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What is Criminal Justice?

In North Carolina, students have a few different criminal justice colleges from which to choose. There are undergraduate and graduate degree programs, as well as certificate programs. Students can attend traditional brick-and-mortar schools or take online courses. There are also many different specialties in criminal justice, so it's important for students to find the program that fits their interests and career goals.

When considering different criminal justice colleges, you may want to look at the curriculum and see if it matches your career goals. Some degrees might offer the same education but have different degree titles. One of the best things about studying criminal justice is the variety of internship and career opportunities that are available. There are many government agencies and private companies that need interns each semester. This gives students the chance to get real-world experience in the field they're interested in and make connections with potential employers. Another plus for criminal justice students in North Carolina is the low cost of living.

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Criminal Justice Education in North Carolina

A criminal justice professional is someone whose career revolves around crime and the criminal justice system. This can include law enforcement officers, court officials, lawyers, corrections officers, and more. These professionals work to keep our society safe by enforcing the law and ensuring that those who break it are held accountable. They also play a critical role in the criminal justice process, from investigating crimes to defending the rights of the accused.

The range of careers in criminal justice is varied and often requires a background in human psychology. Criminal justice professionals must be able to communicate effectively with a wide range of people and work under pressure. They must be able to cope with challenging situations, think logically, and take action quickly. Many of these careers require extensive physical training and leadership skills. The job also requires high levels of communication and strong listening skills and the ability to respond to situations quickly. Careers in criminal justice typically also require an undergraduate degree.

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Online Associate Degree in Criminal Justice (AS)

If you are interested in a career in law enforcement, an associate degree in criminal justice may be just what you're looking for. Criminal justice professionals provide public safety and security through the use of their skills and training. An associate degree can provide the necessary foundation for entry-level criminal justice professionals and can give current law enforcement personnel who never earned a postsecondary degree a way to advance their careers.

In addition to in-person or online criminal justice degree programs, certificate programs are also an option. These programs don't require general education courses, but students can still complete coursework for college credit. Some courses may count toward bachelor's degree requirements but it’s important to check with the program rather than assuming that the certificate will provide credit hours that can be transferred in the future; some of them do not.

Online associate degree programs in criminal justice offer flexibility for working professionals and still provide the rigorous curricula and follow the same standards as brick-and-mortar schools. Graduates can pursue careers in the criminal justice field with similar advancement opportunities.

No matter how you choose to attend, an associate degree should take around two years to complete if you are able to attend full-time. Most programs require that students complete around 60 credit hours during this time, and those who wish to transfer those credits to a bachelor’s degree in the future should ensure that they attend an accredited school, perhaps even one with a transfer agreement with a four-year institution. Even if you don’t plan to earn a four-year degree, you should prioritize an accredited school over a non-accredited one. This will give you a better chance of transferring credits, having access to federal student funding, and finding a well-paying job after you graduate.

Online Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice (BS)

An online bachelor's degree in criminal justice can be completed from anywhere, provided you're connected to the Internet. This will help if you are already working in the field, either with or without an associate degree. And, while come online programs require on-campus attendance to meet graduation requirements, many are completely virtual. These programs may also require internships within the field for those not already working.

A bachelor's degree in criminal justice will usually emphasize communication, behavior, and justice studies. Students will develop a working knowledge of criminology, the juvenile justice system, US courts, criminal justice policy, and more. Electives are usually required for these programs as well, such as courses on terrorism, drugs and crime, police accountability, and domestic violence. Once you have completed the core courses, you'll be ready for electives and internships in law enforcement, corrections, or social work.

A bachelor’s degree generally takes twice as long as an associate’s, which is why they are called four-year degrees as compared to the associate’s two years. They require around 120 credit hours to be completed, but some of these programs may be found in accelerated form if you are willing and able to attend full-time.

Online Masters Degree in Criminal Justice (MS)

For those interested in a supervisory role in the criminal justice system, a master’s degree can be an invaluable advantage. Nevertheless, not everyone has the time or means to attend traditional on-campus classes, especially when you are already working full-time. There are currently a variety of respectable online master's degree programs in criminal justice that offer the same level of education as traditional programs, and these are an excellent option if you find yourself lacking time but hoping to expand your education.

These degrees, much like associate’s take around two years to complete as they require students to earn around 60 credit hours. However, unlike an associate degree, you will not complete any general education. Every credit hour you earn will be focused on criminal justice concepts, all of which will be taught at a higher level than any were in your undergraduate degree.

As there are numerous master's degree programs in criminal justice, especially if you are planning to attend online, it’s essential to conduct research to locate the school that best meets your needs. Some programs focus on administration and leadership within the criminal justice system, while others offer more specialized training in fields such as forensic science or law enforcement. Regardless of the school you select, a master's degree in criminal justice can provide you with numerous new job options.

Online PhD Degree in Criminal Justice (PhD)

A PhD in criminal justice program will offer a specific emphasis beyond basic ‘criminal justice’. Students may choose to focus on areas of interest such as emergency management, cyber-crime, national security, and more. These areas of focus can include the causes of crime and their effects on society, as well as the impact of criminal justice policies. Students who choose to focus on administrative and policy should be well-prepared to manage human resources and improve organizational processes. PhD programs in this field tend to require between 50 and 90 credits for completion. Students will take required core courses, elective courses, and courses focused on research and/or teaching.

Depending on the school, the program can take two to three years. Students must also complete a doctoral thesis or dissertation. During this time, students spend at least a year researching for their thesis. They must also successfully defend their dissertation to receive their degree. The duration of an online PhD in criminal justice program will vary based on the course load of the student.

Online Criminal Justice Certifications

Increasing numbers of individuals now find criminal justice certifications to be a convenient and cost-effective approach to acquire some of the skills necessary for certain criminal justice jobs. A certification might prepare you to study different evidence if you work in a crime lab, or it can provide you with more insight into the criminal mind. No matter the subject, a criminal justice certification can offer you knowledge and training that can help you to continue to pursue a career in this sector. There are a variety of criminal justice certifications available, so it’s crucial to do your homework to discover the best one for you.

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Become a Criminal Justice Professional in North Carolina

Just as there are many roles that you can have which will let you work in criminal justice, there are many ways to reach these career goals. For instance, if you wish to work as a lawyer, you must earn a bachelor’s, a law degree, and pass the bar. Those who wish to work in forensics should gain education in criminal justice but also focus on hard sciences. However, when most students think of criminal justice, they think of policing. Policing can also lead to careers as detectives, parole officers, police chief, and more. Therefore, we’ll look at what steps you need to take to become a police officer in the state.

  • Step 1: Research what type of criminal justice professional you want to be

    If you're interested in a career in criminal justice, it's important to do your research and figure out which type of professional you want to be. As mentioned, there are many different options within the criminal justice field, from police officers and detectives to forensic scientists and probation officers. Each profession has its own unique set of responsibilities and challenges and each will require a different approach when it comes to education and experience.

  • Step 2: Obtain an education in criminal justice

    While you don’t technically need anything more than a high school diploma, or GED, to work as a police officer in North Carolina, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea. A higher education will give you more options when it comes to promotions and moving up the ranks. Additionally, you can’t become an officer till you’re 20 years of age, so you’ll have plenty of time to complete an associate degree or get started on a bachelor’s. Obtaining a quality education in criminal justice is essential for anyone who wants to have a successful, long-term career in the criminal justice system. There are many different schools and programs available that offer a variety of different educational opportunities, so it’s important to do your research and find the school that best fits your needs and interests.

  • Step 3: Complete training programs specific to their career field

    In order to have a successful career in criminal justice, it’s important to have the right training. In the case of North Carolina, those who wish to work as police officers will need to pass the Basic Law Enforcement Training program, as well as the BLET test. They will also have to pass a background check and not have committed any felonies. This training program is designed to provide you with the hands-on experience and practical knowledge that you need to start your career in criminal justice.

  • Step 4: Stay up-to-date on the latest trends and techniques within the field

    One way to ensure that you have a successful career is to up to date on the latest trends and techniques. That might mean attending conferences, maintaining membership with a professional association, or gaining further education or certification. This way, you can be sure that you are providing the best possible service to your department. It can also help you stay safe in your work environment.

What Can I Do with a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice?

Depending on your interests and career goals, a bachelor's in criminal justice can lead to a number of exciting careers or allow you to shift into a different direction, though you’d have to start from the bottom if you want to get into retail management or something completely different than your training. With a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, you could find work in the government or the private sector in a security role. You can pursue a graduate degree or take on a position as a police or corrections officer. Regardless of what you decide to do, criminal justice graduates are highly sought-after professionals. Careers in criminal justice require specific skills and experience and allow graduates to protect their society and country.

Potential Careers for Criminal Justice Graduates

  • Victim Advocate:

    A victim advocate will provide crisis counseling, advocacy, and support services to victims of crime. They may also work to raise awareness about victim rights and services in the community.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Bachelor's degree in social work, psychology, or a related field
    • Experience working with victims of crime
    • Strong advocacy and interpersonal skills

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for social and human service assistants in the US in 2021 was $37,61
    • The mean annual wage for social and human service assistants in North Carolina is $37,020
  • Police Officer or Supervisor:

    A police officer or supervisor is responsible for the safety and security of the public and enforcing laws. Those who work as supervisors for police are usually still out in the field until they reach the highest levels.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Must be at least 21 years old
    • Must have a high school diploma or GED
    • Must have completed police academy training
    • Must have a valid driver’s license

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in the US in 2021 was $64,610 and first-line supervisors of police and detectives earned $99,330
    • The mean annual wage for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in North Carolina is $51,860 and first-line supervisors of police and detectives earned $76,790
  • Corrections Officer:

    A corrections officer is responsible for the custody and supervision of inmates in a jail or prison. They maintain order and safety within the facility and provide support to inmates.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • High school diploma or equivalent
    • Valid driver’s license
    • At least 21 years of age

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for correctional officers and jailers in the US in 2021 was $47,920
    • The mean annual wage for correctional officers and jailers in North Carolina is $41,520

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  • Probation Officer:

    A probation officer is responsible for the supervision of adult and juvenile offenders placed on probation by the court. The officer will monitor the offender's compliance with the conditions of probation, investigate alleged violations, and prepare reports for the court. The officer may also provide counseling and referrals to community resources.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Bachelor's degree in criminal justice or related field
    • One or more years of experience in probation, corrections, or a related field
    • Knowledge of criminal justice system

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists in the US in 2021 was $60,250
    • The mean annual wage for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists in North Carolina is $46,420
  • Private Investigator:

    This professional conducts investigations to meet the requirements of their clients. They rarely work to solve crimes, but instead locate missing persons and gather evidence for legal cases.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Valid private investigator license
    • Experience in law enforcement or investigations
    • Excellent observation and deduction skills
    • Good physical fitness

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for private detectives and investigators in the US in 2021 was $59,380
    • The mean annual wage for private detectives and investigators in North Carolina is $64,920
  • Crime Scene Investigator:

    Crime scene investigators (CSIs) go to the scene of a crime and collect evidence that will be used in solving the crime. This evidence can include fingerprints, blood samples, DNA, and more. They may also take photographs of the crime scene and make sketches of the area.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • A bachelor's degree in forensic science or a related field
    • Experience working with law enforcement

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for forensic science technicians in the US in 2021 was $61,930
    • The mean annual wage for forensic science technicians in North Carolina is $50,980
  • Lab Scientist:

    A lab scientist will be responsible for conducting scientific experiments and tests in a laboratory setting. They will be required to set up experiments, collect data, and analyze results and will also be responsible for keeping accurate records of their experiments and sharing their findings with other scientists or police officers.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • A bachelor’s degree in science or a related field
    • Experience working in a laboratory setting
    • Strong analytical and problem-solving skills

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians in the US in 2021 was $57,800
    • The mean annual wage for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians in North Carolina is $52,690
  • Crime Prevention Specialist:

    A crime prevention specialist is responsible for developing and implementing crime prevention programs in the community. They work with law enforcement, government agencies, and community organizations to identify crime trends and develop strategies to address them. They may also provide information and resources to the public on how to prevent crime.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field
    • Experience working in law enforcement or community safety
    • Knowledge of crime prevention strategies and techniques

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in the US in 2021 was $64,610
    • The mean annual wage for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in North Carolina is $51,860

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