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What Degree do I need for a Career in Criminal Justice?

Updated on June 10, 2013

Types of Criminal Justice Degrees

As someone who follows topics in criminal justice closely, the education required is one I often hear from those interested in starting a career here. I wanted to start my first hub on the education topic but my following hubs are going to delve more into what's going on in the news today with criminal justice.

There are three common degrees that most professionals in criminal justice hold:

  1. Certificates
  2. Associates Degree
  3. Bachelors Degree


Certificates are usually used for specific careers in criminal justice since they are less extensive and typically cover training for one particular topic. An example might be crime scene photography. Others get certificates to expand their role in criminal justice if they're already employed in the industry.

Associates Degree

Associates degrees open the door to more opportunities in criminal justice. They typically take two years to complete and have courses for various skills used in criminal justice. A few might include psychology and criminology. These courses are important for criminal justice professionals since they influence the community around them. A wide knowledge of different studies helps keep them well-rounded.

Bachelors Degree

Bachelors Degrees pave the way for job growth and typically take four years to complete. Those careers that only requite an associates degree can still benefit from a bachelors degree since there is opportunity for job growth and a potential salary increase. Also, as in many other careers, a bachelors degree is starting to be a requirement for many criminal justice careers.

Growing with Education & Pay

Online education has been growing for some time and criminal justice programs are one of those that are growing at a high rate. Criminal justice students are moving toward online programs since many are already in the field full-time and require the flexibility that online offers around their schedules.

Some careers are growing as well in regards to pay and availability. According to an article from Grantham University, the 7 fastest growing careers in criminal justice are:

  • Crime Scene Examiner

Crime scene examiners obtain evidence from the crime scene to ensure it is not tampered with then process it to assist in the investigation. Crime scenes are crucial to many cases especially those involving high stakes in regards to sentencing of a defendant. Take cases in the news today, how much is the evidence referenced as opposed to testimony? The evidence oftentimes does not match what the defendants, witnesses, or alleged victims say. Crime scene examiners expert analysis can make or break a case.

  • Detective

Detectives, like crime scene examiners, are very involved with a case and the crime scene. They piece together what happened by collaborating with police, crime scene examiners, and witnesses.

  • Fish & Game Warden

Fish & game wardens monitor hunting and fishing grounds and make sure people follow the rules and regulations of wildlife. They have enough authority to make arrests if there are people that don't follow the regulations and even assist in rescue efforts if necessary.

  • Correctional officer

Correctional officers work in jails and prisons and watch over inmates to ensure safety and security.

  • Private Investigator

Private investigators research evidence of wrong doing for various cases and circumstances. They can be hired by individuals or groups which is why their work can span over multiple types of investigations.

  • Probation Officer

Probation officers monitor offenders to make sure they adhere to the law after being convicted of a crime. They are important to making sure more crimes are not committed and catching warning signs if a previous offender is committing crime again.

  • Paralegal

Paralegals prepare and research cases for licensed lawyers as well as manage the law office, assigning various tasks to office employees.

Criminal Justice Education


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