Put the law to work for your career by studying criminal justice. Well-known as one of the most versatile degrees offered, criminal justice is the preferred curriculum for exciting careers in law enforcement, judicial practice or education. The associate degree is a two-year course of study offered at community colleges, technical schools and some universities. You could study the history and development of systems of law, topics in civics and social science, or the structure and function of government.
Career options, outlook and salary
Associate degrees in criminal justice are a first step to your choice of professions in government, public and private practice, for example, in law enforcement. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on the salary potential for these fields and the hiring growth projections for the 2010-2020 period.
For police and sheriff patrol officers, 2010 median annual salaries reached more than $53,000. The BLS projects employment growth that is slower than the national average for all occupations, so education may be important when competing for openings. Qualifications for these law enforcement professionals vary according to the agency, but departments may require some college coursework as well as specialized career training.
Private detectives are in a favorable hiring climate, with growth expected to be much faster than the national average between 2010 and 2020. The BLS reports that median salaries in this field hit $42,870 in 2010. Most private investigators have some college background.
Beyond associate degrees in criminal justice
With a bachelor's degree, you could seek positions such as a probation officer or correctional treatment specialist. These professionals enjoy hiring rates faster than the national average; median annual wages for 2010 were estimated at about $47,000.
You could continue your criminal justice studies with graduate degrees such as the master's and the doctorate. In many professions, a higher degree could qualify you for advanced positions. Those who ascend to the doctoral level typically offer their leadership in the boardroom or the classroom.
You'll be pleased to learn that the criminal justice major translates from the campus-based environment to distance learning modes of delivery. Online education empowers you to get your degree while preserving the personal and professional commitments that may make a campus-based program impractical.