Bachelors in Criminal Justice Programs

A standard four-year undergraduate program in criminal justice will expand upon the criminology and law courses introduced in an associate’s program and set up a student for a future in higher-level law enforcement careers. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) requires applicants to hold at least a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions.

Consider online Criminal Justice programs currently accepting applicants:

A bachelor’s in Criminal Justice opens the gateway for other police careers in addition to providing a solid foundation for the education and training one will receive at the police academy. Some of the career paths available to those who hold a bachelor’s in criminal justice include:

What is a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice?

A bachelor’s of criminal justice is a four-year undergraduate program that introduces students to the fundamental principles of the criminal justice system, and can also prepare them for a specific career path through a concentration. While all students will learn about constitutional law, the American legal system, criminology, forensic science and research, concentrations such as Terrorism and Homeland Security or Forensic Psychology.


There are other specializations and courses included in an undergraduate criminal justice program, such as child and young adult psychology, criminal psychology, public administration, constitutional law and sociology and social polices. Areas of specialization that a student can choose include homeland security & emergency preparedness and justice administration.

Some of the criminal justice concentrations offered at universities through the United States include:

  • Criminology
  • Terrorism & Homeland Security
  • Cybersecurity
  • Forensic Science
  • Human Services

Some degrees, such as a Bachelor of Science in Sociology or Psychology, offer a concentration in Criminal Justice that can prepare you to work with inmates or juvenile offenders as a therapist or counselor.

Education Requirements

If this is your first degree, then you will have to apply to a university and fulfill their admission requirements. The criteria varies among institutions, but generally, a first-time applicant must be able to prove they graduated from high school or obtained the academic equivalent, such as a GED.

Usually transcripts and ACT/SAT scores are required for admission to university. Transfer students from a different university or who have previously obtained a degree, such as an associate’s in criminal justice, will most likely be able to forego high school documents and test scores and need to submit transcripts from their past college(s).

Core Curriculum

All bachelor degree programs are composed of general education requirements, major-related courses, concentration or minor-related courses and electives. The general education requirements for most American universities include English and College Composition, courses in science and college-level mathematics.

Whether you choose to earn a general criminal justice bachelor’s degree or one with a concentration, all students can expect to study courses that cover the following:

  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Criminology
  • Terrorism
  • Drugs and Crime
  • Correctional Administration
  • Constitutional Law
  • Domestic Violence
  • Gang Violence
  • Crime Scene Investigation
  • Forensic Science

Electives offered in many criminal justice programs are intended to provide students with the opportunity to delve further into an aspect of the field that piques their interest and develop a set of skills that they could apply to a future career. Electives that you take may include forensic psychology, global management or courses on culture and diversity to give you a more diversified view on the criminal justice system and its worldwide impact on society.

Criminal justice spans across many different fields of law enforcement, so you should investigate careers in the subject, as this will help you tailor your degree and perhaps even find a specific program that can help you achieve your goals. One of the appealing qualities of criminal justice degrees is that they offer subject material and future career opportunities that appeal to many different types of people, from those who have dreamed of being an officer since they were children, or those who found a passion for science or psychology and want to help others, whether it’s by bringing peace to victims and their families by assisting in solving crimes or offering counseling and guidance to those who have a criminal background and want to get on the right track.

School Spotlight: Bachelor’s Degrees in Criminal Justice

The following schools are some offer some of the top criminal justice schools in the United States. They are all different in terms of their structure and concentrations available, so be sure to thoroughly investigate each school in order to find your perfect match.

The University of Maryland College Park

The University of Maryland College Park was featured by U.S. News & World Report for its renowned Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. In addition to its bachelor’s program, the school is so sought after for its grad studies that it had to put a cap on undergraduate enrollment. Honors programs, internships and career opportunities are a few of the many factors that make UMD one of the top criminal justice schools in the nation.

University of Cincinnati

Founded in 1819, University of Cincinnati is the second-oldest higher learning institution in American and one of the country’s 50 largest universities with over 40,000 students. The School of Criminal Justice offers associate degrees in criminal justice, a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, the option to minor in criminal justice, a Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies and graduate degrees.

The bachelor of criminal justice program is available both on-campus and online. It is a four-year program with a required internship that will equip students with not just the fundamental education they’ll need to enter criminal justice careers after graduation, but also research and investigative skills that many of said careers rely upon.

Some of the program’s most popular courses include Biosocial Criminology, Race, Class and Crime and Serial Criminals. The School of Criminal Justice is comprised of two institutes: the Institute of Crime Science and the Center of Criminal Justice Research. Here faculty and students work on their own projects.

The school also publishes three criminal justice journals: Policing: An International Journal of the Police Strategies & Management, the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, and Security Journal.

University of Maryland

The University of Maryland College Park was rated one of the best graduate schools in criminal justice by U.S. News & World Report, but their undergraduate program is just as notable. The Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice’s four-year undergraduate program will award students with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

The Criminology and Criminal Justice program is 33-credits in the major, as well as 18 supporting elective credits and MATH111 or STAT100. Some of the required courses include:

  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Introduction to Criminology
  • Statistics for Criminology & Criminal Justice
  • Criminal Law in Action
  • Criminological and Criminal Justice Research Methods
  • Policing

The school also offers several internship programs and extracurricular activities. The program is currently available only on-campus.

Florida Tech University Online

The Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice offered by Florida Tech University is an online degree track that aims to give students a global perspective on the criminal justice process and a widespread understanding of delinquency risk factors, crime prevention, diversion and other practices.

A wide variety of theories and criminal justice thinking methods are taught throughout the duration of the course, and for students who are looking to be immersed in the field and learn as much about its many aspects as possible, this is an option to consider.

There is also a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology with a Concentration in Forensic Psychology available for those who are interested in the counseling and investigative psychology aspects of the criminal justice system.

Capella University

Capella is another choice for online degree seekers. Their Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice degree is a thorough, 180-credit hour program that stresses communication, humanities and law. Students will develop the social and research skills that are required in criminal justice careers through classes such as Writing Strategies for Criminal Justice, Intercultural Communication, Cultural Diversity, Perspectives in Criminal Justice, Conflict Resolution, Ethics of Criminal Justice and more.

Capella University has partnerships with many top criminal justice organizations and their undergraduate degree is recognized by the FBI National Academy, International Association of Emergency Managers, United States Secret Service and National Sheriffs’ Association.

Criminal Justice Careers

Due to its many areas of concentration and the intricate criminal justice process of the United States, there are dozens of different careers that a person with a bachelor’s degree can consider. These careers can range from working directly with criminal offenders as a police officer, detective or correctional officer to being involved in public administration and management.

There are also forensic careers involved in crime solving, such as crime scene investigators, forensic science technicians, forensic analysts and forensic psychologists.

Many graduates also strive to entire major federal government law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation or Secret Service as a detective. Due to the fact a criminal justice degree is involved in the administration and maintenance of peace and justice throughout the country, nearly all who graduate with a degree in the subject will go on to be employed by the federal or local government. This can mean working in a police station, in a crime lab or in an office setting.

Some of the other popular career opportunities for students with a bachelor degree in criminal justice are:

  • Air Marshal
  • CIA Analyst
  • CIA Officer
  • Forensic Computer Investigator
  • Correctional Treatment Specialist
  • FBI Agent
  • Fire Inspector or Investigator
  • Fish and Game Warden
  • Forensic Nurse
  • Homicide Detective
  • Information Security Analyst
  • Youth Correctional Counselor

Career Spotlight for Those with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice

Police Officer or Detective

A police officer or detective trains with the police academy and enforces local laws and upholds the general peace. They are role models in the community and must have a dedication and passion for their career and the people they protect in addition to skills in investigative research, policing and corrections in order to provide the utmost quality of policing to offenders and citizens alike.

Annual Income: $56,980 (BLS, 2012)

Job Outlook, 2012-22: 5 percent (BLS, 2012)

Forensic Technician

A forensic science technician can be anything from a crime scene investigator to a crime lab analyst to a forensic computer investigator. These are the “brains behind the operation” and the people that detectives and investigators work closely with in order to find out the story embedded within the clues left behind in a crime scene. They use their knowledge of the criminal justice system to conduct procedures, then incorporate aspects of math, science and engineering in order to crack the code within fingerprints, bodily fluids and other evidence to bring perpetrators to justice.

Annual Income: $52,840 (BLS, 2012)

Job Outlook, 2012-22: 6 percent (BLS, 2012)

Continuing Education

Many students who earn a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice have a strong interest in law or another aspect of the field. Law school and graduate programs are advantages in addition to exciting and challenging careers that bachelor degrees in criminal justice offer.

The largest benefit of a bachelor’s of criminal justice is that it enables you to work a well-paying, entry-level position almost immediately following graduation while providing the opportunity to grow both professionally and academically.

You may also graduate and decide later on that you wish to go back to school and expand upon your knowledge. Criminal justice is, like the people it focuses on, constantly evolving, and the first step toward becoming a part of the field and making a difference starts with your bachelor’s degree.