What is Criminal Justice?
In order to become a criminal justice professional, you need to have a degree in criminal justice. There are many different colleges and degree programs that offer criminal justice degrees. If you are interested in becoming a police officer, detective, or forensic scientist, you will need to attend a college or university that offers the appropriate program.
Criminal justice degrees can be earned at every level: associate, bachelor’s, master's, and doctoral. Some colleges and universities also offer certificate programs that fall under the umbrella of criminal justice, which can help you advance in a forensics career or prepare for entry to a police academy.
There are many different criminal justice colleges and degree programs in South Carolina offered by community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, and through online learning options from all over the country. No matter your goals, there are many schools that offer great programs, and there are also many opportunities for jobs after you’ve graduated.
Online Criminal Justice Education in South Carolina
There are many different aspects to be a criminal justice professional, but one of the most common skills required by all positions is critical thinking. Whether it is identifying external factors that are likely to influence behavior or investigating crimes, these professionals must be able to consider all aspects of a situation and take action quickly and effectively. In short, they must be willing to use their judgment and courage to make difficult decisions.
However, when most people think about criminal justice professionals, they think of law enforcement in the form of police officers or detective or even private investigators. There is much more to the criminal justice system than that, which can expand your options if you aren’t set on working in the field with a gun and a badge. For instance, those who work in prisons are corrections officers. Those who oversee paroles or probations are a part of the criminal justice system. And, if you are willing to spend more time gaining your education, those who work in the court system are also a part of criminal justice, whether that means a lawyer, judge, bailiff, paralegal, victim advocate, and more. There are many facets to the criminal justice system, so it’s important that you understand all your options before you make any move to get into the field.
Online Associate Degree in Criminal Justice (AS)
An associate degree in criminal justice is a foundational educational requirement for pursuing a bachelor’s and is usually required for those who wish to enter police academy or gain quick advancement in the field of criminal justice. Admission to an undergraduate program is typically based on several factors including prior academic performance, satisfactory scores on standardized tests, and personal recommendations or other indications of interest. However, admission to an associate degree is often less stressful, with fewer requirements than bachelor’s degrees. Students in associate degree programs must complete around 60 credit hours to earn their degree. This usually requires at least two years of full-time attendance, though there are some programs that offer an accelerated rate of study.
The cost of a criminal justice associate degree is typically less than half that of a bachelor's degree, especially if you choose to earn your degree from a local, community college where costs are subsidized for those residing within the state. Some financial aid may be available from government agencies or from the college itself. Additionally, many criminal justice associate programs are online, so you can either continue working or living at home while you complete your degree. Often, the credits earned from an associate degree can be applied to bachelor's degree requirements, which are often required for federal criminal justice jobs. However, if you are hoping to transfer your earned credits to another degree program, you should ensure that the school you attend has a transfer agreement with a four-year institution offering degrees in your chosen field.
Online Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice (BS)
A bachelor's degree in criminal justice can provide students with the academic foundation they need to pursue advancements in their existing, or a new, career in law enforcement, corrections, security, or another criminal justice-related field. The curriculum for a criminal justice degree typically includes courses in criminology, law enforcement, juvenile justice, and forensic science, among others.
Students also have the opportunity to participate in internships and practicums that can give them real-world experience working in the criminal justice system. These degrees usually require that students complete around 120 credit hours’ worth of coursework and take full-time students around four years to complete. However, there are some accelerated programs available. And students can complete entire programs online if they wish to continue working or avoid the extra expense of moving to an on-campus program.
Online Masters Degree in Criminal Justice (MS)
A master’s in criminal justice program will give you advanced training in a specific area of the criminal justice field or provide you with all the training you need to enter administration roles in the field. Coursework typically focuses on the major components of the criminal justice system, crime analysis, and qualitative and quantitative research methods. Students should have strong communication skills and information technology skills, though they may also gain these during their program. You can complete a corrections program to prepare for a career in parole, probation, or community corrections or focus on another aspect of the criminal justice system.
Students in these types of programs often take electives in criminology, criminal law, corrections, etc. Those who gain the most from these programs often have an interest in issues of public safety, ethical responsibility, and strategic thinking. Some online schools also offer distance-learning programs, which make it easier for busy adults to juggle their education with their professional and personal obligations. In some cases, students can also enroll in a hybrid program that combines on-campus and online requirements, which can help you network if you attend a school close to where you work.
Online PhD Degree in Criminal Justice (PhD)
Graduates of PhD in criminal justice colleges and degree programs often pursue a career in higher education. These positions typically have a heavy research component, meaning that educators continue to conduct research and publish their findings as well as training new professionals in the field. These professors not only train but also mentor the next generation of criminal justice professionals. However, pursuing a PhD in criminal justice may not be for everyone, especially as it is not required for any of the highest-level roles in criminal justice, though it may be needed for high-level roles in forensic science, forensic psychology, those who wish to become judges, and those who wish to work in academia. It's important to research the degree program and know where your career is headed to determine whether it's for you.
PhD in criminal justice colleges and degree programs vary in the details of their curriculum. Generally, students must complete 50-70 credit hours of coursework. This coursework will cover complex topics in criminal justice, such as ethical issues and the role of the legal system. Students will also likely take one or more courses in criminal justice research, as well as other courses designed to prepare them for their dissertation. PhD programs in criminal justice often follow similar curriculums, but specific course titles will vary from school to school.
These degree programs combine theory and research with practical application in law enforcement and/or corrections. Students learn theories of criminology, law and society, criminal behavior, and more. They also gain knowledge in social science, research design, and statistics. Once they complete their PhD in criminal justice program, they can teach college students or become independent researchers. There are many rewarding options for these professionals.
Online Criminal Justice Certifications
A few factors may determine if you should pursue criminal justice certifications. First, you should research what careers are available in the field. Then, you should look for specific certification programs that match your interests. You can also choose a general criminal justice program if you wish to pursue a broad career in the field or gain some knowledge of the field before focusing in on a certification. For instance, you could become a police officer or a detective, in which case you may not need certification – or you may work in forensics, in which case, certifications could be vital to the future of your career.
Criminal justice is a field that requires extensive training and knowledge. For those who are interested in pursuing a career in criminal justice, there are many different types of certifications that can be obtained.
One of the most common certifications for those looking to work in criminal justice is the Certified Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) certification. This certification is offered through the National Institute for Justice and is designed for law enforcement professionals who want to further their careers. Other popular criminal justice certifications include the Certified Protection Professional (CPP) certification from ASIS International, and the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) certification from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
As you can see, the types of certification vary wildly, so it’s important to do your research before deciding which would be the best option for you.
Become a Criminal Justice Professional in South Carolina
When most people think of criminal justice professionals, they think of police officers and detectives. While these are certainly important roles in the criminal justice system, there are many other professional opportunities available to those interested in a career in criminal justice. In South Carolina, there are many ways to become a criminal justice professional.
Step 1: Research what type of criminal justice career you would like to pursue
When it comes to criminal justice careers, there are many different options to choose from. The best way to research which career is right for you is to look into the different types of jobs in the criminal justice field and what each one entails. One option is to become a detective or investigator. This career path involves working with law enforcement officials to solve crimes. Detectives may work for local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies. They often conduct interviews, gather evidence, and track down suspects. Another option is to become a correctional officer. These professionals work in prisons and jails, monitoring inmates and ensuring their safety. They may also be responsible for providing education and rehabilitation programs to inmates. There are also many careers that specialize in helping victims of crime. Victim advocates provide support and assistance to victims of crime and their families. Figuring out which of these options is for you is the first step to finding the best career you can in criminal justice.
Step 2: Complete an accredited program at an eligible institution
In order to become a criminal justice professional, you will likely need to complete an accredited program at an eligible institution. The criminal justice system is a complex network of people and organizations that work together to protect citizens and enforce the law. There are many different careers within the criminal justice system, each with its own set of educational requirements. To become a police officer, for example, you will need to complete a law enforcement program at a certified school. To become a crime scene investigator, you will need to complete a program in forensic science. The best degree for you will depend upon where you choose to work within the criminal justice field.
Step 3: Gain experience in the criminal justice field by seeking internships and volunteering
If you're interested in a criminal justice career, gaining experience is key. Internships and volunteer work are great ways to get started. You'll gain valuable knowledge and skills, and you may even land a job after completing your internship or volunteer work. There are many different types of internships and volunteer opportunities available in the criminal justice field. You can find internships with law enforcement agencies, prosecutor's offices, public defender's offices, correctional facilities, and many other organizations. You can also find volunteer opportunities with victim advocacy organizations, homeless shelters, food banks, and other social service agencies.
Step 4: Take the necessary exams and apply for licensure
In order to work in criminal justice, you will need to be licensed or complete specific training; for instance, by completing training at a police academy. Licensing is necessary to protect the public and ensure that those working in criminal justice are qualified for the job. The process of becoming licensed may vary by state, but usually involves passing exams and submitting an application. Most states require criminal justice professionals to have specific training, which includes police officers, detectives, probation officers, and parole officers. To gain the training you need, you will need to pass exams that test your knowledge of criminal law and procedure. You may also be required to submit an application with supporting documents, such as your resume or letters of recommendation. The process can be challenging, but it‘s important to ensure that only qualified professionals are working in criminal justice. This helps protect the public by ensuring that those who work in this field are properly trained and knowledgeable about the law.
What Can I Do with a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice?
If you have a bachelor's in criminal justice, you're ahead of the pack when it comes to getting a job. In this degree, you'll learn about the court system and the police. You'll also learn how to reduce crime and use research methods to make our world safer. There are many exciting career options in this field and, once you've graduated, there are many more opportunities. The field of criminal justice is diverse, and you can pursue a career in any level of law enforcement with a bachelor’s: local, state, and federal. You can work in a variety of settings, which all require different skill sets. You can help victims, prevent crime, and ensure public safety. Regardless of where you want to work, a bachelor's degree in criminal justice will prepare you for a variety of leadership positions. You may even choose to forge a path outside of the criminal justice system, and a bachelor’s degree will prepare you to do so.
Potential Careers for Criminal Justice Graduates
- Criminal Justice Professor:
A criminal justice professor is responsible for teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in the field of criminal justice. They will develop and deliver lectures, lead discussions, and create course materials. A professor will also advise students, conduct research, and publish scholarly articles.
- PhD in criminal justice or related field
- Teaching experience
- Expertise in criminal justice theory and practice
- The median annual wage for criminal justice and law enforcement teachers (postsecondary) in the US in 2021 was $64,600
- The mean annual wage for criminal justice and law enforcement teachers (postsecondary) in South Carolina is $66,860
- State Trooper/State Highway Patrol:
A state trooper is responsible for enforcing state laws and regulations on highways and roads. They are also responsible for investigating accidents and assisting motorists.
- Valid driver's license
- High school diploma or GED
- Completed training at a state police academy
- 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 South Carolina is $49,140
A detective is responsible for investigating crimes and gathering evidence. They work closely with police officers and prosecutors to solve cases.
- A bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field
- Experience in law enforcement or investigations
- The median annual wage for police and detectives in the US in 2021 was $66,020
- The mean annual wage for detectives and criminal investigators in South Carolina is $66,830
- ATF Agent:
ATF agents are responsible for investigating violations of federal firearms laws and regulations. They conduct interviews, gather evidence, and prepare cases for trial.
- Bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field
- At least 3 years of law enforcement experience
- The median annual wage for detectives and criminal investigators in the US in 2021 was $83,640
- The mean annual wage for detectives and criminal investigators in South Carolina is $66,830
- Crime Prevention Specialist:
A crime prevention specialist will work to identify and prevent crime and opportunities for crime within a community. They will collaborate with law enforcement and other community organizations to develop and implement crime prevention programs. They will also conduct research on crime trends and develop strategies to address them.
- Bachelor's degree in criminal justice, social work, or a related field
- 2+ years of experience working in crime prevention or a related field
- Knowledge of community resources and how to access them
- Strong communication and interpersonal skills
- The median annual wage for private detectives and investigators in the US in 2021 was $59,380 and first-line supervisors of police and detectives earned $69,410
- The mean annual wage for private detectives and investigators in South Carolina is $51,820 and first-line supervisors of police and detectives earn $69,410
- Lab Scientist:
A lab scientist will be responsible for conducting various experiments and tests in the laboratory. They will also be responsible for documenting their findings and results. This is usually done to examine samples of evidence and either figure out who or what was present at a scene or figure out if the evidence can tie a suspect to a crime.
- A bachelor’s degree in science or a related field
- Experience working in a laboratory environment
- The median annual wage for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians in the US in 2021 was $57,800 and forensic science technicians earned $61,930
- The mean annual wage for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians in South Carolina is $51,370 and forensic science technicians earn $46,390
- Private Investigator:
A private investigator conducts investigations and gathers evidence on a variety of cases. They may be hired to prove infidelity and build a case for a divorce or they may track down a missing person who has been kidnapped, doesn’t want to be found, or has an unknown family member who would like to meet them.
- Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
- Excellent problem solving skills
- Excellent research skills
- Valid driver’s license
- 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 South Carolina is $51,820
- Parole Officer:
A parole officer is a professional who works with offenders who have been released from prison on parole. They are responsible for supervising the offender and ensuring that they comply with the conditions of their parole and reporting them when they don’t.
- A bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field
- Experience working with offenders or in the criminal justice system
- Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
- The median annual wage for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists in the US in 2021 was $60,250 and correctional officers and jailers earned $47,920
- The mean annual wage for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists in South Carolina is $44,420 and correctional officers and jailers earn $40,620
- 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, they manage and schedule teams of corrections officers to ensure there is always enough security at the facility, and they may also oversee the budget and expenditures of said facility.
- Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field
- 5 years of experience working in a corrections facility
- 2 years of experience in a managerial role
- The median annual wage for correctional officers and bailiffs in the US in 2021 was $47,920
- The mean annual wage for correctional officers and jailers in South Carolina is $40,620