Criminal justice degrees have their roots in the 1960s, when the federal government led an effort to create a higher level of education and professionalism among police officers in the U.S.


If you’re looking to work for the federal government, a more specialized degree is preferable (the FBI requires applicants to have a degree in electrical engineering, accounting, information technology, computer science, foreign language or law). However, if you’re sure you want to become a local police officer or detective, an associate degree in criminal justice is one of the best ways to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Unlike other fields, many prospective police officers only hold high school diplomas, and a two-year degree can give you an advantage.


Experts in law enforcement almost uniformly value experience over classroom work, so make sure your program includes opportunities for service.