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Friday, April 19, 2024

What Classes Do You Take in a Criminal Justice Degree Program?

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There is a difference between enjoying true crime stories and engaging in a criminal justice career. Any
professional within the criminal justice system will explain that the reality of working in this field is hard,
sometimes even punishing — but that it is also sometimes remarkably rewarding. If you dedicate your
life to criminal justice, you can improve the safety and security of your community while enhancing
everyone’s quality of life.

The start of a career in this field is a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice. If you are considering
committing yourself to a criminaljustice career, it might help to know what subjects you will study
during your degree program, so you can prepare to survive and thrive during your courses. While the
details of a criminaljustice program will vary from university to university, here is a broad look at what
you can expect to study as you pursue your criminaljustice bachelor’s degree:

History of the Criminal Justice System

The American criminal justice system did not emerge whole cloth at the beginning of the 21st century;
rather, the criminal justice system as it functions today evolved out of a long legacy of cultural practices,
social values and government regulations. Understanding the history of the criminaljustice system gives
you greater insight into why it operates as it does, so you can make meaningful changes that improve
the effectiveness of the system without making similar mistakes to those that came before.

Philosophies of Criminal Justice

Not everyone agrees about the purpose of the criminal justice system. Some people believe that
retribution is the primary service of the criminal justice system, or that the system exists purely to
punish those who do wrong. Other people believe that the criminaljustice system should be focused on
rehabilitation, or teaching criminals the error of their ways and providing a better path for them through
modern society. You should encounter a course that reviews different philosophies of criminaljustice
within your degree program, so you can refine your own opinions on the matter.

Criminal Law

Regardless of how you use your criminal justice degree after graduation — as a law enforcement officer,
attorney, activist or something else — you will need to understand criminal law. Likely, you will engage
with several different courses focused on different aspects of criminal law, such as different types of
crimes as well as legal processes for criminal prosecution and defense. Criminal law courses may also
cover issues related to ethics in criminaljustice practices.

Criminal Procedure

There are established procedures for every step of the criminal justice process to protect the rights of
everyone involved and to prevent unnecessary harm. Failure to adhere to these procedures could result
in innocent people behind bars or guilty parties walking free. Therefore, study of criminal procedure is
arguably the most important aspect of a criminaljustice degree program. You may take several courses
on this subject, each addressing different procedures involved in different steps of criminaljustice, such
as investigation, arrest, trial, sentencing and more.

Criminal Investigation

If you are interested in criminal justice because you aspire to be a police detective or state or federal
investigator, you will need to hone your knowledge and skill in investigation. Investigation courses will
showcase different techniques for acquiring valuable information from environments, physical evidence,
witnesses, suspects and more. While some investigation courses may focus on theory, you may also
participate in practical lessons that allow you to put your investigative skills to the test.


The criminal justice system does not end with a conviction. The corrections system is a significant
component of criminaljustice, so it is important that criminaljustice students understand as much as
possible about how corrections currently operates in the U.S. Corrections courses will likely cover
different types of institutions, to include alternatives to institutional corrections, as well as the goals and
services of different correctional institutions.
Criminology is the study of crime and criminal behavior. Many professionals within criminal justice
utilize criminology to better understand key aspects of a crime, such as how and why it might have
taken place. This can lead to more accurate investigations and more effective legal proceedings that
end in convictions of the truly guilty party. However, criminology can also involve the study of how
crime and criminaljustice impacts society, which can help professionals make changes to the criminal
justice system that are better for everyone.


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