The popularity of criminal justice degrees can be associated with two factors – law enforcement agencies now require college credits as a qualification for most positions and second, some of the fastest growing careers in the coming years are in criminal justice. Thanks to this, the popularity of criminal justice programs has seen a significant rise in recent years.Criminal justice programs are designed to give students the knowledge of the inner workings of courts, law enforcement agencies and corrections institutes. These programs enable students to develop careers in fields such as crime scene investigation, forensics, legal system and legal education, etc.

The following will give you the detailed information on the most popular criminal justice degrees, their levels, enrollment requirements and career outlook.

Top Criminal Justice Programs

If you want to pursue a career in the field of criminal justice, you have the option of enrolling in a wide variety of non-degree and degree-based programs ranging from certificates to masters to doctorates. Further information on degree levels is discussed later as well.

Criminal Justice Degrees
Criminal Justice Degrees


Description Minimum Degree Required Common Coursework

Computer Forensics

Prepares students to identify and prevent phishing scams, digital schemes, theft and fraud. Bachelor’s Degree – Though Master’s and Doctoral degrees are common Computer Forensics, Digital Forensics, Networking Concepts


Prepares students for work as correctional officers or prison guards Associate Degree – Bachelor and Graduate Degrees are also common Foundations of Criminal Justice Systems, Introduction to Criminal Law, Theories of Crime Causation, Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Theory, Issues in Corrections


Prepares students to identify potential threats of terrorism at home and abroad Bachelor’s Degree or higher Foundations of Terrorism, Fundamentals of Intelligence, Biological, Chemical and Nuclear Weapons, Psychology of Violence, Threat Assessment

Crime Scene Technician Certificate

Prepares students to identify and collect evidence from crime scenes Certificate Crime Scene Investigation, Homeland Security, Forensic Chemistry

Criminal Investigations

Prepares student to collect, record and analyze evidence Associate Degree Evidence, Forensics, Clues, Crime Scenes, The Criminal Mind

Criminal Justice Administration

Prepares students to take up administrative positions in law enforcement agencies, such as prisons and courts
Prepares students to understand the criminal mind, human behavior relevant to criminal activity and social influences on crime
Bachelor of Science or a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Probation and Parole, Police and Community Relations, Judicial Process, Legal Issues

Criminal Psychology

Prepares students to understand the criminal mind, human behavior relevant to criminal activity and social influences on crime Associate, Bachelor’s or graduate degree Judicial Process, Constitutional Criminal Procedure, Behavior Management, Psychology of Criminal Behavior

Criminal Psychology

Prepares students to understand the criminal mind, human behavior relevant to criminal activity and social influences on crime Associate, Bachelor’s or graduate degree Judicial Process, Constitutional Criminal Procedure, Behavior Management, Psychology of Criminal Behavior

Cyber Security

Prepares students to protect sensitive information, secure computer networks and prevent cyber incidents Bachelor’s Degree or higher Linux System Administration, Network Security, Fundamentals of Computer Troubleshooting

Emergency Management

Prepares students to plan for disasters such as disease, terrorism and hurricanes, pollution, etc. Bachelor’s Degree or above International Disasters, Risk Perception Awareness, Natural Hazards

Forensic Psychology

Prepares students to apply psychology to criminal cases Doctoral Degree Intersection of Law, Psychology and Crime, Understanding Violence, Psychology Research

Homeland Security

Prepares students with knowledge of border security, intelligence and emergency management Bachelor’s Degree or higher Critical Infrastructure Protection, Homeland Security, Legal and Ethical Issues

Public Administration

Prepares students to work in advocacy and government agencies Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctoral Degree Research Methods, Introduction to Public Policy Analysis, Human Resources in the Nonprofit and Public Sectors

Legal Studies

Prepares students to become legal assistants or paralegals Associate, Bachelor’s or Graduate Degree in Legal Studies Advanced Litigation, Legal Project Management, Trial Practice, Intellectual Property

Levels of Criminal Justice Degrees

Before you enter into a program, it is very important to decide what career you want and which path will take you there. Deciding on a major is one aspect; the other is determining what degree level will take you to your chosen career.

Degree Level

Description Careers Median Salary (2016)

Certificate in Criminal Justice

The most basic educational qualification awarded Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers
Corrections Officers
Security Guards

Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

This degree usually focuses on providing foundational knowledge on law enforcement, court systems and crime control policies Paralegal
Transit and Railroad Police
Police Patrol Officer

Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice

This is the minimum requirement for most criminal justice careers Private Detectives
Criminal Investigators
Fish and Game Wardens

Master’s in Criminal Justice

This is the minimum requirement for most criminal justice careers Social Workers
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors

Doctorate in Criminal Justice

This degree is meant for those who already have a master’s degree Law Teachers
Judges and Magistrates

Note: All salary data has been taken from O*NET OnLine

Is a Criminal Justice Degree Worth It?

Before you make a decision about stepping into this field, you need to be sure of the worth of a criminal justice degree. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, many entry level jobs in this sector will be available through 2024. Most criminal justice careers will require college credits or at least a minimum of an associate degree.

Top 10 Law Enforcement Degree Programs

A law enforcement degree can help students to pursue a variety of law enforcement professions that include parole/probation officer, corrections officer and police officer. A number of federal agencies and police departments require that candidates should have a bachelor’s or an associate degree in criminal justice or law enforcement. Today, universities are offering both campus based and distance learning programs focusing on criminal justice. These programs prepare candidates to succeed in entry level positions in the law enforcement departments. These programs provide training on constitutional, state and local laws as well as police ethics and civil rights.
Since there will always be a need to ensure public safety, hence a career in the law enforcement field will always have bright prospects. Individuals who complete their undergraduate or associate degrees in law enforcement have the option of becoming correctional officers, police officers or probation officers. Candidates who have a law enforcement degree have better job prospects; hence applicants aspiring to join this profession should choose their degrees carefully.
The following list of Top 10 Law Enforcement Degree Programs in the US is based on acceptance rates, student reviews, student to teacher ratios, the percentage of students choosing the law enforcement major, etc.

  1. CUNY–John Jay College of Criminal Justice

This college is specifically tailored for those who want to have a career in the field of criminal justice or law enforcement. The college offers programs in criminal justice studies, forensic psychology and forensic sciences. Faculty members at John Jay College are world class researchers, practitioners and educators who have hands on experience in their fields. The students are given access to innovative teaching methods and are exposed to a range of courses. Its Bachelor program offers majors in criminal justice, criminal justice management, criminology, forensic science, forensic psychology, etc. The college also offers courses for in service and retired NYPD police officers. Its Master’s program includes courses like criminal justice, digital forensics and cyber security, forensic sciences, international crime and justice, amongst others.

  1. Liberty University

This university offers a B.S. in criminal justice that covers courses like juvenile justice, homeland security, criminal psychology, crime scene investigation, criminal justice, etc. It also offers Project based a certificate, M.S. and Ph.D. in criminal justice. The university offers both online project based courses. These courses help instructors to prepare candidates for positions in law enforcement departments.

  1. Northeastern University

The School of Criminology and Criminal justice at Northeastern University prepares candidates for supervisory, administrative, policy development and research positions within the criminal justice field. The B.S. program in criminal justice gives experiential education and rigorous training to the students. The courses taught cover criminal justice statistics, criminal justice research methods, criminology, psychology of crime, etc. M.S., joint JD/MS and Ph.D. programs in criminal justice are also offered by the university.

  1. University of California, Irvine

The university offers undergraduate, graduate and post graduate degrees in Criminology, Law & Society. These programs include courses in legal systems, forms of criminal behavior, juvenile and criminal justice, criminal justice policy, causes and consequences of crime, etc.

  1. University of Miami

The Department of Sociology at Miami University offers a B.A. in Criminology and a M.S. degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice. The B.A. degree covers courses like juvenile delinquency, criminal justice, theories of deviant behavior, criminology, quantitative methods for sociologists and social research. The M.S. degree trains candidates in fundamentals of criminological theory, criminal justice system and research methods. Students are allowed to tailor their degrees through their chosen curricula tracks and electives.

  1. Penn State

Penn State offers an online B.S. degree in criminal justice. The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) has certified this degree. The university also offers an online Master of Professional Studies in criminal justice administration and policy. This program has 18 credits of core courses, while the remaining credits can be covered by choosing a number of electives.

  1. Howard University

The Department of Criminology and Sociology at Howard University offers the program ‘Administration of Justice’ at the undergraduate level. In addition, there are three areas of academic concentration at the Ph.D. level: (i) Medical Sociology, (ii) Criminology and (iii) Social Inequality.

  1. Florida A&M University

The Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at Florida A&M University offers Bachelors in Criminal Justice. The courses of this degree consist of juvenile justice, corrections, law enforcement, criminal law, research and theory. Students in this department have dedicated faculty members, small class sizes and numerous opportunities to complete full and part time internships.

  1. Keiser University

Keiser University offers Associate of Arts, Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in Criminal justice. The university’s Sarasota and Flagship residential campuses offer a Criminal Justice Bachelor’s degree with a concentration in Forensics. Keiser University also offers shift friendly schedules for certified correctional and police officers who want to study while working.

  1. American University

American University’s Department of Justice, Law & Criminology is well renowned in the country. The degrees being offered include B.A. in Justice and Law, B.A. in Legal Studies, MS in Terrorism & Homeland Security Policy, MS in Justice, Law & Criminology and Ph.D. in Justice, Law & Criminology. These degrees blend a range of disciplines from law, social sciences, as well as humanities. The coursework is coupled with a number of research opportunities and challenging internships, which gives the candidates an edge in the job market.
The field of law enforcement is challenging both in terms of jobs descriptions and availability of jobs. Therefore it is highly advised that you get academically trained from a renowned university to get an edge in the job market.