Courses to Take and Skills to Study in a Criminal Justice Degree Program

Students choose to pursue criminal justice degrees for a number of different reasons, from seeking an administrative role at a corrections facility to pursuing a position with Homeland Security. Regardless of your specific career path, a degree program can help you develop the skills and knowledge to help you contribute to the prosecution, rehabilitation, and management of individuals in various stages of the criminal justice system.

If you’ve chosen this path, you’re likely dedicated to making a difference in the lives of those impacted by crime at national and local community levels. As such, it's important to know what courses you can take and skills you can explore in a criminal justice degree program in order to best contribute to the aspect of the system in which you hope to work.

Below are some of the courses and skills that are important to focus on while completing your criminal justice degree at AIU.

Criminal Justice Core Courses at AIU

Before you advance to the more in-depth, upper-level courses dictated by the criminal justice specialization you choose, you'll be required to complete the following core classes in AIU’s Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program: 1

  • Foundations of Criminal Justice Systems
  • Theories of Crime Causation
  • Introduction to Criminal Law
  • Introduction to Law Enforcement
  • Introduction to American Court System
  • Foundations of Corrections

These courses can help provide students with a basic understanding of the criminal justice system, and they cover a wide range of essential introductory knowledge you can build upon later in your degree.

Once these courses have been completed, you'll have a selection of upper-level core classes to complete as well. These courses provide an advanced introduction to topics such as Crime Victim Studies (CRJS 310), Constitutional Issues in Criminal Procedures (CRJS 330), and Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Theory (CRJS 315), in addition to courses that cover more practice-oriented aspects of the investigation and criminal procedures.

Rounding out the curriculum will be your specialization-focused courses, which will delve more deeply into topics related to fields such as law enforcement, forensic science, corrections and case management, or homeland security and crisis management.

Important Criminal Justice Skills and Experience

In order to be prepared to enter the field after graduation, you should work on developing a diverse and well-rounded skill set while you pursue your degree. In addition to the knowledge base established by your core courses, the following are some important skills to develop while taking classes.

Strong Written Communication
Many criminal justice positions rely on generating reports or other legally binding documentation. Because so much of what you document may be used as evidence or in another official capacity (such as in legal investigations or court proceedings), it's important to have strong, professional written communication skills. Use your coursework to practice your writing skills, and consider opportunities for additional tutoring in this area if you need it.

Problem Solving and Attention to Detail
Given the role observation and critical thinking play in many criminal justice professions, the importance of developing and honing these skills can't be overstated. Many times courses focused on investigation processes and techniques provide ample opportunities to work on these skills, but it may be beneficial to dedicate special effort to them outside of class as well.

Soft Skills
Regardless of your specific profession, working in criminal justice requires frequent contact with both civilians and other professionals, sometimes in highly charged environments and situations.

Soft skills such as patience and calm under pressure, clear and concise oral communication, and the ability to command attention and respect can all be helpful across a range of jobs. From dealing with inmates as a corrections officer or case worker to interviewing witnesses or suspects in a crime, these types of skills are essential.

Keep in mind that you also have a network of instructors and advisors at your disposal—if you have more questions about what courses to take and skills to learn in the criminal justice field, don't hesitate to ask for advice.

Ready to learn more? Explore criminal justice degree programs at AIU.

1Specific courses are subject to change. Visit the AIU catalog at http://aiuniv.smartcatalogiq.com/en/current/Catalog at for the latest program curriculum.

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