A degree in criminal justice generally requires a range of liberal arts courses in addition to courses specific to criminal justice. English, writing, American history and introduction to psychology are among the general education courses usually required. Criminal justice-specific courses include criminology, forensic science, legal research and criminal procedures.
Associate degrees in criminal justice are two-year degrees requiring 60 credits. Bachelor degrees are four-year degrees requiring 120 credits and provide the option for continued graduate study.
Selecting the appropriate degree to pursue depends on the student's career goals. An associate degree in criminal justice is appropriate for work on the front line with law enforcement, while work as a crime-scene analyst requires a bachelor's degree in criminal justice with an emphasis on science or a bachelor's degree in a scientific field with a focus on criminal investigation. Criminal justice degrees are not necessarily appropriate for those who choose to address the causes and impacts of criminal behavior in fields such as forensics, requiring extensive study of chemistry and biology, or social work, requiring study of psychology and social systems from a broader perspective.
The pursuit of a law degree or qualification as a paralegal, court reporter or court interpreter are other options within the field of criminal justice. Criminal justice degrees are often the stepping-off point for pursuit of further study and specialization.