For anyone considering a career in criminal justice, the first hurdle is often deciding which job is the right fit. After all, the system covers every stage of achieving justice, from crime investigation and court prosecution to offender corrections and rehabilitation. Once you’ve decided on a role to pursue in the criminal justice space, understanding the educational requirements and finding the right degree for this role can provide you with the appropriate skills to professionally support and protect justice.
University of Phoenix offers a range of criminal justice degrees that can prepare you to work in a variety of settings. Here’s a brief overview of the three core branches of criminal justice, examples of the careers they offer, and the degrees that can unlock a rewarding future in the justice system.
Three Branches of Criminal Justice
The three main fields in criminal justice are law enforcement, criminal courts, and corrections. While these fields share a goal to administer justice, each of these offers hundreds of jobs and specializations that demand different skills and qualifications.
1. Law Enforcement
Law enforcement deals with the deterrence and investigation of crimes. Individuals pursuing a career in law enforcement may find those who commit crimes and discover evidence to prove their guilt or innocence in a court of law. Career roles in law enforcement include detectives.
2. Criminal Courts
Individuals working in the courts seek justice by collaborating with law enforcement to ensure those accused of committing crimes receive a fair trial. After an individual has been convicted with a crime, those who work in the courts collaborate with corrections to determine the guilty’s punishment as well as with noninstitutional sentencing, programs and probation. Career roles in the courts include:
- Court reporters
- Court clerks
- Probation officers
Those who have roles in the field of corrections work with individuals who have been found guilty of a crime in court. Individuals may guard or help rehabilitate inmates in prison or help inmates adjust to life outside of prison. Careers in corrections include:
- Correctional officers
- Parole officers
- Case managers
Educational Requirements for Criminal Justice Careers
With so many careers on offer across the three main fields of criminal justice, there are options for those at every level of education and professional experience. It’s important to know the required level of education for a particular job so you can plan and work toward qualifications accordingly.
High School Diploma
There are some places in the U.S. where a high school diploma is the only necessary requirement to start a career in the criminal justice system. Some states, though not all, allow individuals with a high school diploma to join a police academy and train as an officer. Correctional officers, bailiffs and security guards must at least hold a high school diploma, though those seeking similar roles with the Federal Bureau of Prisons require a bachelor’s degree or one to three years of relevant experience.
Associate degrees in criminal justice offer an excellent foundation to enter a related profession or enhance an existing criminal justice career. For example, an associate degree could help kickstart a career as a paralegal, though some courts may require a bachelor’s degree for this role.
Bachelor’s degrees represent a higher level of education that can give individuals access to roles with greater specialization and expertise. For instance, earning a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration can educationally prepare a student for roles such as police captain or detective. Similarly, a bachelor’s degree in Correctional Program Support Services can prepare you for a career as a case manager or social services support assistant.
A master’s degree can prepare individuals for higher-level positions in the criminal justice system. For example, a master’s degree in Administration of Justice and Security educationally prepares you to pursue roles as a police chief, or detective supervisor. A Master of Public Administration degree could mean there are additional opportunities you can pursue in local government or criminal justice policy.
Criminal Justice Degrees With University of Phoenix
There are several reasons to study your criminal justice degree with University of Phoenix. The University’s online, flexible degrees are well suited to working professionals who have other commitments to fit around their education. Additionally, students can save time and money by transferring prior eligible credits from other accredited institutions. Any existing and relevant industry certifications, as well as military, security, or law enforcement training, could provide college credit and can count toward degrees.
While the University offers educational degree programs that provide a good foundation for a career in the industry, qualifications differ greatly depending on the role you are aiming for and can vary between local, state, tribal, federal or international agencies. Before you enroll in any degree program, it’s essential to check with the relevant agency for a complete list of position requirements, so you can be sure you are taking the right steps toward your chosen career.
About University of Phoenix
University of Phoenix progresses the educational goals of adult and nontraditional learners and assists students in navigating the career pathways and degree programs that best suit their ambitions. The University offers numerous degree programs that provide a gateway to many popular careers including those in the justice system, cybersecurity, nursing and business. As one of the leaders in online higher education, the University provides flexible start dates, online classes and numerous scholarship opportunities to make it possible for anyone to earn the degree they need.
For no additional charge, its Career Services for Life® commitment provides active students and graduates with the resources they need to get ahead in the workforce. Some of the services included are resume and interview support, career guidance, and education and networking opportunities. For more information, visit www.phoenix.edu.