For an exciting and successful career in criminal justice, you will want to make sure you take the right classes so that you are prepared. Many colleges offer both bachelor's and master's degrees in criminal justice. Potential career paths for those with a criminal justice background include law enforcement, investigations, forensics, case management, security, counseling, law and education.

Criminology

To earn a degree in criminal justice, you will need to have a basic understanding of criminology, the study of crime. Criminology explores the nature and causes of crime, the behavior and patterns of criminals and various theories and perspectives on socially deviant behavior. Other issues covered in criminology may include victimology, ethics, crime statistics and recidivism rates, research and investigation and criminal profiling. At the very least, a criminal justice major will need to take an introductory criminology course.

Court System and Corrections

Criminal justice students will be required to take courses that cover the court and corrections systems. These classes will generally cover the history, functions, philosophy and problems associated with the judicial system. Courses will likely include the basics of the adult justice system as well as the juvenile justice system and how they differ, particularly in terms of sentencing and punishments. Topics will include the basics of corrections, with an emphasis on law enforcement, probation, parole and the jail and prison systems.

Sociology and Psychology

Having a background in sociology and psychology will be helpful to students who want to build a foundation for success in the criminal justice field, particularly for careers in crime prevention and rehabilitation. Understanding the sociological and psychological factors of crime will help you comprehend the underlying problems and patterns of society and the characteristics of people involved in the criminal justice system. Courses may cover such topics as drug use, violence, gangs, gender, race, poverty and mental illness.

Criminal Law

To obtain a criminal justice degree, you may be required to take criminal law courses. Criminal law courses may cover various aspects of the legal process, penal law and definitions of crime. Criminal law classes can also provide you with a better understanding of legal terms, high-profile criminal cases, prosecution and defense, constitutional law, criminal justice reform, evidence and forensic law. Incarceration, punishment, retribution and rehabilitation may also be emphasized in criminal law courses.