Justice Studies Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Class Info

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Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in justice studies can lead to careers in law enforcement and the court system. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and online options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Study Justice Studies: Degrees at a Glance

Degree programs in justice studies are interdisciplinary, combining concepts of various related fields, such as judicial studies, legal studies, criminal justice and sociology. You may also find schools that lump all related degree programs into a group under the justice studies title. Programs can prepare you for multiple positions in the legal system, including law enforcement, corrections or courtroom positions.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that, from 2010-2020, police officers and detectives may see a seven percent increase in employment, which is below the national average. For the same time period, the BLS stated that paralegals and legal assistants as well as probation officers and correctional treatment specialists were expected to see an 18% increase in employment, which is about average.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in various entry-level positions within the criminal, legal or social fields Individuals interested in advancing their current careers in the field, wanting to obtain federal-level positions or preparing for graduate level study
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean salary) - Police officer or detective ($56,000)*
- Paralegal or legal assistant ($50,000)*
- Federal agent ($52,000)*
- Probation officer or correctional treatment specialist ($52,000)*
Time to Completion Two years Four years
Prerequisites High school diploma High school diploma
Online Availability Yes Yes

Associate's Degree in Justice Studies

Associate's degree programs in justice studies allow you to study various fundamental topics, including social issues, law interpretation, criminal law procedures and the judicial system. After completing an associate's degree program, you may qualify for entry-level positions in law enforcement, the court system or corrections. Additionally, legal studies programs are sometimes classified within justice studies programs, and completion of a 2-year legal studies program prepares you for work as a paralegal.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You may qualify for a wide variety of professional opportunities after only two years
  • You may be able to transfer your credits to a bachelor's degree program in the field
  • Advancement as a police officer does not typically require any education beyond the associate's degree level

Cons

  • Programs typically provide a limited amount of practical training
  • Police officers commonly work odd hours, holidays and weekends
  • Job growth for police and detectives is expected to be slower-than-average from 2010-2020*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Common Course Topics

Associate's degree programs commonly include a substantial amount of general education coursework in areas like mathematics, English and the natural sciences. These courses can help you transfer to a 4-year program. Additionally, a justice studies associate's degree program may include useful, related coursework like public speaking. Other common courses may include:

  • Criminal law
  • Judicial studies
  • Correctional systems
  • Criminal justice fundamentals

Online Degree Options

Online degree programs in justice studies and related fields are available and can offer you the same opportunities as an on-campus degree program. Since the graduation requirements for justice studies associate's programs are grounded in coursework, they're easily transmitted into an online format and offer comparable curricula.

Stand Out with This Degree

Work experience is beneficial regardless of the justice-related career you're pursuing. You may consider completing some hands-on experience during your associate's degree program, such as an internship or volunteer opportunity, to build your resume and prove to future employers that you're capable of performing the job.

Alternative Degrees

As technology advances, you may want to consider earning an associate's degree in a field such as cyber crime or computer forensics. In these programs, courses may cover criminal justice fundamentals as well as technology crimes and laws. You may also learn to pinpoint computer system vulnerabilities and prevent computer security breaches. You may qualify for a career in cyber security, a field that the BLS reported as having positive growth prospects from 2004-2014.

Bachelor's Degree in Justice Studies

A bachelor's degree program in justice studies can help qualify you for more advanced positions in the field, such as federal agent or probation officer. Additionally, you may be able to select concentrations in some justice studies bachelor's programs, such as criminal justice, homeland security or legal studies. You can also prepare for graduate programs in the field by earning your bachelor's degree in justice studies.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • May qualify for positions at the federal level
  • You'll have the opportunity to study more advanced justice studies subjects, preparing you for graduate school
  • Online options are commonly available

Cons

  • For some positions (such as police officer) you'll be in competition with individuals who may have less education, but more experience
  • Positions requiring a bachelor's degree may not offer better pay than those requiring an associate's degree or less*
  • Advancement in the field of law enforcement is typically based on experience rather than education

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Common Course Topics

As in an associate's program, justice studies bachelor's programs often cover multiple related topics, such as social behavior, laws and criminal justice. Coursework makes up the bulk of the curriculum, but you may also learn some research methods and complete a capstone research project. Programs not offering concentration options commonly allow you to customize your curriculum through elective courses. Justice studies courses may cover topics including:

  • Criminal law
  • Policing
  • Criminal justice research
  • Juvenile justice

Online Options

Online bachelor's degree programs in justice studies are available and offered at both private and public institutions. The curriculum in an online justice studies program is equivalent to its on-campus counterpart. You may participate in online discussions, view video lectures and submit assignments online.

Stand Out with This Degree

Internships may not be required in your justice studies bachelor's programs, but they may be offered as an elective, which you can earn credit for. Gaining this real-world training can give you an edge over competitors and allow you to make connections in the professional world. Additionally, the BLS noted that learning a foreign language is commonly beneficial to federal agents, so taking foreign language classes while in college could be useful if this is your intended career path.

Alternative Degrees

If you would like to earn a degree that may keep you in demand in the criminal law field, consider earning a degree in forensic science. In this bachelor's program, you learn scientific principles and technologies that help you solve criminal cases. Completion of this program may qualify you to become a crime scene investigator or forensic science technician. According to 2010-2020 BLS outlook predictions, these professionals could see a 19% increase in employment. However, this is a popular and competitive field, and having a bachelor's degree and/or substantial experience can help you rise above the competition.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Criminal Justice
      • BS in Corrections
      • BSCJ: Law Enforcement
      • BSCJ: Juvenile Justice
      • BSCJ: Crime Scene Investigation
      • BSCJ: Homeland Security
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA: Criminal Justice
      • BA: Criminal Justice - Criminalistics
      • BA: Criminal Justice - Homeland Security
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Regent University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Corrections
      • Bachelor of Arts in Law and National Security
      • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Homeland Security
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Post University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Criminal Justice
      • B.S. in Human Services / Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Criminal Justice, B.S.
      • Psychology, B.S. - Emphasis in Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Trident University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Homeland Security (BSHLS)
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Argosy University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor - Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Utica College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Cybercrime and Fraud Investigation
      • Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation
      • BS in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Financial Investigation
      • BS in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Fraud Prevention and Detection
  • Tuscaloosa, AL

    The University of Alabama

  • Philadelphia, PA

    Temple University

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Bachelor: Criminal Justice
  • BS in Corrections
  • BSCJ: Law Enforcement

Which subject are you interested in?

Saint Leo University

  • BA: Criminal Justice
  • BA: Criminal Justice - Criminalistics
  • BA: Criminal Justice - Homeland Security

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Regent University

  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Criminal Justice

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Post University

  • B.S. in Criminal Justice
  • B.S. in Human Services / Criminal Justice

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Colorado Christian University

  • Criminal Justice, B.S.
  • Psychology, B.S. - Emphasis in Criminal Justice

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Trident University

  • Homeland Security (BSHLS)

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Argosy University

  • Bachelor - Business Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

Utica College

  • BS in Cybersecurity - Cybercrime and Fraud Investigation
  • Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation
  • BS in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Financial Investigation

What is your highest level of education completed?