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Earning a College Degree in Criminal Justice

Is it really worth it?

College Student

Everyone's first thought when deciding whether or not to go to college is, "Can I afford it?" The real question is, can you afford not to? As college degrees become more attainable for the average Joe, they have also become required by more employers. Companies want the best employees working for them and college graduates need less on-the-job training.

Many police departments require at least 60 to 90 credit hours if you haven't served in the military, especially in larger cities. If you want to be a Paralegal, many companies require that you have a bachelor's degree. Thinking about becoming a correctional officer? If you don't have the experience, you'll need two years of college.

If you aren't convinced yet, I have some fun statistics to help show you the value of a college degree. In a 2005 study published by the WSJ, thirty schools gave freshmen a test to measure their problem solving, reasoning and critical thinking. They gave the same test to these students when they were seniors to see how they had progressed. The results showed that they improved at or above 95 percent in each category. Long story short, you will learn a lot in college that can help you both professionally and personally.

When considering a college degree, you may also ask, "Will I be able to find a job after I graduate?" Despite what you've heard, the numbers don't lie. College educated millennials (ages 25 to 32) are 89 percent more likely to be employed full time as opposed to those without a degree. More importantly, you can see unemployment rates for different education levels below.


Read more: Guess What: Going to College Still Pays

Still on the fence about getting a degree in the criminal justice field? Let's talk money. A college graduate earns an average income of $45,000 per year, versus an average of $28,000 per year for a high school graduate.. If we were having this conversation in 1965, college degrees were not as valuable as they are today. As stated on Entrepreneur, the value of a high school diploma has decreased from $31,384 in 1965 to $28,000 in 2013, a 10 percent decrease. On the other hand, annual pay of 25 to 32-year-olds with a college degree grew from $38,833 to $45,500 in 2012, a 17 percent increase in the last 50 or so years. In short, getting your degree can really pay off, literally!

When you make it past the tuition, the time and the effort it takes to earn a degree, think about why you want to go into Criminal Justice. A top community college scholar, Azucena Juarez, comments on her education. She said she chose Criminal Justice as her major because "I would be in a better position to help people with this major." Just think, you could make a difference with your education whether it is in corrections, law enforcement or forensic science. Sometimes, the decision to earn your degree or not comes down to finding the personal satisfaction that comes from expanding your education. Perhaps you are the first in your family to go to college, or maybe you have dreamt of being a police officer since you were young. Getting your college degree can be a rewarding accomplishment, for several different reasons.

I will leave you with an inspirational quote from Ronette Burkes, the Warden of the Ohio Reformatory for Women.

"If we provide the women here with programming, with education, with opportunities that they didn't have, that changes the way they think, that changes their thought process and behavior, then when we send them back out to society, they won't create any more victims."
- Ronette Burkes


Now that you know the benefits of earning your degree, check out the rest of our site to learn more about specific career paths or use our quick search to find schools near you! You can request info from multiple schools to help make your decision easier.