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A criminal justice degree is awarded to a student who studies the field of criminology, or the study of various aspects of crime. Criminal justice can be a rewarding field, and allows individuals to work in areas of law enforcement and justice. However, criminology has various applications beyond law enforcement, as students can apply their knowledge to a variety of careers and fields.
There are a number of reasons why an individual would pursue a criminal justice degree. Many obtain degrees to become qualified for a specialized career, or an upper management position. Others pursue degrees in order to educate themselves on how the justice system works, or as a supplement to their careers. Finally, a criminal justice degree can give students valuable skills in critical reasoning and communication and the option to pursue higher education in criminal justice.
What can you do with a Criminal Justice Degree
One common misconception is that a criminal justice degree is suited only for individuals who are looking to enter law enforcement. However, a criminal justice degree can allow an individual to pursue a variety of careers and specializations in criminology and justice. Depending on your coursework and field of study, you can pursue a career in law enforcement or obtain specialized positions in forensics, criminology or penology. In addition, a criminal justice degree can also prepare students for careers in law, private investigation, and corrections. Individuals with criminal justice degrees can also work for government and non-profit organizations, in fields ranging from criminal justice, national security and terrorism management.
Types of Criminal Justice Degrees
Certificate: Individuals who want to enter criminal justice, but don’t have extensive time and money can choose to obtain certification. A certificate allows students to train and apply for specific jobs, build up their resume and provide motivation to pursue a higher degree.
Associate’s Degree: Associate’s criminal justice degrees typically require two years to complete, and provides students with fundamental and technical skills to pursue a career in criminal justice. Because many law enforcement agencies and departments require a minimum education requirement, this degree is a valuable option for many looking to enter the field.
Bachelor’s Degree: Bachelor’s degrees are generally obtained in two to four years, and provide students with a thorough knowledge of the criminal justice field. Though an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree roughly cover the same range of topics, the courses required for a bachelor’s degree are more comprehensive. For many criminal justice professions, a bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement needed to enter the field.
Master’s Degree: A master’s criminal justice degree allows a student to pursue a specialized topic of criminal justice as a field of study. Many people who obtain a master’s criminal justice degree apply for upper management positions or become instructors and social workers.
Doctoral Degree: Obtaining a doctoral criminal justice degree is a lengthy process and requires a great deal of commitment; however, the benefits of a doctoral degree can be tremendous. Typically, those who complete a doctoral criminal justice degree can pursue careers in criminal justice education, or executive positions in law enforcement and government.
Obtaining a criminal justice degree provides you with a range of options in the law enforcement field. There are different types of criminal justice programs available, some of which include a certificate program, associate's degree program and bachelor's degree program. Each level provides you with a different depth of training, which determines the position you are eligible to apply for.
A degree in criminal justice provides you with the option to enter into law enforcement at the local, state and federal level, as well as the option to work in the private sector with insurance companies and private detectives. Other areas you are able to work in include the Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, narcotics bureaus, the sheriff's department, the Food and Drug Administration and the Immigrations and Naturalization Service.
Specialize your education even further by enrolling in a degree program that trains you to become a crime scene investigator, or to work in terrorism or security management. Additionally, if you are interested in becoming a criminal lawyer, you can enter into law school after obtaining your undergraduate degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wages of police officers in May 2008 was $51,410.
For more information on obtaining a criminal justice degree, refer to the links on this Business.com page.
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