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Overview of Criminal Justice Associate Degree Program

Majors Overview December 14, 2013

Those interested in learning about criminology, public policy, and the U.S. legal system may want to look into a criminal justice Associate of Science (A.S.) degree program. Students may continue studies in a bachelor’s (B.S.) degree program or obtain entry-level work.

A.S. Programs in Criminal Justice

Students enrolled in an Associate of Science degree program in Criminal Justice are provided with the skills and training necessary for careers in security, investigations, law enforcement, or a related field. It takes two years of full-time study to complete the majority of associate degree programs that are usually offered by community colleges, universities and colleges. Those who complete the AS in criminal justice program can seek to enter the workforce immediately or opt for continued education by earning advanced degrees at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels.


Coursework in an Associate of Science in Criminal Justice focuses on classes related to the legal system, ethics, communications, and law enforcement. They are taught how the legal system, crime and communities influence one another. Coursework may include subject areas such as:

•Court system
•Investigation techniques
•Public information
•Crime theories
•Criminal justice system
•Incident management
•Constitutional law
•Police systems
•Public affairs

Career Choices

Those who graduate from an AS in Criminal Justice can apply for entry-level occupations in the field of corrections or law enforcement at the state and local levels. They would typically require addition training via a police academy that spans 12-14 weeks (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)). They can choose for job options including:

•County sheriff’s deputy
•Police officer
•Corrections officer

Continuing Education Choices

Graduates are allowed to transfer credits earned in associate degree programs in criminal justice to bachelor’s degree programs that can take two more years to complete. Coursework covers topic areas such as crime scene investigation, police supervision and parole and probation. Some bachelor’s degree programs are offered in online formats. Schools also offer Master’s and doctoral degree programs in criminal justice. The focus of graduate degree programs is primarily on policy planning, theories and research.

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