Criminal justice degrees


Criminal justice is a broad field, covering everything from the crime scene investigation to the justice and criminal systems, to the legal system as a whole. Because there are so many different levels in this field, there are several types of schools that offer criminal justice degrees. The one that is right for you depends on your goals upon completing your program. This article will cover the three main types of criminal justice schools.

Trade Schools and Technical Schools

Trade schools and technical schools offer career-focused education for students who want to get their credentials as quickly as possible and head out into the workforce. These schools usually offer a choice of certificate or bachelor’s degree programs, which can take anywhere from one to four years to complete. The curriculum at trade and technical schools is usually very practical and hands-on: applied training that gives you the knowledge and skills you need to get the job done. One advantage of trade and technical schools is that because they cater to career-oriented students, they often have very good career and job-placement support resources.

Community Colleges

Community colleges offer two-year associate’s degrees and sometimes certificates. They are usually less expensive than trade and technical schools, and they offer a more well-rounded education. For example, in a trade and technical school, most of the courses you take will be specific to your field of study. However, at a community college, you may take up to a year of general requirements as well as courses in your field. Associate’s degree programs are often more theoretical than the programs offered at trade schools and technical schools. They will usually still teach you the knowledge and skills you need for the job, but the courses are often more academic in nature. Students who graduate from a community college criminal justice program earn an Associate of Applied Science degree.

Four-Year Colleges and Universities

Many four-year colleges and universities also offer criminal justice programs, usually at the bachelor’s degree level. Like community colleges, four-year institutions provide a more well-rounded education than you will find at most trade and technical schools. It generally takes four years to complete a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and you may spend up to two of those years taking general education requirements like English and history.

When thinking about what type of criminal justice school will best suit your needs, consider how long you are willing to spend in school and what type of career you would like to pursue. For example, trade and technical schools do an excellent job at preparing students to become correctional or probation officers in a relatively short time. On the other hand, if you think you might someday want to pursue a job in the legal field, you will probably want to start by earning your bachelor’s degree. If you are unsure what type of program to select, ask a career guidance counselor to help you weigh your options.


ITT-Tech. School of Criminal Justice.

Portland Community College. Criminal Justice.

University of Maryland University College. Major in Criminal Justice.

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