Undergraduate Programs in Criminal Justice

Academic programs in Criminal Justice prepare students for a career in law enforcement, the courts or the prison system. Criminal Justice refers to the structure, laws and processes established by the government to control or reduce crime, enforce the laws that order the society, and ensure justice for all citizens. Criminal justice systems exist on the Federal, State, Municipal and County levels throughout the U.S.

County governments typically enforce laws through a department or policing force lead by an elected or appointed Sherriff. Cities commonly have a police department. States generally have a state police force. The Federal government has several law enforcement agencies, each with specific responsibilities. The Federal agencies include: The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. National Central Bureau Interpol, the U.S. Marshals Service, Customs Department, Immigration and Naturalization.

Law is applied on each of these levels of government through a system of courts of law and justice. The punitive activity of governments under the law is administered by a corrections or prison system. When criminals are released from a correctional or rehabilitative facility they are monitored by the probations division until they are fully integrated into society again.

The basic academic degree for work in criminal justice is the Associate of Science in Criminal Justice or the Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice degree. These two-year programs provide the basic insights and training to prepare students for a career in law enforcement (at most levels), security or corrections.

The bachelor’s degree in criminal justice prepares students for more challenging roles in law enforcement or corrections, either in a supervisory role, an investigative role or as a probation officer or a criminologist.

The associate’s and bachelor’s degrees also provide foundational preparation for a number of other exciting roles in the criminal justice system. These include: crime scene investigation, forensic psychology and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Criminal Justice programs prepare students for vital roles in our society. The rewards they reap extend far beyond a dollarized salary. Police officers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, earn on average $46,000 annually. Forensic psychologists earn between $38,000 and $58,000 per year.

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