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Can a Felon Get a Degree in Criminal Justice?

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Felons typically find that most things are challenging when they return to society, especially finding a job. Much of society seems to turn its back on felons, and opportunities are difficult to come by.

Often, felons must consider different options, including returning to school for additional education. While serving their sentence and paying for their crime, some felons might consider a career making a difference for those who are also in trouble with the law. They could explore a career in criminal justice.

This blog post will address whether or not a felon can get a degree in criminal justice.

  • What is Criminal Justice?
  • Getting a Criminal Justice Degree
  • How Much Can Someone with a Criminal Justice Degree Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action


What is Criminal Justice?

Criminal justice is the system dealing with criminals and how they are discovered, detained, tried, and punished. Those who study criminal justice learn about the different components of the system. Criminology, a similar field, is the study of crime and its causes, costs, and consequences.

Three main aspects make up the criminal justice system: law enforcement, courts, and corrections.

Law Enforcement: Police officers are typically the first contact a criminal has with the criminal justice system. Police help prevent and investigate crime, and arrest people suspected of committing a crime.

Court System: The court system consists of attorneys and judges. A suspect’s guilt or innocence is determined in court.

Correctional System: The correctional system involves all forms of sentencing and punishment and includes incarceration and probation. A convicted criminal is the responsibility of the corrections system until his or her full sentence is served or commuted.

Getting a Criminal Justice Degree

The most basic degree in the criminal justice field is a criminal justice certificate. Students are typically awarded a certificate with the completion of a specialized training program. Certificates can be used in a criminal justice career, such as crime scene photography, police and sheriff’s patrol officers, correctional officers and bailiffs, law enforcement, and security services. Many law enforcement careers only require the applicant to have a high school diploma.

A criminal justice associate’s degree typically focuses on law enforcement, court systems, corrections, and crime control. Those with an associate degree pursue opportunities such as: police officer, border patrol agent, transit and railroad police, paralegal, immigration and customs inspector, bailiff, and correctional officer.

The criminal justice bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for many criminal justice professions. In addition to law enforcement, a bachelor’s degree also permits work as fraud investigators, private detectives, DEA agents, supervisors of correctional officers, probation officers, criminologists, immigration services officers, homeland security agents, fish and game wardens, and FBI agents. Most government and federal agencies, require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.

A master’s degree in criminal justice allows graduates to work in administration and leadership positions. Possible career opportunities for a master’s degree include criminal investigators, social workers, substance abuse counselors, and criminal justice and law enforcement instructors.

How Much Can Someone with a Criminal Justice Degree Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salaries that typically requires a criminal justice certificate or an associate’s degree are between $31,170 and $60,270. The median salaries of those careers in the criminal justice field that require a bachelor’s degree are between $18,343 and $77,200 while those that require a master’s degree are between $45,900 and $77,210.

An Opportunity for Felons?

A felon can pursue any degree he or she wants. Although 60% of colleges consider criminal history in their admissions process, there is no standard policy regarding a background check. Any felon that wants to get a degree can find a college that will accept him or her. The challenge is in obtaining a job after graduating.

It is important to be honest in filling out an application for a job. If a felony isn’t disclosed but is found on a background check, this constitutes fraud and is punishable since falsifying an application is a crime which could result in being sent back to prison.

In order to be successful in obtaining a degree in criminal justice, it is essential for felons to be honest about their background. They are already viewed with negative perceptions of being dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures.

Having their record expunged can give them the chance needed to begin with a clean record and succeed in getting a degree in criminal justice and beginning a new career. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

Recommended Action

It is challenging, but it might be worth it for a felon wanting to get a degree in criminal justice. Giving him or herself the best chance for success by having his or her record expunged and being persistent in pursuing a degree could make a critical difference.

Having support from family or friends could make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. We are not defined by our mistakes but by how we recover from them. He or she can begin again and live an honest life no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post? Are you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to get a degree in criminal justice with a felony? What was that like for them, and how did they achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

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