For many students, the best place to start a criminal justice career is with an associate’s in criminal justice? What is an associate’s degree in Criminal Justice? A Criminal Justice Associates degree prepares students for criminal justice careers. For example, after earning this degree, students are eligible to become police officers, state troopers, security offers, and other similar choices. With an associate’s degree, students can learn the basics and jumpstart their careers. Classes are often taught by people who have real-life experience in criminal justice. Former law enforcement officers who teach or lecture can offer practical advice.
Choosing a local, on-campus program in criminal justice has a lot of advantages. For example, you can have a one-on-one mentorship with an educator. When you have questions, your teachers will be right there to answer them. Most importantly, learning in a classroom gives you lots of networking opportunities. Your criminal justice career can get a running start if you make a lot of connections with other professionals. With a classroom-based education, you can connect yourself to local law enforcement opportunities. If you excel in your classes, then your teachers can vouch for you personally when you start looking for jobs and need references.
How We Ranked the Best Associate’s in Criminal Justice
To rank associate’s in criminal justice programs, we began with the best colleges for criminal justice and law enforcement, searching for legitimate, accredited universities, colleges, and community colleges that offer an associate’s degree. From there, Criminal Justice Degree Hub editors ranked programs according to Cost, Reviews, and Salary Potential, with data from College Scorecard, Niche, and IPEDS. These criteria tell students they can trust a real return on investment, and never wonder whether they associate’s in criminal justice is worth it.
1. Peirce College
When you decide to pursue a career in criminal justice, you want to consider Peirce College for your associate’s in criminal justice degree. The AS in Criminal Justice from the college allows students to study on-campus or online. That flexibility allows you to set up a schedule that fits your situation and your goals. It also gives you the option to keep up with your personal and professional obligations.
Peirce College differs from other programs by allowing students to transfer up to 30 credits into the program. That gives students a chance to accelerate the process of obtaining a degree and work toward their long-term goals. Since students are able to transfer credits into the program, they can complete the degree in as little as one year. Peirce College offers credit for students in the criminal justice program who attend the police academy or prison training programs in Philadelphia.
Program: AS in Criminal Justice
2. Shoreline Community College
Shoreline Community College is one of the best colleges for criminal justice and law enforcement degree programs. The school offers online and on-campus programs that allow students to obtain an Associate of Applied Arts and Sciences in Criminal Justice. Students can work at their pace and obtain a degree through the online format or the on-campus format, as well as a combination program that lets students work out a hybrid strategy.
A key way Shoreline Community College differs from other programs is the focus on teaching students the state and federal laws that apply to their long-term goals. It does not limit student education to federal laws or local laws. It gives students a strong foundation in the way laws intersect at the state and federal level to prepare students for a career in law enforcement or criminal justice. Shoreline Community College allows students to start working on classes four times per year at each quarter for a flexible schedule.
Program: AAAS in Criminal Justice
3. Northwest Iowa Community College
Northwest Iowa Community College offers a hybrid online AA in Criminal Justice program that allows students to focus on their career goals. The program is primarily online with the core classes in criminal justice fully online. Students only need to attend on-campus classes one time per week for their non-core classes to obtain their associates in criminal justice.
Northwest Iowa Community College offers scholarships for full-time students that helps reduce the cost of college and gives students a solution to address financial concerns. The program also ensures that students are able to work around personal obligations or a work schedule by offering flexible courses and online classes. Northwest Iowa Community College stands out from other programs by working with students who want to pursue a higher level of education and making it easy to transfer into other universities and colleges for a bachelor’s degree.
Program: AA in Criminal Justice
4. Casper College
Casper College offers an AAS or AA in Criminal Justice for students who want to work in law enforcement or the criminal justice field. The degree programs focus on teaching students the self-discipline they need to work in criminal justice-related jobs. It also teaches students the communication skills that apply to the criminal justice field and ensures that students are ready for work at the state or federal level.
A key way Casper College stands apart from other programs is the opportunity for hands-on learning. The school ensures that students are exposed to courtroom trials, law enforcement departments, and different federal agencies as part of the education process. It prepares students for the challenges of working in the state, local, or federal law enforcement field. Casper College has university partnerships that allow students to easily transfer credits into a bachelor’s program after completing their associate’s degree in criminal justice.
Program: AAS or AA in Criminal Justice
5. Hutchinson Community College
Hutchinson Community College’s AA in Criminal Justice comes from is one of the best colleges for criminal justice and law enforcement at the associate’s level. The degree program gives students a broad education as it applies to the criminal justice field with a focus on corrections, law enforcement, and work in the courtroom. That focused education allows students to prepare for work in a variety of jobs.
The way Hutchinson Community College stands out is the focus on student resources and access to educational materials. Students are given access to academic resources that range from libraries and online education to tech support and the student success center. That ensures that students are not only able to look up data, but also have access to professional assistance when concerns arise. Hutchinson Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and meets the high standards set by the commission for student education in criminal justice.
Program: AA in Criminal Justice
6. Northeast Community College
Northeast Community College offers two associate’s degrees in criminal justice: criminal justice corrections and criminal justice law enforcement. Specialized education allows students to select an area of study that fits their long-term goals for a career. You can work in corrections or you can take on a law enforcement career by obtaining the right education at the associate’s level. Northeast Community College stands apart by giving students in the criminal justice and corrections degree programs tours of local jails and correctional facilities to gain a new perspective on the topic of corrections and criminal justice.
A key way Northeast Community College differs from other programs is the interdisciplinary approach it takes to the education process. Students gain perspective from different areas of study that gives a well-rounded view of corrections or criminal justice. It ensures that you are able to understand the causes of crime and take measures to prevent crime in a local community. It also ensures that you are open-minded and have the self-discipline to handle potential challenges that may arise when working in your career.
Program: AA in Criminal Justice – Corrections or Law Enforcement
7. Bucks County Community College
The AA in Criminal Justice from Bucks County Community College prepares students for a career in corrections or law enforcement. The degree program offers a strong foundation in criminal justice and gives students a broad education in topics related to their field of study. It also prepares students to apply the skills they learn in the degree program to different aspects of law enforcement careers for a long-term strategy that fits their goals for a career.
Bucks County Community College differs from other programs by teaching students the analytical skills they need to identify and assess data within their work. It also gives students a strong foundation in evaluating the Constitution and recognizing how Constitutional Law applies to state and local laws for proper law enforcement. That focus on intersection within law enforcement prepares students for a career in different areas of the law. Bucks County Community College focuses on developing an educational plan that helps students transfer into a four-year program after completing their associate’s degree.
Program: AA in Criminal Justice
8. Borough of Manhattan Community College
Borough of Manhattan Community College offers an AA in Criminal Justice that prepares students for a career in the criminal justice and legal fields. The degree program focuses on providing students with a quality education that fits their goals for their career. It gives students a strong foundation in law and criminal justice to ensure that they are ready for the challenges of working in state, local, or federal legal careers.
The way the Borough of Manhattan Community College differs from other programs is the events available to students. The school offers events that bring in special speakers to help students understand their role in their career. It also provides field trips to New York City to help students learn about the way crime and criminal justice work in a large urban environment. The Borough of Manhattan Community College offers on-site childcare services for parents who may need assistance with childcare while working on their degree.
Program: AA in Criminal Justice
9. Thomas Edison State University
The associate’s degree in criminal justice from Thomas Edison State University gives students a strong foundation in the relevant skills required for working in law enforcement, corrections, or related fields. The degree program ensures that students understand written and verbal communication as it applies to their career and provides a strong foundation in the practical skills that they need for their work.
A key way Thomas Edison State University differs from other schools is the focus on working adults. The school recognizes that students may decide to obtain a degree when they already have a career or are working in a law enforcement job. It works around the needs of working adults who may have professional obligations that limit their time for their education. Thomas Edison State University allows students to transfer credits into the associate’s program from other colleges and universities that offer accredited degree programs.
Program: AS in Criminal Justice
10. Glendale Community College
Glendale Community College offers an AAS in Administrative Justice that gives students a strong foundation in corrections and criminal justice. The degree program evaluates the challenges of law enforcement as it applies to diverse communities and strives to ensure students receive culturally sensitive training as part of their degree. Glendale Community College gives students a Certificate of Completion in Administration of Justice that gives employers confidence in your training and skills when you apply for a job in law enforcement.
Glendale Community College takes an interdisciplinary approach to the criminal justice system and prepares students for the challenges of working in law enforcement, corrections, and similar fields of study. The degree program recognizes that students need the right training to accomplish their long-term goals and it provides the education you need to advance in your career. It gives you a strong foundation in criminal justice to prepare you for the application of skills in your job.
Program: AAS in Administration of Justice
Is an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice Enough?
It’s possible to start your career in criminal justice with an association’s degree, but many professionals, once they have some experience, will choose to go on to a bachelor’s degree. The difference between a Bachelors and a Criminal Justice Associates degree is the number of classes that each one requires. A Bachelors degree takes about four years to earn. That’s because Bachelors degrees require more than just career-based classes. Yes, with a Bachelors degree, you’ll learn the basics of criminal justice. However, you’ll also take general education courses and electives. A Bachelors degree also provides advanced classes in your field of study. An Associate’s degree, on the other hand, usually takes two years for completion. It won’t require the same general courses and electives that a Bachelors’s degree requires. You’ll focus on your career path without a lot of extras.
It doesn’t have to be an either/or decision, though. Some people choose to earn an associates’s degree first. Since an associate’s degree costs far less money than a bachelors’s degree, it’s a great place for many students to get started. If you pursue this path, then the classes you took for your Associate’s degree should apply to your Bachelor’s degree. As a result, you may earn your bachelor degree in three years or less.
What Will I Learn in a Criminal Justice Associate’s Program?
Overall, your Criminal Justice Associates program will teach you the basics of criminal justice. It’ll cover your options and give you an idea of where you want to take your career. When it comes to Criminal Justice Associates degree required classes, they vary from one school to the next. However, most of them cover the same basics. You’ll probably have a class that introduces you to criminal justice in general. You may also study the risk factors for crime in America, the psychology and risk factors of crime, and criminal justice ethics. You’ll probably also take classes in specific criminal justice job options. For example, you may take a class on law enforcement, private security, or similar pathways.
When you want to learn more about getting a criminal justice degree, required classes are often listed on school websites. If you’re interested in any specific programs, go ahead and scroll through those programs’ web pages. You may find a list of required courses. If not, you can always call or email someone from the program and ask. The required classes list can give you a better idea of whether or not a school is right for you.
Why Should I Choose an On-Campus Associate’s Program?
Should you start searching for “criminal justice schools near me?” Or should you look for online programs instead? In general, online programs do provide some great benefits, including flexibility. A lot of working adults choose online courses for this reason. However, when it comes to criminal justice programs, you may want to go ahead and do that “criminal justice programs near me” search. Usually, criminal justice programs work better in person than they do online. Criminal justice is a hands-on career that requires a hands-on education.
In-person education provides several other benefits, too. With online learning, you can certainly demonstrate that you made good grades, but online professors won’t notice the other qualities that can help you excel at a job in law enforcement. For example, they won’t notice how you pay close attention or think on your feet when it matters the most. Someone who teaches you in person will notice these things, and they can mention them to potential employers. Often, these qualities are what set potential employees apart from other applicants. It may make a difference in whether or not you get the job.