Is an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice Worth It? [2021 Guide]

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Is an associates degree in criminal justice worth it? Compare top career paths, salaries, and projected job growth to see if it’s the right degree for you.

Is an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice Worth It

If you are looking into beginning a career in criminal justice, you may ask is an Associates degree in Criminal Justice worth it. A criminal justice associates degree online or on campus can help prepare you for a wide-range of careers such as police officer, probation officer, and paralegal, to name a few.

The answer is yes. Anytime you are looking to better your education to better your career option, you are making a worthwhile decision.

Is an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice Worth It?

Bailiff knocking on door

Yes, an associates degree in criminal justice is worth it for many students. With an average salary of $52,830 (Bureau of Labor Statistics), an associate’s in criminal justice can prepare you for careers as a police officer, probation officer, corrections officer, security officer, or paralegal.

Getting the degree you want so you can work towards the career you desire is always worth the time and effort. An associate’s degree in criminal justice can open doors for you and help you achieve your career goals. It is a rewarding career, and definitely worth it.

Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice Careers & Salaries

Criminal Justice Associates Degree Salary

A degree in criminal justice will help you to further your career in many fields. Many of the careers available with this major are public service type jobs that pay well.

If you are interested in a good career, with excellent benefits, see the table below to see if any of these careers are right for you. Depending on the employer, you may need additional education or work experience to qualify for some of these jobs.

Careers Annual Median Salary
Emergency Management Directors $74,590
Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators $66,540
Police and Detectives $65,170
Forensic Science Technicians $59,150
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists $54,290
Paralegals and Legal Assistants $51,740
Correctional Officers and Bailiffs $45,300

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

There are great opportunities in this field of study for those who are not ready to get a bachelor’s degree. The need for every position in this field is excellent, and jobs with an associate degree education are often just as fulfilling, monetarily, and security.

Plus, if you want to try climbing to the top to the higher level positions and increase your annual salary, you should look into receiving your traditional or online PhD in criminal justice.

Criminal Justice Associate Degree Jobs

police officer riding a motorbike

There are many career options for you if you have an associate degree in criminal justice. You can qualify for work as a police officer, a bailiff, a fire inspector, a paralegal, and many other occupations. These careers may require more training after you find employment.

Police Officer

Police officers are first responders to community emergencies. They also watch their local area to keep the peace and protect community members against crimes. Police officers must complete a variety of written reports, investigate crime scenes, and testify in court when needed.


A bailiff helps to keep the order in a courtroom. They ensure the safety of everyone in the courtroom and helps make sure the proceedings run smoothly.

Fire Inspector

Fire Inspectors inspect buildings and organizations to make sure there are no fire hazards. They enforce all local, state, and federal fire codes and impose warnings and fines to those who are a violation. Many fire inspectors have experience in firefighting.


A paralegal helps lawyers research, write reports, ad prepare for court. They do much of the footwork required by lawyers.

Claims Adjuster

Many claims adjusters are called in to investigate when an insurance claim has been made. They look for the extent of the damage to buildings and automobiles and help to find a fair way to make the person making the claim whole.

The information about these careers were found at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can find out more about these careers and others on their website. An associate degree can help you get your foot in the door with an entry-level position and work your way up, or you can advance in your career by obtaining a higher-level of education.

Either path you chose, these are excellent career opportunities for those willing to work hard and protect others.

Criminal Justice Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a degree in criminal justice can help open doors in careers such as police officers, correctional officers, fish or game warden, and many others in this field. There is a five percent growth expectancy in this career area expected in the next eight years.

An associate degree can help to get the job in which you apply, but the competition in criminal justice jobs is high, and employers may look at applicants who with skills such as:

  • Bilingual
  • Military experience
  • Higher degree of education

To be successful in this field, you need good communication skills, excellent leadership qualities, and problem-solving abilities. An associate degree in criminal justice will help to build these skills and more.

Associate’s in Criminal Justice vs. Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice

security officer biking around Mandalay bay

A degree in criminal justice can help to secure a career that can make a difference for others. Both an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree can be beneficial and choosing which one you want depends on your career goals. The table below some of the pros for each degree path.

Associate’s vs. Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice
Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice
With about 60-course credits needed you will lower your cost to complete More career options in a variety of different careers
It takes less time to complete Higher long-term earning potential
Allows you to enter the workforce faster because of your degree goals take less time More skills in a variety of core areas
Great if you do not have the GPA or SAT scores needed to get into a higher-degree program Able to start at a high-level position after you gain your degree
Get your first two years of your bachelor’s degree done and you can transfer the credit later Can apply to grants, loans, and scholarships to bring down the cost of attending school

After you decide which degree program will work best for your career path, you can begin looking at colleges and universities that are right for you. If an associate degree in criminal justice is what you are looking for, consider community colleges and vocational schools near you.

Want to get your degree online? Explore online criminal justice degrees.


Accreditation for an Online Criminal Justice Associates Degree

Colleges and universities can participate in accreditation programs to help make sure their school provides the best in criminal justice education that can compete in a global industry. Some of the accreditation organizations include:

  • Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)
  • Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS).

There is an accreditation organization for online schools and programs as well. These programs and schools can participate in the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC).

Financial Aid

Financial Aid for a Criminal Justice Associates Degree Online

The total cost for an associate degree in criminal justice online will vary depending on the school you chose. Public colleges are often cheaper than private colleges. Most community colleges and technical school will offer financial aid packages, but the actual cost of your program will depend on factors such as:

  • your household income
  • grants or scholarships provided by your school
  • other financial awards, and scholarships for which you apply

You should start with filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as FAFSA. You can find all the necessary information, such as deadlines, forms, and directions on their website.

Associates Degree in Criminal Justice

Can You Work as a Probation Officer With an Associate’s Degree?

It is challenging to obtain a job as a probation officer with an associate degree. The probation officer career is a competitive job, which makes qualified candidates with more experience and higher degrees.

Most agencies assume candidates with a bachelor’s degree have a better chance of having the skills needed to carry out the rigorous duties of this job.

Probation officers are charged with supervising criminal offenders to protect the community. They need to have the highest moral character and must pass an extensive background check. Probation officers must be well versed in report writing, firearms safety, and communication.

If you are interested in a career as a probation officer, you may want to consider beginning your education by getting an associate degree in criminal justice and get some experience in the criminal justice field.

After you get your associate’s degree, you should transfer into a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice so you can be more competitive in the field.

What Job Can I Get With an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice?

When you think of criminal justice, you usually think of police officers. This field is more diverse than many realize. With an associate degree in criminal justice, you can consider occupations as a bailiff, fire inspector, paralegal, and claims adjuster.

These jobs are only a few of the many areas in which you can start with your two-year degree.

A criminal justice major will focus on three key areas including the justice system, courts, policing and corrections. Through these areas, you will learn the essential fundamentals of this career field, as well as psychology, sociology, and communication skills that will help you be more successful in working with others.

Getting Your Associate’s in Criminal Justice Degree Online

Are associate degrees worth it? Whether you want to work in private security or as a police officer, an associate’s degree in criminal justice can help prepare you for a rewarding career.

Quite a few accredited universities now offer an online associate’s in criminal justice program allowing you to complete your degree anytime or anywhere.

Zoey Scott
Zoey Scott