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Degree Overview: Bachelor of Criminal Justice (B.C.J.) Degree

Majors Overview March 2, 2015

Get information about a Bachelor of Criminal Justice (B.C.J.) degree program and its education requirements, coursework, career choices, job and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

Bachelor of Criminal Justice (B.C.J.) Degree Programs

Students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program in criminal justice complete coursework that delves into criminal justice theory, correction procedures, court processes, and law enforcement techniques. The curriculum, which is interdisciplinary, covers behavioral theory and social issues, political and legal issues, human diversity and multicultural understanding, statistics and research methods, criminology, and criminal law.

Schools may also offer specialized criminal justice degrees, such as Bachelor of Criminal Justice (B.C.J.) degrees with a concentration in homeland security/emergency preparedness or Bachelor of Criminal Justice (B.C.J) in Justice Administration. It takes about four years to complete most programs, although some schools may also offer accelerated degree completion programs.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a GED certificate or a high school diploma. Some schools only allow entry to working professionals with work experience in law enforcement or a related field or to individuals with an associate’s degree in criminal justice or a related field.


Coursework augments general education courses, such as English or math, with required courses, including criminal psychology, public safety, correction procedures, and law. Core coursework may include topic areas such as:

•Constitutional law
•Public administration
•Sociology and corrections
•Social policies
•Criminal law
•Child and young adult psychology

Career Choices

Those who complete a bachelor’s degree program can seek employment in probation, corrections, security, or a related field, although licensing or additional training may be necessary. Individuals may seek jobs with private security companies, local law enforcement agencies, correctional and judicial systems, or government agencies. They may pursue job titles such as the following:

•Court administrator
•Corrections case manager
•Domestic violence shelter counselor
•Corrections officer
•Probation officer
•County sheriff’s deputy
•Criminal investigator

Job and Wage Outlook

While police and detectives are expected to see a job growth rate of 5% over the 2012 – 2022 decade, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists are likely to experience a 1% decrease in growth over the same period (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2012, police and sheriff’s patrol officers brought home an average annual wage of $57,770, while probation officers and correctional treatment specialists banked $52,380 on average (BLS).

Continuing Education Choices

Some professions in criminal justice may require licensing, certification, or further training. Law enforcement personnel, probationary officers, and corrections officers are usually required to complete a training program through the company department or agency that employs them (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). A gun-carrying individual may need to obtain a gun license or permit and may also be required to complete additional training.

Career advancement in law enforcement fields can be ensured through completion of master’s degree programs in criminal justice or a related field (BLS). Those that seek higher-level managerial or administrative positions in corrections, social services, and law enforcement, in addition to related fields, may earn a Master of Criminal Justice (M.C.J.) or Master of Science (M.S.) in Criminal Justice. Degree requirements may include a capstone experience, a master’s thesis, or a comprehensive exam.

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