Criminal justice degrees are college or university-level degrees certifying that a student has received an education in the field of criminal justice. Generally they are Bachelor of Science degrees, but some schools include criminal justice within the faculty of Arts, therefore leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree. Degrees can be obtained either on campus or online, depending on the school.

What is Criminal Justice?

How a school defines criminal justice will vary. Most criminal justice departments claim to teach their students principles necessary for careers in prosecution, policing and rehabilitation. But an integral part of an education in criminal justice also involves conveying to the student a respect for and understanding of human rights, communication, the rule of law, democracy, gender and how to safeguard societies against oppression.

Curriculum

Curriculum for criminal justice degrees varies greatly from school to school as well. Many criminal justice degrees will be interdisciplinary, drawing courses from the humanities, sciences and social sciences. Often programs will involve courses like criminology, law and psychology. Other common courses include policing, punishment and corrections, crime and crime scene analysis, writing and public speaking. Most criminal justice degrees are three or four-year undergraduate degrees, though some colleges offer two-year programs in criminal justice and criminology as well.

Fields of Emphasis

Students majoring in criminal justice will often have to choose a more specialized major, or at least a field of emphasis. At the University of Minnesota, for example, criminal justice majors must choose to specialize in either law enforcement or corrections. Available options are often more broad. For example, students pursuing a criminal justice degree may be asked to choose programs to help prepare them for counseling criminals, working in group homes and halfway houses, or working at a police department or juvenile detention center.

Occupations

Occupations for people with criminal justice degrees exist in both the public and private sector. Public sector jobs at the local level include county and park police. Criminal justice degrees can also be helpful for people looking to find employment at state crime labs, within court systems and at governmental agencies like the Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security and the Food and Drug Administration. Private sector jobs include security and safety officers as well as private detectives and insurance claim investigators.