What is Criminal Justice?
Students enrolled in a criminal justice degree program will learn about the history of the criminal justice system, judicial procedures, corrections, security services, and juvenile justice. They will also study the concepts of government and ethics. Students should have excellent communication and research skills to excel in the field. Once enrolled, they could begin internships in local offices or agencies or volunteer to be part of a disaster relief team.
Pennsylvania is home to a variety of criminal justice colleges and degree programs. Students can choose from associate, bachelor’s, and graduate degree programs in criminal justice, criminology, law enforcement, and security studies. Many schools offer internship and externship opportunities with local law enforcement agencies and businesses.
Pennsylvania criminal justice colleges also offer career counseling and job placement services to help students find employment after graduation. Graduates are prepared for careers in law enforcement, the court system, corrections, and other criminal justice fields.
Online Criminal Justice Education in Pennsylvania
The field of criminal justice is broad and diverse. It encompasses law enforcement, state and federal agencies, courts, judges, corrections, and more. Professionals in this field get involved before a crime even occurs and go on to deal with the issues crime can cause until long after the crime is over. The roles available are highly diverse. There are countless job opportunities in the field, and advancement is possible if you're passionate about it and willing to gain the education you need to move up.
Whether you choose to work as a police officer, a private security provider, or an international law enforcement agency, a criminal justice degree can open many doors for you. It can also combine with other interests, such as science and technology, making it easier to land a job in private security, for example, or forensics. A master's degree in criminal justice can also increase your chances of being promoted to a leadership or administrative position in criminal justice organizations.
Online Associate Degree in Criminal Justice (AS)
The cost of earning an associate degree in criminal justice varies from school to school but it generally requires that you complete between 60 and 65 credits. While the amount of credit hours depends on the program and the institute, students can typically complete a degree in two to three years, depending on if they are able to attend full-time. While they are somewhat less common in this field, online programs are particularly appealing to working professionals because of their flexibility. The curriculum is the same as that of courses held within brick-and-mortar schools and leads to comparable work and advancement opportunities.
The curriculum in an associate degree in criminal justice program includes a study of criminal law, investigation techniques, and constitutional law. Students will also learn about the criminal justice system and responsibilities of a police officer, as well as having the chance to learn about forensics. Students may practice writing reports and other documents in a variety of formats and their courses may cover writing interview summaries and investigation reports.
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice (BS)
The criminal justice system in the United States is vast and complex. It includes law enforcement, the courts, and the correctional system. To work in any area of criminal justice, you need to have a strong foundation in criminology, law, and sociology. An online bachelor's degree in criminal justice can give you that foundation and a high enough level of education that you will have the opportunity to gain some promotions without earning any other education.
The benefits of a bachelor's in criminal justice degree are numerous. Not only does this degree prepare students for jobs in various criminal justice organizations, but it can also help them to gain valuable experience in the field if they find an institution with a robust internship program. The degree curriculum is likely to include courses on victimization patterns, ethical practice in law enforcement, cultural awareness in criminal justice, and the impact of crime, among other subjects. Graduates are prepared for careers as corrections officers, air marshals, fish and game wardens, and more.
Online Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice (MS)
More and more colleges and universities are offering online master's degrees in criminal justice. These programs allow students to earn their degree without having to attend traditional classes. Students can choose from a variety of specializations, including forensic science, law enforcement, corrections, and homeland security. Most programs at this level require that students have a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field.
Most master's degrees in criminal justice can be completed in two years or less, whether you attend online or through an on-campus program. Students who attend online now typically complete coursework through asynchronous methods, such as video lectures, discussion boards, and chat rooms. These types of programs allow for more flexibility since they don’t require that you access the online learning portal at any specific time. You can log on when you have time and finish any work that is due. Some programs also offer optional or mandatory residency weeks where students meet face-to-face with their classmates and instructors. The benefits of earning a master's degree in criminal justice include greater job opportunities and higher salaries.
Online PhD in Criminal Justice (PhD)
If you've always dreamed of becoming a professor or working in criminal justice, an online PhD in criminal justice program may be just what you're looking for. Because of its convenience and flexibility, these programs are a great choice for working professionals, especially since you can attend a program anywhere in the country without leaving your work or home except for the occasional residency (if required). Since students can take their courses at their own pace, they're not required to enroll full-time. Additionally, they can work one-on-one with professors and develop a schedule that fits their lifestyle.
A degree in criminal justice at this level can help you in your career or allow you to shift into education to teach in colleges and universities. For the majority of those working in criminal justice, this degree level will never be needed. The degree itself can help students develop business and analytical skills, as a criminal justice doctoral program will cover areas such as accounting, human resources, and public policy. In addition to the academic aspects of criminal justice, students can also develop their business acumen through a career in the legal field or as a private consultant.
Online Criminal Justice Certifications
There are numerous online criminal justice certification programs available. These programs are designed for working adults who need to earn continuing education credits or who are looking to expand their skill set. They may include coursework in crime-scene investigation, forensic science, and other areas of the criminal justice field, depending on that the focus of the certification is. Online courses may also require short-term residencies and practical training.
Criminal justice online colleges and degree programs offer graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs. They cater to different student needs and can prepare students for different levels of leadership. There are general studies certificates, which offer a general education, and vocational subject certificates that focus on a specific area of criminal justice. Undergraduate certificates are usually just one year in length, and can lead to entry-level positions in the field. Some online schools offer courses related to law enforcement, criminology, and the criminal justice system.
Become a Criminal Justice Professional in Pennsylvania
In order to become a criminal justice professional in Pennsylvania, there are certain steps that one must take.
Step 1: Research the different careers available in the criminal justice field
There are many different careers in the criminal justice field that can offer a wide variety of opportunities and challenges. A few of these careers include policing, probation, forensic science, and corrections. Each career has its own unique set of duties and responsibilities that come with it, so it’s good to know what you’re getting into before you set your mind on a specific career path.
Step 2: Get a degree in criminal justice
A degree in criminal justice could be the perfect next step for you. Criminal justice degrees can prepare students for careers in law enforcement, corrections, private security, and many other areas of criminal justice. These programs offer a variety of courses that can teach students about the criminal justice system, criminology, law enforcement procedures, and more. Some programs also offer internships or practicum experiences that allow students to gain hands-on experience in the criminal justice field. If you are interested in pursuing a career in criminal justice, you should make sure that you earn a degree from an accredited institution. There are many schools across the country that offer criminal justice degrees, so there is sure to be one that fits your needs and interests.
Step 3: Pursue a career in law enforcement or work in the legal field
Once you have a degree, you should be ready to start working in the criminal justice field. If you are looking to work as a police officer and work your way up through the ranks, you will need to complete police academy training and meet all the requirements for your state. In Pennsylvania, that means that you must be at least 21 years of age, be a US citizen, have a high school diploma, be in good physical condition, etc. However, if you are hoping to work as a state trooper, in corrections, in law, or in another similar field, you should research how that works in your state. Every state makes its own decisions regarding who can work in their criminal justice agencies, many prisons that hire corrections officers are run by private companies, and even stores might hire you to work in private security. There are many options for getting into the field, so you’ll need to do your own research to ensure that you can have the career you want.
Step 4: Continue learning and advancing your skills in the criminal justice field
The criminal justice field is constantly evolving. It's important to continue learning and advancing your skills in order to stay ahead of the curve and be successful in your career. There are many ways to do this including attending conferences, reading journals, and networking with other professionals. The more you learn, the better equipped you'll be to handle the challenges of the criminal justice system. You will also want to check out the best ranked online colleges in Pennsylvania.
What Can I Do with a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice?
A Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice degree can lead to a career in law enforcement, corrections, security, or another criminal justice field (as can a BA and degrees in similar fields). These degrees provide students with the skills and knowledge needed for a career in the criminal justice system. The curriculum includes courses in criminology, criminal law, legal research and writing, policing, and corrections and students can also choose elective courses that focus on a specific area of criminal justice. The main goal of earning a bachelor’s in this field is to be ready for promotions when they come your way. For instance, you can work as a police officer with just a high school diploma, but you may need to earn an associate degree for a minor promotion, and you’ll need a bachelor’s to make it to detective or work as a training officer. It’s important that you know how promotions work in your state so that you can ensure you have the training to make your career successful in the long run.
Potential Careers for Criminal Justice Graduates
- Forensic Accountant:
A forensic accountant is responsible for conducting financial investigations and providing expert testimony in court. They will analyze financial records to look for evidence of criminal activity such as fraud, embezzlement, or money laundering and will also work with law enforcement agencies to help investigate complex financial crimes.
- Bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field
- CPA or CFE certification preferred
- 5+ years of experience working in accounting or auditing
- The median annual wage for accountants and auditors in the US in 2021 was $77,250
- The mean annual wage for accountants and auditors in Pennsylvania is $79,200
A paralegal is responsible for providing legal and administrative support to lawyers. This may include conducting research, drafting documents, and preparing for court hearings.
- A bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies or a related field
- Previous experience working as a paralegal or legal assistant
- Strong research, writing, and communication skills
- The median annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants in the US in 2021 was $56,230
- The mean annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants in Pennsylvania is $60,440
- Conservation Officer:
A conservation officer will be responsible for the protection of natural resources and the enforcement of environmental laws and regulations. They will patrol assigned areas to prevent and investigate illegal activities, such as hunting, fishing, and pollution and will also provide information and education to the public about conservation efforts.
- A bachelor's degree in environmental science, biology, or a related field
- Previous experience working in environmental law enforcement or a related field
- Knowledge of environmental laws and regulations
- Strong communication and interpersonal skills
- The median annual wage for fish and game wardens in the US in 2021 was $60,730
- The mean annual wage for conservation scientists in Pennsylvania is $52,270
- Homeland Security Professional:
A homeland security professional is responsible for the safety and security of the United States and its citizens. This includes protecting the country from terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and other emergencies. They are also responsible for coordinating the response to these events, and for providing support to first responders and other government agencies.
- A bachelor’s degree in homeland security, emergency management, or a related field
- Experience in law enforcement or the military
- Knowledge of security principles and practices
- Strong communication and interpersonal skills
- The median annual wage for transportation security screeners in the US in 2021 was $45,470 and protective service workers (all others) earn $38,210
- The mean annual wage for transportation security screeners in Pennsylvania is $44,780 and protective service workers (all others) earn $33,810
- Victim Advocate:
A victim advocate provides support to victims of crime and their families. They offer crisis intervention, emotional support, and resources and also work with law enforcement and the courts to ensure that victims' rights are respected and that they are treated fairly throughout the criminal justice process.
- Bachelor's degree in social work, psychology, or a related field
- Experience working with victims of crime preferred
- Strong communication and interpersonal skills
- The median annual wage for social and human service assistants in the US in 2021 was $37,610
- The mean annual wage for social and human service assistants in Pennsylvania is $38,930
- Police Supervisor:
A police supervisor is responsible for the day-to-day supervision of police officers. They ensure that officers are following department procedures and regulations and that they are providing quality service to the community. The police supervisor also investigates complaints against officers and recommends disciplinary action when necessary.
- Must have law enforcement experience
- Must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills
- The median annual wage for first-line supervisors of police and detectives in the US in 2021 was $99,330
- The mean annual wage for first-line supervisors of police and detectives in Pennsylvania is $90,880
- Corrections Manager:
A corrections manager is responsible for the management and operation of a corrections facility. They are responsible for the safety and security of inmates, staff, and visitors and they also oversee the budget and staffing of the facility.
- Bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field
- 5+ years of experience working in a corrections facility
- Strong leadership and management skills
- The median annual wage for first-line supervisors of correctional officers in the US in 2021 was $62,220
- The mean annual wage for first-line supervisors of correctional officers and jailers in Pennsylvania is $88,180
- Private Investigator:
This professional conducts investigations into allegations of criminal and civil wrongdoing.
- Proven experience as a private investigator or similar role
- Strong research and analytical skills
- Excellent observational and deduction skills
- Good written and communication skills
- 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 Pennsylvania is $50,740
- Crime Scene Forensic Science Technician:
A crime scene forensic or science technician is responsible for investigating crime scenes and collecting evidence. They use a variety of scientific techniques to analyze evidence and provide information that can be used in court.
- Bachelor’s degree in forensic science or a related field
- Experience working in a crime lab or as a crime scene investigator
- Knowledge of forensic science techniques
- 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 Pennsylvania is $51,080