There are Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in Criminal Justice. The latter usually involves technical or scientific fields, including majors like biological sciences, physical sciences, and engineering. The BS degree may also study criminal justice as an applied science where the student learns to integrate theory construction, empirical validation, and practical application. Both degrees may offer concentrations for law enforcement, agency administration, psychology, and academy/professional training, all of which allow you to be prepared to start your career path right after graduation and move up the ranks quickly. Both the Bachelor of Arts or Science in Criminal Justice will increase employment opportunities and possible advancement, as well as salary. For example, Dallas PD automatically gives officers with a bachelor’s degree an additional $300 per month.
There are programs with cognates or related specialty areas within the criminal justice program. A university may offer an online Bachelor of Science in this field with the choice of cognates in Business Administration and Management, Crime Scene Investigation, Criminal Psychology, General, Homeland Security, Juvenile Justice, Public Administration, and Strategic Intelligence. All of these are at the undergraduate level. The attractiveness of this type of program is the ability to parlay your chosen cognate into a Master of Science in Criminal Justice.
There are many online programs available for working professionals or those who prefer this format. The typical bachelor’s degree requires students to complete around 120 credits of coursework, which is comprised of both general education subjects and criminal justice topics. A sampling of coursework includes the study of domestic violence, white collar crime, development of gangs, justice system, and corrections. Students who have already earned associates degrees may be able to transfer the credits they earned in their previous degree programs. This would reduce the completion time from the standard four years.
Earning your bachelor’s degree may provide the impetus to advance to a master’s program in a specialty field that most interests you. It could be a Master of Science in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Corrections, Legal Studies, Forensic Science, Criminal Investigation or Behavioral Studies. In addition, each concentration may offer electives to cultivate your knowledge in other specialty areas. Behavioral Studies, for example, focuses on the way that criminal behavior and the criminal code interact together to solve some of the world’s most heinous, violent criminal acts, clinical aspects of behavioral disorders.
Prospective students should be aware of the median starting salary for graduates with a bachelor’s in criminal justice. A PayScale College Salary Report estimates that criminal justice bachelor’s recipients earn a median annual salary of $37,000 during the first five years of their career. The same report estimates a mid-career median salary of $59,100 for professionals who hold this degree. Detectives with a college degree are among the better paid criminal justice professionals. Detectives just starting out make between $40,000 and $50,000 a year. Veteran detectives can make up to $120,000 a year. This job also comes with a generous retirement package. Many detectives retire after putting in 20 to 25 years of service.
More importantly, careers in criminal justice are found at the federal, state, county, and local levels, as well as in the private sector. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2016, the criminal justice field employed roughly three million workers. This broader field includes sub-fields such as law enforcement, corrections, forensic science, homeland security, private security, academia, and legal services. The expanse of criminal justice occupations reaches nearly 75 job titles.
DegreeQuery has featured Criminal Justice in multiple posts. These may be of further interest to the reader: