Best Online Associate in Criminal Justice Programs
Compare the best online associate in criminal justice programs and find an option that matches your academic and career goals.
An online associate in criminal justice provides students with an academic understanding of the systemic origins of crime, as well as roles of law enforcement, legal systems, correctional facilities, and public policy. Students can often select concentrations that coincide with their career objectives. Many graduates find work as police officers, detectives, paralegals, legal assistants, or corrections officers.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), public two-year colleges charge an average in-state tuition of $3,380 and an average out-of-state tuition of $8,130. Most associate degrees take full-time learners two years to complete, though exact program length may vary significantly, particularly for online learners enrolled in self-paced programs.
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Many criminal justice professions are especially in-demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that between 2020 and 2030, the number of jobs forparalegals and legal assistants will grow by 12%. Many criminal justice professionals earn above-average salaries. In 2021, police earned a median annual salary of $64,610, while detectives earned a median salary of $83,640.
What Can I Expect From an Online Associate in Criminal Justice Program?
An online associate in criminal justice typically requires 60 credits and takes full-time students two years to complete. Some programs offer accelerated course loads while others accommodate part-time schedules, so completion times may vary.
Associate programs provide foundational training in criminal justice. Depending on the school, students may be able to earn an associate of science or an associate of arts. Both pathways can prepare graduates for entry-level criminal justice jobs, or ready learners to pursue a four-year degree.
In addition to classroom learning, students pursuing an associate in criminal justice often complete internships. This fieldwork helps learners apply their theoretical knowledge and prepares them for various law enforcement training programs.
Some associate in criminal justice programs may allow degree-seekers to specialize their training in a specific subdiscipline. Possible concentrations at this level include law enforcement, corrections, and homeland security. Concentrations can help set graduates apart on the job market or qualify for admission into a specialized bachelor's program.
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Popular Online Criminal Justice Programs
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Associate in Criminal Justice Program?
Depending on a student's chosen concentration, a bachelor's in forensic science and crime scene investigation program has a wide variety of possible courses. Students may focus on the minutiae of crime scenes themselves or work on laboratory analysis. Courses can expand beyond science to cover government policy and even photography.
The Legal System
In this course, students examine the legal system, including its history, development, and various institutions. Learners look at the roles and responsibilities of each department and sector. Other covered topics may include property law and business law.
Policing in America
Students in this class learn about the policing field and profession, including its history, agencies, and fundamental issues. The curriculum may also look at the professional challenges facing policing and the need for reform.
Ethics in Criminal Justice
This course investigates ethical issues and standards encountered by criminal justice professionals. Students learn about some of the ethical challenges and major complaints levied against these professionals. Coursework also examines various movements and developments that have changed ethical frameworks in policing.
Correctional rehabilitation coursework examines the corrections process and its impact on prisoners. Students may look at specific prisoner types, programs, and institutions, along with corrections policies and ideologies. Some courses may compare American correctional processes with various international programs, identifying areas for improvement.
In this class, students learn about different crime prevention measures. They look at community programs, early intervention strategies, and legal system processes. The curriculum may make use of statistics, behavioral research, and anecdotal evidence.
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What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Associate in Criminal Justice Program?
Although exact requirements vary by program, when applying to online associate in criminal justice programs, individuals must submit proof of high school graduation or GED and official transcripts from all secondary and postsecondary institutions they have attended. Naturally, a history of good grades reflects well on applicants’ academic capabilities, and many applicants can transfer credits earned at other postsecondary institutions.
Many colleges no longer require standardized test scores. However, submitting above-average SAT and ACT scores reflects well on an applicants’ knowledge of English and mathematics.
Applicants should also include work experiences, extracurricular activities, and community service work to demonstrate engagement in diverse academic and professional spaces; this is especially true for individuals who have professional experiences that coincide with their intended path of study. Some individuals are even able to use work experiences as college credit. Many colleges also require several essays or letters of recommendation to gather a more holistic account of students’ experiences, goals, and character.
What Can I Do With an Online Associate in Criminal Justice Degree?
With an online associate in criminal justice, graduates can pursue various protective service and legal careers. The BLS projects 3-5% job growth in these fields between 2019 and 2029, which is right around the average projected growth for all occupations (4%).
Typical salaries for many jobs in these fields exceed the median annual salary for all occupations in the U.S. Learn more about criminal justice careers, and see where an online associate in criminal justice can take you.
Police officers are charged with protecting people and property in their community. They may investigate crimes, patrol and monitor specific locations, speak to suspects and witnesses, and prepare court documents and cases.
Paralegals support lawyers in various ways, such as by conducting research for cases, preparing court documents, and assisting in court. Paralegals may also perform administrative work or specialize in a certain area of the law.
Corrections officers manage personnel within prisons and jails, including supervising prisoners and protecting visitors and property. Their daily duties may include inspecting facilities and prisoners, filling out reports, and transporting prisoners.
Private detectives investigate various matters for individuals and organizations, such as financial activities and infidelity. These detectives may conduct surveillance, dig through social media, or interview people related to their cases.
Court reporters make transcriptions and recordings of various court and legal proceedings. These reporters need to attend events and note participants' words, actions, and behaviors.
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It is very common for individuals with an online associate in criminal justice to supplement their degree with professional training or certifications. For example, police and detectives must attend a training academy to hone practical skills such as firearm usage, emergency response, and self-defense. Many paralegals and legal assistants also complete a paralegal certification program.
Many graduates also choose to continue their education and completea bachelor's degree in criminal justice or related disciplines such as legal studies, criminology, or forensic science. Although a bachelor's degree is not explicitly required for many criminal justice careers, this credential can help professionals compete for more lucrative or high-ranking positions.
How Do I Choose an Online Associate in Criminal Justice Program?
Postsecondary education can be a significant financial investment. Public two-year colleges charge in-state learners an average of $3,380 and out-of-state learners an average of $8,130. Private colleges are even more expensive, charging an average of $16,900 per year.
Remote learners can save on a number of costs, such as housing, dining, and transportation expenses. Many online programs charge tuition on a per-credit basis. The Education Data Initiative indicates that public and community colleges charge in-state students an average of $140 per credit and out-of-state students $340 per credit. Private institutions charged a substantial $750 per credit hour.
Although many learners embrace a standard full-time schedule, others prefer a more condensed learning format. Accelerated programs can be advantageous for individuals with a large number of transferable credits. Learners juggling coursework alongside other personal or professional demands may enjoy a part-time schedule.
Many remote learners prefer synchronous formats, which consist of live meeting times and set course schedules. Others enjoy the flexibility of asynchronous formats, which tend to be more self-paced.
Although remote learners may have more options regarding the location of their programs, many choose programs at nearby institutions. State and community colleges often have affordable tuition options for in-state learners. Students with physical access to their campuses can also take hybrid courses, meet with faculty members, and take advantage of various in-person amenities.
Prospective students should always make sure that all colleges or universities that they consider are properly accredited. Institutions earn accreditation by undergoing a formal evaluation from accrediting bodies, such as the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS). Institutions must demonstrate high instruction quality, strong student learning outcomes, and ample academic resources.
Colleges should offer ample student support services for online students. Many schools offer academic support infrastructures, including virtual tutoring, essay help, and digital libraries. Institutions should also offer remote career support services like internship opportunities, mentorship programs, career advising, job boards, and alumni networking platforms.
Best Accredited Online Associate in Criminal Justice Programs
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Frequently Asked Questions About Associate in Criminal Justice Programs
Is an associate degree in criminal justice worth it?
An associate in criminal justice program teaches students the skills needed to enter the workforce in various legal and law enforcement capacities. Graduates can also continue with their schooling and earn a bachelor's degree.
Are criminal justice majors in demand?
The demand for public safety professionals should continue to grow. For example, the BLS projects 5% job growth for police officers and detectives between 2019 and 2029.
How much money can I make with an associate in criminal justice?
Graduates with an associate in criminal justice can earn positions with above-average salary potential. According to the BLS, paralegals and legal assistants earn a median annual salary of $51,740, while corrections officers earn $45,300. Police officers and detectives earn an even higher median annual salary of $65,170.
Do I need a bachelor's degree to get a job in criminal justice?
While a bachelor's in criminal justice can help graduates qualify for positions with more responsibility and higher salaries, not all positions require a four-year degree. For example, candidates with an associate degree can begin their careers as police officers and legal assistants.
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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
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