Earn a Criminal Justice Associate Degree
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Gain a better understanding of law enforcement with an Associate of Science (AS) in Criminal Justice degree online at Southern New Hampshire University. You'll have an array of courses to choose from, allowing you to obtain a thorough overview of the American justice system, criminal law, social science and more, expanding your opportunities when you graduate.
Our criminal justice associate degree was created with real-world perspective. Expanding the boundaries of a traditional criminal justice program, you’ll be exposed to current criminology theories and emerging national and global trends.
Our AS in Criminal Justice program is suited for both experienced criminal justice professionals who want to upgrade their skill set and those seeking entry-level professional positions in the field.
Learn how to:
Get credit for law enforcement training: If you have completed basic police, corrections or probation and parole academy training, you may receive up to 12 credits toward your criminal justice degree at SNHU.
One reason you may want to earn your criminal justice associate degree is that many law enforcement positions don’t require a bachelor’s degree.
Since on-the-job experience is critical to advancing in most criminal justice fields, earning an associate degree to get your career started makes sense – just as you may want to return for a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree as you advance and job requirements change.
The associate degree in criminal justice was designed to help you prepare for entry-level jobs in many fields including:
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a wide range of positions are expected to see growth through 2028, including police and detectives (5%), probation and correctional treatment specialists (3%) and social and human service assistants (13%).2
"I attribute my education with my promotion and have seen, firsthand, the continued career opportunities that are now attainable as a result of earning my degree," said Joseph Medina, who was promoted to citywide mobile sergeant with the Boston School Police Department after getting an associate degree from SNHU. Medina, who earned his associate degree in criminal justice in 2017, went on to complete his bachelor's degree in the same subject in 2019.
Not only did his education help Medina professionally, but it also made a big impact on his personal life.
"The promotion has enabled me to better provide for me and my son," he said. "My degree has made my son realize the importance of education and has motivated him to want to go to college.”
A bump in pay is oftentimes another reason students feel an associate degree is worth earning. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 2018 median weekly earnings for all full-time workers were 18% higher for those who've earned an associate degree over those with a high school diploma.2
Not only could your pay increase, but the unemployment rate drops from 4.1% to 2.8% for associate degree holders in comparison to high school graduates.2
Note: Law enforcement positions may involve additional training and eligibility requirements.
With no set class meeting times, you can learn on your schedule and access online course materials 24/7.
Take advantage of some of the lowest online tuition rates in the nation, plus financial aid for those who qualify. We also make it easy to transfer to SNHU by accepting up to 90 credits for a bachelor's degree and 45 credits for an associate degree from your previous institution.
Founded in 1932, Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit institution with over 100,000 graduates across the country. SNHU is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), which advocates for institutional improvement and public assurance of quality.
Recently, SNHU has been nationally recognized for leading the way toward more innovative, affordable and achievable education:
At Southern New Hampshire University, you'll have access to a powerful network of more than 200,000 students, alumni and staff that can help support you long after graduation. Our instructors offer relevant, real-world expertise to help you understand and navigate the field. Plus, with our growing, nationwide alumni network, you'll have the potential to tap into a number of internship and career opportunities.
Get involved in Southern New Hampshire University events by attending our criminal justice forums, the Contemporary Justice Series, designed for both online and campus students. You'll get the chance to network with peers and experts, as well as engage about current debates in criminal justice including bail reform, police-community relations and diversity in law enforcement.
See why 96% of students would recommend SNHU.*
Part of our mission to expand access to quality higher education means removing the barriers that may stand between you and your degree. That’s why you can apply at any time and get a decision within days of submitting all required materials.
Acceptance decisions are made on a rolling basis throughout the year for our 6 (8-week) undergraduate terms.
Simply contact an admission counselor, who can help you explore financial options, answer all your questions and walk you through the application process. Start by:
Test scores are not required as part of your application.
In our criminal justice associate degree program, you'll find your classes are mostly an even split of general education courses and classes for your major – and you'll discover how well they can all work together.
For instance, both sets of courses can help you develop such in-demand skills as:
The criminal justice curriculum introduces you to a spectrum of ideas, theories and practices related to the criminal justice system in the United States. Designed to give you a strong foundation, the coursework can provide you with core principles to help you start or advance your career.
You'll learn from instructors who have been gaining hands-on experience in the field – firsthand knowledge they want to pass on to you. Our criminal justice faculty have worked for major law enforcement agencies, including:
And so have our students. Joseph Medina earned a promotion with the Boston School Police Department after completing his associate degree coursework in 2017.
"I feel that through my education I learned more about the other agencies that I interact with, such as the court system and the corrections system," Medina said. "I also learned a great deal about how a lot of the principles and tactics utilized in modern policing came to be."
With over 5,000 students at Southern New Hampshire University also studying criminal justice, you'll be in good company – especially if you decide to continue your education after earning your associate degree.
Your coursework throughout your criminal justice associate degree can seamlessly transfer into the Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice online degree program. Aside from building off the hands-on curriculum you've become familiar with, you also have the option to add one of 6 concentrations to your program:
Concentrations allow you to develop additional expertise in a specific area – which may give you the opportunity to get ahead in the workplace.
Beyond a bachelor's, you have the opportunity to earn a master's in criminal justice with concentration options of public safety administration and advanced counterterrorism.
Another benefit of earning your criminal justice associate degree online at SNHU is that your program includes 12 free elective credits. These are ideal for transfer students who may have changed majors and want to keep the credits they've earned, as well as for students who are interested in further criminal justice study beyond the program requirements.
Total Credits: 60
Tuition rates for SNHU's online degree programs are among the lowest in the nation. We offer financial aid packages to those who qualify, plus a 30% tuition discount for U.S. service members, both full and part time, and the spouses of those on active duty.
Tuition Rates are subject to change and are reviewed annually.
No Application Fee, $150 Graduation Fee, Course Materials ($ varies by course)
An associate degree in criminal justice provides a strong foundation in the theories and practices related to the American criminal justice system, criminal law, social science and more. It’s a valuable program of study, whether you’re just breaking into the field or enhancing your professional skill set.
Sal Villa '19 pursued his AS in Criminal Justice online at Southern New Hampshire University after 14 years in the military – and realized immediate career benefits. He improved his writing skills, and it showed in the quality of his reports and briefs.
Villa's future plans? He aspires to be a police officer and wants to go on to complete the BS in Criminal Justice with a criminology degree concentration.
It depends on how you define “worth it.” If you’re looking to advance your career, an associate degree in criminal justice can definitely help you get there. Some students who’ve been passed up for promotions find the academic credential not only looks good on their resumes but opens more doors. Generally speaking, associate degree holders earn 18% more than those with only a high school degree.2
If you haven’t yet entered the field, you can expect job opportunities to remain steady. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 3% job growth and more than 95,000 new jobs in protective service occupations through 2028, with a 2019 median annual wage of $41,580. Police officers and detectives occupy the high end of the salary range, with 2019 median annual incomes of $65,170.2
“More places have a requirement of college degrees,” said Dr. Jeff Czarnec, associate dean of Southern New Hampshire University's criminal justice program. Czarnec points out that in the past, “going into criminal justice was genetic or a family thing. Now you have highly educated people dominating the field. They want more out of life. They want more out of the field.”
If you’re one of those people, you have many career paths to consider as a criminal justice major, including law enforcement, corrections, forensics, homeland security, private security and legal services such as victim's advocacy. And keep in mind the higher purpose of a criminal justice degree: It can help you make a bigger impact in your community.
Most accredited universities require a total of 60 credits to award an associate degree in criminal justice. SNHU’s online program requirements include 24 general education credits (with coursework in English, mathematics, the humanities and the sciences) and 24 major courses. The remaining 12 credits are electives.
Full-time students can typically complete the program in two years. Part-time students, many of whom work full time, are encouraged to work at their own pace. Once you've earned your associate degree, you can seamlessly start work on the remaining 60 credits for your bachelor's degree.
An associate degree is a great option if you’re on the fence about pursuing your bachelor’s. Some students use their associate as a steppingstone to earn general education credits they can put toward a bachelor’s.
At Southern New Hampshire University, for example, associate degree holders can seamlessly apply their degree toward earning the remaining 60 credits of the 120-credit bachelor's program. Candidates for both the AS and BS in Criminal Justice can also apply up to 12 credits for law enforcement training.
That alone is a major consideration for anyone looking to build on their work experience – and a top reason many students go on to pursue their bachelor’s. There’s also the practical career aspect: With a bachelor’s in criminal justice, you’ll not only deepen your understanding of the many facets and functions of the criminal justice field. You’ll gain access to a vast network of faculty and peers who are already working in the industry.
Like the question of whether an associate degree in criminal justice is worth it, the short answer is: It depends. A few factors to consider:
According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for police and detectives is $65,170. And as of May 2019, the highest 10% earned more than $109,620. The BLS notes that many entry-level job applicants have taken some college classes and significantly more are college graduates.2
Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit institution accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) as well as several other accrediting bodies.
*According to a survey of over 12,000 SNHU online students conducted in the fall of 2018.
2Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, on the internet, at:
Cited projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth.
3U.S. News & World Report, Online Criminal Justice Degree: An Overview, on the internet, at: https://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/criminal-justice-associate-degree (viewed April 5, 2020).