Criminal justice is the study of the systems that uphold peace by preventing, lessening, and solving crime. Individuals who major in criminal justice will learn about law enforcement, correctional processes, criminal rehabilitation, and the courts. Potential criminal justice majors should have an interest in learning about the human mind, as criminal justice majors dedicate much of their studies to understanding the causes behind criminal behavior. It is also likely that criminal justice majors will be exposed to the technology involved in data collection, computer forensics, and criminal registration; technical knowledge is therefore encouraged within the field. Most importantly, criminal justice majors should be dedicated to their field of study and be prepared to uphold citizen safety.
Classes and Assignments of a Criminal Justice Major
Whether you choose to earn online degrees or traditional degrees, the criminal justice curriculum with involve the study of criminal behavior, law, and ethics. Classes will likely include criminology, ethics, restorative justice, correctional practices, criminology, victimology, and social theory. Assignments will involve reading textbooks, writing papers, and conducting research into the field of criminal justice. Students may also be required to gain practical experience through internships and practicums at local police departments and correctional facilities.
Degree Levels for a Criminal Justice Major
- Associate. Online associate criminal justice degrees balance general education classes with specific criminal justice course work. Students will learn the basics of the criminal justice system and will be prepared to break into the career field, or to use this education as a foundation upon which they can build their future educational pursuits, like becoming a detective or a high-ranking official within the correctional system.
- Bachelor’s. Online bachelors criminal justice degrees are typically more in-depth than they are at the associate degree level. Bachelor’s degrees still balance the criminal justice curriculum with general education courses; however, the major-specific classes study criminology, the courts, laws, and other related topics in greater detail. This degree level targets future detectives, legal assistants, and law enforcement officers.
- Master’s. Because students earn their online masters criminal justice degrees after acquiring bachelor’s degrees, the master’s degree curriculum does not include general education classes. Rather, master’s degree criminal justice classes focus specifically on major course work, allowing students to gain a fuller understanding of criminal behavior and correctional practices.
- Doctoral. At the doctoral level, students enrolled in criminal justice programs are prepared for a future in academia. Doctoral graduates can teach at the college level, write for journals and periodicals, and conduct research on criminal actions and rehabilitation. The classes at this level are very in depth, and doctoral candidates usually write a dissertation, which is a thorough research paper, over a topic in the field of criminal justice prior to graduating.
A Future as a Criminal Justice Major
The most useful college degrees in criminal justice will prepare students for careers in a variety of law enforcement and correctional fields. One such position is that of a police officer or detective, a job which boasts a favorable outlook, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Career options do not stop there, however; graduates can also pursue careers as correctional officers, positions that average $45,910 annually and project an excellent job outlook, according to the BLS. Graduates can become private detectives as well, with the salary average of that career coming in at $41,760 yearly.
Finally, students who enjoy criminal justice but do not wish to work as detectives or officers can pursue careers as legal assistants, positions which require knowledge of the courts and judicial systems. According to the BLS, legal assistants earn $46,120 annually. However, keep in mind that these numbers are not set in stone. Salaries depend on location, employer, and experience, and vary accordingly.