25 Best Criminal Justice Associates Degree Programs [2021 Guide]

Explore Criminal Justice Associates degree programs. Compare schools and see what you could be doing after graduation.

Criminal Justice Associates Degree

If you have a passion for law and order, you might enjoy studying for a Criminal Justice Associate degree.

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It can help get you started in many industries, including corrections, law enforcement, emergency management, and information security, and it may be easily obtained online rather than on a traditional college campus.

Courses for an Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree

Criminal Justice Associate Degree student studying online

An Associate degree in Criminal Justice is designed to give you a broad understanding of the subject. Rather than specializing in a particular area of interest like you could with a more advanced degree, an Associate degree is focused on “big picture” concepts and skills.

This may qualify you for many entry-level jobs rather than a small number of specialized jobs.

Introduction to Criminal Justice: Also known as “Fundamentals of Criminal Justice” or “Criminal Justice 101,” this is one of the first, most basic courses that you’ll take in a traditional or online Criminal Justice degree program. It’ll teach you the broad strokes of the court system and the correctional system, and it’ll introduce you to related subjects like forensics, ethics, police work, and constitutional law.

Crime Scene Investigation: There’s a lot more to crime scene investigation than what you’ve seen on CSI. In fact, many of these classes spend a portion of their time debunking the myths of movies and TV shows. You’ll learn about real forensic investigation instead, and you may gain the skills needed to work as everything from a police officer to a lab technician.

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Research Methods for Criminal Justice: Some Criminal Justice careers involve a gun. Others involve a desk. There’s a lot of data to be tracked when it comes to crime and punishment, and classes in research methodology will show you how it’s done. Whether it’s analyzing the demographics of a specific crime or creating graphs to showcase the trends and statistics of law enforcement, you’ll learn what to do.

Fundamentals of Policing: Even if you aren’t interested in a career as a police officer, you may need to know how they operate. Their policies and procedures have an impact on everything from forensics to courtroom rulings to social work, so whether you’re interested in becoming a case manager, probation officer, or emergency specialist, police knowledge may be relevant to you.

Psychology: Why do people break the law? What social, cultural, financial, and economic factors contribute to it? Which corrective measures work the best? You may take a wide variety of psychology classes as a Criminal Justice major, and they may involve everything from the study of mental disorders to the organizational behavior of criminals in groups.

Fieldwork: Some Criminal Justice degree programs have a fieldwork requirement. This is especially common if they’re offered in conjunction with police academy training or other real-world, career-based programs. Talk to your school to see how they handle fieldwork with an online program. They might allow you to do the work remotely, or they might ask you to coordinate with local companies and agencies that have been pre-approved by the school.

What Is the Abbreviation for an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice?

Abbreviation for an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

ADCJ stands for “Associate Degree in Criminal Justice.” You might see this abbreviation in college catalogs or on law enforcement websites where they’re listing eligibility requirements to apply for jobs.

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There are a few other abbreviations that you’ll want to know as well:

  • Associate of Arts (AA)
  • Associate of Science (AS)
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

All of these degrees require the same amount of schooling and carry the same weight on a resume. However, the AS and AAS degrees might have more of a technical or scientific bent in their required coursework.

If you have any doubt about the credentials that you’ll need as you seek out Associate degree in Criminal Justice jobs, talk to people who are already working in your desired field. What degrees do they have? What does the industry expect?

Can You Get an Associate Degree in Criminology?

Associate Degree in Criminology

It’s possible to get an Associate degree in Criminology. You may also obtain an Associate degree in a related field like Criminal Justice with an emphasis on Criminology.

You might be asking yourself about the difference between Criminology and Criminal Justice. It’s true that there’s a lot of overlap between the subjects, and some schools even merge them into a single degree program.

Fundamentally, however, they’re two different disciplines:

  • Criminology looks at the “how”s and “why”s of crime. It might involve the study of behavior, community demographics, economic trends, psychology, sociology, and more.
  • Criminal Justice focuses on crime in relation to punishment and rehabilitation. It’s geared more towards what happens after crimes are committed, and its studies revolve around courts, corrections, and forensics.

You may earn an Associate degree in both Criminology and Criminal Justice. Some students even go as far as enrolling in bachelors or masters criminology programs.

It’s up to you to decide which will better serve your future career.

Criminal Justice Careers with Associate Degree

Associate Degree in Criminal Justice Salary

You’ll have many career options with a Criminal Justice degree.

If you want to be on the front line of the action, your best bet is a law enforcement job. You may become a police officer, security guard, corrections officer, or even a private detective. These careers don’t usually require more than a high school diploma or Associate degree.

If you prefer to work in a more structured setting, you may become something like a probation worker, case manager, court liaison, or police records officer. These are desk jobs that may still keep you heavily involved in the correctional system.

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Do you like science? Consider a career as a forensic specialist or lab technician. You might need more than an Associate degree for these careers, but a two-year program can help get you started with entry-level skills and subjects.

If you’re willing to stay in school and get a four-year degree in Criminal Justice, your career paths may open even more. For example, if you want to become an FBI agent, one of the requirements is a Bachelor’s degree in any subject.

Many science-based jobs in Criminal Justice may require a Bachelor’s degree, as well. The good news is that you can often apply Associate degree credits towards a Bachelor’s degree, so if you decide to go back to school later, you likely won’t have to start all over.

Associate Degree in Criminal Justice Salary

Associate Degree in Criminal Justice Salary

Criminal Justice is a booming industry. The growth rate for jobs is between 3 – 14%, depending on which career track that you’re looking at. A determining factor for job growth to dip will be state and local budget constraints. But salaries can be surprisingly high for two-year degree holders.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some careers in the criminal justice field include:

Careers Annual Median Salary
Detectives and Criminal Investigator $86,940
Transit and Railroad Police $72,580
Police Officer $65,540
Forensic Science Technician $60,590
Fish and Game Warden $58,040
Judicial Law Clerk $57,510
Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist $55,690
Private Detective $53,320
Correctional Officer $47,410
Security Guard $31,050

Keep in mind that these salaries can fluctuate depending on education, experience, and even location. Some companies may prefer you to have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice when applying for these jobs.

For example, police officers in Mississippi make an average of $37,210 per year while police officers in California take home a whopping $107,440 per year. All salaries should be taken in context. Also, depending on the employer, you may need additional education or work experience to qualify for some of these jobs.

Criminal Justice Associate Degree Online Admission Requirements

criminal justice student being interviewed during an admissions interview

It may be easier than you think to enroll in a degree program for Criminal Justice.

  • Apply for financial aid. Typically, this means filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). These deadlines usually come before college admission deadlines, so start early.
  • Decide how you’d like to learn. Are you interested in synchronous or asynchronous classes? Do you prefer a fixed, open, or “hybrid” schedule? Do you want the flexibility of self-paced learning, or do you need the structure of more formal online courses?
  • Choose your college. Once you’ve made a list of schools that offer your preferred class type, compare and contrast their Criminal Justice programs. Look at things like tuition, accreditation, course lists, student reviews, and industry rankings. Pay particular attention to reviews that mention their online degree programs. How does the experience of an online student compare to that of a campus-based student?
  • Look at their prerequisites. You’ll need to formally enroll in college to earn an Associate degree, so look at the admissions requirements for new students. Most community colleges will only ask for a high school diploma or GED, but some might want incoming freshmen to have SAT scores, high school transcripts, or more.

Once you’ve completed these steps, it’s just a matter of applying to the school and figuring out what your financial aid will and won’t cover.

Associate in Criminal Justice Accreditation

Associate in Criminal Justice Accreditation

Accreditation is one of the most important things to check when looking at colleges. It’s a voluntary process, so not every school gets accredited, but it’s considered an industry standard just about everywhere.

Employers will often expect it. The government will require it for financial aid. It may be worth the effort of finding an accredited school.

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There are six regional accrediting boards in the United States. They’ve divided the country by region, but they have equal standing as accrediting boards.

There are also programmatic accrediting boards. For example, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences has accredited several college degree programs. This is rarer, so you shouldn’t worry if your school doesn’t have it, but it may be a nice bonus if it does.

How Much Is an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice?

criminal justice degree students walking in university campus

The price of an Associate degree is around $3,770 per year, according to the College Board. However, there are many factors that can both raise and lower the costs:

  • In-state students usually pay less than out-of-state students. Additionally, online students can sometimes qualify for in-state rates.
  • Every school is different, and some charge more than others. This is especially true when you compare Associate degree programs at community colleges and four-year colleges.
  • Required credits. It usually takes around 60 – 65 credits to earn an Associate degree, but this can vary depending on the school and the Criminal Justice program.
  • Fieldwork requirements. If you need to complete an internship or on-the-job training at a lab or police academy, there will be additional costs in your tuition package.

All things considered, earning an Associate degree is usually cheaper than earning a Bachelor’s, and getting your degree online is generally less expensive than getting one on campus.

Similar to an online accelerated criminal justice degree program, an online Associate degree combines them both as one of the most affordable educational options out there.

Financial Aid for an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

criminal justice degree students walking in university campus

The most common kind of financial aid for college students is federal aid. It’s completely free to submit an application, and you may qualify for several types of assistance, including grants, loans, and work-study programs.

FAFSA funds can be applied to both Associate and Bachelor’s degrees. It’s a bit iffier when it comes to graduate degrees, but if you’re still an undergraduate student, you’ll be fine. Online programs are just as valid as campus-based programs.

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Outside of FAFSA, you can apply for scholarships to help you pay for college. Some are meant explicitly for Criminal Justice majors:

Others are meant for Associate degree seekers of any major:

There are even scholarships for online students, such as the eQuality Scholarship or the American Association of University Women’s Re-Entry Scholarship.

Another option for financial aid is tuition reimbursement through your employer. It’s offered by many well-known companies, including several retail and fast food chains, and it might be an option through lesser-known companies as well. You won’t know unless you ask.

Universities Offering Associate Degrees in Criminal Justice Online

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Allen Community College

Allen Community College campus

Founded in 1923, Allen Community College offers both online and on-campus courses. The school’s main campus is located in Iola, Kansas. Students can pursue a variety of associate’s degrees in the arts and sciences. Allen Community College enrolls roughly 2,500 students across all areas of study each semester.

  • AS in Criminal Justice Studies

Allen County Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Bismarck State College

Bismarck State College campus

Bismarck State College is a public college located in Bismarck, North Dakota. Established in 1939, it stands today as the one of the largest schools within the North Dakota University System. More than 3,700 students are currently enrolled.

The school offers two year degrees and more than 20 bachelor’s programs in conjunction with other university systems. BSC offers a large selection of online courses and programs.

  • AA in Criminal Justice

Bismarck State College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Campbell University

Campbellsville University campus

Founded in 1887, Campbell University is a private university located in Buies Creek, North Carolina. More than 7,100 students are currently enrolled at Campbell. Bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs are available at the school. Students can choose from nearly 30 degree options that can be completed fully online or on campus.

  • AA in Criminal Justice

Campbell University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Casper College

Casper College campus

Casper College is a public community college located in Casper, Wyoming, that stands as one of the largest of its kind in the region. More than 4,000 students are currently enrolled at Casper. Founded in 1945, the school currently offers more than 80 academic majors and technical options for students spread across five different schools.

  • AA in Criminal Justice
  • AAS in Criminal Justice

Casper College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Clarion University

Clarion University campus

Clarion University in Clarion, Pennsylvania, offers associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degree programs. Founded in 1867, the school is now one of 14 institutions to belong to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Current enrollment stands near 5,000 students. Enrolled students represent 44 states and numerous countries.

  • AS in Criminal Justice

Clarion University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Concordia University – Wisconsin

Concordia University Wisconsin campus

Concordia University Wisconsin is a private, Lutheran-affiliated university located in Mequon, Wisconsin. The more than 7,700 students enrolled at Concordia can pursue 78 undergraduate majors, 22 graduate majors, and three doctoral concentrations. In addition, a number of flexible and online programs are offered.

Concordia University Wisconsin was founded in 1881.

  • AA in Management of Criminal Justice

Concordia University – Wisconsin is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Craven Community College

Craven Community College campus

Craven Community College is a public community college based in New Bern, North Carolina. The school first opened in 1965. Students can pursue a number of degrees related to health and technical careers both online and on campus.

The school is known for offering easily transferable courses for students looking to pursue degrees at four-year institutions.

  • Associate’s in Criminal Justie

Craven Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Dawson Community College

dawson community college campus

Dawson Community College is a public community college located in Glendive, Montana. Founded in 1940, the school currently enrolls roughly 400 students. DCC students can pursue two-year Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS), and Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree programs.

Dawson is a part of the Montana University System.

  • AAS in Criminal Justice

Dawson Community College is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Fox Valley Technical College

Fox Valley Technical College campus

Founded in 1912, Fox Valley Technical College is a public technical college located in Grand Chute, Wisconsin. Fox Valley Tech serves roughly 500,000 learners each year across its more than 200 programs for associate’s degrees and technical certificates. Fox Valley Tech enjoys transfer agreements with more than 30 four-year universities.

  • AAS in Criminal Justice

FVTC is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Hodges University

Hodges University campus

Hodges University is a private university located in Naples, Florida. The school was founded in 1990. The nearly 1,700 students currently enrolled at Hodges can pursue 11 associate’s degree programs, 16 bachelor’s degree programs, and nine master’s degree programs.

The school’s degree programs are divided across five separate colleges.

  • AA in Criminal Justice

Hodges University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Hutchinson Community College

Hutchinson Community College campus

Hutchinson Community College is a public community college located in Hutchinson, Kansas, that was founded in 1928. HutchCC students can choose from more than 70 different degree programs. Both Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degrees are available across a range of specialties.

The school has transfer agreements with a wide variety of colleges and universities around the country. More than 13,518 students are enrolled.

  • AA in Criminal Justice Administration

Hutchinson Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Indiana Wesleyan University

Indiana Wesleyan University campus

Indiana Wesleyan University is a private evangelical Christian school with a headquarters in Marion, Indiana. The school is affiliated with the Wesleyan Church. It also happens to be Indiana’s largest private university.

Student enrollment at IWU tops 13,000. More than 80 undergraduate degrees, 57 graduate degrees, and nine doctorate degrees are available.

  • AS in Criminal Justice
  • AS in Integrative Studies – Criminal Justice

Indiana Wesleyan University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Keiser University

Keiser University campus

Keiser University is a private university based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Founded in 1977, the school offers options for bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees. Enrollment stands at just over 19,500. Keiser offers both traditional on-campus learning and fully online programs.

  • AA in Criminal Justice

Keiser University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

LeTourneau University

LeTourneau University campus

LeTourneau University is a private university located in Longview, Texas. It was founded as an interdenominational Christian university in 1946.

More than 3,000 enrolled students currently study in bachelor’s and master’s programs. LeTourneau’s student body represents all 50 states, 20 countries, and more than 45 religious denominations.

  • AS in Criminal Justice

LeTourneau University is regionally accredited by: the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Liberty University

Liberty University campus

Liberty University is a private evangelical Christian university located in Lynchburg, Virginia. Founded in 1971, Liberty currently has an enrollment number of 100,000.

The majority of Liberty’s students study fully online. Bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs are available in a variety of areas of studies across the arts and sciences.

  • AA in Criminal Justice

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Maranatha Baptist University

Maranatha Baptist University

Maranatha Baptist University is a private liberal arts university with a Baptist affiliation. This school in Watertown, Wisconsin, was established in 1968.

Current enrollment stands at just over 1,000 students. Students can pursue options for seven associate’s degrees, 37 bachelor’s degrees, and three master’s degrees spread across five colleges.

  • AS in Criminal Justice

Maranatha is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

North Central Missouri College

North Central Missouri College campus

North Central Missouri College is a public community college with a campus in Trenton, Missouri. The school was founded in 1925.

Associate’s degrees in the arts and sciences are available for the nearly 1,500 students enrolled at North Central. NCMC also offers flexible, fully online degree options for students.

  • AAS in Criminal Justice
  • AS in Criminal Justice

North Central Missouri College is also recognized and/or accredited by: Higher Learning Commission.

Northeast Community College

Northeast Community College campus

NECC is a public community college system in northeast Nebraska with four campuses. The college was established by the state legislature in 1973. It was created by a merger of Northeastern Nebraska College and Northeast Nebraska Technical College.

Northeast offers education that is more responsible, more accountable and more aligned with the realities of the future.

  • AA in Criminal Justice – Corrections
  • AA in Criminal Justice – Law Enforcement

Northeast Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Ocean County College

Ocean County College campus

Ocean County College is a public community college located in Ocean County, New Jersey, with an enrollment of nearly 9,500 students. Associate’s degrees are available in dozens of majors covering the arts and sciences. Ocean County College was attended by Bruce Springsteen before his rise to fame. The school was founded in 1964.

  • AS in Criminal Justice

OCC is accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University campus

Saint Leo University is a private Roman Catholic school that was founded in 1889. It holds associations with the Benedictine convent of Holy Name Monastery and Benedictine monastery of Saint Leo Abbey.

More than half of Saint Leo’s enrollment of 11,808 students study fully online. Bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degree paths are available.

  • AA in Criminal Justice

Saint Leo University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Shoreline Community College

Shoreline Community College campus

Shoreline Community College in Shoreline, Washington, has an enrollment of more than 13,795. The school was founded in 1964.

Shoreline Community College offers more than 100 options for associate’s degrees and professional certificates. The school has a high number of international students. It is also known for its robust scholarship program.

  • AA in Criminal Justice
  • AAAS in Criminal Justice

Shoreline Community College is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

South Texas College

South Texas College campus

South Texas College is a public community college located in Rio Grande Valley. The school offers a number of associate’s and bachelor’s programs. Nearly 31,000 students are enrolled at STC. The school has agreements with more than 60 colleges and universities across the country to enable for easy credit transfers.

  • Associate’s in Criminal Justice

South Texas College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University campus

Located between Manchester and Hooksett, Southern New Hampshire University is a private school that was founded in 1932.

SNHU follows a unique open-enrollment policy that only requires a high school diploma or equivalent. SNHU currently serves more than 90,955 enrolled students. The school offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate programs.

  • AS in Criminal Justice

Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education, Inc.

Stanly Community College

Stanly Community College campus

Stanly Community College in Albemarle, North Carolina, is a public community college with 10,000 students. The school was established in 1971. It is a current member of the North Carolina Community College System. SCC students can earn associate’s degrees through a variety of on-campus and online degree programs.

  • AAS in Criminal Justice Technology

Stanly Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Tallahassee Community College

Tallahassee Community College campus

Tallahassee Community College is a public community college located in Tallahassee, Florida, that belongs to the Florida College System. This school with a current enrollment number of nearly 25,000 students was founded in 1966. TCC offers more than 70 academic programs for associate’s and bachelor’s degrees.

  • AS in Criminal Justice Technology

Tallahassee Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Is an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice Worth It?

security guard checking the building

Yes, an Associate degree in Criminal Justice is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 3% job growth in protective service occupations over the next 10 years. Common careers in this field include correctional officer, private detective, judicial law clerk, fish and game warden, and police officer.

The industry is growing, and it’s going to need qualified professionals for everything from corrections work to courtroom battles. Whether you’re interested in a two-year degree or just a headstart on a four-year degree, consider majoring in Criminal Justice for your AA, AS, or AAS.

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Joy Cromwelle
WRITTEN BY
Joy Cromwelle
Joy is pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Policy & Foreign Policy and holds a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management, as well as a Bachelor's in Business Administration. Joy's focus is helping non-traditional students find accelerated degree options and credit for prior learning opportunities.