Criminal justice is the study of the laws associated with criminal behavior. Many people who work in law enforcement, social services, or the legal system study criminal justice. Like any degree program, there are several academic levels of criminal justice. From a certificate to an associate, bachelor, master or even PhD program, the field provides a broad range of degrees depending on your particular educational goals.
Certificate of Criminal Justice
Since criminal justice is a fast growing career field, many students new to the field choose to start out with a Certificate of Criminal Justice. Other people currently working in criminal justice have been known to get a certificate to further distinguish themselves in their career. A certificate program may provide an educational foundation in subjects like legal processes, societal problems, criminal deviance, criminology, justice, police and law enforcement operations, incarceration, victimization and juvenile justice.
Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
The next educational step after a certificate, an Associate of Science in Criminal Justice is a good entry-level degree for people interested in breaking into the criminal justice field. Associate programs are generally two years long and may focus on juvenile justice, parole and probation practices, policing, corrections, security, crime analysis, justice management, critical-thinking, forensic science and communication skills. Having an associate’s degree is a good way to differentiate yourself from other police cadets who may only have a high school diploma.
Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
A Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice is a four-year degree program designed to teach students the knowledge and skills they need to work in social services, homeland security, the justice system, law enforcement, or a corrections department. By combining modern theory on the causes, consequences and frequency of crime, a bachelor degree in criminal justice can give students a solid professional foundation. The bachelor program can also compares and contrasts national and international criminal laws and protocols. A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can help students to improve communication and teamwork, analysis and research ability, and also teach civic engagement, social justice and international awareness.
Master of Criminal Justice
Like many fields, the field of criminal justice is rapidly evolving thanks to technological advances and quickly changing global events. A master degree is a post-graduate degree that is popular with working law enforcement officers who often use the degree to distinguish themselves from other officers. Criminal justice professionals with a master’s degree have a strong understanding of practical areas like law enforcement protocols as well as legal, sociological, theoretical and psychological trends in criminal justice. A master level degree in criminal justice may help criminal justice professionals to advance in their career. Besides a foundation of advanced criminal justice theory, the master’s degree can also help to teach leadership in the field of criminal justice.
Doctorate (PhD) in Criminal Justice
A PhD in Criminal Justice is the most advanced criminal justice degree available. A criminal justice PhD can be the final educational achievement for a dedicated criminal justice professional. People who pursue the PhD program usually have a community leadership role within the local, state or national federal justice system. As a highly intensive program, the doctoral level of study focuses on residencies, research and analysis that involve public policy development, penal system administration, and criminal behavior prevention.