Online Associate Degrees In Criminal Justice

An associate degree in criminal justice can lead to new career opportunities. Here, we outline the top online degree options.


Updated August 25, 2023

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Criminal justice professionals such as police and detectives investigate crimes and bring criminals to justice. These workers' other typical job responsibilities include securing evidence, maintaining paperwork, and testifying in court. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the law enforcement field to grow 5% from 2019-2029.

An associate degree in criminal justice qualifies graduates in most states to enter a police academy or work in another law enforcement role. A degree remains a wise investment, as the BLS reports police make a median $67,290 annual salary. A criminal justice associate degree's other advantages include transferring to a bachelor's-completion program.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Justice

Q. What can I do with an associate degree in criminal justice?

A criminal justice degree may qualify graduates for an entry-level position in the law enforcement field. Other options include transferring to a bachelor's in criminal justice program.

Q. What are the requirements to become a police officer?

Applicants may need a high school diploma, associate degree, or bachelor's degree, depending on the state. Other requirements include graduating from a training academy.

Q. How much do cops make with an associate degree?

The typical salary for U.S. police officers exceeds the national median salary by approximately $25,000. Professionals with a bachelor's degree and relevant experience earn more than recent graduates with an associate degree.

Why Get a Degree in Criminal Justice?

An associate degree in criminal justice trains learners for a career with a high median salary. Well-paying opportunities for professionals include correctional officer, bailiff, and fire inspector. These and other positions may require some additional training, such as a bachelor's or master's degree for a management-level job.

An online associate degree in criminal justice provides recent high school graduates and nontraditional students with a flexible educational experience. Programs with an asynchronous curriculum allow learners to schedule their education around working or raising children. Other advantages include exploring top out-of-state colleges and universities.

How Much Does a Criminal Justice Degree Cost?

An associate degree in criminal justice's total cost depends on whether learners attend an in-state or out-of-state school. Junior and community colleges offering associate degrees charge the lowest tuition rate to residents. Out-of-state online students may pay as much as if they enrolled in a private school. However, some colleges extend in-state tuition to online degree-seekers.

Even if a college charges online students the same as on-campus degree-seekers, online learners save money by not paying for housing or a meal plan. Online students do not pay for commuting or relocating, either. Distance learners with small children may not need childcare services, potentially saving them thousands of dollars.

Typical criminal justice programs do not charge learners any major-specific fees. However, prospective and current degree-seekers should still consult a financial aid or academic advisor to discuss potential fees and budget accordingly.

Additional Online Student Fees for Criminal Justice

Although an online criminal justice degree helps students save money in multiple ways, learners should budget for a computer that meets their school's minimum technology requirements. A laptop or desktop must possess a camera and microphone. Meeting these requirements also involves paying for a stable and fast internet connection.

Some hybrid associate degrees in criminal justice programs ask learners to commute to campus one or more times. Commuting costs add up, especially if on-campus intensives or seminars require staying overnight. Other expenses to budget for include a one-time graduation fee and professional certifications graduates need to remain competitive in the job market.

How Much Do Criminal Justice Majors Make?

Criminal justice majors' salaries depend on the industry they enter. Police and detectives working as criminal investigators earn more than their peers, such as transit and railroad police, patrol officers, and fish and game wardens. The highest-paid 10% of professionals in this field earn more than $113,000 annually.

Geographic location affects salary as much as the career graduates select. Detectives working in Alaska, Maryland, and Hawaii earn $113,150-$126,340. However, these states employ relatively few detectives, and the cost of living exceeds the national average considerably. California and New Jersey employ far more detectives and may offer a lower cost of living, depending on the city.

No matter their job title or where they live, criminal justice professionals increase their salary potential by advancing their education. Options include earning a bachelor's or master's degree and completing professional development. New hires determine the education they need for a raise by speaking with a human resources manager or work supervisor.

Courses in Criminal Justice

An associate degree in criminal justice blends general education courses and major requirements. The former conveys in-demand transferable skills and qualifies graduates to enroll in a bachelor's-completion program. Major coursework emphasizes the U.S. criminal justice system, criminal law, and social science. Learners supplement their education by selecting criminal justice electives.

The following sample curriculum highlights three typical major courses. Course titles and requirements vary by school. Prospective students with questions research a college or university's online course catalog to learn more about the academic experience. Other options include speaking with an enrollment or academic advisor.

How to Become a Police Officer

Education requirements for becoming a police officer vary by jurisdiction. Aspiring officers need a high school diploma, associate degree, or bachelor's degree. A criminal record may disqualify applicants, depending on the crime and how long ago it occurred. Many police departments do not hire individuals under the age of 21.

New hires enroll in a police or training academy, an approximately six-month experience involving coursework, physical exercise, and weapons training. Learners must achieve a passing score on all assessments to graduate. Students with an employment offer do not pay tuition or fees and receive a salary during their time in the academy.

Certifications and Licensure for Criminal Justice

Recent graduates and experienced criminal justice professionals can pursue a certification or license to qualify for a promotion or raise. Typical eligibility requirements include earning a degree and passing an exam. Licensed and certified workers become lifelong learners, as renewal requirements involve taking online or in-person professional development courses.

CFCSs investigate tax evasion and other financial crimes. Certification demonstrates honed communication, leadership, and multitasking skills. Candidates purchase a CFCS exam preparation package featuring an 11-hour online course. The Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialists recommends 40-50 hours of preparation before taking the exam at home. The International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA) awards the CLEA to law enforcement professionals with at least three years of relevant experience. Other eligibility criteria include IACA membership. Candidates must pass a comprehensive exam covering applied research methods, internet skills, and reading comprehension. CLEAs renew the certification by taking IACA courses. EC-Council offers the CHFIC to information security professionals with at least two years of experience. Candidates take a four-hour, 150-question exam focusing on electronic evidence collection, data storage, and technical analysis. The passing score varies, depending on the exam form. Certified workers pursue additional EC-Council certifications, such as ethical hacking.

Online Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

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