Will a Criminal Justice Degree Help Me Become a Police Officer?


criminal justice police officers

Now more than ever, America needs police officers who are well-trained, committed, and eager to serve. Have you always dreamed of working in law enforcement? There are several routes you can take to become a police officer, but going to college for a Criminal Justice degree is where you’ll want to start. A CJ degree will provide you with a solid foundation of knowledge and help get your foot in the door of a police academy.

Attain Important Knowledge with a Criminal Justice Degree

Whether you obtain a Bachelor’s or an Associate degree in Criminal Justice, the knowledge you acquire during your program will help you understand the big picture of the criminal justice system. It will also teach you the role police officers play and how you could make a difference. Other ways a Criminal Justice degree can help get you closer to your dream of becoming a police officer include:

  • Get the edge you need over academy candidates who do not have a degree.
  • Become eligible for federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration that require a college degree.
  • Learn about a wide range of possible law enforcement career paths such as:
    • Community policing
    • Prison security
    • Courtroom security
    • Probation and parole
    • State trooper
    • Detective
  • Learn about the study of criminology, forensics, homeland security, private security, and juvenile justice, and more.
  • Advance your opportunity for promotion. Even if you’re already on the job, you may have to complete additional college credits to be considered for promotion into higher positions.
  • Learn investigative skills, problem-solving skills, and organizational tools that allow large amounts of information to be collected, evaluated, and processed.
  • Develop better speaking and writing skills, as well as all-important computer skills.
  • Take classes in a foreign language, as many cities are looking for officers who speak Spanish or other languages.

How to Choose the Best Criminal Justice Program

Many colleges and universities offer Criminal Justice degrees, but how do you choose one that will provide you what you need in a format that fits your lifestyle and your timeline? When researching the schools that will make it onto your shortlist, keep the following questions in mind:

  • Is the school regionally accredited?
    • Most institutions of higher education can boast accreditation. However, the credits from schools with regional accreditation are often viewed as the highest possible level of accreditation. Credits from these institutions are widely honored and more readily transferrable to other institutions.
  • Are classes offered online so they will be convenient to your current work/life schedule?
    • Especially given the recent city lockdowns, choosing a school that does online education—and does it well—can be critical to completing your degree in a timely manner.
  • Will the school accept credits from a previous college you attended as well as credits for military service, work experience, certifications you received, or national exams that you passed? These might include the College Level Examination Program (CLEP), DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST), Joint Service Transcripts (JST),or Community College of the Air Force (CCAF).
  • Does the timeline to finish the degree fit with your future goals?
    • Although there is no short-cut to a quality education, you can shorten the time it takes to earn your degree. Many schools will allow you to transfer college credits and test out of certain courses. But what about life experience, military service, and professional achievements? At NAU, we strive to give you the maximum amount of credit possible before you transfer into your program. You could earn up to 75% of your degree through transfer credits, allowing you to start ahead and finish sooner.


At National American University, we offer both an Associate and Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice that will help prepare you to enter a police academy for a career as a police officer. We also have more than 20 years’ experience delivering in an online content format. Do you already have some experience or a certificate in a Criminal Justice field? You may be able to transfer those credits to your degree program so you can start ahead. Call 800-209-0182 to speak to a counselor or fill out the form to request more information.


Online programs for maximum flexibility
NAU students receiving transfer or experiential learning credit
Relevant degree and certificate programs
Years of online educational excellence