Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice

A Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice would prepare students to take on advanced career roles in the field of law enforcement. Criminal justice professionals are responsible for investigating, preventing and studying crime to be able to protect communities from security threats and unlawful activities.

If you want to learn more about a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, requirements for its completion and what you can do with it, the following guide will provide you with all the information you need. Here, you can gain insight into the structure of the program, concentrations available, curriculum and potential career options for graduates of this degree.

What is a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice?

Criminal Justice degrees are designed to help students identify patterns of crime and illegal activity in society. Students typically take courses in forensic science, criminology, psychology and sociology. Some degrees might also have practical components or internship requirements.

Most bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice are offered through traditional, on-campus classes. However, many institutes are now beginning to offer online or hybrid study formats as well. An online degree in criminal justice gives students the flexibility of completing courses from a remote location.

Graduates of a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice are prepared to take up jobs in a number of sectors, such as criminal advocacy companies, law enforcement agencies, government, public policy and social work. Recent developments in the field of crime have given rise to the importance of career fields in cyber security, forensic anthropology, computer forensics and global and domestic terrorism.

Concentration Options with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice

Even though criminal justice is typically offered as a concentration within other degrees such as sociology, psychology or political science, there are several specialization options available within the degree itself. These concentrations are designed to offer specialized training and skills to students to prepare them for a variety of careers. Let’s take a look at some of the concentration options available with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice:

  • Criminology and Crime Analysis
  • Cyber Security
  • Law and Society
  • Homeland Security

Curriculum of a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice

A Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice would expose students to a vast variety of law enforcement courses in a span of 4 years. Students will be required to complete several core courses along with fulfilling requirements for elective courses. Typical courses in most bachelor-level programs in criminal justice would include:

  • Research Methods:  Courses in research methods cover different ways of research for criminology statistics. Students will learn about statistics, data collection, data reporting and the use of advanced statistical analysis tools.
  • Criminology: Coursework in criminology would cover foundational topics such as theories and criminal behavior.
  • Deviant Behavior: Understanding criminal minds and what affects the behavior patterns of criminals is an important part of a criminal justice degree. Students may be given an in-depth understanding of factors such as substance abuse and self-destructive behaviors that may lead to criminal outcomes for the community.
  • Juvenile Justice: This is an important part of the field of criminal justice and will cover issues relating to crime in the younger age demographic.

How Long Does it Take to Complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice?

A Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice would typically take around 4 years of full time study, with an average of 15 credits per semester. Students may have the option of taking more than 15 credits in one semester, however, universities often limit the number of credit hours that can be completed in one semester.

The length of time a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice would take will also depend on factors such as the program format. For instance, if you are enrolled in a part-time program, it will take you longer than 4 years to complete the degree. Similarly, if you are enrolled in an online program, the length of time required to complete all modules might be more than a traditional degree format.

Accreditation for a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Degree

Accreditation is one of the most important factors that students need to consider when looking for a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Accredited programs are considered to be at par with the industry’s education quality requirements. Accreditation is also required if the student intends to apply for federal financial aid.

There are several accrediting agencies for criminal justice programs, identified by the Council for Higher Education (CHEA) and the Department of Education. Agencies such as the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (MWCCU) and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) are some of the common names students might come across when looking into accreditation information for universities. Programs in criminal justice are typically accredited by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS).

Licensure and Certification Requirements for Criminology Graduates

Criminologists are not typically required to hold a license to practice. However, several careers in this field require additional training and certifications. For instance, police officers and forensic science technicians typically require specific training and qualifications even after the completion of a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related science. Several certifications are offered by the American Board of Criminalistics. Let’s take a look at some of the certification options available for criminal justice graduates:

  • Comprehensive Criminalistics (CC)
  • Molecular Biology (MB)
  • Paint and Polymer (PP)
  • Fire Debris Analysis (FD)
  • Drug Analysis (DA)
  • Hair and Fiber (HF)

Careers with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice

After the completion of a four-year long bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, students can go for a vast number of careers in law enforcement. Many criminologists find work in government organizations or universities where research is conducted on the causes and effects of criminal activities in different communities. Students with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminalistics may be able to find work as Digital Forensic Analysts, Criminologists or Forensic Science Technicians. However, those who want to go for more advanced roles, such as a Forensic Medical Examiner or a Forensic Psychologist, will need at least a master’s or a doctoral degree in a field related to criminal justice.

How much can I Earn with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice?

The amount of money you make after a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice would depend on the career path you take. Let’s take a quick look at some of the most popular careers in the field of law enforcement and criminal justice.

Detectives and Criminal Investigators

Police officers, criminal investigators and detectives perform a wide range of activities such as responding to emergency calls, obtaining and serving warrants for arrests and searches and collecting and securing evidence from the crime scenes. In addition to that, they also arrest people and write detailed reports about the investigation process.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Detectives and Criminal Investigators made an annual mean income of $89,300 in May 2020. The top paying state for this occupation was Alaska, paying an annual mean wage of $126,340 in May 2020, while the top paying industry was the BLS category Federal Executive Branch, which included a wide variety of careers.

Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers

Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers are responsible for maintaining law and order in communities by enforcing local, state and federal laws across their jurisdiction. These professionals perform a variety of duties, such as patrolling specific areas, directing traffic, investigating criminal incidents and traffic accidents, serving legal processes of the court etc.

According to the latest data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers made an annual mean income of $70,000 in May 2020. The highest paying state for this occupation was California, with an annual mean wage of $107,440. This was followed by New Jersey, which paid an annual mean wage of $90,700 and Alaska, which paid an annual mean wage of $88,120. The industry that paid the most to Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers was the State Government, paying $77,230 in annual mean wages, followed by the Local Government, paying an annual mean wage of $69,940 in May 2020.

Forensic Science Technicians

Forensic Science Technicians aid the criminal investigation process by collecting and analyzing evidence from the crime scenes. They take photographs of the crime scene and also make quick sketches of their observations. In addition to that, these professionals are in-charge of recording their findings and reconstructing crime scenes. Forensic science technicians who work in laboratories perform different kinds of chemical, microscopic and biological analyses on the evidence collected from the crime scenes.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Forensic Science Technicians made an annual mean income of $64,890 in May 2020. The top paying state for Forensic Science Technicians was California, paying an annual mean wage of $88,090, followed by Illinois, that paid an annual mean wage of $85,690 and Massachusetts that paid an annual mean wage of $79,200 in May 2020. The top paying industry for this occupation was also the Federal Executive Branch, with an annual mean wage of $120,790. This was followed by General Medical and Surgical Hospitals and Local and State Governments.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice?

The cost of a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice would vary according to a number of factors, such as the institute’s requirements, format of the program and additional facilities such as on-campus residence. According to the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the average tuition cost for a four-year long postsecondary degree was $16,320. The cost for public school was lower, at about $9,210, whereas private schools charged a lot more, with an average tuition of $32,000. Please note that these are estimated figures for colleges across the US. For the exact cost of a criminal justice degree, please get in touch with the relevant university’s admissions board.