Best Online Associate in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Pursuing an online associate degree in criminal justice can lead to a variety of careers within corrections, the courts system, and the public and private security sectors. Professionals trained in criminal justice are qualified to become police officers, crime scene investigators, probation officers, court administrators and more.

An online associate in criminal justice provides the basic training needed for an entry-level position in this far-reaching field. Online criminal justice coursework at the associate level typically provides an overview of communication techniques and field terminology, as well as crime trends and statistics, justice policy and victimology theory. Students enrolled in an online program are also given the opportunity to explore the various computer-based IT applications commonly used by criminal justice professionals today.

In addition to a foundational education in criminal justice, most employers require significant on-the-job experience; in fact, for some occupations within the field, practical training provided by the hiring agency is mandatory to be considered for employment. For instance, most police officers and security officers are required to complete a training program through the police academy or obtain in-house security clearance, respectively, to maintain employment with the given agency or organization. Students aspiring to become probation officers, court reporters or criminal caseworkers may want to pursue an internship or field experience that allows them to build administrative and communication skills, as well as to provide enhanced working knowledge of the criminal justice system.

Below, we’ve ranked the best online associate in criminal justice programs for 2016. Every program is exceptional in its own right; be sure to carefully review program requirements and completion times to find the school that suits you best.

Rank School Name School Logo City Cost Address & Contact Info School Links Acclaim for Online Programs School Description
1Keiser University - Ft LauderdaleFort Lauderdale$$$$$1500 NW 49th St
Fort Lauderdale, FL
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Based in Fort Lauderdale, FL, Keiser University was founded in 1977 to deliver career-oriented education to adult learners. Today the private, nonprofit school has 18 locations spread across Florida, and a thriving online campus. The school offers degrees to more than 20,000 students from the associate to doctoral level. Many degrees are available through the Fort Lauderdale Online Division, including Keiser’s online criminal justice associate degree.

The associate of arts in criminal justice program follows a 60-credit curriculum, and explores the components and traditions of the American criminal justice system. Students receive an in-depth and hands-on education in legal systems, law enforcement organizations, juvenile issues, corrections, and patterns of criminal behavior. The degree is divided into 36 hours of general education credits and 24 credits in major courses. There are no prerequisites. Web-based students have access to Keiser’s Online Career Center, which offers job postings, resume counseling, interview coaching, career-development workshops, and more.

2Liberty UniversityLynchburg$$$$$1971 University Blvd
Lynchburg, VA 24515
(800) 434-9595

Liberty University is the largest private non-profit school in the United States. The Lynchburg, VA- based institution offers its 110,000 students a wealth of options and resources, including more than 545 different fields of study and more than 270 online degrees.

The Helms School of Government’s associate of arts in criminal justice program requires 60 credits to complete, and students may transfer as many as 45 into the program. Students learn the basics of law enforcement and the criminal justice system, and develop excellent written and oral communications skills to increase their career prospects. This criminal justice associate degree online can also be used as a pathway to a bachelor’s degree, which Liberty offers in its virtual classrooms. A 25% “emergency response discount” is available to all first responders. Web-based students have access to IT support, an online library, writing help, and tutoring. The school boasts a 91% employment rate for its online graduates.

3Saint Leo UniversitySaint Leo$$$$$33701 State Road 52
Saint Leo, FL 33574-6665
(352) 588-8200

Established in 1889, Saint Leo is a Catholic liberal arts institution in the Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL, metropolitan area. With more than 16,000 students, the university is one of the largest Catholic schools in the nation, and one of the top regional schools in the South. Saint Leo offers more than 40 academic programs in 40 learning centers across seven states, military bases, and online.

Saint Leo has 30 years of experience teaching law enforcement, and its online associate degree in criminal justice takes a liberal arts approach, which provides students a broad background in general studies and encourages critical thinking skills. The 60-credit curriculum examines all aspects of the criminal justice system, from crime scene investigation, to ethics and legal issues, to homeland security. The associate of arts criminal justice program lays the groundwork for students who want to earn their bachelor’s. Saint Leo Online has an array of programs and services to help students succeed in web-based education, including “Starting Point” orientation tutorials, access to the school bookstore and library, and 24/7 access to career services. Applicants can download a free e-book to learn more about Saint Leo’s online experience.

4West Kentucky Community and Technical CollegePaducah$$$$$4810 Alben Barkley Drive
Paducah, KY 42002-7380
(270) 554-92000

Located in Paducah, KY, West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC) is a public, two-year college focused on career education. Most of the school’s 8,500 students attend part-time, and more than half take at least one of their courses online. WKCTC has offered classes digitally for more than two decades and is a pioneer in online education. The school’s virtual classrooms host dozens of degree programs, including an online criminal justice associate degree.

The associate in applied science in criminal justice degree is a 60-credit program that students can pursue entirely online, and may specialize in one of four areas of concentration -- criminal justice, corrections, law enforcement, and security and loss prevention. The curriculum begins with general studies coursework, and proceeds to major classes like criminalistics, computer forensics, and police supervision. The program is designed as a pathway to entry-level positions in law enforcement or as a gateway to a more advanced degree and an administrative role. Online students pay in-state tuition, and the school has a nine-step orientation program on its website.

5Pamlico Community CollegeGrantsboro$$$$$5049 Hwy 306 South
Grantsboro, NC 28529
(252) 249-18513084

Founded in 1962 as an industrial arts school, Pamlico Community College (PCC) in Grantsboro, NC, has grown into a fully-accredited two-year institution. The school offers a variety of degree programs in the liberal arts, sciences, healthcare, business, and technology. PCC is home to 700 students and offers most of its degrees on campus and online.

The 67 credit criminal justice technology associate degree prepares students for careers in law enforcement, corrections, probation and parole, the legal system, security, and loss prevention. Students complete general studies courses, including classes in writing, mathematics, the humanities, and the sciences, and proceed to courses in their major. The online associate degree in criminal justice is a broad program that includes two certificates, a diploma, and a two-year degree. Students gain first-hand experience meeting with officers, investigating crime scenes, and attending court proceedings. Online learners have access to the college’s library, advising and counseling services, tutoring, career center, and the Virtual Student Success Center.

6Albany Technical CollegeAlbany$$$$$1704 South Slappey Boulevard
Albany, GA 31701
(229) 430-3500

A member of the Technical College System of Georgia, Albany Tech provides secondary education throughout seven counties in southwest Georgia. The school offers two-year degree programs, career-training, continuing education, and community enrichment to a student body of 3,000 full-time and 2,500 part-time students at learning centers across south Georgia. It also has a vibrant virtual campus with 30 online programs, including a criminal justice associate degree.

Albany Tech’s associate of applied science in law enforcement technology degree is a 60-credit program combining criminal justice theory and practice. Students can specialize in criminal justice or Homeland Security by adding technical certificates. Background checks are not required for admission, but they are necessary for placement in a lab, clinic, or internship setting. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and have passed the COMPASS exam with appropriate scores. The Blackboard platform is used to deliver course content.

7Bismark State CollegeBismarck$$$$$1603 Edwards Ave.
Bismarck, ND 58506-5587
(701) 224-5400

Located on a 220-acre campus overlooking the Missouri River in North Dakota, Bismarck State is a comprehensive public two-year college with a student body of more than 3,700. The school offers an array of associate degrees, certificates, professional programs, and a bachelor’s in energy management, both in on-campus and online. Almost two-thirds of students at BSC take at least one web-based course – more than 40 percent attend online only.

The associate of applied science in criminal justice degree is a 60-credit program that waives the entrance requirements for other associate-degree tracks at Bismarck State. Background checks are required, however. Taught by an experienced faculty and under the supervision of a board of advisers from the law enforcement community, the curriculum combines general and professional education courses. Students take liberal arts courses such as college composition, and fulfill major requirements with courses like criminology, juvenile delinquency, and police administration. All classes can be taken via the web, but a field internship is necessary to graduate. This online associate degree in criminal justice is not intended for transfer.

8Southern New Hampshire UniversityManchester$$$$$2500 North River Road
Manchester, NH 03106-1045
(603) 668-2211

Based in Manchester, NH, Southern New Hampshire (SNHU) is one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. A private nonprofit institution, SNHU is primarily a virtual campus, with about 3,000 students in its traditional, brick-and-mortar location and over 75,000 attending classes via the web. The university offers more than 200 career-oriented degree and certificate programs, from the associate to master’s level, including an online associate degree in criminal justice.

SNHU’s associate of science in criminal justice program is designed for working law enforcement professionals who wish to advance their careers, and students interested in entry-level positions in the field. Graduate gain an understanding of the American system of criminal justice and the issues facing modern law enforcement. Classes in this 60 credit program explore ethics, juvenile justice, and the legal system, and students can specialize in policing, corrections, and security through their selection of electives. SNHU online programming is available 24/7 and can be fast-tracked. The university claims some of the lowest tuition costs in the country, and a full slate of services is available to online students, including writing help, round-the-clock computer support, and tutoring.

9Northeast Community CollegeNorfolk$$$$$801 E Benjamin
Norfolk, NE 68702-0469
(402) 371-2020

Located in Norfolk, NE, Northeast Community College is a public, two-year school providing access to associate degrees, career-training, job certification, and cultural enrichment to more than 23,000 students. In addition to the 200-acre main campus, the school has satellites in 60 communities and a growing virtual campus. Northeast hosts an online associate degree in criminal justice with two available areas of concentration – corrections and law enforcement.

Northeast Online’s associate of arts criminal justice degree takes an interdisciplinary approach, combining a core curriculum with specialized classes in its two concentration areas. The corrections track includes visits to area jails and prisons, and sessions with a mobile crime lab and repelling wall. The law enforcement track involves guest speakers and courses in police and society and criminal investigation. Admission to all online criminal justice associate degree programs includes background checks, physiological and psychological exams, and a polygraph test. Students may also receive credit for completing the course at the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center. Northeast has an active Criminal Justice Association, which offers great networking opportunities. Online students can receive advising help, order textbooks, visit the library, and explore career services from the Northeast Online site.

10Western Wyoming Community CollegeRock Springs$$$$$2500 College Dr
Rock Springs, WY 82902-0428
(307) 382-1600

Western Wyoming Community College (WWCC) opened its doors in 1959 to forty students. Today, the two-year school provides access to higher education to more than 2,700 students, 97 percent of whom are from western Wyoming. WWCC also has a robust distance-learning program that is a leader among schools in the Rocky Mountains.

WWCC hosts an online associate degree in criminal justice designed for students planning to transfer into a four-year program. The associate of arts in criminal justice curriculum emphasizes general education courses required for a baccalaureate degree, and includes a few classes in the major. An introduction to criminal justice gives participants a broad overview of the American criminal justice system; criminal law looks at legal issues; and criminology explores crime and its root causes. Each class follows a traditional semester schedule, and online learners must dedicate at least nine hours per week to each three-credit course. WWCC recommends its “Intro to Online Learning” class for new students.

11Northampton Community CollegeBethlehem$$$$$3835 Green Pond Rd
Bethlehem, PA 18020-7599
(610) 861-5300

Northampton Community College (NCC) in Bethlehem, PA, is one of the few community colleges with a residency program. It’s also home to a vibrant virtual campus. More than 34,000 students pursue degrees and certificates in over 100 areas of study at NCC, and its criminal justice program is one of its most popular majors. Despite its size, the school boasts a 21-1 student to faculty ratio. The campus is also one of the most diverse in Pennsylvania and received national recognition for its “tech savvy.”

Northampton’s online criminal justice associate degree is designed for three groups: students seeking entry-level work in law enforcement, corrections, and counseling; working criminal justice professionals looking to develop their careers; and transfer students intending to transfer to a baccalaureate degree in the field. The associate in applied science criminal justice curriculum is evenly split between general education classes, criminal justice core courses, and psychology and sociology classes that describe criminal behavior. NCC uses Blackboard to deliver its online coursework, while proctored exams are taken on campus or arrangements can be made for a local option. Online students have access to the same advising, tutoring, IT, and career services as on-campus students. NCC alumni include a four-time Pulitzer Prize winner, an Oscar-winning documentary director, and many chief executives.

12Columbia College - MissouriColumbia$$$$$1001 Rogers Street
Columbia, MO 65216
(573) 875-8700

This private liberal arts institution in Columbia, MO was founded in 1851 as Christian women’s college. Today, over 29,000 students (women and men) are enrolled in its 36 nationwide educational centers and online campus. More than half of the student body registers for at least one online course each year.

Columbia College offers an online criminal justice associate degree which integrates sociology and psychology into a study of the American criminal justice system. The 60-credit associate in science in criminal justice administration program provides a comprehensive overview of modern law enforcement, from criminology to penology. Students take 24 general education credits and 24 credits in the major. Twelve additional electives allow specialization in areas like corrections or political science, while available internships and practicums provide valuable hands-on experience. Online classes are scheduled in eight-week sessions, six times a year, allowing students to fast-track their education.

13South Texas CollegeMcAllen$$$$$3201 W Pecan
McAllen, TX 78502-9701
(956) 872-8311

With more than 34,000 students, South Texas College (STC) is the largest university south of San Antonio. Based in the Rio Grande Valley city of McAllen, TX, STC is a comprehensive community college that offers professional certification, dozens of associate degrees, four bachelor’s degrees, job training, and cultural enrichment. Thirty degrees at South Texas can be earned entirely via the web, including an online associate degree in criminal justice.

The criminal justice associate degree program at STC prepares students for careers in policing, corrections, the court system, private investigation, protective custody, corporate security, and several federal agencies. The curriculum is liberal-arts based with the majority of classes in general education, and only a half dozen in the major. Online students can access many of the same services and amenities as on-campus students, including the library, advising, the bookstore, and tutoring; and STC has orientation courses for using Blackboard and finding student resources. STC is one of the most affordable schools in the nation and most students graduate debt-free.

14Central Texas CollegeKilleen$$$$$6200 West Central Texas Expressway
Killeen, TX 76549-4199
(254) 526-7161

Central Texas College (CTC), based in the city of Killeen, TX, is a public two-year college with more than 100 learning centers around the globe, a presence on dozens of military bases and naval ships, and an online campus with over 55,000 enrolled worldwide. CTC offers more than two dozen degrees that can be earned entirely online, including an online criminal justice associate degree.

The associate of applied science in criminal justice program follows a 60-credit curriculum divided into four semesters. The program is an intensive immersion in the basic precepts of criminal law in the U.S., and the curriculum is a blend of criminal justice core courses with general education courses. Students may also specialize with a concentration in corrections. CTC participates in the Servicemembers Opportunities College Degree Network, and is known for its close ties to the military. A full slate of online student resources, from advising to tech support, is available on the CTC Distance Education page.

15Florida Institute of TechnologyMelbourne$$$$$150 West University Blvd
Melbourne, FL 32901
(321) 674-8000

Located in Melbourne, FL, Florida Institute of Technology Online is the second-largest private university in the state and the only independent tech school in the Southeast. Founded in 1958, Florida Tech is now a comprehensive university with acclaimed offerings in communications, psychology, education, the humanities, and criminal justice. The school’s 6,600-member student body is a split of undergraduate and grad students.

The associate of arts in criminal science program combines a liberal arts core -- the writing, computation, and business classes of a general studies degree -- with a thorough overview of the modern American system of justice. Students take courses in criminology, juvenile delinquency, crime prevention, investigation, substance abuse, and the many psychological and sociological factors affecting contemporary law. Completion of 20 classes is required, each lasting eight weeks, and the entire curriculum can be done via the web. All students in Florida Tech’s online associate degree in criminal justice program must take the one-credit mastering e-learning class. Five start dates allow students flexibility in scheduling.

16Park UniversityParkville$$$$$8700 NW River Park Dr
Parkville, MO 64152-3795
(816) 741-2000

Based in Parkville, MO, Park U. has more 18,000 students across 40 campuses in 21 states. This private four-year nonprofit university offers 63 degrees from the associate to master’s level. Park is a leader in online education, earning national recognition for quality and affordability. The school offers more than three dozen programs on its virtual campus, including a criminal justice associate degree online.

The associate of science in criminal justice administration program follows a 60 credit curriculum with three available specializations: corrections, law enforcement, and security. Coursework is designed to be highly interactive and highly flexible. Students gain a theoretical and practical understanding of the American justice system, and graduate prepared for more more than 40 different career opportunities. Students may also pursue a bachelor’s degree, while certifications are available in homeland security and terrorism. The university’s programming earned the Quality Matters online seal of approval.

17Rio Salado CollegeTempe$$$$$2323 W 14th St
Tempe, AZ 85281
(480) 517-8000

Rio Salado is one of ten Maricopa Community Colleges in the greater Phoenix area, and one of the fastest-growing public two-year schools in the nation. Based in Tempe, AZ, Rio specializes in online learning, with more than half of its 54,000 students studying via the web. Over 600 classes and dozens of degree programs are available via Rio Salado’s RioLearn virtual campus. The online criminal justice associate degree prepares students for careers in law enforcement, counseling, corrections, and many federal agencies.

The associate of applied science in administration of justice prepares students to face issues in the American justice system in the 21st century. Instructors hold a variety of criminal justice backgrounds as police officers, attorneys, parole officers, and paralegals. Rio’s unique schedule allows new students to begin courses every Monday, and students must maintain a C average to graduate. A RioLearn demo allows prospective students to try out the school’s online environment and sample a class.

18St Petersburg CollegeClearwater$$$$$6021 142nd Ave N
Clearwater, FL 33760-2822
(727) 341-4772

Founded in 1927, St. Petersburg College (SPC) was the first two-year college established in Florida. The school now offers over 100 career-oriented degree and certificate programs, and awards more associate degrees than most community colleges in the nation. Part of that success is due to SPC’s virtual campus -- the largest online school in Florida -- as more than a third of the school’s 64,000 students participate online.

SPC’s College of Public Safety Administration offers several variations on the criminal justice associate degree online. The school has a traditional criminal justice technology associate of science program, which can be specialized with a homeland security certificate. The 64 credit curriculum prepares students for baccalaureate programs or entry-level positions in the courts, corrections, and law-enforcement agencies, but does not lead directly to certification as an officer. Other programs include an associate in digital forensics and computer investigations, and an associate in crime scene technology. All can be earned entirely via the web and coursework is asynchronous.

19Peirce CollegePhiladelphia$$$$$1420 Pine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102-4699
(888) 467-3472

With its main campus in the Center City district of Philadelphia, PA, Peirce College has been providing educational opportunities to working adults for over a century. The private nonprofit college was established in 1865 to expand the options of Civil War vets, and it has maintained a mission of career-oriented, practical instruction ever since. Peirce has been offering accredited digital courses longer than most universities in the United States.

The 61 credit curriculum in Pierce’s associate of science in criminal justice studies includes emphases in law enforcement, corrections, criminal investigation, private security, and juvenile justice. Coursework provides students experience in criminal court systems, victimization, and homeland security, among others. The school’s professors have real world experience and serve as officers, judges, and attorneys. Ambitious students can join Alpha Phi Sigma and the criminal justice honor society, and accelerated tracks are available. All on-campus support services are accessible to online learners.

20Tyler Junior CollegeTyler$$$$$1400 East Fifth Street
Tyler, TX 75701
(903) 510-2200

One of the largest community colleges in Texas, Tyler Junior College (TJC) takes its name from the east Texas city in which it’s located. With professional training and certification programs, more than a 100 degree options, and a 137-acre campus, the school is a community hub. It’s one of the few two-year schools with residential options and is known for its award-winning athletics.

TJC’s online criminal justice associate degree prepares students to continue their bachelor's in the field. The 60 credit curriculum of the associate of art in criminal justice program explores contemporary issues in law and justice from theoretical and practical standpoints. Faculty include former federal law enforcement officers, crime scene investigators, and homicide detectives with more than 200 years of cumulative experience. Students complete 44 general education credits, in addition to 16 credits of major coursework. Tuition at TJC costs about one-third of a typical four-year college education, and the schools’ 16-hour, Tech Skills Boot Camp, is available to help students prepare for digital learning.

21Hodges UniversityNaples$$$$$2655 Northbrooke Dr
Naples, FL 34119
(800) 466-8017

Hodges University is a small private nonprofit institution in Naples, FL offering 34 career-oriented degree programs. With 78 percent of students over the age of 24 -- and an average of 32 -- Hodges is committed to educating working adults. Classes are scheduled for maximum flexibility, and the school takes a competency-based approach, which allows ambitious students to move forward on a fast-track. Hodges’ digital campus has become an important part of the university’s mission.

Hodges’ criminal justice associate degree online emphasizes coursework in the major -- of the 60 credits required to graduate, only 20 are general studies -- providing students a thorough understanding of the justice system. Classes in the criminal justice associate degree core curriculum take students from crime scenes to courtrooms, and explores all aspects of the American legal system. The Blackboard platform allows close interaction with faculty, peer to peer discussions with classmates, and easy assignment submission.

22Surry Community CollegeDobson$$$$$630 S. Main St.
Dobson, NC 27017-8432
(336) 386-81213264

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Surry Community College is a comprehensive two-year school with 4,000 students, and offers associate degrees, certification, and professional training. More than 60 percent of students hail from Surry County and attend the Dobson-based school part-time; 20 percent are enrolled in the college’s distance learning programs. The online criminal justice associate degree prepares students for careers as law enforcement and corrections officers, security personnel, and loss prevention specialists.

The associate of applied science in criminal justice technology emphasizes criminal justice systems and operations. The degree introduces judicial processes, security services, and law enforcement on the federal, state, and local levels. Courses in psychology and sociology are also part of the curriculum. Students with a background in law enforcement or who have completed a police academy program may be able to waive some classes. Online students are required to complete an orientation to the Moodle platform before the first class. Every web-delivered course shares the same outcomes as the on-campus equivalent.

23Somerset Community CollegeDobson$$$$$808 Monticello Street
Dobson, KY 42501-2973
(877) 629-9722

Established in Somerset, KY, in 1965, Somerset Community College (SCC) has evolved into one of the nation’s fastest-growing two-year schools. Serving a ten-county area, the college provides degrees, certificates, occupational training, and continuing education to a student population of 6,400. In addition to the main campus, SCC has facilities in five other Kentucky locations and a virtual campus.

Somerset’s online associate degree in criminal justice offers four areas of specialization – criminal justice, corrections, law enforcement, and security and loss prevention. The criminal justice associate in applied science consists of 61 credit hours, nine of which are completed in the concentration. Students can also elect to add certifications in computer forensics and advanced law enforcement. Background checks are not required (but may be for employment in the field later). SCC uses Blackboard to deliver course content and the college recommends students spend at least nine hours a week per course.

24Columbus State Community CollegeColumbus$$$$$550 E Spring St
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 287-5353

Columbus State Community College (CSCC) sits on the edge of downtown in Columbus, OH. With almost 30,000 students, it’s one of the biggest schools in the Buckeye State, and offers associate degrees, career certification, technical education, and enrichment programming. Despite its size, CSCC keeps class sizes small with an average of 20 students per course. The main campus is augmented by a second campus in Delaware, OH, nine learning centers in the nearby suburbs, and an expanding virtual campus.

Columbus State’s criminal justice program is multifaceted, and students select from a variety of degree tracks. The online criminal justice associate degree prepares students for entry-level positions in law enforcement, with concentrations in crime scene investigations, homeland security, crime prevention, and victim advocacy. Students who attend a police academy can register for the law enforcement academy track, a two-year degree that prepares serving, sworn police officers to advance in their careers. The probation and supervision track is aimed at people interested in the legal services. CSCC helps students determine if they’re ready for digital learning via an online readiness assessment.

25Allen Community CollegeIola$$$$$1801 N Cottonwood
Iola, KS 66749
(620) 365-5116100

Allen Community College was established in 1923 on the third floor of Iola High School in Iola, KS. Today, 2,300 students can choose between two campuses, six outreach sites, and online curriculums. Run by the Kansas Board of Regents, Allen offers two-year degrees, vocational certification, adult education, and workforce training programs, including a criminal justice associate degree online.

The associate in science with an emphasis in criminal justice studies program is offered as an associate in science (AS) or an associate in applied science (AAS). The AS is a 65-credit curriculum for students planning to transfer to a four-year program or police academy. The AAS degree requires only 60 credits but includes more courses in the major, including a criminal justice practicum and 12 credits at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center. Online learners have access to the school’s library, writing center, and 24/7 tech support.

The field of criminal justice encompasses a diverse range of job opportunities for graduates of an online associate degree program. Many employers in the field prefer candidates with a solid on-the-job experience to applicants who hold an advanced degree but little background in the working world; this makes applicants who possess an associate degree and extensive professional expertise highly sought after. Students at this level are qualified to become police officers, private security guards, crime scene investigators, private investigators and more. Though job prospects for police and detectives, for example, are estimated at only 5% growth through 2022, according to the BLS, this is due, in part, to fluctuations in crime rates and budget spending, which vary greatly depending on location and employer.

An online associate degree in criminal justice provides a foundation for all types of students aspiring to enter the field. Those looking to pursue a hands-on role such as police officer, crime scene investigator or security guard, should consider field experience or on-the-job training as a necessary component of their early career; many associate-level college programs offer assistance with finding relevant practical training experience.

Additionally, students interested in supportive roles involving criminal justice, including court administrators and social workers, for example, will receive the same benefits of the broad associate degree program and should also pursue an internship or on-the-job experience to gain the soft skills needed in their area of expertise. Generally, employers spanning all facets of criminal justice will expect qualified candidates to have a significant amount of field experience to fill an entry-level position.

Though requirements vary depending on the hiring agency or organization, some criminal justice occupations may require specialized training and/or a probationary program in order to be considered for employment. For example, police officers are typically required to be trained as recruits within the division’s own police academy before becoming officers, or cadets, if they are not yet of legal age to begin in-field training. Armed security guards, for instance, may also be required to meet additional criteria that include passing regular background, criminal and fingerprint checks, though such clearance measures are widely determined by state laws and vary by location.