Online Associates Degrees in Criminal Justice: The Complete Guide

Benefits of Earning an Online Criminal Justice Degree

Earning an online associate’s degree in criminal justice has many benefits.


1. Flexibility

Online programs allow you to study on your own schedule. You can view lectures, participate in discussions, and complete assignments whenever and wherever is convenient for you. This flexibility is ideal for working professionals or students with families or other commitments.

2. Cost Savings

Online degrees are often more affordable than traditional on-campus programs. You’ll save money on expenses like room and board, transportation, and parking. Many schools also offer lower tuition rates for online students. Financial aid and scholarships are available to help make an online degree even more budget-friendly.


3. Learn Practical Skills

An associate’s in criminal justice provides a broad education in areas like law enforcement, corrections, and security. You’ll learn practical skills that prepare you for entry-level jobs in the criminal justice field. Coursework covers topics such as criminal law, criminal procedures, forensic science, and police ethics.

4. Career Opportunities

With an online associate’s degree in criminal justice, you can pursue jobs like police officer, security guard, probation officer, and corrections officer. An associate’s degree can also provide a solid foundation if you want to continue your education to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

An online criminal justice associate’s degree offers many benefits that can help launch your career in law enforcement and beyond. With flexibility, affordability, practical skills, and job opportunities, earning this degree could be a rewarding choice.

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Required Courses in a Criminal Justice Associate’s Program

To earn an online associate’s degree in criminal justice, you’ll need to complete several required core courses. These provide a foundation in the field and cover the basics of the criminal justice system.

1. Law Enforcement Operations

This course examines the role and responsibilities of police in society. You’ll learn about police organization, operations, and procedures. Topics include patrol techniques, investigations, traffic control, and community policing.

2. Introduction to Criminal Law

This overview of criminal law teaches you about crimes and defenses. You’ll study general principles of criminal liability, elements of crimes, and affirmative defenses. You’ll analyze real case examples to understand how laws are applied.

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3. Corrections

This course provides an overview of the correctional system. You’ll explore the history of corrections, different incarceration options like jails and prisons, and alternative sanctions like probation and parole. The course discusses rehabilitation, deterrence, incapacitation, and retribution – the main goals of corrections.

4. Criminal Procedure

This course focuses on the laws governing the investigation and prosecution of crimes. You’ll learn proper police procedures for arrests, searches and seizures, interrogations, and lineups. The course covers how evidence is collected and used in criminal trials according to the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments.

5. Criminal Justice Ethics

This course examines ethical issues in the criminal justice field. You’ll explore moral dilemmas related to law enforcement, legal representation, sentencing, incarceration, and policymaking. The course aims to develop your critical thinking about concepts like duty, integrity, justice, and civil rights.

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Careers Available With a Criminal Justice Associate’s Degree

With an associate’s degree in criminal justice, you’ll be prepared for various entry-level careers in the field. Here are some of the options available:

1. Police Officer

Police officers maintain order, enforce laws, and protect people and property. To become a police officer, you typically need at least a high school diploma, though many agencies prefer an associate’s degree in criminal justice. Police officers go through police academy training and must meet other requirements like passing background checks and medical exams.

2. Correctional Officer

Correctional officers, also known as jailers or detention officers, oversee individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trial or who have been sentenced to serve time in jail or prison. Correctional officers need at least a high school diploma or equivalent but many pursue an associate’s degree in criminal justice to advance their careers. Their main duties revolve around supervising inmates, enforcing rules, and maintaining security.

3. Paralegal

Paralegals assist lawyers by conducting legal research, organizing files, and drafting correspondence and legal documents. While not required, an associate’s degree in paralegal studies can be helpful for gaining the necessary skills and knowledge. Paralegals make a median salary of over $50,000 per year in the US. Many paralegals start out as legal assistants and advance to higher positions with more experience.

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4. Probation Officer

Probation officers monitor offenders who have been sentenced to probation instead of jail time. They ensure that these individuals comply with the terms of their probation. Most probation officers have at least a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, social work, or a related field. Probation officers meet with offenders, conduct drug tests, make home visits, and report progress to courts. It can be a demanding job, but also rewarding for helping offenders get back on the right track.

Finding an Accredited Online Criminal Justice Program

There are a few things to consider when evaluating schools and programs:

1. Look for regional accreditation

This means the school meets high standards of quality. Nationally accredited schools may not be as reputable. Check with the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs to verify the school’s accreditation status.

2. Consider the program curriculum

Look for a curriculum that covers a broad range of topics like law enforcement, corrections, legal studies, forensic science, and homeland security. Hands-on learning opportunities like internships or field experiences are a plus.

3. Check on faculty credentials and experience

Look for professors with both academic credentials as well as relevant work experience in areas like law enforcement, legal studies or corrections. They will provide a balance of theoretical and practical knowledge.

4. Consider completition rates and job placement

Look for schools with high graduation and job placement rates for criminal justice graduates. This indicates students are able to successfully complete the program and find employment in their field of study.

5. Compare costs and financial aid options

Online programs can vary in cost. Look at tuition, fees, and available financial assistance like grants, scholarships, student loans and tuition reimbursement. See if the school offers any discounts for military, law enforcement or public service professionals.

6. Think about student support services

Look for online programs that provide support for distance learners like online tutoring, advising, library services and career counseling. These services will help you succeed in your program and transition to a new career.

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Degrees in Criminal Justice

Tips for Success When Earning Your Degree Online

Here are some tips to help you earn your associates degree in criminal justice.

1. Find your motivation

Why did you choose this program? Keep your goals and motivation in mind to stay on track. Maybe you want to advance your career, increase your earning potential or open up more job opportunities. Review your motivation often and use it to push through challenging times.

2. Develop a routine

Create a regular schedule for when you will study and complete coursework. Treat it like a real class and block off dedicated time each week for your online program. Having a routine will make you more productive and help avoid falling behind.

3. Stay engaged with your instructor and classmates

Take advantage of opportunities to communicate with your professor and connect with other students. Build those relationships and use them as a support system. Ask questions when you have them and participate in online discussions. Staying actively involved will make the courses more engaging and help the time pass more quickly.

4. Find the right study environment

Choose a place free of distractions to study and complete coursework. A library, dedicated office space or quiet coffee shop can work well. Make sure you have a strong Internet connection and any materials you may need. The right environment can help you focus and be more efficient.

5. Take good notes

Take thorough notes as you go through lessons and readings. Note any key terms, ideas or examples that stand out to you. Review your notes regularly to retain the information, and use them as a reference when completing assignments. Developing a system for organizing your notes will make them even more useful.


Following these tips can help set you up for success as you work toward earning your associates degree in criminal justice online. Stay motivated, develop good habits, engage fully in your courses and find the best environment and strategies for learning.

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