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What Are the Different Types of Criminal Justice Degree Requirements?

Nicole Etolen
Nicole Etolen

A degree in criminal justice can lead to positions within correctional facilities, local law enforcement, and federal agencies. Criminal justice degree requirements vary depending on the school and degree program. Most programs have a set of basic prerequisites that are common in just about all types of degrees, as well as a core curriculum specifically designed to educate students about the various aspects of criminal justice work. Elective requirements are typically used to expand a student’s knowledge in a certain specialty of the field.

Like most degrees, criminal just degrees range from a two-year associates program to Doctorate levels. A bachelor’s degree is the most common requirement, especially for federal jobs. Those who wish to teach at a college level will want to continue on to a master's or doctoral degree in criminology. Criminal justice degree requirements for higher-level degrees build on the information taught in during an associates or Bachelor’s degree program and typically include extensive research papers.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Basic criminal justice degree requirements include a number of standard pre-requisite classes designed to ensure that students have a firm grasp on the essentials. These include classes in writing composition, psychology, communications, and sociology. Criminal justice majors are often required to take extra classes in sociology and psychology, as the these two subjects play a major role in helping students learn about the factors that lead people to commit crimes. Understanding these factors can help those in the field better predict criminal behavior, which can save lives in dangerous situations.

Once the prerequisite classes are completed, criminal justice degree requirements focus on educating students about the criminal justice system. Classes typically include those that cover routine police work, the probation system, and the court systems. Political science classes, especially those that concern local political systems, are also often required. Cultural studies are also important, especially for those who plan to work in a large city where many different ethnic groups live in close proximity to each other.

A certain number of elective classes are typical criminal justice degree requirements for all degree levels. Many students opt to take electives that are geared towards their intended specialty in the field. For example, those who eventually plan to work for federal law enforcement may take additional courses in political science. Students who are unsure which direction they would like to go in after graduation can use their electives to try different fields. In addition to basic classes and electives, criminal justice majors are required to have a certain number of credit hours in physical fitness classes.

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