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Justice for all! And, that’s a good reason to earn your online Associate in Criminal Justice degree, right? Justice is the premise behind the criminal justice system, and it means the protection of the innocent, the conviction of criminals, and the implementation of due process for peace and order.
This is also the underlying philosophy of online associates in criminal justice degrees where online students learn about civil and criminal laws, among other topics.
The contemporary American criminal justice system evolved from the religion-based criminal codes during colonial times, and it continues to change with the times. Nowadays, criminal justice professionals are committed to ensuring the effective, efficient, and responsive operations of the criminal justice system.
These professionals work at the federal, state, and local levels as well as in law enforcement, court systems, and corrections facilities, which are independent entities working with each other to deliver justice for all.
Online students pursuing an associate in criminal justice degree can look forward to a wide range of job opportunities in the three pillars of the criminal justice system. These entry-level occupations, such as police officers and youth workers, are the gateway to career advancement opportunities with further education and relevant work experience. Indeed, this is one proof that an associate degree in criminal justice is worth it!
The beauty of an associate in criminal justice degree is that it opens up an abundance of career opportunities in half the time and money it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree. There’s also the fact that an associate degree in criminal justice can be parlayed into a career in all of the three pillars of the criminal justice system.
Think of an associate in criminal justice degree as a means of giving back to your community and being of assistance to others. The criminal justice field has plenty of occupations where these noble intentions are possible, such as police work and juvenile justice corrections.
When choosing the best online associate program for you, keep in mind our list of the country’s best! The programs we picked stand out with these features:
- 100% online or blended or hybrid classes for Criminal Justice associate students,
- Emphasize the foundational courses of the Criminal Justice discipline to produce graduates that are ready for a bachelor’s degree or qualified for a career opportunity,
- Maintain Transfer Path agreements with four-year college institutions for students’ easy transition to a bachelor’s program upon graduating from the associate program,
- Facilitated on a reliable virtual platform or Learning Management System, complete with online study resources and virtual tools to aid associate degree students in their online learning journey,
- Provide a selection of federal financial aid or student discount for eligible online students,
- Earned recognition from accrediting authorities that have set the standards for online academic instruction,
- Received positive feedback from current and former students, as well as industry associations promoting Criminal Justice education and profession.
Visit our Methodology page and learn more about our online school selection process.
Best Online Associate Degree Programs in Criminal Justice
Penn State World Campus
Penn State’s Associate in Science in Criminal Justice program is a partnership with its Harrisburg School of Public Affairs. Students in the online criminal justice degree program prepare themselves for successful careers in the criminal justice field, particularly in entry-level positions.
Criminal justice students earn 64 credits in the online program with courses that explore the interrelationships between criminal justice, behavioral sciences, and public policy. The associate degree in criminal justice online program provides a comprehensive overview of the juvenile and adult justice systems, gender and ethnicity, ethics, and the law. The credits that you earned can be transferred to a bachelor’s program.
Southern New Hampshire University
Students of the online Associate of Science in Criminal Justice program choose from a wide variety of courses with comprehensive coverage of the American criminal justice system. Liberal arts courses, such as social sciences, and criminal justice-centric courses like criminal law are discussed.
Students gain a real-world perspective while earning the criminal justice associate degree with the program’s emphasis on contemporary principles, practices, and trends. With its convenient format, affordable cost, and flexible schedules, the online criminal justice degree program attracts fresh high school graduates and current criminal justice professionals seeking career advancement.
Online students can earn 60 credits but can also transfer up to 45 credits toward the associate degree. Law enforcement officers get up to 12 credits for transfer.
Purdue University Global
Students of the Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice program put in at least 15 hours of effort each week and complete the program in two years of full-time study. The 10-week courses in the online associate degree total 60 semester credits once completed. Since there are multiple start dates, online students can start their studies at their convenience.
The curriculum of the online criminal justice degree program features intensive studies on criminal law, criminal investigation, and criminology, among others. Criminal justice professionals lead the classes while interactive online learning technology fosters collaborative learning.
The criminal justice program also grants multiple military benefits to military students including college credit for training and financial aid. Once earned, the associate degree in criminal justice opens doors to career opportunities that a high school diploma cannot.
With an Associate of Science in Criminal Justice degree from Franklin University, you will gain access to entry-level law enforcement positions, as well as in the court and corrections systems. Students of the online criminal justice degree program gain a fundamental understanding of the American criminal justice system, as well as criminal behavior and its deterrence.
Technical skills learned in the associate degree in criminal justice program aside, students also develop their communication, critical thinking, and collaboration skills. The combination means graduates of the criminal justice program are well-prepared for entry-level positions.
Online students earn 60 credits, and the 100% online associate degree program features courses with six- and eight-week durations. Criminal justice students study criminal justice administration, criminal procedure, and policing and corrections.
Louisiana State University Online
LSU Online’s Associate of Science in Criminal Justice program has a 60-credit curriculum that emphasizes the three pillars of the criminal justice system. Criminal justice students pursuing the associate degree learn about the processes in law enforcement, courts, and corrections systems.
Dedicated support from coaches, flexible formats, and flat-rate tuition are among the hallmarks of LSU’s online criminal justice degree program. The criminal justice program also offers military benefits to military students including financial aid and college credit for prior military training.
University of Arkansas Grantham
Students of the Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice program earn 60 credits in 24 months of full-time study (without transferred credits). The criminal justice associate degree program’s curriculum features courses in criminology, correction systems and practices, and juvenile justice. The courses in the criminal justice online program have monthly start dates.
Online students in the criminal justice associate degree program develop their functional knowledge of the three major branches of the criminal justice system, as well as juvenile justice. Military benefits are granted to active duty military personnel including reduced per credit hour tuition and financial aid.
Indiana Wesleyan University
IWU’s Associate of Science in Criminal Justice program has a strong Christian-based perspective that underlines its curriculum. Students of the online criminal justice program prepare for crucial roles in the community, from crime prevention to people protection. The associate degree in criminal justice, thus, opens career opportunities in the three branches of the criminal justice system.
The fully online associate in criminal justice program has a 60-credit curriculum consisting of 20 courses. Full-time students can earn an associate’s degree in 27 months or so.
The courses in the online criminal justice degree cover homeland security, criminal procedures, and crisis interventions. Students also complete a colloquium in criminal justice course.
The fully online Associate of Science in Criminal Justice program covers plenty of academic grounds in criminal justice topics including criminal investigation, forensics, and court processes. Students earn an associate degree in criminal justice by complying with the academic requirements of the 60-credit curriculum.
The online criminal justice degree program also provides students with the option between a career preparation seminar or an internship. Students earn an associate degree in criminal justice while also strengthening their Christian values.
Admission into the associate degree in criminal justice program requires a high school diploma for non-transfer students.
Northern State University
Students in the Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice program are well-equipped to establish successful careers as criminal justice professionals after graduation. The sample courses in the 60-credit associate degree program include criminal procedure, criminal law, and criminology.
Students of the associate degree in criminal justice program can also choose from several electives like criminalistics and crime scene investigation. An internship isn’t required in the online criminal justice degree program but it’s recommended as an elective.
Herzing’s Associate of Science in Criminal Justice has a 16-month time-to-completion for full-time online students. The associate degree in criminal justice has a 60-credit curriculum but students can transfer up to 45 credits.
The sample courses in the online criminal justice program include juvenile justice, homeland security, introduction to criminal justice, and evidence forensics. Prospective students benefit from the rolling admissions policy of the online degree in criminal justice program, and students can transfer their earned credits to a bachelor’s degree program.
Overview of the American Criminal Justice System
Every online associate in criminal justice degree program features introductory courses on the integrated system of laws and their rules and regulations, the major components of the criminal justice system, and the people behind them. The interconnections between these aspects are discussed in detail, too, resulting in a solid foundation of knowledge that can be applied in immediate employment and in higher education.
Three Pillars of the Criminal Justice System
The foundation of every associate in criminal justice degree program is knowledge about the three pillars of the modern criminal justice system. From said knowledge comes a deeper understanding of the hows and whys of due process.
First, the law enforcement positions, such as police officers and detectives, are the first line of defense in the criminal justice system. Their work includes the prevention and investigation of crimes, as well as keeping the peace and order to keep citizens safe.
Second, the criminal court system at the federal, state, and municipal levels play crucial roles in ensuring due process and fair sentencing. The court professionals, such as the judges, bailiffs, and lawyers, may not always be on the same side of the law but work toward this end.
Third, corrections officers enforce the rehabilitation and reform actions, such as prison time, mandated by the criminal court system.
Three Levels of Law Enforcement
The American criminal justice system has a complex structure that requires intensive study, and an associate in criminal justice degree is an excellent start. Of the three pillars of the criminal justice system, the law enforcement branch is the most visible, mainly because law enforcement positions are considered first responders. The men and women in police departments are also the faces, so to speak, of law enforcement because of their uniforms.
First, there are two main departments with law enforcement mandates at the federal level – the US Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. Under these departments are dozens of independent agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. These federal government agencies have crucial roles in maintaining public safety, too, such as keeping the borders safe from unwanted entries.
Second, most states have their own law enforcement agencies, such as state police and highway patrol, which keeps public safety and order. Many may be state-level extensions of federal government agencies, too.
Third, most citizens are familiar with local law enforcement as part of the criminal justice system, partly because of their limited jurisdiction.
Comprehensive Overview of Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree Programs
While there’s no one-size-fits-all profile for an online criminal justice program, there are common aspects that make online programs recognizable.
Prospective students of criminal justice associate degree programs must possess at least a high school diploma or its GED equivalent, among other academic requirements.
The average time-to-completion of a typical criminal justice associate degree program is 24 months or four semesters of full-time enrollment. But it can be shorter with college credit or longer with part-time study.
Credits, Curriculum, and Courses
The minimum number of credits in an online criminal justice associate degree program is 60 credits. The curriculum is usually a mix of general education courses, core courses, and electives. Be sure to check out the sample courses when choosing an online program since it will reveal its underlying philosophy and focus.
Sample courses include an introduction to the criminal justice system, criminology, homeland security; criminal law; and courts and criminal procedure.
Aspects of Online Learning
The best online Criminal Justice associate programs are designed to deliver academic quality to their students.
Most, if not all, online criminal justice degree programs use a learning management system (LMS) where students and instructors can conduct the myriad of learning activities necessary. There are also collaboration and productivity tools, which may or may not be integrated into the LMS.
While students may study at their own pace, earning an associate degree in criminal justice still means complying with the academic requirements in a satisfactory manner. These include lessons, examinations, and assignments, among other assessment and evaluation methods.
Tuition and Financial Aid
The associate degree in criminal justice costs vary depending on the per credit costs, as well as the financial aid available. The credits to be earned and transferred credits also affect the overall cost.
Possible Career Paths and Average Salaries of Graduates of Associate in Criminal Justice Programs
Earning an online criminal justice associate degree leads to career opportunities in the three major components of the criminal justice system. Victim advocacy, police and detective work, and child protection are a few examples of the criminal justice profession to choose from. For career advancement, think of higher education as a bachelor’s degree.
Police Officers ($66,020/year)
Known as the frontliners, police officers respond to non-emergency and emergency calls; patrol areas; and prepare cases for court appearances, among others.
Probation or Parole Officers ($48,918/year)
These corrections officers are responsible for the supervision and discipline of criminal offenders on probation.
Juvenile and Youth Workers ($45,064/year)
The main job of these criminal justice professionals is to provide support and guidance to young people who are at risk or in conflict with the law.
Court Security Officers ($46,749/year)
Maintaining peace and order in the criminal court system is the main responsibility of court security officers.
Private Security Personnel ($45,639/year)
These professionals usually work in corporate security settings.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is an Associate in Criminal Justice worth earning?
Yes, it is worth the time, energy, and effort because of the career opportunities that it brings. The criminal justice cost of education is justified by financial aid, too, which isn’t available in certificate programs.
What Associate’s degree is best for Law Enforcement?
Every associate degree in criminal justice can be your ticket to gaining access to a law enforcement career. But be sure to consider other careers in the criminal justice field so you don’t limit your opportunities.
What are the differences between an AA and an AS in Criminal Justice degree?
An AA degree tends to be less specialized in criminal justice since it has more focus on the liberal arts. An AS degree has a greater focus on the science behind criminal justice. Both, however, can be parlayed into higher learning in bachelor’s degree programs.
What is the best way to choose an online Criminal Justice program?
Check for overall academic quality, valid accreditation, and financial aid options. Online education, particularly for higher learning, should be according to the standards set by the Department of Education and the regional accrediting agencies.
What is the closest major to Criminal Justice?
Criminal justice students pursuing an associate degree may also consider earning a degree in criminology since it is a closely related major.
Key Points to Ponder
- Criminal justice is both exciting and challenging as a degree and career path, with a significant impact on society and its citizens. Individuals with a keen interest in maintaining peace and order and ensuring justice for all will find it a perfect fit.
- Earning an Associate in Criminal Justice degree online is a significant step toward establishing a career in criminal justice with the ultimate objective of bringing and maintaining peace and order in our communities.