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Students interested in pursuing criminal justice careers may consider obtaining a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Two criminal justice degree options are usually offered at the undergraduate level: Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Criminal Justice and Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice.
These degrees prepare students for various career paths within the criminal justice system, including law, law enforcement, and public safety. This article provides an overview of the major considerations for earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, including the difference between a bachelor’s degree and a bachelor’s degree, combined coursework, typical concentration offerings, and potential careers in the criminal justice field.
What is a Bachelor in Criminal Justice?
The BA in Criminal Justice is an undergraduate degree that provides students with foundational theoretical and practical knowledge of the criminal justice system, criminal law, criminology, and basic research methodology. At the undergraduate level, the curriculum includes general education and specialist courses. Course topics usually include:
- Criminal behavior and motive
- law enforcement
- court system
- criminal investigation
Most undergraduate programs require students to complete 120 credit hours. Generally, it takes four years of full-time study to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Several factors can affect the length of a program, including the number of credits students earn per semester and whether learners are enrolled part- or full-time.
BA vs BA in Criminal Justice
Students interested in obtaining a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can earn either a B.Sc. or a B.Sc. The two criminal justice degrees provide students with a comprehensive, interdisciplinary foundation in the field.
A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice focuses on a liberal arts curriculum. In addition to general education courses, you may prefer specialized undergraduate degree coursework in the liberal arts and social sciences. Undergraduate programs usually require students to enroll in foreign language courses.
A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice typically focuses on scientific and research courses and the study of criminal justice as an applied science. Students can take courses that cover qualitative methods for collecting and analyzing field data and how to use statistical methods for data analysis.
Concentrations for a BA in Criminal Justice
Each school and program offers a unique curriculum. Some distinctive concentrations or majors, which allow learners to focus their studies around a specific area of criminal justice and tailor their courses toward their professional goals.
Below, you will find a sampling of possible concentration offers in criminal justice undergraduate programs. Not all programs offer these concentrations, and not all concentrations are represented here.
Learners of the Corrections Concentration examine evidence-based practices and programs for the rehabilitation of offenders in correctional facilities and their communities. Students learn about the different social factors that influence and lead to imprisonment, and explore the services provided in correctional institutions.
The Cybercrime Focus examines crimes in digital spaces, including how criminal organizations use technologies and the causes of cybercrime.
Students explore digital forensics, including cybercrime investigation techniques and prevention methods. Learners study the techniques, laws, and procedures involved in the collection and synthesis of digital forensic evidence. They may also learn about protocols and procedures for protecting critical digital infrastructure.
Homeland Security and Emergency Management
The emphasis on homeland security and emergency management equips students with the theoretical and practical knowledge needed to support communities dealing with crises. Learners study how historical threats, disasters, and acts of terrorism affect national security.
Probation and parole
In the Probation and Parole concentration, students learn how to enforce court penalties, develop plans to integrate current and former offenders into their communities and rehabilitate offenders. The courses introduce students to strategies and techniques for rehabilitating delinquent juveniles and adults.
Courses in the Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice program
Specific course offerings and curricula vary between schools and programs. Below are some possible course titles and topics that may be included in a typical Bachelor of Criminal Justice program.
In the Criminology course, students study criminological theories and research methods and review the different social factors that influence the cause and how of crimes. Learners gain an understanding of criminal patterns and assess pathways into and out of crime. In this course, you can critically assess issues related to policy, practice, law, and sentencing as they relate to criminal justice.
Introduction to criminal justice
Introductory courses in criminal justice explore the history, current practices, and social and institutional context of the criminal justice system. Students learn about the system’s structure, function, and key operations, including the roles of courts, correctional institutions, and law enforcement agencies.
Introduction to Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
The Introduction to Homeland Security and Counterterrorism course identifies the main differences between homeland security and counterterrorism efforts and organizations. Students explore the roles and responsibilities of counterterrorism organizations in keeping the population of the United States safe and secure.
Learners examine the role of terrorism in the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the impact of the Department of Homeland Security on American society and how the department has evolved since its inception.
Juvenile justice courses typically provide an overview of the history of the juvenile justice system, discuss the social factors that lead to criminal behavior and touch on prevention, intervention, rehabilitation and treatment. Students study trends, policies, and programs in juvenile justice and evaluate legal issues, counseling and treatment options, and the role of juvenile justice agencies.
Courses in Law Enforcement An overview of the development of the criminal justice system and the concepts and theories critical to law enforcement. Coursework comprehensively examines the many components of the criminal justice system, including the police, corrections, courts, and juvenile justice.
What can you do with a Bachelor in Criminal Justice?
Average annual salary: 56,230 dollars
Projected job growth (2021-2031): +14% (much faster than average)
Job titleParalegals: Paralegals provide administrative support to attorneys by writing emails, drafting documents, conducting research, and collecting signatures. These professionals often interact with clients, witnesses, and other individuals. Paralegals also prepare case briefs, summarize actions, testimonies, and cross-examinations and attend trials.
An officer appointed to monitor the behavior of offenders
Average annual salary: 60,250 dollars
Projected job growth (2021-2031): 0% (little or no change)
Job titleThe conduct officer works with offenders who have been placed on probation, as well as incarcerated individuals and individuals released from prison. Depending on the offender’s condition, the probation officer may provide resources to assist with rehabilitation and reintegration into society, arrange treatment programs and closely monitor progress.
Average annual salary: 99,290 dollars
Projected job growth (2021-2031): +7% (as fast as you can)
Job titleSecurity managers play an essential role in the operational efficiency of an organization. These professionals are responsible for protecting the organization’s assets, including people and employees. Security managers develop and implement security standards and protocols and conduct security operations assessments.
Students interested in furthering their education after completing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can choose from various graduate degrees and programs. An MA in Criminal Justice, for example, allows students to build on the education they received during their undergraduate program.
Earning a master’s degree in criminal justice can help students become qualified for more advanced roles in the field, such as policy analyst, forensic psychologist, and federal special agent.
A master’s in criminology is another popular option for students who have earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. With this degree, students can pursue roles as victim advocates, homeland security officers, case managers, paralegals, and forensic technicians.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about a Bachelor in Criminal Justice
Is a bachelor in criminal justice worth it?
That may be the case, depending on your career goals. Earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can give you the essential knowledge and skills needed to enter the field. Many jobs in the criminal justice sector require at least a bachelor’s degree.
What is the best criminal justice degree?
The best criminal justice degree depends on your career goals. Earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can provide the theoretical and practical knowledge needed for various entry-level jobs in the field. On the other hand, a bachelor’s degree in psychology, criminology, public administration, or pre-law may provide learners with an education more specific to their interests and career goals.
What is the difference between a BSc and a BSc in Criminal Justice?
The difference between a BA and a BS in Criminal Justice is that a BA has more emphasis on research and technical and scientific coursework, while a BA has more focus on the social sciences.