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2020 Criminal Justice & Corrections Degree Guide

A major in Criminal Justice and Corrections prepares students to work in the field of public law and criminal justice. You will learn about crime, law, and the justice system through studying different disciplines.

There are many different concentrations in this major that allow students to focus on an area of specific interest. For example, students could choose a concentration in Maritime Law Enforcement to learn how to effectively stop smuggling, piracy, drug trafficking, and sex trafficking. Another focus is Corrections; this concentration will teach you about prison life and other correctional facilities including the study of social reform. Or they could choose Juvenile Corrections if they are more interested in working with children and adolescents.

Other popular specializations are Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement Administrations, Criminal Justice/Safety Studies, Forensic Science and Technology, Criminal Justice/Police Science, and Securities Services Administration/Management to name just a few.

In any of these concentrations, you can expect to take classes in criminology, ethics in law enforcement, victims of crime, gender issues in law, correctional administration, policing society, the U. S. criminal-justice system, criminal law, and statistics.

#5 Most Popular Major
123k Degrees Awarded
-5.6% Increase in Graduates

In 2017-2018, criminal justice and corrections was the 5th most popular major nationwide with 123,447 degrees awarded. This 6,916 less than the prior year, a decrease of 5.6%.

The United States has 1,060 different schools where you can get a degree in criminal justice and corrections. This year's Best Colleges for Criminal Justice & Corrections ranking compares 413 of them to identify the best overall programs in the country. Explore this or one of our many other custom criminal justice rankings further below.

Requirements for Getting a Degree in Criminal Justice & Corrections

Students should have a vast and absorbing interest in law, justice and social reform. This major requires math, statistics and science. Students will need to memorize theories and be able to apply methods to real-life situations. Critical reading skills will help you pull important information from dry texts as you read court cases, prison procedures and reports.

Interpersonal skills are important as you will work with various people from lawyers to criminals. Develop sharp listening and observational skills in order to pick up on crucial details. Students who are detail-oriented, organized and have a good memory will find success. This major involves the study of controversial and difficult information. This is in order to prepare students for tense and potentially dangerous situations in a career.

Criminal Justice Degree Program Entry Requirements

A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required for most criminal justice degree programs and many students will need a minimum GPA and SAT/ACT score depending on the school. Specific criminal justice careers may require a certain level of degree attainment or additional certifications beyond that.

Criminal Justice & Corrections Degree Types

Criminal Justice degree levels vary. You can spend many years getting as high as a research / scholarship based doctorate's in criminal justice and corrections to something that takes less time like a first year certificate. How long it takes to complete some common criminal justice degree levels is shown below.

Degree Credit Requirements Typical Program Length
Associate Degree 60-70 credits 2 years
Bachelor’s Degree 120 credits 4 years
Master’s Degree 50-70 credits 1-3 years
Doctorate Program required coursework including thesis or dissertation At least 4 years

A bachelor's degree is the most common level of education achieved by those in careers related to criminal justice, with approximately 34.5% of workers getting one. People currently working in careers related to criminal justice tend obtained the following education levels.

Level of Education Percentage of Workers
Bachelor’s Degree 31.9%
High School Diploma 22.4%
Some College Courses 12.7%
Associate’s Degree (or other 2-year degree) 12.1%
Master’s Degree 8.8%

61.0% of criminal justice workers have at least a associate's. See the chart below for the most common degree level workers in criminal justice and corrections have received.


This of course varies depending on which criminal justice career you choose.

Career Opportunities for A Degree In Criminal Justice Graduate

Above Average Number of Jobs
$31.9k Average Starting Salary
8% Growth Job Outlook 2016-26

Graduates who major in Criminal Justice and Corrections will have the skills to work in a prison or another type of correctional facility. They are also found working for law enforcement or the coast guard. The interdisciplinary skills gained also prepare graduates for careers as psychologists, public administrators, or lawyers. Many of these careers will require graduate school.

Growth Projected for Criminal Justice Careers

Want a job when you graduate with your criminal justice degree? Criminal Justice & Corrections careers are expected to grow 7.6% between 2016 and 2026.

The following options are some of the most in-demand careers related to criminal justice and corrections.

Occupation Name Projected Jobs Expected Growth
Accountants and Auditors 1,537,600 10.0%
Managers 1,071,700 8.0%
Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers 731,900 7.0%
Correctional Officers and Jailers 415,500 -7.7%
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 362,600 14.2%

How Much Money Do Criminal Justice Grads Make?

Criminal Justice & Corrections graduates between 2015-2017 reported earning an average of $31,866 in the 2017-2018 timeframe. Earnings can range from as low as $7,100 to as high as $109,800. As you might expect, salaries for criminal justice graduates vary depending on the level of education that was acquired.


Highest Paid Criminal Justice Careers

Salaries for criminal justice and corrections graduates can vary widely by the occupation you choose as well. The following table shows the top 5 highest paying careers criminal justice grads often go into.

Occupation Name Median Average Salary
Managers $115,590
Information Security Analysts $102,470
Computer Workers $93,350
Police and Detective Supervisors $93,100
Financial Examiners $90,310

Getting Your Criminal Justice & Corrections Degree

With over 5,412 different criminal justice degree programs to choose from, finding the best fit for you can be a challenge. Fortunately you have come to the right place. We have analyzed all of these schools to come up with hundreds of unbiased criminal justice school rankings to help you with this.

Criminal Justice & Corrections is one of 3 different types of Homeland Security, Law Enforcement & Firefighting programs to choose from.

Related Major Annual Graduates
Fire Protection 19,510
Homeland Security 5,733
Other Homeland Security 2,129

View All Criminal Justice Related Majors >


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