25 Best Criminal Justice Associates Degree Programs [2020 Guide]

We’ve identified the 25 best Criminal Justice Associates degree programs. Compare top 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.

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

Courses for an Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree

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 will 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 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’ll gain the skills needed to work as everything from a police officer to a lab technician.

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’ll 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 will 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 can take a wide variety of psychology classes as a Criminal Justice major, and they can 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 edibility requirements to apply for jobs.

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 can 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 can earn an Associate degree in both Criminology and Criminal Justice. 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 can 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 can become something like a probation worker, case manager, court liaison, or police records officer. These are desk jobs that will still keep you heavily involved in the correctional system.

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 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 will 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 will 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 won’t have to start all over.

Associate Degree in Criminal Justice Salary

Criminal Justice is a booming industry. The growth rate for jobs is between 5 – 10 percent depending on which career track that you’re looking at, and salaries can be surprisingly high for two-year degree holders.

Here are some of the top-paying jobs with an Associate degree in Criminal Justice.

  • Police Identification and Records Officer ($77,210)
  • Police Officer ($63,380)
  • State Trooper ($62,960)
  • Forensic Science Technician ($62,490)
  • Fish and Game Warden ($58,570)
  • Private Detective ($56,810)
  • Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist ($53,020)
  • Court Liaison ($48,000)
  • Corrections Officer ($43,510)
  • Security Guard ($32,487)

Keep in mind that these salaries can fluctuate depending on education, experience, and even location. For example, state troopers in Mississippi make an average of $33,350 per year while state troopers in California take home a whopping $93,550 per year. All salaries should be taken in context.

Criminal Justice Associate Degree Online Admission Requirements

criminal justice student being interviewed during an admissions interview

It’s easier than you might 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

logo of Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences

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 expect it. The government will require it for financial aid. It’s worth the effort of finding an accredited school.

There are six regional accrediting boards in the United States. They’ve divided the country by region, so they have names like “Middle States Commission on Higher Education” and “Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.” However, 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’ll 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 $3,570 per year. 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.

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

screenshot of FAFSA website

The most common kind of financial aid for college students is federal aid. It’s completely free to submit an application, and you could 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.

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

  • Anderson Criminal Justice Scholarship
  • Sheryl A. Horak Law Enforcement Explorer Memorial Scholarship
  • Ronnie Williams Foundation Criminal Justice Scholarship

Others are meant for Associate degree seekers of any major:

  • GEICO Pathway to Completion Associate’s Degree Scholarship
  • California Community College Scholarship Endowment
  • Susan T. Buffett Foundation College Scholarship

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.

List of Schools Offering Associate Degrees in Criminal Justice Online

Rankings Methodology

The following colleges and universities are regionally accredited and offer programs for an Associate degree in Criminal Justice online.

#1  Allen Community College

Allen Community College campus

  • AS in Criminal Justice Studies

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

#2  Bismarck State College

Bismarck State College campus

  • AA in Criminal Justice

Bismarck State College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#3  Campbell University

Campbellsville University campus

  • AA in Criminal Justice

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

#4  Casper College

Casper College campus

  • AA in Criminal Justice
  • AAS in Criminal Justice

Casper College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#5  Clarion University

Clarion University campus

  • AS in Criminal Justice

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

#6  Concordia University – Wisconsin

Concordia University Wisconsin campus

  • AA in Management of Criminal Justice

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

#7  Craven Community College

Craven Community College campus

  • Associate’s in Criminal Justie

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

#8  Dawson Community College

dawson community college campus

  • AAS in Criminal Justice

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

#9  Fox Valley Technical College

Fox Valley Technical College campus

  • AAS in Criminal Justice

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

#10  Hodges University

Hodges University campus

  • AA in Criminal Justice

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

#11  Hutchinson Community College

Hutchinson Community College campus

  • AA in Criminal Justice Administration

Hutchinson Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#12  Indiana Wesleyan University

Indiana Wesleyan University campus

  • 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.

#13  Keiser University

Keiser University campus

  • AA in Criminal Justice

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

#14  LeTourneau University

LeTourneau University campus

  • AS in Criminal Justice

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

#15  Liberty University

Liberty University campus

  • AA in Criminal Justice

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

#16  Maranatha Baptist University

Maranatha Baptist University

  • AS in Criminal Justice

Maranatha is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#17  North Central Missouri College

North Central Missouri College campus

  • AAS in Criminal Justice
  • AS in Criminal Justice

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

#18  Northeast Community College

Northeast Community College campus

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

Northeast Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#19  Ocean County College

Ocean County College campus

  • AS in Criminal Justice

OCC is accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#20  Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University campus

  • AA in Criminal Justice

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

#21  Shoreline Community College

Shoreline Community College campus

  • AA in Criminal Justice
  • AAAS in Criminal Justice

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

#22  South Texas College

South Texas College campus

  • Associate’s in Criminal Justice

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

#23  Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University campus

  • AS in Criminal Justice

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

#24  Stanly Community College

Stanly Community College campus

  • AAS in Criminal Justice Technology

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

#25  Tallahassee Community College

Tallahassee Community College campus

  • 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. After graduation, you could be earning $50,000 or more per year.

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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