An associate’s degree in criminal justice provides a solid educational foundation to get started in many fields.
Why Earn a Criminal Justice Degree Online?
Why earn a criminal justice degree online? There are several benefits to pursuing this degree through an online program.
1. Flexibility and Convenience
Online programs offer flexibility for those with busy schedules. You can study and complete assignments on your own time, day or night. This is ideal if you work full time or have family obligations. You’ll have access to all course materials and lectures online so you can study whenever and wherever is most convenient for you.
2. Career Advancement
A criminal justice degree can open up career opportunities and the potential for higher pay. Many criminal justice jobs require at least an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. An online degree can allow you to earn a degree while still working, so you can advance in your current role or pursue a new career.
Online programs are often more affordable than traditional on-campus degrees. You’ll avoid costs like room and board, transportation, and parking fees. Online programs also provide residents of any state the opportunity to pay in-state tuition at select schools. Some schools offer additional discounts or scholarships for online learners as well.
4. Learn Relevant, Real-World Skills
An online criminal justice degree teaches both theoretical knowledge and practical skills that translate to the real world. Coursework covers areas like criminal law, police procedures, forensic science, and crisis intervention. You’ll learn skills applicable across the criminal justice field. Some programs also incorporate internships or field experiences, allowing you to gain experience.
Earning an online criminal justice degree offers many benefits that can help you reach your goals. With the right program, you’ll gain valuable knowledge and experience to prepare you for a career serving and protecting your community.
Top Accelerated Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs
Looking to earn your criminal justice degree as quickly as possible? Check out these top accelerated online programs.
1. Liberty University
Liberty University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice that can be completed in just 2-3 years of full-time study. With 8-week courses and multiple start dates per year, you can move through the 120-credit program at an accelerated pace. Liberty is also very affordable, with tuition under $10,000 per year.
2. Grantham University
Grantham University has a 100% online BS in Criminal Justice degree program that utilizes 8-week courses so you can finish fast. Grantham also offers six enrollment periods each year, so you can start whenever it suits your schedule. The curriculum focuses on law enforcement, corrections, and legal studies. Grantham is accredited and military-friendly, with many service members and veterans among its student body.
3. Colorado Technical University
CTU offers an accelerated online BS in Criminal Justice with concentrations in homeland security, cybercrime, corrections, and law enforcement. The fast-paced program uses 8-week courses and multiple enrollment periods per year. Transfer students can complete the degree in as little as 18 months. CTU is accredited and provides a high-quality education with experienced faculty and 24/7 technical support.
What to Look for in a Fast Online Criminal Justice Degree
When looking for a fast online criminal justice degree, there are a few factors to consider:
Make sure any program you’re interested in has proper accreditation. Regional accreditation, like from the Higher Learning Commission, means the school meets high academic standards. Programmatic accreditation, like from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, means the criminal justice program itself meets professional standards. Accredited degrees will transfer to other schools and qualify you for more jobs.
2. Accelerated options
Look for ways to speed up your degree like accelerated courses, credit for life experiences, and generous transfer credit policies. Some schools offer 8-week terms instead of the traditional 16 weeks. See if you can get credit for work or military experience. And look for a school that will accept lots of credits from other institutions. The more you can transfer in, the less time it will take to graduate.
3. Available support
Just because a program is fast doesn’t mean you’re on your own. Look for schools that offer support services like tutoring, online libraries, and career counseling. Make sure there are ways to interact with instructors and other students, like discussion forums, live chats, phone, and video calling. Fast degrees require self-motivation, so support systems are important for success.
4. Practical curriculum
Look for a curriculum focused on practical skills and knowledge for a career in criminal justice. Courses in areas like criminal law, policing, corrections, and security are a good sign. Avoid programs heavy in general education requirements and look for concentrations in areas that interest you like forensics, homeland security, or court administration. Hands-on learning like internships or field experiences are ideal for a fast, career-focused degree.
Tips for Completing Your Online Criminal Justice Degree Quickly
To complete your online criminal justice degree quickly, focus on these key tips:
1. Take advantage of transfer credits
If you’ve already earned credits at another school, see if you can transfer them to your new program. Most schools will allow you to transfer a certain number of credits from accredited institutions, shortening the time to graduate. Meet with an advisor as early as possible to determine what credits will transfer.
2. Choose accelerated or fast-track options
Some schools offer accelerated degree plans that allow you to earn your degree in less time. These typically have more intensive courses that cover the same material in a shorter period. There are also fast-track options like credit for life experiences that can shave time off your degree. See if any accelerated or fast-track choices are offered and if they will work with your schedule.
3. Take the maximum course load
While many students take 2-3 courses per semester, taking the maximum allowable credits each term will speed up progress. Make sure you can handle the increased workload before overcommitting. Some schools may charge additional fees for credits over a certain limit.
4. Take summer or intersession courses
If available, take courses during shorter summer or intersession terms. These intensive courses usually only last a few weeks but are equivalent to a full semester. Check with your advisor on options for earning credits year-round.
5. Ask about alternative credit options
See if your school offers options for earning credit other than just coursework, such as:
- Credit for work or life experiences
- Challenge exams to test out of certain courses
- Independent study for self-paced learning
- CLEP exams for general education requirements
Career Paths With a Fast Online Criminal Justice Degree
With an online criminal justice degree, you’ll have several promising career paths ahead of you. Many of these roles offer competitive pay and a chance to positively impact your community.
1. Police Officer
After graduating, you’ll meet the minimum education requirements to become a police officer. Police officers protect the public, enforce laws, and investigate crimes. The median pay for police officers is over $63,000 per year.
Paralegals assist lawyers by conducting legal research, organizing files, and drafting documents. With an associate’s degree in criminal justice, you’ll have the necessary education to work as a paralegal. Paralegals earn a median salary of $50,000 annually.
3. Correctional Officer
Correctional officers oversee individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trial or who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to serve time in a jail, reformatory, or penitentiary. The typical correctional officer earns around $45,000 per year.
4. Security Guard
Security guards help protect people, property, and information. They monitor areas to detect signs of intrusion or other threats, investigate disturbances, and deter criminal activity. Most security guards earn between $28,000 to $48,000 annually.
5. Probation Officer
Probation officers supervise offenders who have been placed on probation or released from incarceration. They monitor offenders to ensure they follow court orders, meet with offenders regularly, and report progress to the courts. Probation officers need at least a bachelor’s degree and earn a median salary of $51,000 per year.
With a fast online criminal justice degree, you can pursue a rewarding career serving and protecting your community. While salaries and day-to-day job duties vary for each role, they share a common goal of building a safer society.