Guide to Getting Your Online Associate Degree in Criminology

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Updated December 22, 2021 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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An online associate degree in criminology opens up various career possibilities and builds a solid foundation for continuing academic study at the bachelor's level and beyond.

An associate degree qualifies its graduates for an array of entry-level employment options in:

An associate degree translates into an immediate salary boost for many jobs. Use this guide to learn more about online associate degrees in criminology and how the skills and competencies this degree yields can translate into potential careers.

What Will You Learn in an Online Associate Degree in Criminology Program?

Most online criminology associate degrees require 60 credits of general education and foundational coursework that provides you with the core skills, theoretical knowledge, and practical insights needed for entry-level jobs or further education.

Major-specific classes typically address:

The following can give you an idea of what to expect from an online associate degree in criminology:

Common Courses

Introduction to Criminology

This prerequisite course introduces students to criminal behavior, laws, norms, and social perceptions. The course also addresses policing and punishment, criminal justice reform, and preventing crime.

Juvenile Delinquency and Juvenile Justice

This overview of juvenile delinquency and the juvenile justice system prepares students for employment in law enforcement, probation services, and counseling. The course addresses:

  • The social construction of childhood and adolescence
  • Theories of delinquency
  • Approaches to punishment and rehabilitation
  • The social and legal contexts within which delinquency occurs
Constitutional Law and the Legal System

This course introduces students to the American criminal justice system. Course content addresses:

  • Separation of power
  • Due process
  • Equal protection
  • Freedom of religion

The course gives special attention to important Supreme Court cases.

Criminal Investigations

This course surveys techniques and procedures for collecting and analyzing crime scene data. Students in this course become familiar with appropriate field standards and best practices, including interviewing witnesses and suspects, collecting and preserving evidence, and conducting a basic forensic evidence exam.

Community-Based Corrections

This course examines how community-based corrections programs can incorporate mental health treatment, education, job training, and work release initiatives. Students learn about community-oriented services, such as:

  • Halfway houses
  • Residential treatment facilities
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Alternatives to incarceration in jails and prisons

Core Skills Gained

Top online criminology associate degree programs teach the job-specific skills most employers desire while providing an understanding of criminal justice and court systems. These programs deliver a strong academic foundation in criminological theories, concepts, and principles.

Skills associate degree-holders have that many careers require include:

What Can You Do With an Online Associate Degree in Criminology?

An online associate criminology degree often appeals to students who want to enter the workforce and gain experience in the field as quickly as possible. For many positions in law enforcement, corrections, and social services, an associate degree represents the minimum educational requirement.

Below are some potential careers and salary prospects for criminology associate degree-holders:

Average Annual Salary: $70,000

Police officers protect lives and property by enforcing laws. They respond to emergency and non-emergency calls, conduct surveillance, and uncover evidence for criminal investigations. Specific job responsibilities vary in each state and local law enforcement agency.

Average Annual Salary: $56,610

Paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers prepare for trials, hearings, and meetings. Their duties include organizing files, conducting legal research, and producing briefs and other legal documents. In addition to an associate degree, some employers require certification.

Average Annual Salary: $60,100

These professionals work with individuals, attorneys, and businesses who need their services to collect legal, financial, and personal information. Duties may include carrying out investigations, performing background checks, and conducting surveillance.

Average Annual Salary: $52,340

Correctional officers work in jails and prisons, supervising inmates and inspecting facilities to maintain security and safety standards. Bailiffs supervise procedures in courtrooms, providing security for judges, attorneys, juries, and witnesses.

Average Annual Salary: $34,360

These security professionals find employment in gambling casinos, corporate office centers, and shopping malls. They protect property against theft, monitor closed-circuit surveillance and alarm systems, respond to emergencies, and detain suspected violators.

Transferring to a Four-Year Program After Getting Your Online Associate Degree in Criminology

Many students enroll in online associate degree programs in criminology with the intention of earning a bachelor's in criminology or a related academic field. An associate degree in criminology builds a strong academic foundation for several undergraduate degree programs, such as the ones listed below.

Bachelor's in Criminology

The bachelor's in criminology is perhaps the most applicable undergraduate major for associate degree-holders in criminology. It prepares students to look at:

  • The causes and effects of crime
  • The connections between U.S. law and social justice
  • Crime's impact on victims, offenders, families, communities, and society

A bachelor's in criminology equips students with a broad social science background and training in research methodology.

Bachelor's Degree in Forensic Psychology

The bachelor's degree in forensic psychology applies psychological principles to the legal and criminal justice systems. A bachelor's degree is the next step to becoming a licensed forensic psychologist, which requires a doctorate and state licensure.

Degrees and Careers for Detectives

Detectives pursue undergraduate majors, including criminology, security management, and forensics. Private security companies increasingly prefer applicants with a bachelor's degree, and many law enforcement agencies require a bachelor's for advancement into detective roles.

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