How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice?


 Criminal justice, with its many different professions, provides a variety of opportunities to make a difference in reducing crime, serving justice, and assisting victims. A bachelor's degree in criminal justice can equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to pursue these important and rewarding careers. But how long does it take to get a bachelor's degree in criminal justice?

Along the way, a number of professionals work with both those accused of crimes and victims. People are needed in a variety of roles throughout the criminal justice system, including law enforcement and the court system. Another important component of the criminal justice system is support services such as social work. 

Criminal justice is the government system that focuses on criminal law proceedings and community protection, including law enforcement, courts, and prisons. 

What is criminal justice?

How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice

Let us begin with a brief definition of criminal justice: "Criminal justice is the structure of laws, rules, and agencies designed to hold criminals accountable for their misdeeds and assist them in restoring their victims to the greatest extent possible.

There is no single criminal justice system in the United States. Rather, there are numerous individual systems that collaborate. The way they operate is determined by the jurisdiction in charge, which could be a city, county, state, federal, tribal government, or military installation. Laws, agencies, and proceedings can differ from one jurisdiction to the next. To make matters even more complicated, criminal justice is administered at both the state and federal levels, depending on the location of the crime. 

Many people associate the term with police officers, but the field encompasses much more than just law enforcement. Attorney Michael Hernandez divides the criminal justice system into three parts: 

  1. Criminal justice professionals: who enforce laws and apprehend violators are referred to as law enforcement. This category also includes programmes and efforts aimed at preventing criminal activity. 
  2. The court system: Courts prosecute and defend criminal cases, while also protecting witnesses and victims who come forward to participate in court proceedings. The court system is also in charge of analysing and developing new laws that prohibit or penalise certain behaviour's. 
  3. Correctional agencies: are in charge of housing, punishing, and rehabilitating lawbreakers. 

A large number of people are required to work across the three pillars of the criminal justice system. Each branch requires a diverse range of people to keep it running smoothly. Continue reading to learn more about the various career paths available in this field. 

How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice?

How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice

A bachelor's degree in criminal justice can be obtained in four to five years, and this field offers programmes at various degree levels. Entry-level positions in the criminal justice field require only a high school diploma and on-the-job training. Jobs with more responsibility and a higher salary, on the other hand, necessitate more education. There are numerous programmes available to students interested in the criminal justice system. Certificates are the first step, followed by associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. 

Candidates who want to work in law enforcement or other legal fields frequently wonder how long it takes to get a criminal justice degree. Surprisingly, there are degrees available in criminal justice at various levels. Depending on the individual's chosen career, the degree could take anywhere from two to six years to complete. Because careers in criminal justice can involve either law enforcement or legal studies. A criminal justice education prepares graduates for a variety of jobs and careers. 

How much does a Criminal Justice Officer make?

How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice

Criminal justice salary can vary significantly depending on a variety of factors and considerations. Most criminal justice job salary ranges are competitive and come with generous benefits packages. A bachelor's degree in criminal justice is one of the simplest ways to start a career in criminal justice.

Those seeking post-secondary education frequently inquire about the cost of a criminal justice degree or the average bachelor of arts in criminal justice salary. According to the United States Department of Labor Statistics, the median criminal justice salary for police and detectives is $67,290. (one of the most common criminal justice jobs).

A bachelor's degree in criminal justice opens doors to careers in protective services. According to data from the US Department of Labor, these are some of the criminal justice salary per hour rates for positions in protective service occupations. 

  • Criminal Justice Salary Per Hour in Local Government $30.86. 
  • Criminal justice salaries per hour in the state government are $ 29.37.
  • Federal Jobs: Criminal Justice Salary: $35.14 per hour Facilities and Business Careers.
  • Investigation / Security Services: criminal justice hourly wage of $ 16.29.
  • Accounting, Bookkeeping, and Payroll Positions: $53.56 per hour in criminal justice. 
  • $21.33 per hour for Facilities Support Services: Criminal Justice.
  • Natural Gas and Utilities Distribution: $46.69 per hour in criminal justice.
  • Criminal justice salary per hour at the Postal Service is $39.42.

The types of positions and jobs available to those with a criminal justice degree are varied and numerous, which explains why there can be such a disparity in criminal justice salaries. However, other factors can influence the type of salary that can be expected with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. 

One of the most common criminal justice job salary variations is one of the most common jobs for criminal degree bachelor's programme graduates. Law enforcement offers many different roles under the same category as law enforcement, but the pay ranges for these jobs can vary greatly. 

What kind of criminal justice salary per hour is earned in roles such as law enforcement can also be heavily influenced by the job's location and the type of area in which it is located. Officers in rural and smaller suburbs, for example, may not be paid as well as those in major metropolitan areas. This can be attributed in part to the inherent dangers of working in certain areas, as well as the impact of the cost of living on various regions across the country. 

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Requirements for a Criminal Justice Degree

How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice

A criminal justice education is ideal for someone who is fascinated by the complexities of the law, has a strong sense of fairness and justice, and wishes to collaborate with their community to make it a safer, more pleasant place to live.

Those pursuing a criminal justice education will study the laws, regulations, and punishments meted out to those accused of committing a crime. They will also investigate how crime and punishment affect society as a whole. Criminal justice education is a good place to start for police officers, advocates, detectives, legal prosecutors and defenders, and anyone else interested in providing protective, legal, or judicial services. 

Those interested in criminal justice education and working for a law enforcement agency must do the following:

  • Get your high school diploma.
  • Learn about sociology, psychology, political science, public administration, history, economics, philosophy, and different types of law.
  • Pass a background check with no criminal history. 
  • Meet stringent physical requirements.
  • You must be a US citizen. 
  • To enroll in a criminal justice training programme, you must be at least 21 years old and have a high school diploma. 

Most jobs in criminal justice require at least a high school diploma, but many people who want to work in law enforcement get an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree in a related field first. 

Police officers and detectives must also complete an on-the-job training period after graduating from their agency's training academy.

Criminal justice education and training are determined by the career path you choose as well as the requirements of your state. In some cases, joining a training programme requires a high school diploma as well as passing a physical exam. Earning a criminal justice degree, on the other hand, can provide you with more opportunities for advancement. For entry-level positions, many state and local governments require at least an associate degree. A bachelor's degree, as well as a master's degree, can help those who want to advance in their careers.


For federal agencies, criminal justice degree requirements include a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and related work experience. For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) requires applicants to have a bachelor's degree, at least three years of related work experience, and other qualifications that set them apart from other law enforcement specialists, such as fluency in a foreign language. In addition, a training programme that tests both knowledge and physical ability must be completed. 

Those who pursue a criminal justice education may find employment in a wide range of specializations. Many of these specializations necessitate additional criminal justice training or specialized courses. Among the possible specialisations are, but are not limited to: 

  • Officer of the law.
  • Sheriff.
  • Detective.
  • Advocate for juvenile corrections.
  • Officer of the law.
  • Criminal investigation.
  • Administration of criminal justice.
  • Management of law enforcement.
  • Immigration control.
  • Federal government agencies.
  • Drug policing.
  • Ranger at a park.
  • Private protection.

Whatever criminal justice field you choose, you'll almost certainly need some kind of specialized training. For example, police officers must graduate from a training academy, whereas fish and game wardens must have taken biology and natural resources classes as well as attend a training academy. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, training requirements for federal law enforcement agencies are even stricter. Candidates for federal law enforcement jobs must have a Bachelor's degree and three years of professional work experience, as well as complete intensive training at centers in Quantico, Virginia, and Glynco, Georgia. 

How long does it take to get an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice?

How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice

Individuals who want to enter the field quickly without spending years in college will be pleased to learn that there are several two-year degrees in criminal justice associate degree programmes available. Students in criminal justice associate degree programmes will take general education courses such as communication, speech, psychology, math, and English during the first half of the programme. In the second half, they complete criminal justice courses. 

At the end of the programme, the student must have gained some hands-on experience in a criminal justice setting through field experience or an internship. Here are a few jobs that a graduate with an associate's degree in criminal justice may be able to obtain after only two years of college.

  • Officer of the law.
  • Paralegals.
  • Legal Support Personnel.
  • Officer of Corrections. 
  • Private detectives.
  • Warden of Fish and Game.
  • Fire Investigators and Inspectors.
  • Technicians at Crime Scenes.
  • Officers of Gaming Surveillance.
  • Bailiffs.
  • Security Officers / Security Guards Dispatch.

How long does it take to get a master's degree in criminal justice?

How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice

A master's degree programme in criminal justice will typically be more flexible than a bachelor's degree programme. It has been assumed that graduate students are more likely to be working professionals than full-time students. While a master's degree can be completed in one year, the requirements are more likely to take two or three years to complete. 

You should consult with your academic advisor to learn more about the time requirements for individual courses. Determine a reasonable course schedule by evaluating your current professional obligations. Some working professionals will only enroll in one course at a time, while others may enroll in two or three. 

How long does it take to get a PhD in criminal justice?

How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice

Students pursuing a doctorate in criminal justice typically complete 40-60 semester credits over the course of two years. A dissertation or capstone project must also be completed, which can take an additional 2 to 3 years. 

Some programmes also require a one-year residency in a criminal justice field under the supervision of a mentor. If you are enrolled in an online programme, you may be required to attend one or more residential seminars at various points throughout your programme. 

On-campus vs. online criminal justice bachelor’s degree programmes

How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice

On-campus programmes typically have a set schedule of classes, with in-class sessions dedicated to listening to lectures, asking questions, and participating in discussions. Flexible class times and options for interacting with instructors and students are common features of online programmes, and many offer opportunities for accelerated learning. 

The flexibility of online programmes not only allows students to schedule their education around work and other commitments, but it also allows them to complete the programme at their own pace. 

How long does it take to earn a bachelor's degree in criminal justice online?

How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice?

Bachelor's degree programmes in criminal justice typically include 120 to 128 credit hours of coursework. On-campus programmes typically last four years, while online degree programmes take a similar amount of time. Degree programmes may take longer to complete if students choose to work part-time. Transfer credits from prior college experience are frequently accepted by online programmes, allowing students to earn degrees in less time. 

The Benefits of Online Learning in criminal justice

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 2.3 million undergraduate students in the United States pursued their degrees solely through online education in the fall of 2018. Students frequently choose online education to balance work and life demands. 

According to a 2019 report from online programme management company Learning House, 63% of students surveyed chose online programmes to accommodate work and life responsibilities. The following are some of the advantages of online learning: 

  • Flexibility — Online learning allows students to choose when they start their programmes and when they take their classes, allowing them to balance work and family obligations. 
  • Convenience Online programmes generally do not require students to travel to campus or relocate to attend a specific institution. 
  • Affordability Because many online programmes offer eligible credit transfer and accelerated learning opportunities, students may spend less time and money on their education. 

Is criminal justice a hard degree?

How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice

If you're wondering, "Is criminal justice difficult?" you're probably already aware that it's a demanding field in many ways. Policing is a hard profession, which is why so many officers enjoy it. There are no two days on the force that are alike. They are constantly exposed to new people, unusual situations, and innovative methods for protecting their communities. On a daily basis, they protect and literally save lives. While this may feel like a huge burden, it is important to know that this is not an impossible profession to pursue. 

A career in criminal justice necessitates physical, mental, and emotional fortitude. Technical skills and knowledge of the criminal justice system are also required. You cannot wing your way through a courtroom. You must be familiar with how to approach suspects and witnesses. You must be prepared for and know how to deal with difficult situations that may arise.


How many years is a bachelor's degree?

All of these factors can influence how long it takes to earn a bachelor's degree, but 4 years is the traditional timetable for completing the 120 credits required.

Is criminal justice bachelor hard?

Is a Major in Criminal Justice Difficult? A criminal justice degree, like any other accredited college programme, necessitates rigour and persistence. Criminal justice courses cover a wide range of topics to prepare students for a multifaceted career. Criminal justice majors are also required to complete field training.

Can I finish my bachelors in 2 years?

It is possible to complete a bachelor's degree in two years using online accelerated degree programmes, transfer credits, and degree completion methods.

Can you finish bachelor's degree 1 years?

The traditional bachelor's degree is completed in at least four years. However, depending on what you study and how quickly you complete courses, some accelerated college programmes allow you to complete an entire bachelor's degree in far less time—sometimes in less than a year.

Is a bachelor's in criminal justice worth it?

Yes, that is the answer. Getting a criminal justice education can help you achieve long-term success and advancement in the fields.

Is it better to get a bachelors or masters degree?

A bachelor's degree and a master's degree can both provide rewarding educational and career opportunities. Earning a master's degree, on the other hand, may be advantageous if it aligns with your personal goals and is required in your career field.