Criminal Justice Administration Degree

administrative secretary working at desk

The criminal justice system consists of law enforcement agencies, courts and correctional institutions that are responsible for maintaining safety, preventing and punishing crime and rehabilitating offenders. Such a complex system would be utter chaos if it were not for some organization and structure. If you see yourself in the role of administrative functions, management or leader leadership in some facet of the criminal justice system, then consider completing a criminal justice administration degree.

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A criminal justice administrator may work for a public institution or a private firm in various legal sectors. You will delve into a range of subject areas from leadership and ethics to managing the media and crime prevention theories.

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Administration Degree Focus vs. General Criminal Justice Degree

Although some higher learning institutions consider a CJ administration degree and a General Criminal Justice Degree to be one in the same (or offer administration courses as part of a general criminal justice degree), there is a distinctive difference between the two programs.

Broadly speaking, while pursuing a Criminal Justice Degree, students study the ins and outs of all facets of the criminal justice system (from patrolling the streets to helping inmates reform) as well as examining legal case studies and criminal behavior. On the other hand, while an administrative focused program touches upon these areas, it prepares students to perform functional or management roles in criminal justice agencies. Students pursuing this field of study will learn how to delegate and organize their staff, be a successful and inspirational leader, plan budgets, handle emergencies, communicate with heads of other agencies and analyze evolving crime theories.

A criminal justice administration bachelor’s program may help you pursue the role of a police officer or a counter-terrorism agent, while a graduate level student in a criminal justice administration degree may become the Chief of Police or an FBI Special Agent in charge of managing or coordinating programs.

Degree Levels

Bachelors Programs

A Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice Administration allows students to gain theoretical knowledge about the entire criminal justice system while gaining practical skills related to management and leading staff. Most institutions require core courses to be completed and then students may select a specialization area for their remaining credits. Possible specializations include Law Enforcement & Administration or Corrections. Students who graduate with a Bachelor of Criminal Justice Administration are more equipped for entry to mid-level positions at local, state and federal government or non-profit agencies or in the private sector.

Graduate Level Degrees

Perhaps you have just completed an undergraduate degree and wish to further specialize in the realm of administration and the criminal justice system. Or maybe you have already been working in the criminal justice field but would like to rise up the ranks. Then, a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice Administration would be an ideal next step. This graduate program delves deeper into the organization of criminal justice agencies and focuses on areas such as human resources, ethics, policy and statistical analysis, media relations, communication and issues that arise within the administration process. Masters students will often be required to complete a research project and often have the option to select a specialization, such as Justice Administration or Forensic Science Administration.

Certificates in Criminal Justice Administration

A range of Certificates in Criminal Justice Administration are offered by American universities that may be used to compliment undergraduate or graduate accreditation or serve as a form of professional development to advance your career. Generally such certification programs enable students to learn of all the administrative duties required to efficiently run law enforcement agencies, correctional facilities, judicial proceedings or community organizations. Students also gain valuable research, problem solving and analytical skills and immerse themselves in criminal justice issues pertinent to the present day.

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Courses & Curriculum Examples

Although each university or college offers slightly different curriculums, there are some courses that are more or less consistent among administrative programs. For example:

Managing Criminal Justice Organizations: In such a management course, students will identify their own leadership strengths and weaknesses while developing valuable skills, such as communication, problem solving and an understanding of human resources. Students also study current management practices in criminal justice agencies and learn how to lead their employees through change.

Criminal Theory: In a criminal theory or criminal psychology class, students learn about the environmental, human development and factors that lead a person to commit a crime. As this pertains to how a criminal justice agency functions, students will analyze policy and the role of various agencies they may lead in the future, as well as discuss crime prevention methods.

Risk or Crisis Management: In such a course, students learn how to make vital decisions in a timely manner, to manage through media by communicating in a way that benefits citizens, helps solve pending cases, and to analyze risks to prevent the maximum amount of loss. As a future leader of a criminal justice agency, students will discuss case studies, from terrorism to local policing.

Ethics and Criminal Justice Administration: Students will examine the potential moral dilemmas they may face as criminal justice administrators. They will study current and historical ethical theories and practically discuss how to handle many real world predicaments they may face while on the job.


Career Paths

A variety of careers await a graduate with a CJ administration degree either in the public (such as government, police, court, corrections or community agencies) or private arenas (such as private investigation and security firms). The careers are dependent on level of education, experience and passions or interests. You may start as an assistant administrator or supervisor and work your way into higher level positions.

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