What Classes Do You Need for a Criminal Justice Degree

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Are you interested in pursuing a career in criminal justice? A criminal justice degree can open doors to a wide range of exciting and impactful opportunities in law enforcement, corrections, and the legal system. However, before embarking on this educational journey, it’s essential to understand the classes you’ll need to take to earn your criminal justice degree. In this article, we will explore the core and elective classes that are typically required for a criminal justice degree, providing you with valuable insights to help you navigate your academic path.

What is a Criminal Justice Degree?

A criminal justice degree is an academic program that offers comprehensive knowledge and skills related to the criminal justice system. It equips students with a deep understanding of law enforcement, the legal system, and the social factors influencing crime and criminal behavior. With a criminal justice degree, graduates can pursue careers as police officers, detectives, probation officers, or even work in federal agencies like the FBI or the Department of Homeland Security.

Core Classes for a Criminal Justice Degree

To lay a solid foundation in criminal justice, there are several core classes that are typically required in a criminal justice degree program. Let’s take a closer look at each of these classes:

1. to Criminal Justice

This introductory class provides an overview of the criminal justice system, exploring its history, structure, and key components. Students gain a comprehensive understanding of the roles and functions of law enforcement, courts, and corrections. They also delve into the ethical considerations and challenges faced by criminal justice professionals.

2. Criminal Law

Criminal law is a fundamental aspect of the criminal justice system. This class focuses on the principles and concepts of criminal law, including the elements of a crime, criminal defenses, and the constitutional rights of individuals. Students learn to analyze statutes, understand case law, and apply legal principles to real-world scenarios.

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3. Criminology

Criminology is the study of crime, its causes, and its consequences. In this class, students explore various criminological theories and gain insights into the sociological, psychological, and economic factors that contribute to criminal behavior. They also examine crime patterns, statistics, and strategies for crime prevention.

4. Corrections

The corrections system plays a crucial role in the criminal justice system. This class focuses on the theories, practices, and challenges of corrections, including probation, parole, and incarceration. Students learn about rehabilitation, reintegration, and the ethical considerations involved in working with offenders.

5. Policing

Policing is at the forefront of law enforcement. This class provides an in-depth understanding of the principles and practices of policing, including community policing, crime prevention, and law enforcement strategies. Students learn about the role of police officers in maintaining public safety and promoting positive community relations.

6. Courts and Judicial Systems

The courts and judicial systems are integral components of the criminal justice process. This class examines the structure and function of the court system, including trial procedures, evidence rules, and the roles of judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys. Students gain insights into the constitutional rights of defendants and the principles of criminal procedure.

Elective Classes for a Criminal Justice Degree

In addition to the core classes, many criminal justice degree programs offer a range of elective classes that allow students to specialize in specific areas of interest. These elective classes provide an opportunity to explore niche topics and enhance expertise in particular aspects of criminal justice. Some popular elective classes include:

  • Forensic Science
  • Juvenile Justice
  • White-Collar Crime
  • Terrorism and Homeland Security
  • Victimology
  • Criminal Investigations
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FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Classes for a Criminal Justice Degree

1. Are there any prerequisites for these classes?

Prerequisites may vary depending on the institution and program. However, most introductory classes do not have specific prerequisites, allowing students to start their criminal justice journey without prior knowledge or experience in the field.

2. Can I choose my elective classes based on my interests?

Yes, elective classes offer students the flexibility to tailor their academic experience to their interests and career goals. It’s recommended to discuss elective choices with academic advisors to ensure they align with your long-term aspirations.

3. How many credits are required for a criminal justice degree?

Credit requirements vary among institutions, but a typical criminal justice degree program often requires around 120-130 credits for completion. This includes a combination of core, elective, and general education courses.

4. Can I transfer credits from another institution?

Many institutions allow the transfer of credits from accredited institutions. However, the transferability of credits depends on factors such as the course content, accreditation, and the institution’s transfer policies.

5. Are online classes available for a criminal justice degree?

Yes, with the increasing popularity of online education, many institutions offer online criminal justice degree programs. Online classes provide flexibility for students who may have work or family commitments, allowing them to pursue their degree at their own pace.


Earning a criminal justice degree is a significant step towards a rewarding and impactful career in the field of criminal justice. By understanding the classes required for a criminal justice degree, you can better prepare yourself for the educational journey ahead. From the core classes that lay the foundation of knowledge to the elective classes that allow specialization, each class contributes to your overall understanding of the criminal justice system. So, take the first step, explore the classes offered, and embark on a path that will equip you with the knowledge and skills to make a difference in the world of criminal justice.

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