A degree program in criminal justice is a direct pathway to working in prisons, forensic science, or as a paralegal.
You learn about the sociology of crime, fraud investigation, and the history of law.
Before you apply to school to earn a degree in criminal justice, learn more about how long you will be in school and training.
This information will help you determine the overall cost of attending school for criminal justice.
What is a Degree in Criminal Justice?
A criminal justice degree is desirable for law enforcement professionals and the legal system.
Typically, you would pursue a Bachelor of Science (BS) in criminal justice.
As a social science, criminal justice coursework is related to sociology, psychology, and political science.
For example, in a criminal justice degree program, courses include the sociology of crime, urban sociology, and deviance–all of which are sociology classes.
Expect to spend time in classes with students who major in sociology and psychology, not just criminal justice majors.
What is Criminal Justice?
Criminal justice is a field of study that encompasses the legal system and law enforcement, including corrections or prisons.
Studying criminal justice gives you an in-depth perspective on assisting crime victims best and protecting the innocent from illegal activity.
In addition, you learn about the legal system and laws in a way that allows you to pursue a career in politics or as a police officer.
How Long Does It Take To Get a Degree in Criminal Justice?
A degree in criminal justice takes four years on average.
Most students pursue a Bachelor of Science (BS) in criminal justice, a four-year degree program.
A four-year bachelor’s degree is the typical amount of education employers want on a resume.
In addition, you can earn a BS that will fulfill the expectations of a criminologist as an occupational career.
What is a Criminologist, and What Do They Do Professionally?
A criminologist is a professional who works with criminal justice, crime victims, and perpetrators.
Your job revolves around better understanding criminals to reduce crime and make the world safer.
By starting with a four-year BS degree in criminal justice, you are ready to pursue higher-level education.
There is the master of law degree route that leads to becoming an attorney by passing a bar exam.
You can also earn a professional certificate as a paralegal or legal assistant and begin employment in the courtrooms.
How Expensive Is Getting a Criminal Justice Degree?
To earn a four-year bachelor of science degree in criminal justice will cost anywhere from $40,000 to $120,000 a year.
This cost includes tuition at a four-year college or university, fees, and school expenses.
You will also have to pay for living expenses in a dorm or an apartment on campus.
How Can I Reduce Costs for a Criminal Justice Degree?
You can save money and cut back on the amount you must pay for a criminal justice degree.
Consider ways to reduce expenses for school, such as:
- Choose classes that offer online or remote training. Online coursework allows you to cut back on transportation costs and frees up when you attend class.
- If eligible, you can also apply for federal aid and receive financial assistance to pay for college. Work-study programs that give you a stipend while providing credits for coursework are also good.
- Request a paid internship while in college to earn a criminal justice degree. Speak directly with potential employers, such as corrections or law enforcement offices, if the educational program does not offer an internship component.
- Apply for scholarships you secure within the criminal justice department or with the financial aid office. Prepare to write an essay to apply for most scholarships as this will be the main requirement.
Most of these money-saving techniques result in funding for college tuition, fees, and books that do not have to be repaid.
What is the Salary for Criminal Justice Professionals in the US?
According to Zippia, the salary for criminal justice lawyers is 50,000 annually.
This amount is based on a range from $32,000 to $76,000 earned annually.
Other wages and jobs you can have as a criminal justice major include:
- Correctional / prison officer earning $39,285 a year
- Police officers earning $58,720 a year
- Crime scene investigators earning $57,340 a year
A criminologist specializing in criminal justice as a subject and most likely will continue earning a Ph.D. in a related field earns $75,700 a year.
The top-earning criminologists bring home $294,666 annually, including 86 percent of the profession.
Is It Worth Getting a Degree in Criminal Justice?
If you want to work in law, starting with a four-year bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is a smart move.
You can earn a degree to propel your career toward a master of law.
Or you are able to move toward professional certification and work as a paralegal or court reporter.
From here, additional work experience in the criminal justice professions of law enforcement and corrections will help you hone a lifelong career full of passion.
It all starts with getting a degree in criminal justice, which is a good investment.
If you are earning a four-year college degree and plan to work in law or criminology, major in criminal justice.
The field will serve you well and provide a well-rounded education about the legal system and civil rights.
At the same time, if you do not have four years to go to school or are seeking a non-traditional route, you might want to avoid criminal justice as a major.
Choose to get a paralegal or court reporting certificate, which takes no college education at all.
You can get a certificate in these fields in less than one year.
You can still excel at your goals of being a professional in law and legal services.