Criminal Justice and Legal Degree Programs

If you have a strong sense of right and wrong and a passion for helping others, then a career in criminal justice and law may be in your future. Though there are some positions in this exciting field that require only a high school diploma, most of the more promising and lucrative occupations require a law/ criminal justice degree. In this article, we’ll explore the different types of degree programs available for those with an interest in criminal justice and legal careers as well as the diverse opportunities that these degrees prepare graduates for.

Associate Degrees in Criminal Justice and Law


Associate degree programs in criminal justice and law often represent the first steps toward an exciting and successful career in one of the noblest professions there is. These offerings are two-year programs of study that require around 60 credit hours of coursework. Accelerated and online options are also available for those students who wish to complete their degree more quickly as well as for those who require a flexible and convenient format due to family or work obligations. There are several different types of associate in criminal justice and law degrees that prepare students for a variety of different occupations in the field. Some of these are listed below.

Types of Degrees in Criminal Justice and Law

  • Associate of Science (AS) in Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts (AA) in Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Criminal Justice
  • Associate in Paralegal Studies
  • AA in Criminal Justice Administration

Criminal Justice/Legal Associate Degree Programs: Curriculum

The coursework for an associate degree in criminal justice and law will inevitably vary depending on the type of degree you’re pursuing and the school you choose to attend. Most programs will contain both a general education component and a major or core component. To give you an idea of the types of classes these curriculum components may include, we’ve listed some sample titles below:

Associate in Law and Criminal Justice Curriculum: General Education Classes

  • English Composition
  • Applied Finite Mathematics
  • Perspectives in the Humanities
  • Public Speaking
  • Intermediate Algebra
  • Computer and Information Literacy
  • Introduction to Business
  • Social Impact of Technology

Legal and Criminal Justice Associate Degree Curriculum: Core Classes

  • Ethics and the Criminal Justice Leader
  • American Policing
  • International Criminal Justice
  • Criminal Investigations and Procedure
  • Functions of Police in Modern Society
  • American Court Systems/U.S. Government
  • Theories of Crime Causation
  • Foundations of Criminal Justice Systems
  • Legal Research and Writing
  • Criminal Law and Procedures
  • Litigation Procedures

Criminal Justice and Law Associate Degrees: Jobs and Salaries

Associate degrees in law and criminal justice prepare students for many entry-level positions in the field. These occupations are associated with varying levels of compensation, though reports that the average annual wage for someone with an associate degree in criminal justice is approximately $45,000.  Keep in mind that your exact salary will depend upon a number of factors, including the type of degree you earn, your employer, and work experience. Below, you will find some specific job titles alongside the average salary for this occupation, according to Payscale:

  • Paralegal: $41,516
  • Police Officer: $52,232
  • Security Manager: $52,174
  • Security Officer: $28,988
  • Correctional Officer: $37,433
  • Legal Assistant: $43,800
  • Deputy Sheriff: $41,588
  • Police Chief: $66,426
  • Fraud Investigator: $61,720
  • Intelligence Analyst: $51,987
  • 911 Dispatcher: $32,360

Interested in pursuing an accelerated online associate degree? Check out our ranking of the Fastest Online Associate Degree Programs!

Bachelor’s Degrees in Criminal Justice and Law


Those who are serious about beginning a lasting career in the criminal justice and legal fields often pursue a bachelor’s credential. These programs are similar to criminal justice/legal associate degree programs, but they are lengthier and more academically rigorous. Whereas associate programs require approximately 60 credit hours of coursework, bachelor’s in criminal justice and law usually requires twice that. The normal completion time for an undergraduate program resulting in a bachelor’s credential is around four years, but accelerated options are often available that can significantly reduce this time commitment. Increasingly, online and hybrid formats are also available to those pursuing a bachelor’s degree in law and criminal justice.

Criminal Justice and Law Bachelor’s Programs: Curriculum

Like associate degree programs in the field, bachelor’s in criminal justice and law offerings consist of both general education classes and core or major-specific courses. The specific curriculum will depend on what type of bachelor’s program you choose, though. Here are a few examples of the different bachelor’s in law and criminal justice programs available:

Law and Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degrees: Types of Programs

  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • BS in Justice Studies
  • BS in Criminology
  • Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Administration

Bachelor’s Degree in Law and Criminal Justice Curriculum: Concentrations

Like most academic programs at the bachelor’s level, bachelor’s in criminal justice and law programs often allow students to specialize in a specific area of the field by choosing a concentration or area of emphasis. For your reference, we’ve listed some of the more popular concentration options in the legal/criminal justice field below:

  • Forensic Science
  • General Criminal Justice
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Public Administration
  • Homeland Security
  • International Security
  • Criminology
  • Strategic Intelligence
  • Crime Scene Investigation
  • Criminal Psychology
  • Law and Justice

When choosing a concentration to customize your bachelor’s degree in law and criminal justice, be sure to opt for one that is directly aligned with your career goals.

Law and Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Curriculum: Sample Course Titles

The classes comprising your criminal justice and law bachelor’s degree program will depend on the specific program you choose, the concentration you elect (if any), and the school you opt to attend. Even so, it’s possible to get a rough idea of the types of courses you can expect to take by reviewing some sample course titles. Here are some examples:

  • Courts and the Prosecution Process
  • Ethics and Criminal Justice
  • Corrections in America
  • Introduction to Justice Studies
  • Introduction to Law Enforcement
  • American Politics
  • Research Methods in Criminological Theories
  • Writing for the Criminal Justice Profession
  • Multicultural Policing
  • Introduction to Emergency Management
  • Domestic and International Terrorism
  • Criminal Psychology and Behavior
  • Police-Community Relations
  • Women in Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice and Law Bachelor’s Degrees: Jobs and Salaries

Bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice open up numerous opportunities for careers, and many of them have the potential to be quite lucrative. According to, professionals with a bachelor’s in criminal justice make just over $50,000 a year on average. Of course, your pay will depend heavily upon the specific job title you choose. Here are some positions in law and criminal justice requiring a bachelor’s credential along with their average salaries, also from Payscale:

  • Police Officer: $55,193
  • Paralegal: $45,063
  • Fraud Investigator: $56,797
  • Security Manager: $70,698
  • Corporate Paralegal: $53,659
  • Police Chief: $71,021
  • Police Captain: $63,576
  • Asset Protection Specialist: $56,888
  • Regional Manager (Loss Prevention): $56,905
  • Safety Director: $49,480

Keep in mind that there are other factors that will affect your pay, including your employer and your work experience, for instance.

Master’s Degrees in Criminal Justice and Law


Master’s degrees in criminal justice and law are advanced graduate programs that allow students to specialize in a particular area of the field and to take on higher-paid leadership roles. While most of these offerings are two-year programs, accelerated options exist that enable students to earn their master’s in law and criminal justice degrees more quickly, sometimes in as little as one year. Although we speak generally about legal and criminal justice master’s programs in this article, not all of them are the same. There are different types of graduate degrees available in this field. We list some of them below:

Types of Criminal Justice and Law Master’s Degrees

  • Master of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Master of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Master’s in Police Science
  • Master’s in Criminal Justice Administration
  • Master’s in Criminology

Criminal Justice/Legal Master’s Degree Programs: Curriculum

No two master’s degree in criminal justice programs are alike, and the curriculum will depend heavily on the type of criminal justice and law degree you pursue as well as any concentrations or specialties you choose. These options allow you to customize your program to align with your academic interests and career goals. Some of these options are listed below:

Law and Criminal Justice Master’s Curriculum: Specialties and Concentrations

  • Crime Analysis
  • Emergency Management and Homeland Security
  • Gender-Based Violence
  • Behavior Management
  • Intelligence and Crime Analysis
  • Strategic Management
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Federal Law Enforcement
  • Cybercrime Investigation and Cybersecurity
  • Behavior Analysis

The specific classes you take in your master of law and criminal justice program will depend upon which of the above specialties you choose (if any). The curriculum will also vary from school to school. Even so, we list some sample courses below to give you an idea of the breadth and scope of master’s-level courses in this field.

Master’s in Law and Criminal Justice Curriculum: Sample Courses

  • Criminal Justice Planning and Program Evaluation
  • White-Collar Crime
  • Applied Data Analysis in Criminal Justice
  • Digital Forensics and Investigations
  • Criminal Justice Policy and Administration
  • Justice, Security, and Democracy
  • Effective Administration of Justice
  • Law and Society
  • Criminal Justice Systems, Policies, and Practices
  • Human Resource Management in Criminal Justice Organizations
  • Leadership, Ethics, and Policing
  • Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Offenders
  • Legal Issues in Homeland Security
  • Communication and Conflict

Master’s Legal and Criminal Justice Degrees: Jobs and Salaries

According to, professionals with a master’s degree in criminal justice make around $53,000 per year on average, but your specific salary will vary based on factors like your employer, specific job title, and work experience. Below, you will find some sample occupations along with their average annual wages, also according to PayScale:

  • Police Chief: $84,373
  • Crime Analyst: $42,526
  • Intelligence Analyst: $61,420
  • Fraud Investigator: $65,467
  • Detective or Criminal Investigator: $63,437
  • Security Director: $84,621
  • Background Investigator: $51,383
  • Police Sergeant: $74,114
  • Police Lieutenant: $66,245
  • Chief Information Security Officer: $157,482
  • Policy Advisor: $62,423

Doctoral Degrees in Criminal Justice and Law


Doctoral degrees in law and criminal justice represent the pinnacle of education one can attain in the field. These degree programs are intensely rigorous and grounded in research. They often require that students conduct their own original research in the field, publish scholarly articles, and prepare and defend a dissertation.

Law and Criminal Justice Doctorates: Curriculum

Like master’s in criminal justice and law, doctorates in the field often allow students to choose an area of concentration, which will shape their curriculum for the program. Some of the more popular specialization options for doctor of criminal justice and law offerings are listed below:

Criminal Justice/ Legal Doctoral Programs: Concentrations

  • Emergency Management
  • Law and Public Policy
  • Justice Administration
  • Global Leadership
  • Homeland Security Policy and Coordination
  • Public Management and Leadership

Legal and Criminal Justice Doctorate Degrees: Sample Course Titles

Besides the concentration or specialty area, other factors that influence the kinds of classes you can expect to take in a doctoral program in law and criminal justice include the school you attend in addition to the precise type of doctoral program you enroll in. Even so, we list some sample course titles below for reference:

  • Policy Analysis in Criminal Justice Systems
  • History and Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice
  • Advanced Topics in Criminal Justice Data Analysis
  • Crime Causation, Prevention, and Control
  • Justice, Security, and Democracy
  • Assessing Criminal Justice Theory
  • Leading Criminal Justice Agencies
  • Contemporary Forensic Science and Technology for Criminal Justice Leaders
  • Seminar on Criminal Justice Policies and Practices
  • International Perspectives in Criminal Justice
  • Societal Trends in Policing
  • Correctional Philosophy and Administration

Doctor of Criminal Justice and Law: Jobs and Salaries

Professionals with a PhD in criminal justice can expect to make approximately $62,000 a year on average, according to Of course, salaries vary from occupation to occupation. Below, we list some specific job titles requiring a doctorate in law and criminal justice along with their respective average annual wage:

  • FBI Agent: $57,908
  • Director of Criminal Justice Program: $65,432
  • Criminal Justice Professor: $71,174
  • Research Analyst: $47,090
  • Training Supervisor: $60,114
  • Director of Research and Analytical Services: $108,130

Criminal Justice and Legal Rankings: