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Criminal Justice Associate, Bachelor & Masters Degree Programs

The educational path you pursue will depend entirely on the criminal justice career you choose and the training requirements for law enforcement in your state. The prerequisites for joining some state sponsored law enforcement training programs include a high school diploma (or equivalent) and passing a rigorous physical exam. However, earning a college degree in criminal justice or a related field will provide you an edge up on the competition and position you for more career advancement opportunities.

Many state an local law enforcement agencies require, at minimum, that candidates have an associate's degree. However, earning a 4-year bachelor's degree, or even a master's degree, is preferrable for those who want advance in their careers and move into supervisory, management and administration positions down the road.

Federal law enforcement agencies typically require their law enforcement officers to obtain a minimum of a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a relevant field. Many specialized federal law enforcement agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), prefer candidates with a master's degree and/or at least three years of relevant law enforcement experience.

Simply put, the higher the level of education you're able to obtain the better off you'll be when pursuing career interests in the field of criminal justice.