The study of criminal justice is a relatively new field despite human societies having existed for centuries. Criminal justice as an idea has existed for centuries as governments designed systems for maintaining social control, preventing crimes, and punishing those who have committed crimes. However, criminal justice as an area of study is more recent.
The first program devoted solely to criminal justice in the United States was started in 1916 at the University of California-Berkeley. By the middle of the 20th century, only 1,000 students were estimated to be involved in various criminal justice programs. It was not until the social revolution and the Civil Rights battles of the 1970s that criminal justice programs began to increase enrollment, cresting over 100,000 by 1975.
Those interested in a criminal justice degree not only have a wide variety of career fields available to them, but also have an impressive number of degree fields to pursue and institutions to attain their education through. There are five levels of education an individual can achieve in order to break into the field of criminal justice, all of which provide different opportunities and varying career paths. These education possibilities include:
• Criminal Justice Certificate Programs
• Associate’s Degree
• Bachelor’s Degree
• Master’s Degree
The level of education an individual chooses to pursue will determine the number and type of schools available to them as well as the programs open to them. As with many other career fields, the greater education an individual pursues, the more it will have a direct effect on the number of positions open to them.
Criminal Justice Certificate programs will generally lead to more entry level jobs in the field of criminal justice and law. Individuals who complete certificate programs often takes jobs as legal transcriptionists, private investigators, private security providers, and security management. There are nearly 10 different institutions with multiple campuses across the country offering certificate programs.
Associate’s programs are available at nearly 20 different institutions with campuses all over the U.S. These institutions offer Associate of Arts and Associate of Applied Science degrees with focuses including criminal justice, criminal justice administration, criminal investigations, and homeland security.
Individuals seeking an undergraduate degree that can lead to a better entry level job could enter a Bachelor’s degree program. A large number of universities and colleges offer Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees with a focus in Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice Management, and Criminal Justice Administration.
Those wishing to become professionals in the field of criminal justice can pursue a graduate degree, the first level being a Master’s degree. At this level, there are more options of specialized degrees for an individual in addition to a more generalized Master of Science degree. Some of the Master’s programs available include:
• Master of Criminal Justice
• Master of Science in Criminal Justice
• Master of Arts in Criminal Justice
• Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration
Individuals pursuing a Master’s program can expect a course load consisting of, but not limited to, the following: probation and court services, forensic psychology, justice administration, corrections and correctional counseling, homeland security, crime analysis, prevention and control, and human services.
The highest degrees involving criminal justice and law are those offered at the Doctorate level. Many of the degrees offered at this level that can open doors for an individual in the world of criminal justice are Doctor of Philosophy degrees with a focus on subjects such as criminal justice, homeland security, criminology, and justice studies.