The criminal justice system is primarily responsible for ensuring social order in society through the deterrence and mitigation of crime. It is a dynamic field that offers a number of career opportunities for those individuals who have knowledge of the system. A criminal justice certificate is a program which enables candidates to pursue courses that would provide them with the basic principles of criminal justice. The certificate may also focus on a certain set of courses that pertain to a particular aspect of the criminal justice system, such as homeland security.

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Why a Certificate in Criminal Justice?

A criminal justice certificate is ideal for those individuals who are working professionals or who have time commitments in relation to their families. These candidates may not have the time or luxury to pursue a full associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree, and so a certificate is an ideal choice for them. Another advantage of getting a certificate in criminal justice is that it is a qualification that can be built upon in time. For instance, if in the future the individual wishes to pursue a more in depth qualification like a bachelor’s degree, their credits from the certificate may be transferred towards their new degree.

Furthermore, certain jobs in the field don’t expressly require applicants to have college education. What the certificate serves to do in those circumstances is give the applicant a potential advantage in the application process. For instance, most police departments don’t require new recruits to have anything above their high school diploma or GED. In cities where competition is fierce, an applicant with a certificate in criminal law may have an advantage over other applicants who do not have any such qualification.

Entry Requirements

Entry Requirements

Certificate programs are generally not very difficult to get admission into. They are offered at a number of colleges and universities and are also available online through distance learning. Online learning is a viable option for those candidates who cannot commit to class timings due to prior obligations.

In order to get admission into a criminal justice certificate program, the following requirements generally must be met:

  • High school diploma or GED
  • Completed application along with a personal statement

When applying to a school for this certificate program, it is very important to make sure that it is an accredited institution. This is especially important if you wish to continue your education at some point in the future and you need to transfer your credits. Research into the regulatory bodies is required to determine whether or not the school and the program are accredited.


A typical criminal justice certificate program has a duration of about one year which translates to fifteen to thirty credit hours of coursework. Students are put into classes with Bachelor’s or Master’s students because they will be taking some of the same classes. Therefore, candidates can expect to have coursework which is equally challenging and demanding.

The program will generally focus on the following courses and learning outcomes:

  • Criminology
  • The psychology of motivation
  • Forensic psychology
  • Victimology
  • The role of chemical abuse in violence and crime
  • Policing and corrections
  • Basics about the court system and procedures
  • Securitymanagement and administration.
  • Criminal Justice System
  • Corrections
  • Criminal Law
  • Administration of justice
  • Criminal investigation
  • Policies in policing
  • Crime prevention and control

There are general criminal justice certificate programs available, but you can also customize the certificate curriculum to focus on a specific area of expertise.

Some common areas of concentration that can be chosen are:

  • Law enforcement
  • Forensic science
  • Computer forensics
  • Juvenile justice
  • Terrorism
  • Homeland security training
  • Public safety
  • Administration, corporate and organizational security

Career Options

A certificate in criminal justice may open certain doors to entry level law enforcement positions. For most individuals, the certificate is usually the first step to completing higher education, increasing their career prospects, and qualifying themselves to be eligible for better pay.

Some of the jobs that certificate holders may seek out include:

Certificate holders have also gone on to secure jobs in:

  • The District attorneys’ offices
  • Public defenders’ offices
  • Juvenile group homes
  • Adult halfway houses
  • Public schools
  • Victim-witness project
  • Home detention/electronic monitoring experiments.

Depending on how qualified the individual is and how much work experience they have, they may also be employed in state and federal agencies, the court system, and in forensics and security organizations.

Job Outlook and Salary

The criminal justice system has a number of relatively stable jobs. This is due to the fact that public safety and social order are objectives of substantial importance and so there is always a demand for people within the criminal justice system.

The continued need for public safety will result in a need for more individuals with criminal justice backgrounds. Demand for employment does vary depending on location, and this has largely to do with local and state budgets. The amount of government spending will determine the level of employment for professionals within the criminal justice system. Job opportunities can vary according to the location and employer. Even if crime rates fall, there will always be continued demand for police and law enforcement services to maintain and improve public safety. It is important to note that job prospects and opportunities may increase for those people with more educational qualifications and work experience.

According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012 the following professionals made an annual median salary of:

A certificate in criminal justice can provide individuals with a solid foothold in the study of criminal justice. It is a program well suited for students inclined to further their qualifications and potentially pursue a bachelors or master’s degree later on down the road. Certificate programs generally last a year and are offered as general criminal justice certificates as well as with specific concentrations. A certificate in criminal justice may also help individuals get a number of entry level positions within the criminal justice system.