Studying Criminal Justice Technology: Degrees at a Glance
Criminal justice technology programs will teach you how to serve and protect a community. Whether someone earns an associate's degree or bachelor's degree in this field, they will qualify for a job that involves protecting individuals and property through crime prevention. Other possible career opportunities might involve rehabilitating criminals or monitoring inmate behavior. While an associate's degree will often qualify you for an entry-level position, a bachelor's degree might be necessary to obtain higher-level positions or work for the federal government.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), from 2010-2020, police officers and detectives were predicted to see a 7% growth in employment, while probation officers and correction treatment specialists can anticipate an 18% growth during the same time period. However, correctional officers might see only a 5% growth.
|Who is this degree for?||Individuals who want to find an entry-level position in corrections or law enforcement||Those who want earn higher-level positions in corrections or law enforcement or who want to work for the federal government|
|Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary)|| - Police officer ($56,000)*|
- Security guard ($27,000)*
| - Correctional officer (federal level) ($53,000)*|
- Correctional treatment specialist ($52,000)*
|Time to Completion||1-2 years, full-time||4 years, full-time|
|Common Graduation Requirements|| - About 20-24 courses |
- Fieldwork experience
| -About 40-48 courses|
|Prerequisites||High school diploma|| High school diploma |
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).
Associate's in Criminal Justice Technology
An associate's degree in criminal justice technology will give students a foundational understanding of the criminal justice process and prepare them for a variety of careers in the field. Programs might offer specialization tracks in law enforcement, corrections or public safety, and graduates can have an opportunity to work as police officers, state troopers, correction officers or detention officers. In order to prepare students for these careers, the program will cover topics involving criminal law, crime intervention, criminal investigation, evidence and forensic science. Graduates with an associate's degree have the option to begin their career or continue their education at the bachelor's degree level.
Pros and Cons
- Multiple career options related to criminal justice
- Ready for employment after graduation
- Layoffs are rare
- Working in a criminal environment can be hazardous
- The job might require you to work nights, weekends and holidays
- Level of government spending often determines employment
Courses and Requirements
In a criminal justice technology associate's degree program, you will need to complete general education requirements and take core criminal justice courses. General education requirements cover topics in mathematics, English, humanities, psychology and behavioral science. In addition to an introductory course in criminal justice, students will also take core courses in criminal law, juvenile justice, court procedures, investigation principles and interrogations. Depending on your specialty, elective courses might involve law enforcement procedures, corrections, substance abuse, criminal justice administration and community policing. The program might also require students to participate in fieldwork experience that will give them an opportunity to apply what they learned in the classroom to real world situations.
Online Course and Program Information
Students have the option to pursue an online associate's degree in criminal justice technology. Whether you are taking classes on-campus or online, the curriculum will be similar. In online programs, professors will deliver lectures and assign readings through a course management system and communicate with students through e-mail and chat rooms. Technical requirements include a computer with high-speed Internet and updated operating system.
How to Stand Out
While you can earn promotions through on-the-job performance or by passing written exams, other ways to stand out include developing specific skills and by making good decisions in the field. Police and parole officers might handle multiple cases at one time and need strong communication skills. It's also important to have good judgment and the ability to think critically. Being in good shape to handle the rigors of the job is also important for police officers and security guards.
Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Technology
A bachelor's degree program in criminal justice technology features advanced courses that will prepare students for higher-level positions than those available to associate's degree graduates. The bachelor's degree program will cover topics involving the legal system, law enforcement polices, court structure, security and surveillance, criminal justice psychology, homeland security and international terrorism. Opportunities are also available to specialize in a criminal justice area, which will allow you to work in a specific criminal justice sector. While graduates have the option to gain employment, they can also continue their education at the graduate level in a master's degree program or enroll in law school.
Pros and Cons
- Opportunity to work in an office setting
- Work in a decision-maker role
- Schedule might include typical working hours
- Competition with associate's degree graduates for entry-level jobs
- Might have to complete a lot of paperwork
- Won't typically work in the field
Courses and Requirements
The first 2 years of the program will be similar to that of an associate's degree; however, during the final two years of the program, students will take higher-level courses that cover advanced criminal justice topics. The specific courses are going to vary depending on what specialization track a student chooses. For example, students who want to work in law enforcement or corrections will take courses in deviance and social control, sociology of law, justice administration and corrections. Students who want to work in security management technology will focus on areas involving computer crimes, information security, information systems technology, computer forensics and telecommunications. The program will also require students to complete an internship.
Online Course Options
Students do have the option of earning a bachelor's degree in criminal justice online. While all the courses can be completed online, students will still need to participate in an internship in-person. Those with an associate's degree and who are currently working in the field may substitute their current work experience for their internship.
Getting Ahead with This Degree
Some careers might require you to obtain certification or licensure with the state. For example, to work as a correctional treatment specialist, you might need to pass a certification exam and work for a 1-year probationary period. Because many of these positions require you to complete paperwork, having strong writing and organizational skills will be beneficial. Those who work in security management technology will need to have strong computer and technical skills and understand how surveillance systems work.