A Brief Look at Related Fields and Online Degrees

Criminal justice is a massive sector that encompasses many fields, roles, and specializations. Each person is an important part of the system, no matter what their position is. Moreover, there are even several types of positions within each field, including managerial, administrative, or enforcement.

Our guide provides many details on the various fields of criminal justice and answers other question you may have:

Entering the criminal justice landscape is unique from other fields in that several positions are obtainable by majoring in criminal justice without a concentration. Compare this to industries like nursing or science, where a student may spend years studying a specific field. Specializations do exist and are likely preferable within that line of work, but obtaining your degree is the higher priority.

There are dozens of fields you can enter when pursuing a career in criminal justice. Our guide highlights only the most popular according to employment data, but several other rewarding careers can be found as well. Each guide provides information on possible careers, duties, and available degrees in each field.

The chart created by the Bureau of Justice Statistics below illustrates the general flow of the criminal justice system. As you can see, each field plays an important role through the process and can even be involved in multiple stages.

Flow of the criminal justice system. Click for a larger image.


The corrections field covers several aspect and positions found within the penal system. This includes several careers devoted to policing, maintaining, and managing correctional institutions as well as researching theories and practices applied to corrections.

Criminal Investigations

While many people rush to connect forensic science and crime scene investigation with criminal investigation, its application extends far beyond that. Criminal investigations often include working with individuals, families, and communities to assess criminal intent, psychology, and motivation.

General Criminal Justice Studies

General criminal justice studies explore the many facets of the legislative, judicial, and correctional systems, from law creation to law enforcement. Positions in the field include roles in management, administration, litigation, and even legislation.

Law Enforcement

The field of law enforcement does include several positions within the investigative and correctional branches of government. However, the term most commonly references careers as police, surveillance, and security as well as other positions that work to discover and deter criminal activity.

Paralegal Studies

Paralegal studies includes careers such as paralegals, legal assistants, and legal writers who typically assist lawyers, judges, and other individuals involved in litigation – in both criminal and civil courts.

Security/Loss Prevention

Security and loss prevention are two related fields that work to mitigate risk and prevent the loss or compromise of property, money, or information. Long-standing positions in retail and surveillance persist, but cybersecurity and information security are rapidly growing fields.

Degrees in Criminal Justice

Criminal justice degrees are very versatile and can open new career opportunities in a variety of related fields. It is important to note that curriculum can vary greatly from school to school. It is essential, therefore, to find out as much as possible about each program before applying. Considerations when choosing a degree include:

  • Degree program length and options (online or campus)
  • Subject focus of the program such as forensics, criminal justice, homeland security, etc.
  • Job opportunities and career outlook after graduation

For your convenience, accredited schools offering criminal justice degres are listed below:

Liberty University
Liberty University

  • SACS
Ashford University
Ashford University

  • WASC
Purdue University
Purdue University

  • HLC
  • NCA
South University
South University

  • SACS

Click to see more colleges offering Criminal Justice degrees

Distance Learning Programs in Criminal Justice

Distance learning is a method of delivering education to students outside the classroom. Online education is typically the most common form of delivery, allowing students to attend class anywhere there is a computer with an internet connection.

Faster connection speeds and a better understanding of using software to teach has greatly expanded interest and use of online education. Many schools allow students to complete some classes online while other schools offer completely online degree programs. Within the scope of criminal justice, online degrees can be found at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate levels and encompass several specializations, including forensic science, administration, and homeland security.

While some students harbor a stigma about online education, these programs are backed by the same accreditation as the university’s campus-based programs and often follow the same curriculum. Despite the common perception, online classes require rigorous study, strong self-motivation, and copious amounts of time dedicated to completing assignments and lectures.