Associate in Applied Science (AAS): Criminal Justice Degree Overview
Learn details about an associate degree program in criminal justice. Read about required courses, popular career options and continuing education opportunities as well as labor statistics relating to job growth potential and wages for some types of professions in the criminal justice field.
An Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree program in criminal justice teaches students about the basics of the U.S. government, the legal system and law enforcement. Some criminal justice associate's degree programs allow students to select a concentration such as law enforcement, private security or corrections, which allows students to tailor their courses to their specific career goals. After earning the degree, graduates should qualify for entry-level positions in criminal justice agencies, local police departments or related organizations. Some 2-year degree programs are incorporated with police academies or require students to complete internships.
AAS programs in criminal justice typically consist of 60 credit hours and take two years to complete. A high school education is generally required to gain acceptance. Some schools also require students to undergo a criminal background check before they can begin a criminal justice course or internship.
Criminal justice students take various social sciences classes, in addition to courses that teach government and law fundamentals. Practical training such as investigating mock crime scenes or completing internships can be combined with classroom lectures. Typical courses include:
- Forensic science
- Criminal law
- Criminal investigations
- U.S. government
- Judicial system
Popular Career Option
Graduates of an associate's degree program in criminal justice can enter into law enforcement, corrections, security or investigations jobs. Criminal justice career options are available in the private and public sectors. Some career options are:
- Police officer
- Security guard
- Private investigator
- Parole officer
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports job availability for police and detectives may increase by five percent between 2012 and 2022. According to the BLS, demand for security guards is likely to increase by 12%, and private detectives and investigators may see a 11% increase in demand over the 2012-2022 decade. However, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, including parole officers, may see employment decline by one percent over the same period, based on data from the BLS.
In 2012, police and sheriff's patrol officers were paid a median salary of $55,270, while security guards earned a median of $23,970, as shown by the BLS' data. The median salary for private investigators was $45,740 in 2012, and probation officers and correctional treatment specialists received median salaries of $48,190 that year, as reported by the BLS.
Although an AAS degree is intended for students who want to gain employment immediately after completing the program, students may decide to pursue their studies in a baccalaureate program in criminal justice. After earning a bachelor's degree, students can also earn a master's degree in criminal justice or apply to law school to obtain more advanced or managerial positions within law enforcement agencies or the legal system.
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