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Overview of Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Majors Overview December 14, 2013

Those interested in a career relating to law enforcement may want to look into an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree program. Students learn the basics in different areas, such as the legal system, behavior of criminals, and different types of crime. Graduates may look forward to employment with correctional facilities, private security companies, and police departments.

A.A.S. Programs in Criminal Justice

Students enrolled in an AAS in Criminal Justice program are prepared to seek entry-level jobs as criminal justice professionals in the corrections, security or law enforcement field. Graduates who successfully complete these two-year programs can seek entry-level occupations in the industry or seek continued education by earning baccalaureate degrees at universities or colleges. The choice of tracks is offered to candidates planning to pursue a criminal justice program, including loss prevention, legal process, and corrections.

Educational Requirements

Admission criteria typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma; however, candidates may have to satisfy some more requirements before being admitted to an AAS program. Those who aspire to become a police officer or detective must meet some physical standards, and be 21 years old and a US citizen. A high moral character and submission to a criminal background check are also essential requirements.


Coursework in the criminal justice associate’s degree program typically combines classroom lectures and lab work, in addition to supervised internships and seminars. General education courses must be augmented by criminal justice courses and classes relevant to the specific track of an enrolled student. Coursework may include topic areas such as:

•Deviant behavior
•Criminal investigations
•Forensic science
•White collar crime
•Juvenile delinquency
•Corrections law and liability
•Criminal justice research

Career Choices

A job growth rate of nine percent has been projected for correctional officers during the period from 2008 to 2018 (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics); a corresponding job growth rate of 10 percent has been projected for police officers and detectives for the same time period. Associate’s degree graduates can choose from some career options such as:

•Correctional officer
•Police officer

Continuing Education Choices

Graduates who don’t intend to join the workforce immediately may pursue continued education. Employers of criminal justice professionals may be satisfied with candidates holding an associate’s degree, augmented with work experience. However, those seeking employment with the Federal Bureau of Investigation must hold at least a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field along with an adequate amount of professional work experience.

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