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You can begin work on an associate’s degree in criminal justice degree almost any time you like.


In the academic world, criminal justice is considered the study of the system we use to detect, arrest, prosecute and punish criminals in society. It is less concerned with the causes of crimes than the institutions around the event themselves. When you study criminal justice in order to earn an associate’s degree, you will be exposed to a deeper understanding of the systems and procedures that process crime and its perpetrators.

Just as there are many aspects to crime itself, so too are there many aspects to the study and application of a criminal justice degree. Though police officers are the obvious symbol of criminal justice, and are vital to keeping the system running, there are opportunities for those interested in other aspects of the field such as social work, the legal industry, or even jobs in private industry. The opportunities are limitless.

Why Earn an AA Degree in Criminal Justice?

An Associate of Arts degree (AA) is a program of study that generally takes around two years to complete. You may consider it halfway to earning your Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree, and don’t be surprised if, when you decide to earn your bachelor’s, your associate’s degree credits transfer toward it. However, an AA degree is in itself is a valuable degree that can help launch your career.

When you earn an AA, you can immediately go to work in your field. While your friends in bachelor’s programs are studying away, you will be gaining valuable experience in the field. Since governmental regulations related to criminal justice are always subject to change, you will likely be well ahead of fellows whose textbooks are only as current as the year in which they were printed.

With the two-year degree under your belt, you can later opt to finish a BA program if you need that to advance to a new job or post. Your years of experience plus a bachelor’s will be a tremendous asset, and you can bring much experience to your final two years of education.

Online Associate’s Criminal Justice Degree Programs


You can begin work on a criminal justice degree almost any time you like. There are online programs that begin on a continuous rolling basis, meaning that the courses are starting all the time—in fact some schools start new classes every week. This sort of flexibility is what makes online education so appealing. You can even begin working in the criminal justice field while you complete your degree.

Before you start looking for schools, assess what sort of schedule you’ll need to maintain while you go to school. If you need to work during the day and don’t have much time for breaks, you definitely need to be sure that your nights are free and available for the learning and work that is required. Look for schools that focus on asynchronous courses. This means courses that don’t require you to log in at any particular time of the day or week. Those courses allow you to download or otherwise access the course materials at any time you like. You can also submit your assignments according to your schedule. Many asynchronous courses will have a deadline of midnight, and that can give you more leeway to take care of your work and household and family responsibilities.

Going Beyond Law Enforcement


Criminal justice is a broad field that encompasses everyone from being a police officer on the beat to the jailers and corrections officers, and even police dispatchers. It also includes lawyers, paralegals, and computer security experts. Criminal justice professionals go on to work as caseworkers who labor for the benefit of children in protective custody or with adults who have been the victims of domestic violence. If you are interested in working in the field, take a look at all of the various possibilities open to you.

What Jobs are Available with an AA in Criminal Justice?

Countless career paths are available in the field of criminal justice. Some common career possibilities include the following

  • Victim Advocacy:
    Assisting victims as they work through the confusion of criminal justice in search of restitution for wrongs done to them.
  • Police Officer:
    Provide safety and security to the general public.
  • Security Officer:
    Patrol and secure hospitals, corporate and university campuses.
  • Probation Officer:
    Help criminals meet the court’s requirements for their early release.
  • Corrections Officer:
    Work with inmates in a variety of jails and prisons.
  • Youth Detention Counselor:
    Work with troubled youth caught in the criminal justice system.
  • Insurance Investigator:
    Investigate fraudulent insurance claims.
  • Cyber Security Investigator:
    Investigate computer crimes such as hacking.
  • Evidence Tech:
    Secure evidence from a crime scene.

Once you enter one or more of these fields and have some experience, you might consider seeking additional training. Certificates and other academic degrees will be helpful to you as you pursue your career. If you choose to return for a bachelor’s degree after earning your associate’s and working for a while, you will be better focused on knowing and understanding the specific direction you wish to pursue. You can also bring a lot of hands-on experience to your schoolwork, enriching your classroom discussions and illuminating new students on the realities of the profession by helping them learn what to expect on the job.