The United States legal and justice system has many levels, each of which work together to help create and enforce a law-abiding country. Those who earn a degree in justice administration can find numerous career paths open to them; they might work as court clerks, take a position in the police department, serve as investigators, work in a variety of positions in corrections, or even take their education further to become a forensics investigator, attorney or professor of justice administration. Whichever path students choose pursue, it can all begin with online justice administration programs.
Online Justice Administration Degree Programs
A justice administration degree program offers students with a challenging and well-rounded curriculum that prepares them for work in various aspects of the justice system. There are numerous degree levels to choose from in justice administration, including the associate, bachelor's and master's degrees. Some justice administration students choose to earn a law degree to advance in their career, while others still opt for a doctoral degree in the justice or legal field.
Associate or Post-secondary Degree
The associate degree program in justice administration typically takes two years to complete. It consists of general education courses, such as mathematics, science and humanities, which set a firm foundation for additional work in the second year. The final year of the degree includes courses in criminal justice, corrections, the judicial process, and more. The associate degree can help make students better candidates for some of the following jobs:
- Police and detectives
- Correctional officers
- Legal assistants
The bachelor's degree program usually takes four years to complete. In addition to the usual general education courses, students can expect to dive in-depth with courses that prepare them for work in the criminal justice field, including juvenile justice, criminology, applied research methods, social sciences, probation and parole, contemporary policing, sociology, media and crisis communication, legal issues for criminal justice workers, and much more. Some of the careers that can be pursued with a bachelor's degree include:
- Arbitrators, mediators and conciliators
- Probation officers
- Social workers
Master's and Doctoral Degrees
Some students in the justice administration field choose to pursue a law degree after they earn their bachelor's degree. Law school can take up to three years to complete, depending upon the program and whether students attend full-time or part-time. This extended higher education, along with many years of experience in the field, is required for the higher tiers of justice professions, such as:
- Hearing officers
Career Outlook for Justice Administration Professionals
Once a student has earned a degree in justice administration, numerous career paths open up. The list below includes some of the most common positions in the justice system that are possible with a degree in justice administration. Keep in mind that the average income and growth numbers might vary, depending upon geographical location, the degree level and work experience.
|Career||National Annual Mean Wage, May 2014||Projected National Growth 2012-2022|
|Detectives and Criminal Investigators||$80,540||5%|
|Fire Inspectors and Investigators||$58,980||6%|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014
Choose the Right Online Justice Administration Programs
Whether a student chooses to pursue traditional, hybrid or online justice administration degrees, one key point remains the same: Accreditation. An accredited school has been evaluated by an independent body and found to meet the standards of a high-quality education. To find accredited schools, students can search the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or seek information from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE). Keep in mind that this information should also be readily available from the school itself; if the information is not presented on the website, call the admissions office and ask for accreditation status.
In many cases, students might be able to complete their justice administration degree entirely online. Some schools do require hands-on training for certain courses, so be sure to check that the school has an agreement with local law enforcement agencies to help students achieve the hands-on experience they need to complete the online program.
There are other points to ponder when considering an online program, including:
- Resources available
- Flexibility of scheduling
- What to expect after graduation
Students should ask what opportunities and resources are available to them, such as networking, mentoring and library access, to name a few. It is also important to ensure that the school's scheduling of classes is suitable for the working professional who needs flexible classes in order to earn the degree. The technology used in the online programs, the quality of the faculty, and the graduate rate are also important points to consider before jumping into an online justice administration program.
Correctional Officers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/correctional-officers.htm#tab-1
Fire Inspectors and Investigators, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/fire-inspectors-and-investigators.htm#tab-1
National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, United States, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
Police and Detectives, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm#tab-1
Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/security-guards.htm#tab-1