Types of Criminal Justice Degrees
Different criminal justice degrees allow students to pursue various careers in law enforcement. Several factors may impact a student’s choice of criminal justice degree, including cost and completion time, which directly affects cost. The following table provides an overview of types of criminal justice degrees and potential careers for graduates.
Usually requiring 15 credits, a certificate or diploma in criminal justice introduces students to criminal law, policing, and corrections. Elective credits focus on areas such as criminal investigation and private security.
Graduates pursue entry-level careers in law enforcement, victim advocacy, and court.
- Associate Degree
An associate degree in criminal justice typically requires 60 credits of coursework in criminal law, juvenile justice, and judicial administration. Students explore ethics for criminal justice leaders.
Graduates enter roles such as youth detention counselor, corrections officer, and evidence technician.
- Bachelor's Degree
Students gain skills in criminal investigation, correctional administration, and security management. The degree typically requires 120 credits and emphasizes law enforcement theories and procedures.
Bachelor’s degree holders become probation officers, forensic science technicians, and crime scene investigators.
- Master’s Degree
Requiring an average of 36 credits, a master’s degree in criminal justice builds on foundational knowledge of the criminal justice system, covering topics such as program planning, policy analysis, and criminal justice research methods.
A master’s degree in criminal justice prepares students for careers as police detectives, justice data analysts, and victim services coordinators.
- Doctorate Degree
A doctorate in criminal justice requires a dissertation or final research project. Coursework covers research methods and statistics, crime causation and prevention, and security management.
Graduates pursue careers as college professors, research consultants, and city administrators.
How Much Does a Criminal Justice Degree Cost?
Several factors influence the cost of a criminal justice degree, including the type of degree and school. Public and nonprofit institutions have several sources of funding and do not rely solely on tuition rates, which makes them less expensive than private and for-profit schools. The type of degree chosen significantly impacts cost. Compared to an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice generally takes twice as long to complete; students pay for twice as many credits, and higher level credits tend to cost more. Other factors influencing tuition costs include out-of-state residency and student fees.
Financing Your Criminal Justice Degree
Scholarships and grants do not require repayment and are therefore the best options for financial assistance. Scholarships also provide recognition and distinction, which helps recipients of criminal justice scholarships stand out among applicants.
Students may apply for college loans through federal, state, and private lenders. Loans offered through the government have fixed low interest rates and do not have to be repaid while you're in school. Federal loans also offer deferment options, flexible repayment plans, and loan forgiveness programs. Acquiring private loans should be a last resort, and private lenders often require credit checks and cosigners.
Types of Scholarships
Scholarships for criminal justice majors include academic, leadership, and community service awards. Other types of scholarships include creative scholarships, awarded to those who demonstrate talent in areas such as music and writing, and minority and niche scholarships, which support students with diverse backgrounds. Scholarships for criminal justice majors often have overlapping requirements; a single scholarship may require a high GPA, minority status, and strong leadership skills. The following table highlights common scholarship categories.