How Long Does it Take to Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice?
If you've found this article it's likely because you're wondering "How long does it take to earn a bachelor's degree in criminal justice?" Well, like most bachelor's degrees, earning your diploma in criminal justice will most likely take about four years. You typically need about 12 credits per semester to stay on track to graduate in that timeline, but you may be able to complete it faster by taking more than 16 credits each semester. Most colleges will have a degree path with required and recommended courses that help you figure out how long it will take you to graduate.
Most colleges have some basic requirements in order to apply - a high school diploma, GED or equivalent, and usually require SAT or ACT scores as well. Some programs may have additional requirements, but typically if you can meet the requirements for the college, you can get into the criminal justice program. Be sure to check out the office of the registrar to find out the specific requirements for the criminal justice program that you want to attend.
Other factors that can determine how long it takes to get your bachelor's degree in criminal justice are the program and type of school that you choose. Some criminal justice programs require more credits than others. The number of credit hours varies depending on the type of school, and if you choose a traditional onsite campus or attend an online one.
How Long Does it Take to Earn an Online Criminal Justice Bachelor Degree?
An alternative educational path that many people choose is to enroll in an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice program. Typically an online bachelor's degree takes about 2-4 years, depending on the specific school. One great advantage of an online degree is that you can go at your own pace - if you are highly motivated, it's very likely that you can complete your online degree much faster than it would take to complete a degree program at a traditional campus. Like onsite campuses, online colleges will also have a degree path with the required courses that will help you figure out the time commitment.
Online courses have grown in popularity over the past years due to their flexible nature. While in-person programs and traditional classrooms are well suited for people in need of highly structured learning environments, online and non-traditional classrooms are a better fit for highly motivated and organized people. Instead of being confined to a desk and stuck in a room for hours on end, online classes offer students the chance to learn from anywhere and reduce the difficulties of rearranging work schedules and trying to fit classes into their busy lives.
How to Get a Criminal Justice Degree
To get a criminal justice degree you have to fulfill the specific requirements of the college that you attend. Most colleges will have a core of general education courses that all students, regardless of major, have to complete. The reason for this is to give students a well-rounded education and help them become critical thinkers and become effective communicators. In addition to the general education courses, you must also pass the specific courses in your criminal justice major to get your diploma.
The types of classes that you take for a criminal justice degree will vary depending on the area you focus on, but you will most likely be studying the criminal justice system in the U.S. and learning how the courts work. You will probably also take classes in related topics like ethics and psychology. No matter the program you choose, the university has carefully selected courses and topics that will give insight into a wide range of criminal justice topics, like corrections, forensic science, or criminal law.
Bachelor's degree programs will typically take about 120-160 credit hours to earn your degree, and only 44-60 of those will be general education courses. The rest of those hours are filled with the criminal justice topics that interest you. You will get to choose some of the classes that make up your CJ credits and can focus on a particular area, like filling some of the credits with computer programming classes if you're interested in cybercrimes. Don't be intimidated by the number of hours it takes - the time will fly by when you're studying a topic that you are passionate about!
Criminal Justice Careers with a Bachelor's Degree
Earning a bachelor's in criminal justice opens the door to a wide choice of careers. You will have to choose an area to focus on, like corrections, forensics, law enforcement, or another related field. Once you have found the area that interests you, the next step is to choose a specific career path. For example, your degree could lead you to become any of these listed careers:
- All you need to become a K9 officer is a bachelor's degree and a few years of experience as a police officer - another job that only requires a bachelor's, although sometimes a high school diploma does suffice. You can also become an animal cruelty investigator with a bachelor's
- To become a criminal profiler, some entry-level positions only require a bachelor's degree.
- Many criminologists hold a master's degree, but some employees join the field with only a bachelor's degree.
There are many other types of criminal justice jobs you can pursue, like becoming a document examiner to help courts determine if evidence is valid or not. With such a wide range of careers, the salary ranges vary as well, but are typically in the range of $50,000-100,000 a year depending on your specialization. As you can see, a criminal justice degree is a versatile and sound investment in your future because there are so many types of jobs that utilize the knowledge that you gain.