If you are interested in learning more about probation, corrections, juvenile justice, law enforcement, or immigration, then a criminal justice degree may be the course of study for you. Online programs offer everything from an associate degree to a Master’s degree in the criminal justice field. While an associate degree will help you prepare for your career in criminal justice, and occasionally get on a police force in need of officers, most careers in this field require a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree with the higher positions and better paying jobs going to those who hold Master’s degrees.
In a typical criminal justice program, you can expect to study subjects such as psychology, social work, communication, domestic violence, law enforcement, technology and crime, and terrorism. After completing your degree, important skills you will bring to your career include the ability for analytical and critical thinking, decision-making skills, knowledge of the American legal system, and an understanding of crime, criminals, and society’s reaction to them. While an associate degree may be completed in a short time, expect to need more education to continue in this field. A Bachelor’s degree will take about three to four years and a Master’s degree can take between one and two years–each depending on whether you work part or full time on your studies.
Careers in the criminal justice field include police officer, probation officer, correctional officers working in jails and prisons, and social workers assisting those in the court system. Since crime is not likely to disappear over night, all careers in these fields are secure and likely to continue at average growth or higher. Some jobs are in great demand, such as probation officers, correctional officers, and law enforcement officers–except in state and federal programs where there is much competition for these positions. Because of continuing crime, retirement of older employees, and the high stress levels of these jobs, many openings are available and securing employment should not be difficult. You can expect salary to vary depending on the specific job you choose. Police officers average around $45,000 a year while correctional officers’ average salary range from $27,000 to $50,000 and probation officers’ median annual income is around $42,500.