Criminal Justice

It is not surprising that shows like the Law and Order franchise and Criminal Minds remain among the top-rated television programs today. Crime and those who fight it makes for gripping television drama.

Those who work in the criminal justice field in real life know that it is not as exciting as the TV dramas depict. However, working in the field can be incredibly rewarding.

The umbrella of criminal justice includes several branches, including law enforcement officers, protective services and crime scene technicians. Police officers are the most recognizable position within the criminal justice field. At a minimum, most states require police officers to complete training at the police academy. Some officers also hold degrees from colleges and universities in various criminal justice concentrations.

Required Education

An associate degree in criminal justice provides an overview of the criminal justice system. Criminology, criminal investigation, counter-terrorism and domestic/international terrorism and criminal law are topics covered in this two-year degree program.

A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice will take four years to complete and provides students with the necessary skills to work in more complex jobs within the industry. Coursework will include the basic foundation of the criminal justice system, as well as in-depth study of corrections, forensic psychiatry, juvenile justice, crime scene investigation, law enforcement and homeland security/terrorism.

Master degree programs generally are required by those who wish to work in criminal justice careers with the federal government. This can include some homeland security and counter-terrorism positions. These advanced degrees focus on administrative and managerial training, which will qualify candidates to work in leadership positions within the field. Coursework also will emphasize the causes of criminal behavior in global cultures and social deviance.

Students are encouraged to enroll in programs that are accredited through a reputable accrediting agency. Police academies are evaluated and sanctioned by the states in which they are located. Degree programs offered online or through traditional classroom settings are accredited through approved outside agencies. The U.S. Department of Education has a complete listing of reputable accrediting agencies available on its website.

Future Outlook

Demand for candidates properly trained to work in the criminal justice system is expected to increase by 22 percent between now and 2020, according to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Cyber security and counter-terrorism are the areas predicted to show the greatest demand.

The average annual salary of a candidate with a degree in criminal justice is dependent on the area in which they work within the criminal justice system.

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