What is the Criminal Justice System?
Criminal justice system is a collective term used for government agencies and processes established to maintain law and order in a society and punish those who create disorder. Without an efficient criminal justice system, a society would cease to exist. The criminal justice system is the sum of law enforcement agencies, local and federal courts, prisons and rehabilitation centers, etc.
Like the societies it purports to maintain law and order in, criminal justice systems evolve as well. Technological advancements, crimes, changing laws, and the need for security are among the many factors that have contributed to the evolution of criminal justice. Different technologies are being used to apprehend criminals and regulate laws across the nation. This has pushed the need for more educated, skilled, and advanced professionals in the system.
Criminal Justice Degrees
As the demand for professionals continues to rise in the criminal justice field, more and more students are majoring in criminal justice and its related fields. Students can pursue criminal justice studies at associate, bachelor, master, and even doctorate levels. The main purpose of a criminal justice degree is to equip students with the skill and understanding needed to succeed professionally in this field.
Criminal justice degrees can also be pursued online. Distance learning is gradually coming at par with the traditional brick-and-mortar classroom environment; many colleges and universities are adding online criminal justice programs to their academic offerings.
Associate Degree in Criminal Justice
A 2-year undergraduate degree, it is pursued by those interested in applying for entry-level positions in the criminal justice system. An associate degree in criminal justice aims to equip students with a basic understanding of criminal justice systems, policies, and objectives. The coursework will include a number of relevant topics such as:
- Introduction to criminal justice
- Corrections in America
- Social research methodologies
- Policing and investigations
Bachelor Degree in Criminal Justice
A bachelor degree in criminal justice is a 4-year undergraduate program. Some departments in the criminal justice system will require applicants to have at least a bachelor level degree. The degree program is commonly available online as well. A bachelor degree in criminal justice will enable students to gain in-depth understanding of the system and its functions. Students will cover numerous topics related to the field. Although the curriculum may vary slightly from college to college, courses such as the following may be universally taught:
- Policing in America
- Cybercrime and technology
- Security administration
- The juvenile justice system
- Investigation techniques
- Policing and law enforcement
- Research methodologies
Master Degree in Criminal Justice
This is typically a two-year advanced graduate degree that aims at providing students with a thorough understanding of the field. The program will cover advanced topics and enables students to learn about the current issues in the criminal justice system. Many graduate programs let their students specialize in a particular field of the criminal justice system. Students can choose from popular specialization areas such as the following:
- Security management
- Human services
- Homeland security
- Justice administration system
Online Criminal Justice Degree
Online courses are taught via videos, tutorials, classroom conferencing, and online lectures. Some schools offer hybrid programs in which students can take a few classes on-campus for practical learning. The online curriculum, mode of learning, and coursework may vary from school to school.
Why take Online Classes?
Online criminal justice degree programs are pursued by many working adults and students. The online learning mode has proved to be efficient, flexible, and convenient for many. Employers, nowadays, do not differentiate between candidates with traditional or online degrees.
Here are a few main benefits of pursuing online criminal justice degrees:
- Online program students can log-in from any location and study in their free time.
- Distance learning is suitable for working adults who cannot quit their jobs to pursue college education.
- The cost of online programs, in some cases, may be less as compared to campus-based programs. Students can save on transportation and text book costs.
- The coursework is flexible and can be tailored to suit individual needs.
These requirements may vary from school to school. Some schools may require applicants to pass an entry test. Typically, students will be required to submit the following main documents:
- Admission application
- College transcripts (for transfer applicants)
- Letters of recommendation
- Statement of purpose
Criminal justice degrees may open doors to a diverse range of career opportunities. Graduates may choose to work in law enforcement agencies, courts, law firms, and other federal and state security organizations.
The following data for criminal justice professions and their median annual income has been extracted from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):
- Fish and game warden: $48,760 (2013)
- Police officer and detective: $56,980 (2012)
- Paralegal: $46,990 (2012)
- Correctional officer: $38,970 (2012)
Individuals can also improve their career prospects by acquiring further education and certifications. Criminal justice jobs can be exciting and allow individuals to serve their community by protecting citizens.