and the student completes a supervised internship in the field.
Associate Degrees in Criminal Justice
There are several associate degree in criminal justice programs available for those who want to join the field without being in college for several years. Here are some possible careers a criminal justice student can obtain after only two years of study.
- Corrections officer
- Private investigator
- Fish and game warden
- Fire inspector and investigator
- Crime scene technician
- Police dispatch
- Security officer
Bachelor’s Degrees in Criminal Justice
Individuals who choose to complete a baccalaureate degree can choose from the programs offered at the associate’s degree level as well as several more. They are in school a little longer but are putting themselves in positions to earn higher wages and find a wider variety of career options.
- Probation officer
- Correction officer
- Trainer or teacher
- State and federal courts
- Private security
- Social services
- Paralegal/legal assistant
- Compliance Manager
U.S. News & World Report states many criminal justice students choose online bachelor’s degree programs because it allows them to continue working while earning the degree.
Graduate Degrees in Criminal Justice
Graduate degrees in criminal justice may be in the form of master’s or doctoral degrees. Students in these programs can expect to spend from six to eight years or more in college. However, when they have completed all their studies and training, the sky is the limit so to speak. They’ll be qualified for almost any position within the area of criminal justice.
- Correctional officer supervisor
- Police and detective supervisor
- Forensic psychologist
- Criminal profiler
- Attorney general investigator
- District attorney
- Forensic examiner
- Supervisory criminal investigator
Master’s degree programs are also very popular as online programs because most of the main courses required have been completed at the baccalaureate level. At this point in the student’s career, he or she is often seeking a specific area of specialization.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted a 9 percent job growth for legal occupations and a 5 percent growth for protective service occupations between 2016 and 2026. Few things are as rewarding as knowing you’re helping others while keeping your community as free from crime as possible. With criminal justice careers having such a positive career outlook, more and more individuals are choosing to earn degrees in criminal justice.