If you are interested in the field of criminal justice, but prefer to go to work quickly rather than taking years to complete your training, an associates degree may be the right course for you. Associates degrees can be completed in two years, and offer you the chance to gain entry-level jobs you’re your field of interest.
Many people get an associates degree, go to work, and continue to work on their four-year, or bachelors, degree while holding a job.
An associates degree represents a compromise midway between a certificate program and a full bachelors degree. Most associate degrees require you to pass core classes at the college level, such as math, science, and English. In this way, associates degrees are similar to bachelors degrees.
However, unlike a bachelors degree, an associates degree limits the core classes to the basic necessities and focuses instead on giving you more practical and foundational classes in your major area. In this respect, associates degrees are similar to certificate programs, which often focus only on classes needed for a particular skill.
Because the associates degree lays a foundation for a four-year college degree, however, it is often more useful to someone who plans on more schooling than a certificate program. You will get the same great training for useful job skills, but you will also be required to commit to a certain level of liberal arts educational classes.
Because of this, students with associates degrees often obtain jobs which are slightly higher paying than those with certificates only.
You begin an associates program by choosing a major, or an area of focus. If criminal justice is your area, you may be asked to choose a track or path for your classes which gives focus to your class choices. For example, you may be asked to choose between an associates degree in human resources, paralegal studies, or forensic science.
Each of these degrees represents very different “major” classes, and each will prepare you for a different type of job.
If you are unsure about your focus area, you can also gain insight by taking some of the required classes prior to choosing your “major.” Foundational criminal justice classes which deal with all aspects of the field are usually given first in your studies so that you have an opportunity to “sample” various types of concentrations.
You should also have an advisor or a campus student support center which will work with you to determine your areas of interest and strength.
You may have the opposite problem: you might be looking for training for a specific job, and have to weed through programs which will not prepare you for the job you want. This is a common issue when people have made up their minds about a certain type of job in advance.
While you should still keep an open mind, if you already know what you want to do, it makes sense to go with a program which will prepare you for that career.
You will also have to decide how you are going to pursue your education. Financial aid is readily available to almost every student in the United States, but you may also need to continue working while you take your degree. If this is the case, you want to look for a school which offers online or hybrid classes so that you do not have to travel to the campus very often.
You can also inquire about work study jobs on campus which can help you earn living expenses while you study.
You may also want to look for a program which offers job placement or internships. Many schools have well-developed support for graduates, and can help them find jobs in their field.