Criminal justice degrees prepare students for diverse careers in areas like social work, security, and law enforcement.
Earning an associate in criminal justice provides the experience and academic credentials needed for entry-level roles in a variety of fields. Although many graduates pursue careers in law enforcement, a criminal justice associate degree also prepares students for careers in other areas, like paralegal work, security, and management.
Graduates enjoy strong job prospects. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects faster-than-average job growth for private detectives and investigators, paralegals and legal assistants, and police and detectives between 2018 and 2028.
Recent events regarding police reform may impact this degree and career paths associated with it. The movement of some municipalities and states to divert funding away from police departments and invest in other public service areas may contribute to some uncertainty for the field of policing. However, it may also contribute to more job openings in adjacent public service areas, such as social work and mental health counseling, as professionals in these areas begin to work more closely with police departments.
This guide ranks the best online associate in criminal justice programs. It also covers other important information for prospective students, including common courses and potential careers and salaries for graduates.
Featured Online Schools
The Best Online Criminal Justice Associate Programs
Copiah-Lincoln Community College
Founded in 1915, Co-Lin offers 33 fully online associate degree programs across a variety of disciplines.
Co-Lin offers an online associate of science in criminal justice degree for students interested in pursuing careers in law enforcement. In addition to general education requirements in core areas, students take classes such as introduction to criminal justice, police administration, and juvenile justice.
To receive their degree, students must complete 63 credits according to the course plan. Students may transfer the entirety of their associate degree to one of Mississippi's public universities to complete their bachelor's degree.
North Central Missouri College
Founded in 1925, NCMC now offers classes across four physical campuses and online.
NCMC offers an associate of applied science degree in criminal justice to help students launch their careers in law enforcement. Students take 15 credits in general education followed by 46-58 credits in criminal justice.
Major courses include criminology, procedural law, and deviant behavior. Students also complete a three-credit practicum before graduation. All coursework takes place entirely online.
Trinity Valley Community College
Founded in 1946, TVCC offers flexible educational and workforce opportunities to students of all backgrounds.
TVCC's associate of applied science in criminal justice takes place in a fully online format. Courses include court systems and practices, fundamentals of criminal law, and the juvenile justice system. Students may receive 13 credits for completion of an approved law enforcement training program and passing the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement exam.
To begin the program, students must receive a satisfactory score on the Texas Success Initiative exam.
With origins stretching back to 1940, DCC offers 19 career and technical programs across several disciplines.
DCC's associate of applied science in criminal justice prepares students to work in law enforcement, corrections, or other criminal justice settings immediately upon graduation. Students choose electives based on their specific interests or follow a plan of study to work as a peace officer or in private security.
Courses take place fully online and cover topics such as police patrol procedures, criminal investigation, and ethics and leadership in criminal justice.
The largest and oldest college in the Florida Panhandle, PSC enrolls roughly 26,000 students each year.
PSC offers a fully online associate of science in criminal justice technology degree program that prepares students for careers as police officers and detectives, criminal investigators, and other occupations.
Courses include criminal investigation, introduction to criminalistics, and probation and parole. Students may receive up to 15 credits for prior training at an approved program, equivalent to a full semester of the two year program.
Highland Community College
Founded in 1858 as the first college in Kansas, today HCC offers over 60 areas of study to its students.
HCC's associate in applied science in criminal justice can be completed entirely online. Students take general education courses and criminal justice core courses including corrections, criminal procedures, and first aid and safety.
To graduate, students must complete 60 credits as well as a practicum in the administration of justice.
Applicants must submit official high school or GED transcripts and ACT or SAT scores.
Northeast Community College
Northeast offers over 130 degree programs to just over 13,000 credit and non-credit seeking students.
Northeast offers both an associate of applied science (AAS) and an associate of arts (AA) in criminal justice in an online format. Students planning to transfer to a bachelor's degree program should choose the AA degree option, with tracks in corrections and law enforcement. AAS students will be prepared to enter the criminal justice workforce right after graduation.
Courses include police and society, community-based corrections, and security and loss prevention. Students with the Nebraska Jail Management Certification may receive three elective credits for prior training.
Current law enforcement officers may be eligible for tuition waivers.
Daytona State College
Daytona Beach, FL
DSC boasts a range of bachelor, associate, and certificate programs available fully or partially online.
The associate of science in criminal justice technology provides law enforcement and correctional officer training graduates who have passed the Florida State Officer Certification program. Ideal students include those who are currently working in law enforcement but don't wish to obtain a bachelor's degree.
Classes take place in seven-week formats and may be taken online or in-person, although one required course is only available on-campus. Up to 24 vocational credits may be awarded for previous training.
Spartanburg Methodist College
Founded in 1911, SMC now enrolls just over 1,000 students from across South Carolina.
SMC offers a fully online associate degree in criminal justice. Courses include police ethics, criminal evidence and procedures, and community-based corrections. Classes begin every eight weeks.
Students may transfer up to 30 credits of qualifying post-secondary coursework. The completed associate degree may be transferred to a bachelor degree program at SMC for continued education in criminal justice.
Ulster County Community College
Founded in 1963, SUNY Ulster boasts a proud tradition of preparing students for career success and further educational opportunities.
SUNY Ulster offers a fully online associate of science in criminal justice degree for current employees in the criminal justice sector or those looking to enter the field for the first time. The two-year curriculum covers topics like the criminal justice system, constitutional criminal procedure, and corrections and community supervision.
Students may optionally complete a criminal justice internship, or satisfy the credit requirement through electives.
Southeastern Community College
West Burlington, IA
SCC prepares students to enter specialized career fields or pursue a four-year degree to further their studies through numerous online and on-campus programs.
SCC's associate of arts in criminal justice lays the foundation for students to complete their bachelor's degree through articulation agreements with four-year institutions. The program may be completed fully online.
Coursework covers criminal law, juvenile delinquency, and forensic science. Students must also take general education courses to satisfy the requirements for this degree. To graduate, students must complete at least 62 credits.
Founded in 1925, SAC offers dozens of online courses as part of the Alamo College District.
SAC offers a fully online associate of applied science in criminal justice with three concentration options: law enforcement, peace officer, and correctional science. All students take classes in the fundamentals of criminal law, crime in America, and court systems and practices, in addition to general education courses and classes required for the chosen concentration.
Texas Police Academy graduates may be awarded up to 20 credits. Active police officers may qualify for a tuition waiver.
Founded in 1887, Campbell provides a Christian education to approximately 6,000 students each year.
Campbell's associate of arts in criminal justice covers topics such as criminology, correctional philosophies, and ethics in government. Students also complete general education courses. All online courses take place in an asynchronous format.
To graduate, students must complete at least 62 credits with a minimum GPA of 2.0 in their major.
Campbell does not require ACT or SAT scores for admission, although students may submit them for consideration.
Lincoln Land Community College
LLCC enrolls more than 12,700 students in credit and non-credit courses each year across multiple campuses.
LLCC offers both an associate of arts (AA) and an associate of applied science (AAS) in criminal justice. Students planning to complete a bachelor's degree should enroll in the AA degree, while students intending to enter the workforce upon graduation should choose the AAS sequence.
Both degree options include a general education core as well as introductory courses in criminal justice systems, law enforcement, corrections, and forensic science.
Fox Valley Technical College
For more than 100 years, FVTC has offered occupational training to students in their Wisconsin community. Today, they offer more than 200 programs.
FVTC's associate of applied science in criminal justice can be completed fully online and on a part-time or full-time basis. Coursework covers the criminal justice system, cultural diversity, and crime prevention principles.
Graduates of this program hold a competitive advantage for admission to FVTC's Law Enforcement Academy, which prepares students for the Wisconsin Department of Justice Law Enforcement Officer Certification. They also qualify for scholarship opportunities and fee waivers for the physical readiness test.
Founded in 1878, AU offers numerous graduate and undergraduate programs rooted in Christian values.
AU offers an associate of arts degree in criminal justice in a flexible and fully online format to prepare students for careers in law enforcement and corrections at the local, state, and federal levels. Courses last just seven weeks each and cover topics such as ethics in criminal justice, restorative justice, and victimology.
The program provides hands-on opportunities in the criminal justice field to enhance classroom studies. Additionally, students may receive credit for professional law enforcement or corrections training.
Western Oklahoma State College
Established as a junior college in 1926, WOSC continues to offer rigorous two-year programs across disciplines.
WOSC offers an associate of applied science in criminal justice for students looking to pursue a career in law enforcement. Online courses include community relations, cultural diversities, and domestic violence, among others. Some courses may not be available online every semester.
Students may choose to focus their studies in corrections by following a pre-approved course sequence. With careful planning, students may also choose a course sequence that prepares them to transfer to a four-year university.
Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Founded in 1977, Keiser now serves over 20,000 students each year through more than 100 different degree programs.
Keiser offers a fully online associate of arts in criminal justice to prepare students for entry-level positions in criminal justice. The curriculum provides a foundation in criminal justice, correction, law enforcement, and juvenile procedures. Coursework also includes hands-on activities to strengthen students' understanding of the subject matter.
Students must take general education courses to satisfy the degree requirements, but courses in the major do not require any prerequisites.
Finger Lakes Community College
Founded in 1965, FLCC teaches nearly 5,700 students each year as part of the State University of New York system.
FLCC offers an associate of applied science in criminal justice degree in a hybrid format, with more than half of coursework taking place online. Courses cover constitutional law, family court, and criminal law, in addition to a general education core.
To graduate, students must complete at least 64 credits with a GPA of at least 2.0. Students also take six credits in cooperative education, where they gain real-world experience.
Herkimer County Community College
Herkimer boasts more than 40 associate degree programs, half of them available online, in eight different disciplines.
Students at Herkimer may enroll in either an associate of science (AS) or associate of applied science (AAS) in criminal justice in a fully online format. Both degree options include courses in criminal substantive law, criminology, and juvenile delinquency.
AAS students take additional courses or internships in criminal justice, while AS students complete more general education courses preparing them for transfer to a four-year institution. Herkimer holds articulation agreements with 11 institutions to aid in a seamless transfer.
University of Maine at Fort Kent
With origins as a teacher training school stretching back to 1878, today UMFK offers degree programs across 15 different disciplines.
UMFK offers an online associate of arts in general studies with a concentration in criminal justice. Coursework covers criminology, constitutional law, and principles of investigations. The program also requires general education courses and electives to meet the 60 credits required for graduation.
Graduates may find entry-level work in law enforcement or transfer their degree to a four-year program to specialize further.
Founded in 1957, OCC enrolls over 8,000 students each semester.
OCC offers an online associate of science in criminal justice for students planning to transfer to a four-year program. Courses include the criminal justice system, forensic science, and constitutional law and rules of evidence. Students may choose further electives in general criminal justice or homeland security.
Students also receive a foundation in general education to build their academic background.
Shoreline Community College
Established in 1964, SCC now enrolls nearly 10,000 students across more than 100 degree and certificate programs.
SCC offers an online associate of applied arts and science in criminal justice. The curriculum includes a general education core followed by foundational classes in criminal law, principles of investigation, and ethical issues in criminal justice. The program encourages students to participate in an internship as well.
To graduate, students must complete 90 quarter credits while maintaining a GPA of at least 2.0.
Founded in 1927 as Florida's first two-year college, SPC has grown to offer more than 180 programs of study.
SPC offers a fully online associate of science in criminal justice technology degree. Courses include crime and delinquency, investigative trends, and constitutional law. Students also choose a degree sub-plan in law enforcement, corrections, or a cross-discipline sequence with an emphasis on investigative technology.
To graduate, students must earn a grade of "C" or better in all major courses and pass a comprehensive exam.
SUNY College of Technology at Canton
Founded in 1906 as New York's first two-year college, SUNY Canton now offers 21 online degree programs.
SUNY Canton offers an online associate of applied science in criminal justice. Students may choose a learning track in law enforcement or corrections, or take generalist electives. Faculty hold significant professional experience and credentials in law enforcement and criminal justice.
Graduates may transfer easily into a bachelor degree program in criminal justice at SUNY Canton, or begin work in criminal justice or law enforcement.
Online Associate's in Criminal Justice Programs Ranking Guidelines
We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.
What Is an Online Associate in Criminal Justice Degree?
Online associate in criminal justice programs typically comprise around 60 credits and take two years of full-time study to complete. General education requirements often constitute the majority of courses in an associate degree program. In addition to general education courses in areas like writing, mathematics, and the humanities, criminal justice students may take major courses in areas like criminal law, government, and psychology.
Students interested in pursuing entry-level careers in law enforcement or a related four-year degree benefit from earning a criminal justice associate degree online.
Featured Criminal Justice Programs
Choosing an Online Program
When choosing an online associate in criminal justice program, learners should consider factors like their goals, their current lifestyle and personal obligations, and their budget. Learn more about how to choose an online degree through the link below.
What Else Can I Expect From an Associate in Criminal Justice Program?
Online criminal justice associate programs often include courses in the fundamentals of law and ethics, the criminal justice system, and government. Some programs also include courses in psychology and public speaking.
Associate in Criminal Justice Curriculum
This course outlines the definitions for various criminal acts and examines the psychological, social, and moral influences on criminal behavior. Learners study various responses to criminal behavior, including public policy, law, and criminal justice scholarship.
Criminal Justice Ethics
This course provides an overview of the various codes of ethics used within the criminal justice system. Students explore ethics in law enforcement, policing, corrections, and court systems. They gain skills in ethical mediation and learn how to navigate ethical dilemmas in the criminal justice system.
Courses in police studies provide foundational knowledge of the policing system in the U.S., covering topics like police history, crime patterns and response, and the development of police procedure. Students may take more than one course in police studies, especially if they plan to work in the field.
Where Can an Associate in Criminal Justice Degree Take Me?
A criminal justice associate degree prepares graduates for a variety of careers in diverse areas. The following list outlines several common career paths for graduates.
Associate programs in criminal justice provide foundational knowledge of the criminal justice system, preparing students for entry-level roles like police officer, emergency management specialist, corrections officer, and probation officer.
Social workers support vulnerable and at-risk individuals and communities, helping them navigate a variety of challenges. These professionals connect clients with social service resources and work to keep families and children safe.
Graduates of associate in criminal justice programs can pursue further study in sociology. Sociologists study human behavior within different social and cultural groups. Criminal justice programs provide a foundation for these studies, particularly with respect to criminal behavior and society.
Studies in criminal justice correlate closely with psychological studies. Many criminal justice programs include introductory courses in psychology, preparing students for further study in the field. Graduates can also pursue entry-level jobs related to psychology, including human resource specialist and psychiatric technician.
Criminal justice graduates can pursue entry-level legal studies positions, including paralegal, file clerk, and court messenger. Graduates may also pursue a bachelor's in legal studies.
Criminal Justice Careers
An associate in criminal justice provides a strong foundation for a variety of jobs, both within and outside of law enforcement. Courses in criminal justice programs emphasize skills like critical thinking, leadership, ethics, and communication, preparing students for success in diverse roles. This section outlines several common careers for graduates.
Paralegals work alongside lawyers, providing assistance and support for law firms. They perform administrative tasks, manage files, and conduct legal research. An associate degree serves as the minimum education requirement for this position, and although optional, some paralegals may choose to earn certification.
Paralegals excel in organization and time management. They possess a working knowledge of the law, and apply that knowledge to their research and case work. Paralegal training prepares students to enter the field and pursue further education.
Social and Human Service Assistants
Projected Growth Rate
Social and human service assistants work in a variety of environments, including individual and family services, nursing care facilities, hospitals, and rehabilitation clinics. An associate degree provides the necessary basic education for these positions; however, some employers may require a bachelor's degree.
Social and human service assistants need strong communication, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. They may work for nonprofit organizations or serve in roles within government services. Generally, no formal licensure is required.
Police and Detectives
Projected Growth Rate
Police officers and detectives serve local communities by protecting citizens and upholding local, state, and federal laws. Police officers work in emergency services, responding to emergency calls and providing assistance when crimes occur or when citizens are in distress. Detectives investigate crimes, following up on leads and tips from the community, and seek justice for victims of crimes under the law.
Recent shifts in attitudes toward policing may contribute to a change in roles for police officers, with some job duties shifting toward human service professionals, like mental health and social workers.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to complete an associate in criminal justice program?
Associate degree programs typically take two years of full-time study to complete, though some schools offer accelerated programs.
What can I do with an associate in criminal justice?
Many graduates pursue jobs in policing and corrections. However, they can also pursue careers as firefighters, private detectives and investigators, and social and community service workers.
Is criminal justice an AA or AS degree?
Typically, criminal justice associate degrees are AA degrees, but some schools offer AS in criminal justice programs.
Is an associate in criminal justice difficult?
Pursuing a postsecondary degree requires hard work, focus, organization, and drive. Online criminal justice programs also require students to possess strong time management skills and self-discipline.
Is it hard to find a job with a criminal justice degree?
Many potential jobs for associate in criminal justice graduates are projected to grow between 2018 and 2028, so students enjoy strong job prospects.
What is the difference between law enforcement and policing?
Law enforcement encompasses a wider range of roles and careers than policing. Policing refers directly to the work of police officers; law enforcement includes all different areas of the criminal justice system.
How can I help society with a criminal justice degree?
A criminal justice degree prepares students to pursue roles in a variety of human and community service fields. Many graduates pursue roles in helping industries, like social work and public health.
How do social workers and law enforcement work together?
Social workers often work to foster a more positive relationship between law enforcement and civilians. Today's shifting ideas about police work may also lead to social workers stepping in to assist law enforcement more often.
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