The exciting worlds of law enforcement, homeland security, crime scene investigation, and corrections are just a degree away. With a criminal justice degree at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral level, the door is open to a number of diverse fields based in law enforcement. These degrees are consistently in high demand, as governments continue to invest in national and local security. Employment of police and detectives, for instance, is expected to grow 10% over the 2008-2018 decade due to population growth, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because of the technical and intellectual skill required of the work, earning a degree from an accredited college or university can help those seeking to enter the industry qualify for the best criminal justice careers.
When entering a criminal justice program, course work can include communications, management, criminology, and basic law, depending on the level of degree and focus. An associate degree in criminal justice will offer basic courses in policing, security, and juvenile justice, while a bachelor’s degree in homeland security will offer courses in emergency planning and communications. A master’s degree could lead to further specialization in such fields as forensic science, law enforcement, criminology, corrections, and homeland security.
Not all careers in the criminal justice field require advanced education. A high school diploma may be the minimum requirement for many police and security careers. However, most jobs at the federal or state level require at least a bachelor’s degree. Work as a probation officer or correctional treatment specialist, for instance, usually requires a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, social work, or psychology, according to the BLS. Those interested in private investigation would also benefit from a degree in criminal justice. A master’s degree in criminal justice could lead to advancement opportunities and higher pay in the field.
A degree in criminal justice provides graduates with a thorough understanding of the criminal justice system, as well as strong communication and analytical skills. For certain jobs at the federal level, such as homeland security, knowledge of a foreign language often will also be required.
When choosing the criminal justice program that’s right for you, the first thing you should look into is the school’s accreditation. Secondly, check for the possibility of internship opportunities, as programs that offer hands-on training can give you a better idea of the realities of the criminal justice career field. Not all programs offer the same concentrations, so make sure your area of interest will be covered as well.
When we decided to rank the best colleges online, we strove to use a method and formula that would produce the most objective and fair results possible. All of our data is quantified and taken from authoritative and reliable sources, such as the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator tool, the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs, and the official websites of the schools included in these rankings.
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