Should You Earn a Criminal Justice Degree?

Lawyer sitting at desk with pen and book

Law enforcement agencies, the court system and corrections organizations are the three major branches of the criminal justice system. Law enforcement agencies are on the front lines, working to respond to emergencies and keep communities safe. The court system convicts or acquits defendants, and sees that justice is carried out. The corrections branch can be thought of as an administrative branch, as it implements the orders of the court system such as carrying out prison sentences. If you earn a degree in criminal justice studies, you may be qualified to pursue a career in one of these branches.

What Is a Criminal Justice Degree?

A criminal justice degree may be an undergraduate or graduate degree. While it is possible to enter the criminal justice field with an undergraduate degree, you may desire to advance your career by earning an advanced degree. It is also possible to pursue a career in the court system with just a bachelor’s degree. Paralegals, for instance, do not need to complete law school, although their career can benefit from earning a master’s degree. A criminal justice degree also can serve as an excellent starting point for specializing in a law field. Graduates with a BS in Justice Studies may decide to go on to law school so they can pursue a career working in the court system as a lawyer or a court official.

What Do You Study During a Criminal Justice Degree Program?

A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice studies covers a broad framework of knowledge and skills that will be useful regardless of which career path the student wishes to pursue. These core competencies typically include the following:

  • Civil and criminal law
  • Case management and justice technology
  • Public safety practices and threat assessment
  • Organizational psychology applied to justice organizations
  • Professional responsibility in criminal justice fields

A criminal justice curriculum offers students a wide range of knowledge in all major branches of the criminal justice system. In addition, students will continuously refine their communication skills, learn how to become effective servant leaders and understand ethical decision-making.

A master’s degree in the criminal justice field will have a narrower focus than a bachelor’s degree, depending on the student’s preferred specialization. For instance, criminal justice master’s degree students may choose to focus on legal studies or law enforcement. Students who earn a specialization in law enforcement will work through a curriculum that focuses on crime prevention, criminal behavior, crime analysis and the intersection of law and public policy. Students who earn a specialization in legal studies will explore topics like legal communication, best practices in consulting and legal research.

What Can You Do With a Criminal Justice Degree?

There are a wide range of career possibilities that students with a criminal justice degree may pursue, again depending largely on the general or specialized content in a degree program. Some of these career fields may require a master’s degree or additional education or training. To become an attorney, for example, you will need to complete law school and pass the Bar Exam. To become a police officer, you will need to complete the training academy for the jurisdiction in which you wish to work. Some examples include the following:

Prepare for a rewarding career in the criminal justice field by enrolling as an undergraduate in Grand Canyon University’s Bachelor of Science in Justice Studies degree program. If you already hold an undergraduate degree, consider applying to the Master of Science in Criminal Justice with an Emphasis in Law Enforcement degree or the Master of Science in Criminal Justice with an Emphasis in Legal Studies program. For the working professional, these programs are offered on- online as an alternative to weekly evening courses. To learn more about the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, visit our website or click on the Request Info button on this page.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.