What Kinds of Degrees Are Available in Criminal Justice and Law?

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Some careers in Criminal Justice and Law can offer entry-level positions and on-the-job training to employees who have just a high school diploma. But to advance into higher positions and earn bigger salaries, a college degree is usually a must.

Let’s take a look at the degrees that you could pursue in Criminal Justice and Law, and some of the careers that you could work in with each one.

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Associate Degrees

These two-year degrees are typically focused on helping graduates get entry-level employment in a specific field. In an associate degree program, you will take courses in your major, along with some general education courses.

With an associate degree in Criminal Justice and Law, you could find work as a paralegal, joining a team of lawyers and legal assistants. And your associate degree can really pay for itself in this career. The median salary for paralegals is $49,500 per year, and the highest earners can make as much as $80,260 annually.

Bachelor’s Degrees

A bachelor’s degree usually takes four years to complete, and you’ll take classes focused in your major along with general education courses. A bachelor’s degree can open doors for lots of great jobs in Criminal Justice and Law!

The educational requirements for police and detectives can vary depending on location, but in many places, a bachelor’s degree will be required.

In this career, you’d be responsible for protecting your community, or for investigating crimes and finding suspected criminals. And because of the intense work, police officers and detectives are usually able to retire earlier than workers in other professions.

The median salary for all police and detectives is $61,600 per year, and excellent benefits are usually part of the compensation package.

Master’s Degrees

Looking to change careers or move into a management position? A master’s degree typically takes about two years to complete, and offers greater specialization in your field of choice than you get with an undergraduate degree.

A master’s degree can be a great choice if you are already working in a criminal justice field, and want to move into a leadership position. For example, PayScale lists police chiefs as some of the highest paid people with master’s degrees in Criminal Justice, earning as much as $80,000 per year.

Doctoral Degrees

There are a few different types of doctoral degrees in Criminal Justice and Law. The most common of these is the Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. These are the degrees awarded to graduates of law schools, and in most states, it’s a prerequisite for aspiring lawyers.

A J.D. degree program usually takes about 4 years to complete. After graduation, and after you fulfill a few more requirements, you will be eligible to apply for admission to your state’s bar association. This is the credential that you’ll need to legally practice as a lawyer in your state.

If practicing Law isn’t the path for you, consider pursuing a Ph.D. in Law or Criminal Justice. These degree programs are intended for students who plan to go into research or academia. A Ph.D. in Criminal Justice or Law could also prepare you for work in consulting or public policy.

So, how much earning power comes with a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice and Law? Well, a professor of law can expect to make around the average salary of $125,000 per year, according to PayScale.

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