Criminal Justice Degrees

Whether it's unfolding in a courtroom, prison yard or police precinct, Americans have long been fascinated by the workings of the Criminal Justice system. So it's no surprise that Criminal Justice is a popular field of study for college students.

An education in Criminal Justice can lead to a wide range of professional opportunities. Those who major in the field commonly advance to careers as police officers, lawyers, judges, probation officers or detectives, to name just a few possibilities.

Before they can do these jobs properly, however, Criminal Justice students must understand how the American justice system works and how it informs their desired career. That is where Criminal Justice degree programs enter the picture.

What is Criminal Justice?

Criminal Justice refers to the system that enforces governmental laws and punishes offender of these laws. The system is comprised of three subsystems:

  1. Policing/law enforcement
  2. The courts/judiciary
  3. Correctional agencies

The study of Criminal Justice examines the structure and functioning of each of these subsystems, as well as the behaviors of its participants. Students learn to critically evaluate how the administration of justice operates in American society and to raise fundamental questions about its principles and practices.

Criminal Justice is an interdisciplinary field, drawing on theory developed in sociology, law, psychology, political science and related fields. Sociology and psychology derive theories regarding the causes of crime and delinquency. Law, political science and history provide insight into the development of law and the applications of sanctions within the legal process. There is also a rapidly growing body of knowledge derived from research efforts taking place in policing, the court system and corrections.

What can I do with a Criminal Justice degree?

Because of its broad nature, Criminal Justice offers the foundation necessary to approach a number of careers. Some students, for instance, may take their knowledge of criminal behavior to build careers as police officers or detectives. Others may use their understanding of due process and the courts to pursue law school and an eventual career as an attorney or judge.

Here are some positions that Criminal Justice majors may pursue, along with details on those positions according to 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data:

Police officers and detectives 

  • $60,270 median annual salary
  • 806,400 jobs in the U.S.
  • 4 percent projected growth in positions, 2014 to 2024

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists 

  • $49,360 median annual salary
  • 91,700 jobs in the U.S.
  • 4 percent projected growth in positions, 2014 to 2024


  • $115,820 median annual salary
  • 778,700 jobs in the U.S.
  • 6 percent projected growth in positions, 2014 to 2024

Private detectives and investigators 

  • $45,610 median annual salary
  • 34,900 jobs in the U.S.
  • 5 percent projected growth in positions, 2014 to 2024

How do I get started?

The University of Nevada, Reno employs a broad-based, career-oriented course of study for Criminal Justice students. While practical in nature, the program also covers the theoretical, conceptual and analytic principles that Criminal Justice practitioners use to approach the dilemmas crime presents to contemporary American society.

Here are the degree offerings available at the University:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. The Criminal Justice major focuses on the components of the Criminal Justice system, criminological theory and issues of diversity, mythology and ethics. Graduates of this program may pursue a variety of professional fields beyond Criminal Justice, including behavioral science, politics and treatment services.
  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, Law and Justice Specialization. Students who complete this interdisciplinary specialization focuses on law and justice theory and policy. The curriculum includes courses in philosophy, as well as practical courses in legal research and writing. This track largely attracts students interested in the context of law in a diverse society.
  • Master of Arts in Criminal Justice. The Master of Arts program provides students with skills necessary to examine and analyze the major areas of the Criminal Justice field, including the nature of crime, law and social control, as well as the process of planning change in a system as complex as the Criminal Justice system. Applicants to this program must hold a baccalaureate degree from an accredited four-year college or university, with a major or minor in Criminal Justice or a closely related discipline. Acceptable fields outside Criminal Justice will be determined on a case-by-case basis by the Graduate Admissions Committee of the Department of Criminal Justice (additional coursework in criminological theory might be required of students from outside the field of Criminal Justice).

Visit the pages above to learn more about these programs. You can also visit the Department of Criminal Justice page for more information on this field of study.

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