Is a Criminal Justice Degree Major Hard to Complete?

Three common questions from many blog readers: Is a criminal justice degree hard? Is criminal justice a hard major? Is criminal justice hard? These 3 questions lead to a compounded one: is a criminal justice degree major hard to complete? The answer…

I personally think that a criminal justice degree is a fairly straight-forward major. It is not an easy major? I don’t think any major is, but for me it was a very rewarding educational experience. I was drawn to the field of Criminal Justice from the start and found it to be challenging, yet attainable.

But is the Criminal Justice Degree Major Hard for You?

This answer depends entirely on your own abilities, life goals, and true intentions. There is no “one shoe fits all” kind of answer for this.

Where do your interests lie? Are you planning on a criminal justice major because everyone else is doing it? it’s advertised on TV? or, because you’re out of options? These probably are not good reasons to take criminal justice in college. But these can be:

  • You like issues that are related to society
  • You find TV shows like COPS, 48 Hours, and Forensic Files fascinating
  • You like to think critically and dig deeper to find the answers you seek
  • You don’t have a problem working with other people
  • You want to know more about issues pertaining to all that is “criminal justice”

BUT Wait… There’s More!

The biggest and really the only reason anyone would want to undertake a criminal justice major is that they would like to do meaningful work in this evolving field. Is that what you want to do: pursue a career in criminal justice? If so, keep reading…

Having a criminal justice degree allows one to pursue some of the most interesting criminal justice careers, which aren’t only limited to a police officer or a FBI Special Agent career path:

The reasons that create the interest in a criminal justice degree should be big enough for you to proceed further. They should be more than a path towards just a “job” – if you think of the degree as a means to a job, you’ll most likely find that the degree isn’t as easy to you. It may even be hard.

My 2 Cents:

  1. Be true to your abilities. If you’re not strong in a certain subject or subjects, then a degree in criminal justice may be harder to accomplish. Check out the criminal justice courses you may be exposed to. Also, be aware that you’ll be taking English, Math, and certain Science classes while pursuing your college degree, no matter what major you pick.
  2. Is your life goal to be a police officer or something entirely different? Think about what you really would like to do in the span of your life. Not sure yet? Then, you should be happy to know that most law enforcement career options for police officers, sheriff deputies, state troopers, or FBI agents do not specifically require a criminal justice degree. A Bachelor degree in Business, Computer Science, Chemistry, or something entirely different can be as good. It’s always wise to contact the agency you plan to work for in the future to find out if they have a certain educational preference. Did you know that many law enforcement agencies require only some college credits and not a full degree? And they don’t have to be derived from criminal justice classes. Aaahhhh… Now you know : )
  3. Read, research, ask, and repeat… I mean if you’re really serious about pursuing a degree in criminal justice and following that up with a career in CJ I highly recommend reading and researching more about anything and everything that interests you. Don’t take criminal justice courses on a whim, hoping that they are going to solve your troubles. It’s always good to ask your teacher, professor, or someone you can trust to give you an honest answer about your educational and career goals. A criminal justice degree doesn’t have to be hard to accomplish. There are other great sites and bounty of information on the Internet; specifically on Government funded websites. If a police officer career is something you’re interested in then you should ask a police officer about how his or her career is, what it is all about, and how you can get your foot in the door. Hint… there are police officer forums on the Internet that may be full of interesting information. Interested in a different criminal justice career? Same model applies… go straight to the source!

I hope this helps some of you in answering this seemingly easy, but complicated, question. What have been your experiences with taking criminal justice courses? Are they easy or hard, or totally something different? Let us know by leaving your comment below.

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Article written by Radek Gadek

Radek holds a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University. He is currently doing consulting work and runs this blog to provide relevant information on criminal justice degrees, colleges and related careers.

19 comments… add one
  • ashlei

    heey, im ashlei. i am going to college and majoring in criminal justice. oh yehh, thats rightt. i find house really interesting. i love watching this show and forensic files :D wellll, wish me luck with my life. <3

    • Radek M. Gadek

      good luck!

  • Giuseppe

    Hi im Joe im a senior in High school and im pretty sure i want to major in cj but im not sure if i took enough of the right classes and my grades are mostly B’s i get a couple A’s and some C’s and im only involved in band at my school. my favorite shows are Criminal Minds, CSI Miami, CSI NY, Castle, and 48 hours do you think i might make it into a good cj school. I’m also as of now going to Harper college. let me know.

    • Giuseppe

      Some of the classes i took were The Law and You, World affairs and im currently in Sociology

      • Radek M. Gadek

        I think you should be fine. Just apply and hope for the best : )

  • JAMES

    Hello i am a Systems Administrator who wants to change field and go into the CJ field, wanted to know how to combine my systems Administrator experience with criminal justice major. what do you think is the best route to take? want to stay within the computer field and combine it with criminal justice degree: is there a system security/Criminal justice major out there…i search every where and couldn’t find anything. maybe i am not looking in the right place.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      hello James,

      No, I think you’re looking at the right places, however the answer is simpler than you may have thought. What most law enforcement agencies in this country would like is a well-trained IT and/or information systems security force that can help in the criminal justice system. The two popular degree tracks I kind of mentioned I just the tip of the iceberg. For example, if you like cyber security there are degrees for that. Since you would be interested working in and around law enforcement, naturally the degree would have to be security related, and I don’t mean how you can protect the security author Police Department’s computer systems, but rather the security of the constituents to Police Department serves. Computer forensics is a huge field right now, so is cyber crime.

      I also recently saw that there are degrees that makes both the criminal justice aspect of education (which teaches you more about what criminal justice this and how the criminal justice system works in the United States) and the technological aspect (which teaches you how to implement your technical knowledge into solutions that are needed in our present criminal justice system). I’ve seen it around on the Internet, but I am not sure where exactly. Plus, I am also not sure if this degree track was offered from for-profit universities or do academically prominent universities (the latter is the best).

      I wish you all the best

  • Ryan

    Hi I am Ryan and I am majoring in criminal justice and working to get my bachelors in criminal justice. My ultimate goal is to be an FBI agent who specializes in fraud. I am also working to get my bachelors in Accounting and to get my CPA which i think will help me in reaching that goal.

    Thats the plan anyway. Im not entirely sure i want to do that so I am glad i am getting both degrees so i have extra flexibility. To my question now. Is there a way I can do an internship with the FBI or find out how one FBI agent decided that they wanted to be in that field and what they ahd to do? Thanks soo much :)

  • Kim

    Hi I am looking to find out what degree I need to become a crime scene technician. I am not sure what degree path I need to follow. So if you can give me any input on this would be greatly appreciated

  • angie

    I am a second year Criminal Justice major. I would not say that the Criminal Justice courses are easy. You have to do studies in the courts, the prisons, and study police science. You have to study a lot and I mean a lot of theories. I have a real good gpa average but I study real hard. Criminal Justice is a real interesting field. I will obtain my Associates Degree in Criminal Justice by the end of next year. However the easiness depends on your professor too. Some professors are real tough on their students and some are more laid back.

    • Donya

      I would have to agree I am studying Criminal Justice I am on my second year. I would recommend to people if they have a challenge with Math then be prepared to complete the math course that the program has to offer. I believe that the criminal Justice career can be rewarding and just practice your math skills this was the only class I have left to complete my Associates Degree in Criminal Justice and the only class to be a challenge. The program gives great information to prepare you for a rewarding career and the program have various areas of study such as why the prisons were first created and the meaning to the various institutions.

  • Brenna W.

    I’m a sophomore in high school, but i’m thinking a lot about college. I’m currently in a Biomedical class called PBS. The year just started but i think i’m going to love this class. It’s up to my expectations so far. I’m excited i took this class. I’m an addict of NCIS, CSI Miami, Criminal Minds, Without a Trace, and Law and Order SVU. I’m thinking i should go into Criminal Justice… should i?

  • CJ Karen

    I am graduating September 10, 2011 with a BS in Criminal Justice Administration. My BEST AND MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE to anyone pursuing a criminal justice degree is to FIRST…reflect on your past. Reason being, if there is anything on your criminal record, you can be eliminated out of the rigorous hiring process; but you won’t find that out until after you have completed the face to face interviews, the various testing, medical and psychological exam. You may do very well at ALL of these prelim steps, and getting to the top five is key…BUT when in the last five, then background checks come in and in some fields (law enforcement, probation), polygraphs are administered. If you can’t answer “NO” to questions like, “Have you ever used drugs?” (even if was way back in high school) …”Have you ever been arrested?”…”Have you ever been charged with a crime?” “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” then think twice about CJ IF you want to be in law enforcement or probation. As you study CJ you will find out there are ethics classes etc. so also be sure that not only is your “Moral Turpitude” of the highest caliber, but also any “ethics” issues…for example Bankruptcy, Evictions filed in court. You may get eliminated because the other candidates are working with a clean slate. Moral of the story…before you spend $35 -40,000 obtaining a BS in CJ, make sure you examine your your past, and make an informed decision. Go to usajobs.gov and look at some of the criminal justice type jobs there and see the job description and application requirements and processes.

    Good luck…CJ classes are not difficult if you have your heart in the field. If it’s just a stepping stone for diversity and not really a career plan than you will have to work a little harder to learn the information.

    Be sure to check out age restrictions or requirements when doing your job searches. SO, keep this in mind if you are an older returning student.

    • Ryan

      When they ask if you have taken drugs, they are asking you with a lie detector? And is it like no strings attached yes or no answer?
      I am in high school and am not planning on doing drugs or anything illegal but I was just curious. Thanks!

  • Ronald

    I have a question. Is it true that a CJ degree is useless for anything else other than law enforcement officer? I really like law enforcement but I’m thinking of the future also. For example; I’m 20 years old right now, when i turn 40 something I would plan to be out of the field. What other job other than a law enforcement officer will I be able to obtain?

  • Scott

    Well, the above posting is very correct, even though it is rather vague. I have an A.A. in Liberal Arts, an A.S. in Administration of Justice, a B.A. in Criminal Justice, and an M.A. in Public Admin. I’m also a military veteran. I have been basically unemployed for 16 months since my graduation from grad school. Do not, I repeat, do not, do not pursue the criminal justice field at this time. I highly doubt any of you people will take this advice. Just experience failure for yourself. Good luck all.

  • Bill jackson

    I just want to know which one is easy Criminal justice and Business Management.

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