If you are interested in a career within the field of criminal justice, then earning a college degree will almost certainly be the best place to start. Careers in law enforcement as well as the legal world tend to require applicants to have a minimum of a college degree in the field of criminal justice. High school graduates or adults returning to higher education will have to decide between two of the most common criminal justice degrees out there: the associate degree and the bachelor’s degree. Exploring the pros and cons of both can help you make up your mind about which degree program will be best suited for you, your budget, your schedule and your career goals.
Pros of an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice
The biggest advantage of earning an associate degree in criminal justice is that it will take far less time than earning a full bachelor’s degree. An associate degree in this field will be made up of roughly 60 credits, which takes the average student approximately two years to complete, or four semesters.
If you want to begin an entry-level career in the field of criminal justice as quickly as possible, it is hard to beat the convenience of an associate degree.
Cons of an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice
Unfortunately, the short associate degree program also means that you won’t get an in-depth or rounded look at the field. You will certainly cover the basics, but 60 credits simply isn’t enough to let students focus on niche areas of criminal proceedings or the justice system.
In addition, an associate degree may not be sufficient for many of the upper-level of management positions in the criminal justice field. If you are eager to climb up the career ladder or earn some of the highest salaries in the industry, then an associate degree might fall short in terms of job preparation.
Pros of a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice
One of the best reasons to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is because it is an in-depth study of the field. With more than 120 credits making up the degree, students will cover criminology, constitutional law, corrections, psychology and so much more.
This degree is also best for anyone who wants to build a true career in criminal justice and secure top positions and salaries in the industry. If you have plans to one day earn a graduate degree in criminology or criminal justice, the bachelor’s degree will also be a necessary prerequisite for enrollment.
Cons of a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice
There are also some drawbacks to earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Since this degree program typically takes four years to complete, it may seem overwhelming to some potential students.
In addition, eight semesters of attending college may be a financial burden for students as well as a scheduling problem. While online degree programs can eliminate some of these concerns by offering greater flexibility, a bachelor’s degree will still require more time and effort on behalf of the student.
While they both focus on the same subject matter, the associate and bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice also have some major differences. By understanding the pros and cons of both, you will be better equipped to make your own decision.