Criminal Investigation: Associate, Bachelor & Online Degree Info

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What kind of jobs can you get with an associate's and bachelor's degree in criminal investigation? Find out associate's and bachelor's degree requirements, online options and info on courses in criminal investigation.
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Criminal Investigation Associate's and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance

While you can find criminal investigation programs at the bachelor's degree level, criminal investigation courses at the associate's degree level are available within criminal justice programs. These programs will prepare you to work in all areas of criminal justice. Careers will be available within law enforcement and government agencies, corrections facilities and private security companies.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) offers employment predictions for careers related to criminal justice. From 2010-2020, employment for police officers and detectives may grow 7%, while careers for correctional officers are projected to increase 5%. During the same decade, the job outlook for security guards is 18%, and the growth projection is 21% for private detectives and investigators.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals who want entry-level jobs in security and law enforcement Those who want to obtain detective positions or work at the federal level
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Police officer ($56,000)*
- Security guard ($27,000)*
- Private detective ($49,000)*
- Federal corrections officer ($53,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years, full-time 4 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements About 20-24 courses
- About 40-48 graduate-level courses
- Internship
Prerequisites High school diploma
High school diploma
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's in Criminal Justice

An associate's degree in criminal justice will teach you about the inner workings of the criminal justice system.You'll learn about investigations, the rules of evidence, and how to use critical thinking and logical reasoning to solve crimes. It's also important for you to develop communication, observation and evaluation skills.

In addition to specializing in criminal justice investigations, you will also have the opportunity to concentrate in corrections, police science or cybercrime. While those with an associate's degree have the option to begin their career, they can also transfer their credits into a bachelor's degree program. However, graduates who want to work in law enforcement may need to complete an additional training program. To work as a detective, you will begin your career as a police officer before moving your way up the ranks.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Get to help solve crimes and make a difference in peoples' lives
  • Personally satisfying
  • Demand for public safety will increase job opportunities*

Cons

  • Have a higher rate of injuries than average*
  • Must be prepared to work in dangerous situations
  • May have to work nights and weekends

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

In addition to courses related to criminal justice, a program will require you to complete general education courses. If you want to begin your career in law enforcement, you'll take courses related to police operations and management, criminal investigations and procedures, criminal law and criminal evidence. Cyber investigations courses teach you about computer literacy, operating systems, computer security, forensic science and computer forensics.

Online Course Options

Associate's degree programs in criminal justice are available for those who are working full-time or prefer a more flexible schedule. However, you should be aware that online programs won't provide the same specialization options. An online program will offer you the opportunity to learn through online streaming and video lectures.

How to Stand Out

When working to solve crimes, it's important that detectives have strong communication skills when gathering facts and documenting the details of a specific incident. Some detectives may also work on multiple cases at one time, so the ability to multitask is essential. Staying up-to-date in technology may help you collect and gather evidence.

Bachelor's in Criminal Investigations

A bachelor's degree in criminal investigations will teach you how to investigate crimes and understand criminal behavior. You will receive a high level of training involving criminal investigations and will learn how to preserve crime scenes, process and analyze evidence and interview suspects. While opportunities are available to work for police departments and law enforcement agencies, with a bachelor's degree, you will also be eligible to work at the federal level. In order to develop experience in the field, you may be required to complete an internship. Graduates will compete with associate's degree holders for entry-level jobs.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Work at the federal level
  • Bachelor's degree holders will have best job opportunities*
  • Opportunity to help community

Cons

  • Job can be stressful
  • Experience may be preferred over education
  • Employment may be tied to government budgets*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

The first two years of the program will include general education requirements and introductory criminal justice courses. You will learn about criminal law, criminal procedures, corrections and police services; these classes will prepare you for advanced criminal investigation courses during your final two years. Classes related to criminal investigations include investigative interviews, forensic photography, family victimization, crime scene investigation and causes of crime. Internships will be available with police departments, forensic centers, sheriff's offices and medical examiner's offices.

Online Course Options

If you're interested in pursuing an online program related to criminal investigations, you have two options. While a bachelor's degree program in criminal investigations may offer a portion of the curriculum online, you can also find fully online criminal justice programs. These courses will provide you with the same education as those who are pursuing the on-campus program.

How to Stand Out

With a bachelor's degree, graduates may put themselves in position to take on a management role. This is an opportunity to oversee law enforcement personnel and develop strategies to help keep communities safe. To work in management, you must have strong leadership skills and be able to solve problems. In order to advance, you will also have to pass examinations and perform well on-the-job.

Private detectives and investigators can earn an investigator certification through the National Association of Legal Investigators or ASIS International. Earning certification will demonstrate competency to potential employers and help advance your career. Both of these organizations offer continuing education for professionals; for example, you might take a course on using the Internet for advanced investigative techniques or on installing closed-circuit TV systems for surveillance.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • AAS in Criminal Justice and Criminology
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
      • AAS in Public Safety and Security
      • Associate: Fire Science
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • A.S. Criminal Justice
      • A.S. General Studies - Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    3. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Excelsior College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • AS in Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bloomfield Hills, MI

    Oakland Community College

  • Fort Lauderdale, FL

    Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale

  • Harrisburg, PA

    Harrisburg Area Community College-Harrisburg

  • Tyler, TX

    Tyler Junior College

  • Stanford, CA

    Stanford University

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • AAS in Criminal Justice and Criminology
  • Associate: Criminal Justice
  • AAS in Public Safety and Security

Which subject are you interested in?

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • A.S. Criminal Justice
  • A.S. General Studies - Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

Are you a US citizen?

Excelsior College

  • AS in Science in Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education completed?

Oakland Community College

Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale

Harrisburg Area Community College-Harrisburg

Tyler Junior College