How to Choose: Criminal Justice Administration Degree or a Juvenile Justice Degree?

Criminal Justice Administration Degree or a Juvenile Justice Degree

You’re interested in preventing or solving crimes involving youth or adults. Finding a rewarding justice career at the local, state, or federal level is possible but which is the best fit — a broad criminal justice focus or narrower juvenile justice focus? In this article, we’ll detail the differences and specifically focus on National University’s Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration degree.

So What Is the Difference Between Criminal Justice and Juvenile Justice?

Simply put, criminal justice focuses on the entire criminal law system; this encompasses every aspect when someone is accused of a crime from due process to courts, to prison, and beyond. Juvenile justice is the criminal law system for crimes committed by minors, persons generally under 18 years old.

The criminal justice administration field is full of Veteran opportunities; you can find jobs after the military in the local, state, and federal levels that build on your leadership and management skills acquired during your service. If you already have experience in law enforcement, a bachelor’s degree can aid with professional development and enhance your chances for career advancement. If you do not have a law enforcement background or interest in pursuing that line of work, the bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration can prepare you to become a counselor, consultant, teacher, or to work in private security.

The juvenile justice system has a strong focus on deterring crimes, so it works a bit differently than the adult justice system. If you have a passion for working with youth, in-demand criminal justice positions include juvenile counselor, detention officer,  probation officer, mediator, social worker, and victim advocate. Many communities have a great need for counselors to help juveniles cope with behavioral problems and make healthier choices for better, more positive lives.

The online criminal justice degree at National University enables you to study numerous areas, including juvenile justice, criminology, corrections, forensic science, investigations, courts, and criminal law. Elective courses such as addiction, sociology, psychology, information technology, human resource management, law, and behavioral science can help you broaden your focus.

Where Are the Job Opportunities?

You will find many career avenues that focus on criminal justice. To help you decide on an online criminal justice degree and help narrow in on specialties, here is a look at a few career opportunities, including some with a juvenile focus.

When exploring available jobs after the military, a popular choice is protecting lives and property as a police officer.  Past military training will give future police officers an edge in making through the police academy. Adding a  background in crime, law, and society to your existing military experience can enable faster career advancement.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), in 2018, the median pay nationally for police officers was $61,380. California ranked highest in employment and highest pay with a median annual salary of $101,380. The growth outlook for police officers is 7% for 2016-2026, as fast as average for all occupations. Police officers are community focused, and opportunities to specifically work with youth can be found in a variety of places such as in schools.

A detective or criminal investigator generally has on-the-job police officer experience along with a bachelor’s degree. Detectives and investigators collect and analyze evidence and interview witnesses and suspects in the pursuit of preventing and solving crimes. According to the BLS, in 2018 the top three industries with the highest detective employment levels were local government, federal executive branch, and state government. The annual mean wage per those levels was $72,340; $108,770; and $66,700, respectively. For detectives and criminal investigators in general, California was the second-highest ranking state for total employment and third-highest in pay in this category, with an annual mean yearly salary of $107,120 and $81,920 nationally. Growth outlook for these roles is 5% for 2016-2026. If you want to specialize, you could focus on juvenile crimes or crimes against children, as either a detective or investigator.

Forensic science technicians and crime scene investigators collect and analyze evidence. The BLS OOH noted the 2018 median annual national pay for these positions was $58,230, and the national job growth for 2016-2026 is predicted to be 17%, faster than average for all occupations. In California, forensic science technicians had the highest employment level of all states in 2018, and an average annual wage of $85,280. A science background and a degree in criminal justice can enhance this career path.

You can also find detective work outside of a law enforcement agency. Private detectives and investigators (sometimes called PIs) are hired by individuals or organizations to find missing people, investigate cyber or computer crimes, and perform background and financial checks. It’s even possible to specialize in juvenile cases as a private investigator. Because PIs do a lot of interviewing, researching, and surveilling, they seldom have normal nine to five office hours.

Since PIs tend to be involved in criminal investigations, forensics skills and knowledge of courts and laws can make them more appealing to hiring agencies.  In general, private investigators need to be licensed by the state(s) they work in. According to the BLS OOH, in 2018, the annual median pay for these private sector roles was $50,090. The national job growth outlook projected for 2016-2026 is 11%, which is faster than the average for all occupations. California ranked number one for highest employment level and third in annual mean wage, at $67,970.

Youth and adult probation officers assist clients with readapting to living and working in a community after they are released from jail, prison, rehabilitation, or other institutions. These social service workers help their clients get the counseling, vocational, and recovery services they need, as well as by keeping the person accountable and in compliance with any conditions of their release. The BLS OOH expects employment for probation officers to grow about six percent from 2016-2026, about average for all occupations. In 2018, employment of California probation officers ranked highest nationally and also had the highest annual mean wage of $89,240.

Adult and youth counselors can work in correctional facilities, youth centers, and rehabilitation clinics. These professionals provide a variety of services for young offenders and their families. Depending on where specifically they work, they often serve as role models for their young clients, helping them to learn how to solve problems and make good decisions for their future. They can also work in crisis intervention and identify appropriate treatment options. Sometimes they can also act as a liaison between a young offender and a school, treatment center, or detention facility.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics OOH, counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists had a median national annual wage of $44, 460 and rehabilitation counselors saw $35,630. Job growth for 2016-2026 is projected at 16 percent, faster than the average for all occupations.

Other employment possibilities with a criminal justice degree include a postsecondary teacher,  paralegal, law clerk, or FBI agent. You could also go into private or corporate security, security management, or any type of fraud investigation.

As you can see, there’s quite a range of career opportunities to pursue with an online criminal justice degree or juvenile justice degree.

Studying Criminal Justice Online

National University recognizes how difficult it is to maintain balance your already-busy life, so it offers online degrees in both criminal justice and juvenile justice and appreciates. Online programs start every four weeks, and enrollment is always open. So no matter how busy your personal or professional life is, you can fit an education into your schedule and take the classes from the comfort of your home, from your office, or if you are actively deployed, from your military station.

As a Veteran-founded nonprofit and a strong proponent for military personnel, National University offers military tuition discounts and scholarships to men and women who are actively serving or are seeking Veteran opportunities.  Dependents of those serving or who have served may also be eligible for tuition discounts.

National University’ s online learning platform is easy to learn, and classes can be as interactive as on-campus courses. The system enables you to receive assignments, post your homework, have live interactions with the instructor and other students, and access additional learning materials. Class sizes are kept small so that you don’t get lost in the crowd.

As for what you’ll learn in a criminal justice administration degree program, required classes include criminology, the juvenile offender; criminal justice management and leadership; principles of investigation; courts and the judicial process; criminal law and procedure; corrections; and ethics and the criminal justice system. You will learn from instructors with plenty of expertise and real-world experience in the area of study.

The theory and practical coursework will give you the skills and knowledge you need to help deter and solve crimes in the private or public sector.

What Criminal Justice Programs Does National Offer?

National offers a few online degrees that involve the criminal justice system in some way, including a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration degree. If furthering your education to the graduate level is an ultimate goal, National also offers a transition program for students intending to complete a master’s program immediately after finishing their bachelor’s degree. The advantages of this transition option include reducing the total courses needed in the programs. (This is as long as certain requirements are met: a grade point average of 3.0 for the program and being within six courses of completing the BS.)

The Master of Criminal Justice builds upon the theory and practice gained in the bachelor in criminal justice program. This graduate degree prepares students for enhanced careers in law enforcement, such as in management, research, and administration of security positions at agencies, offices, and correctional institutions at local, state, and federal levels.

The Master of Public Administration addresses a growing need for high-level positions in local, state, and federal government management. The MPA coursework offers skills desired for public and nonprofit administration roles, such as budgeting, research, and financial management. The program will also enhance your critical thinking, research, and analytical skills.  To learn more about this program, check out these articles: What Is an MPA Degree? and What Can I Do With a Master’s in Public Administration?

The Master of Forensic Sciences is a good fit for those with a science background or criminal justice education and experience who are looking to advance their skills and break into this rapidly expanding area. In National’s MS in Forensic Sciences program, you can choose to focus on one of two specialties: criminalistics or investigations. You can decide which is best for your interests, whether it’s working in a laboratory analyzing crime scene evidence or being out in the field investigating and documenting crime scenes.

For even further insight about the opportunities for those with a degree in criminal justice, check out these articles:


Are You Ready to Start an Online Criminal Justice Degree?

If you are ready to make a positive impact in today’s world and to gain a comprehensive understanding of the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems, you can get started with an online degree at National University. Whether you already have a career in law enforcement, want to start one, or would like a career that works in tandem with law enforcement, the Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration program can help you get started in both criminal and juvenile justice.

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