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Online Degrees in Criminal Justice Administration

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Justice administration careers can be found in all branches of the criminal justice system. From careers in the legal system as court clerks or victims services specialists to law enforcement careers in state agencies, criminal justice administration requires more than just a commitment to uphold the law. These demanding careers also require professionals to continually work to improve the U.S. justice system.

Choosing the Right Criminal Justice Administration Degree

Formal training is a requirement for most justice administration careers, particularly those in the federal government. Degrees are available at both the undergraduate and graduate level:

  • Associate: Designed to prepare students for entry-level criminal justice careers, such as clerks, police cadets and correctional aides. This two-year degree is commonly used to fulfill prerequisites for a four-year bachelor's degree.
  • Bachelor's: Graduates may go on to careers in federal, state and local agencies, working in family services, correctional facilities, customs and more.
  • Master's: Considered a requirement for some upper-level management jobs in justice administration, this graduate degree typically requires two to three years of full-time study. Advanced positions in fields like security management and public safety are common for graduates.

Justice administration education usually consists of a mix of criminal justice, administration and psychology training. Coursework typical of online criminal justice degrees in justice administration usually includes some combination of the following:

  • Policy development and evaluation
  • Legal and ethical issues in criminal justice
  • Organizational behavior
  • Human resource management
  • Juvenile justice

Related training in public administration, criminal justice or investigation may also be of interest to potential students.

Online degrees in justice administration can offer students a broader perspective on legal issues, as students interact with peers across the country. Students can also gain technology skills that may prove relevant to future careers.

To get more information, browse through our network of schools and find a program most appropriate for you.

Careers in Criminal Justice Administration

Those most likely to succeed in justice administration training have a strong commitment to social justice, excellent reasoning skills and the desire to follow a complex framework of law.

Wages for graduates vary based on career choice, education level, and location. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that police and sheriff's patrol officers earned mean annual wages of $55,620 in 2010, while correctional officers and jailers earned $42,780, and transportation security screeners earned $37,650.

Justice administration at a glance:

  • Industry: Federal and state governments spend about $70 billion each year on corrections facilities.
  • Salaries: In 2010, supervisors of police and detectives earned mean annual wages of $80,770.
  • Jobs: Nearly two million people were employed in the U.S. criminal justice system in 2010.

As members of a civilized society, we rely on the criminal justice system to promote peace, enforce laws and ensure the safety of our communities. Students working toward an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice administration have the opportunity to gain a strong foundation in criminal justice principles, concepts and theories as they work towards their degree. Core curriculum emphasizes the role of ethics and research methods in the field of criminal justice, while providing an in-depth examination of criminology, criminal court systems and criminal procedures.

Graduates can expect to come away with a detailed understanding of the management and administrative skills required to effectively run organizations within the realm of the criminal justice system. Schools typically offer the degree as either a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice administration (B.S.) or a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice administration (B.A.).

What Does a Bachelor's Degree Program in Criminal Justice Administration Entail?

For full-time students, a bachelor's degree in criminal justice administration can generally be completed within four years. Although this degree program provides an in-depth overview of all of the components of the criminal justice system, much of the curriculum focuses primarily on the management and administrative functions of police, the court system and corrections. Examples of topics include:

  • Ethics in Criminal Justice: This course emphasizes the importance of professional responsibility in the criminal justice professions and can include detailed explanations of the ABA Standards of Professional Responsibility, American Jail Association Code of Ethics, American Correctional Association Code of Ethics and Law Enforcement Code of Ethics. Instructors may encourage students to explore ethical dilemmas through the analysis of real-life situations. For example, students might be asked to thoroughly analyze a crime through the eyes of a victim and accused criminal, and to consider the various components of the criminal justice system in relation to a specific case.
  • Criminal Justice Administration: In this class, students explore the management and financial principles that apply to criminal justice organizations. Course graduates gain an appreciation for the inner workings of the criminal justice system, as well as the administrative tasks required for them to function. Coursework tends to emphasize budgeting, financial decision-making and basic accounting principles, and students will be introduced to theories in cash management, capital budgeting and inventory management.
  • Communication Management: This course focuses on the importance of written and verbal communication skills, while covering best practices in investigative reporting, interpersonal communication and identifying appropriate interactions with suspects, victims, government officials and civilians. An additional emphasis is placed on developing the communication skills required to manage individuals and groups within the criminal justice system. The goal of this course is to give students a greater understanding of group dynamics, motivation, diversity and conflict resolution.

Students are typically also required to complete basic core classes in English, math and science, as well as the required number of elective courses. Electives are often chosen by the students themselves, based on specialized interests. For example, a student interested in criminal justice administration in a large metropolitan area may want to take an elective course in cultural diversity in order to gain a better understanding of cultural differences in race and ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic class.

Career Outlook for Graduates of Bachelor's Degree Programs in Criminal Justice Administration

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a continued demand for public safety should lead to a steady increase in employment in the field of criminal justice. Police departments, correctional facilities and criminal court systems rely on qualified professionals to assist in the daily operations of their departments. The BLS projects employment of police officers, who may work in the field or in administration, to increase five percent nationwide between 2012 and 2022. Students interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement should note that positions typically require additional training or licensure.

Anther possible career path for graduates of bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice administration is corrections. Overcrowding in jails and prisons has led to an increased emphasis on community-based corrections. As a result, the need for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists is strong. While the BLS predicts demand for these professionals to remain static from 2012 to 2022, jobs should still be available for those who qualify.

The need for qualified criminal justice professionals is on the rise due to technological advancements in the field and an increased focus on crime prevention and homeland security. Students working towards an online master's degree in criminal justice administration can gain valuable insight into the sociological, legal, theoretical and practical facets of the criminal justice system. Schools generally offer the program as either a Master of Science (M.S.) or Master of Arts (M.A.) in criminal justice administration.

What Does an Online Master's Degree in Criminal Justice Administration Entail?

A masters degree in criminal justice administration typically requires at least two years of full-time study after completion of a bachelor's program. Coursework is designed to help students learn the principles of leadership in organizational settings, examine theories of social control, and thoroughly analyze criminal behavior while remaining cognizant of relevant social issues. Topics of study may include:

  • Homeland Security: This course explores terrorism and homeland security issues with an emphasis on understanding security threats, sources and reasons for these threats. Students are given the chance to evaluate homeland security strategy, assessment, preparation and recovery actions while examining the many forms of terrorism that have taken place from the time of the Cold War to the present day. This course provides students with the opportunity to examine homeland security from a global perspective while understanding the importance of our own domestic strategies and preparation.
  • Forensic Psychology: In this class, students examine the connection between psychology, the criminal justice system and the criminal mind. Coursework typically provides an in-depth perspective of the gap between the criminal justice system and psychological science, as well as how mental health system protocol sometimes impacts the safety of our communities. Other topics covered may include methods and theory in crisis intervention, conflict resolution, forensic psychology practice and professionalism, and ethics.
  • Public Budgeting: This course provides an introduction to governmental and non-profit accounting, reporting and auditing, while emphasizing accountability and best practices. Students learn basic budgeting concepts while differentiating between operating budgets and capital budgets and exploring accounting and reporting methods and models. Instructors might also incorporate real-life examples into the curriculum. For instance, students may be asked to take a closer look at the budgetary failures of local governments in an effort to discover their downfall.

Students may also be given the opportunity to choose elective courses based on their interests. For instance, individuals who desire to work in the field of homeland security might want to take an elective course in global disaster management or international terrorism. In order to complete the program, students may be required to prepare a master's project or thesis, or complete an oral defense examination.

Career Outlook for Graduates of Master's Degree Programs in Criminal Justice Administration

An online master's degree in criminal justice administration can help prepare students for a wide range of administrative career opportunities within the criminal justice system. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a continued demand for public safety should translate into steady employment growth for qualified criminal justice professionals. State and federal agencies may need to grow their workforce in order to replace retirees and keep up with local population growth.

Jail overcrowding and budgetary concerns might lead some state and local governments to turn to community-based corrections, which could provide increased job opportunities for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists. The BLS projects demand for these professionals to grow 11 percent nationwide from 2012 to 2022. Additionally, employment of police officers and detectives, some of which work in administration, is expect to increase five percent nationwide over that same period.


Sources:
"Police and Detectives," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-2013 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm
"Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-2013 Edition) Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/probation-officers-and-correctional-treatment-specialists.htm

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