Criminal Justice Degree

With the spotlight increasingly shining on criminal justice, courtesy of such television dramas as CSI and Law and Order and reality shows like The First 48, the field has begun to attract more people than ever from all walks of life.

But, to work in the criminal justice field, you'll first need to obtain a criminal justice degree, typically a bachelor's degree. Your degree will open the door to a wide range of careers, including police officer, private investigator, probation officer, bailiff, border patrol agent, park ranger, social worker, private security officer, customs agent, paralegal, and immigration enforcement agent, to name just a few.

The rising popularity of online education has led many traditional brick-and-mortar schools, in addition to online universities, to offer online criminal justice degrees. Choosing the right school for your goals and your budget can be overwhelming, so carefully consider the following factors when choosing an online criminal justice program:

Career goals. What do you plan to do with your degree in criminal justice? Do you want to work as a police officer or in crime scene investigation? Will you use your degree as a foundation for later earning a J.D. or for attending graduate school?

Knowing what you want to do with your degree will help you narrow down your school options and find the one that is right for you. Many schools allow you to earn a criminal justice degree with a specialization. For example, you might specialize in law enforcement or corrections, so it's important to find a school that offers that specialization.

Faculty. Find a school with experienced faculty who have actually worked in the criminal justice field. Contact the school, if faculty biographies are not posted on the university's website, and ask for information on the instructors, including their academic background and their experience in criminal justice. Email those instructors in your specialization to get a better feel for the program.

Residency. Does the program in which you are interested include a residency that requires you to be on campus for a set period of time? If so, how does that factor into the cost of your education, both financially and in terms of time?

Cost. Higher education comes with a hefty price tag. Find out the semester or annual cost of tuition plus fees and whether or not the university offers financial aid programs.

Before you choose an online criminal justice program, find out if the university has job placement assistance to help you find a position once you graduated and how long it generally takes to complete the degree.

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