Becoming a Police Officer: Fields of Study
If you have decided that you will need a four-or two-year degree before or during your pursuit of a police officer career, the next step would be to consider what you will study. Many colleges and universities across the country have Criminal Justice degree programs. However, you don't necessarily need to major in one of these programs.
There are many in the field who believe that a well-rounded college education, one that includes courses in accounting, psychology, foreign languages, and courses that will improve your communication and computer skills, makes for the best candidate. You can concentrate your study on any one of these areas and enhance the skills needed for your future career. The Berkeley, CA police department, for example, requires 60 college credits, and specifies that they be in Administration of Justice, Criminology, Police Science, Public Administration, Psychology, Sociology, and/or English.
Just the Facts
College students are expected at some point in their education, generally in the second or third year, to declare what is called a major. This can be defined simply as what you are specializing in and the subject matter you will study in your advanced courses.
All colleges require that a student take a certain number of what are called general education courses. These may be similar to subjects you took in high school such as English, math, government, and history. Others, the liberal arts and humanities, will introduce you to fields such as economics, psychology, anthropology, sociology, history, and possibly a foreign language. Within the past decade, a number of colleges have added courses on ethics and on cultural diversity to provide an introduction to living in a diverse society.
If you do decide to get a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice, you will probably need 33 credits in your major, which might look like this:
Criminal Justice 101 Introduction to Criminal Justice 3 credits Law 203 Constitutional Law 3 credits Sociology 203 Criminology 3 credits Corrections 201 The Law and Institutional Treatment 3 credits Law 206 The American Judiciary 3 credits Police Science 201 Police Organization and Administration 3 credits Statistics 250 Principles and Methods of Statistics 3 credits Literature 327 Crime and Punishment in Literature 3 credits Philosophy 321 Police Ethics 3 credits Police Science 245 Seminar in Community Policing 3 credits Police Science 401 Seminar in Police Problems 3 credits
For an associate (two-year) degree, majoring in Criminal Justice, you could take courses such as:
CRIJ 1310 Fundamentals of Criminal Law 3 credits CRIJ 1301 Introduction to Criminal Justice 3 credits CRIJ 1306 Courts and Criminal Procedure 3 credits CRIJ 1307 Crime in America 3 credits CJCR 1307 Correctional Systems and Practices 3 credits CJSA 2300 Legal Aspects of Law Enforcement 3 credits
For an associate (two-year) degree, majoring in Criminology, your core course work could include:
CRIM 150 Introduction to the Criminal Justice System 3 credits CRIM 200 Criminology 3 credits CRIM 201 Institutional and Commercial Security 3 credits CRIM 210 Introduction to Corrections 3 credits CRIM 220 Introduction to Law Enforcement 3 credits CRIM 280 The Law of Criminal Justice 3 credits CRIM 285 Introduction to Criminalistics 3 credits CRIM 298 Practicum in Criminal Justice 3 credits
For all degrees, you will probably be required to take the remainder of your credits in courses such as sociology, math, accounting, computers, writing/composition, psychology, government, and philosophy.