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Is an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice Worth It?

When choosing a criminal justice degree program, prospective students are likely to ask the following questions:

The good news is students will have numerous opportunities in the criminal justice field upon graduation. Key benefits of an associate’s degree in criminal justice include higher salary packages, more room for advancement, refined skills, and job market advantage.

Why Get an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice?

An associate’s degree in criminal justice demonstrates the job seeker’s expertise in the legal field. Employers will know that the applicant has taken courses that have covered topics such as criminal law, legal principles, the justice system, criminal justice investigations, and criminal behaviors. If the job applicant has no field experience, an associate’s degree will put them at an advantage by demonstrating that he or she still has a criminal justice background. In fact, even if the applicant has field experience, more and more employers are requiring 60 college credits to qualify for a law enforcement position. The majority of associate degree programs include a minimum of 60 credit hours.

Police departments in major metropolitan areas such as Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia have an associate degree requirement for new hires. With an associate degree in criminal justice, a job seeker can pursue multiple positions within a police department. Although many criminal justice degree graduates pursue police officer jobs, a person could also choose to pursue a position as a dispatcher, detective, tech officer, or support staff member. Each police department will advertise job openings with specific education and experience requirements.

Jobs in a police department are not the only careers available to associate degree graduates. With an associate’s in criminal justice, the graduate could look for jobs within law offices, insurance companies, youth detention centers, and security firms. Job titles of criminal justice associate degree graduates include:

Criminal Justice Associate’s Degree Salary Expectations

Associate’s in criminal justice salary figures are promising. Pay varies based on what type of position is secured following degree conferment, but data demonstrates that degree holders earn more than those without an associate’s. The national median criminal justice associates degree salary is upwards of $53,500 annually. However, a top associate’s in criminal justice salary can reach above $107,000 per year. Lucrative positions that a person can secure with an associates degree in criminal justice are police officer, security management, operations manager, and security director. The lowest average criminal justice associates degree salary is $28,530 annually made by security guards and gaming surveillance officers. Security jobs may not require an associate’s degree, but it will help an applicant have an edge over fellow job seekers. An associate’s in criminal justice salary also has the potential to grow due to promotional opportunities. For instance, a police department or security firm may only promote individuals who have received their associates in criminal justice.

Besides earning potential of a criminal justice associates degree salary, prospective students should consider the low cost of the degree program in terms of investment. Two-year degrees are more affordable than attending a four-year college. Typically, associate degrees are earned in less than two years. Many criminal justice associate degree courses are available online—allowing the student to meet work and school obligations while in college. If the associate degree holder eventually chooses to pursue a bachelor degree in criminal justice, the previously earned credits will be used toward graduation requirements. A bachelor degree will often be required for federal criminal justice jobs within the FBI, DEA, and CIA.

With competitive salaries and an attractive benefits package, criminal justice jobs are in high demand. Even if the employer doesn’t have a degree requirement, an associate’s in criminal justice improves your chances of getting hired.

Related:

Top 10 Campus Associate’s in Criminal Justice
Top 10 Online Associate’s in Criminal Justice
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