Private & Public Investigations Degree

Investigation specialists conduct investigative work for various organizations, which may include federal law enforcement agencies, police agencies, law firms or private corporations. Although police agencies typically promote police officers with experience into these positions, those who complete a degree in investigation related fields can enhance their ability to find a good position and gain desired promotions.

The type of degree program you enroll in should be related to the field you're interested in working in. For example, those interested in investigating financial crimes should have an accounting or finance background. Individuals interested in working for a law firm should have a legal background. Investigators are usually required to be licensed in their respective states.

Associate Degree in Criminal Investigations
The associate degree in criminal investigation is not a common degree, but it is a useful degree for those seeking an introduction to criminal investigations in preparation for entry into a police academy, entry-level law enforcement jobs, or to pursue a bachelor's degree. A few of the more common topics addressed in this degree program include crime scene analysis and interviewing tactics. This is a two year degree program that may be awarded as an Associate of Art (A.A.) or Associate of Science (A.S.) designation. The only prerequisted for this program is a high school diploma or GED. The associate degree in criminal investigation is typically offered through a community college. Criminal investigations may be offered as a concentration within a criminal justice degree (i.e. Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice/Investigations).

Concentrations within this degree will vary from school to school. Common areas of focus include law enforcement, corrections and cybercrime investigations. Courses also vary from school to school. Some of the more common courses offered in this degree include:

  • Fundamentals of criminal investigation
  • Evidence and procedures
  • Crime scene analysis
  • Corrections
  • Juvenile justice
  • Forensics
  • Police practices
  • Courts

While many investigative jobs require a bachelor's or master's degree, an associate's degree in criminal investigations may prepare students for positions such as crime scene investigator, private detective, police detective and gaming surveillance officer.

Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Investigations
The Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor Art (BA) in Criminal Investigation introduces students to both the theoretical and practical background in all aspects of criminal investigation and criminology, including the U.S. court system, evidence collection and processing, crime control, law and police regulations. Students will also explore crime scene processing and analysis, forensic analysis, corrections and law enforcement.

While earning a bachelor's degree in criminal investigation is advantageous, most schools don't offer this specific degree. More than likely they'll offer a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Criminal Justice with a concentration in investigations. A B.S. in Criminal Justice with an emphasis in investigations is also adequate preparation for a career in criminal investigations.

However, it's important to remember that most criminal investigators start out as police officers. The minimum requirement for entering a police academy is a high school diploma and/or two years of college (which may be obtained through an associate degree). Notwithstanding, earning a bachelor's degree (or even a master's degree) will open up doors to a lot career advancement opportunities and promotions not available with only an associate's degree.

A bachelor's degree in criminal investigations or criminal justice takes four years to complete. It requires the completion of general, core and elective courses. The general education component is composed of math, science, communications, English and often a foreign language courses. Upon completion of all general education requirements, students will complete core courses in criminology, law, ethics, corrections, police and safety, and criminal procedure, among others. Elective courses provide students the opportunity to pursue a focused path of study in criminal investigations or another area of professional interest.

Earning a bachelor's degree is great preparation for a career in criminal investigations, for a master's degree, or for various other career opportunities in criminal justice and law enforcement.

Master's Degree in Criminal Investigations
Earning a master's degree in criminal investigations, or a closely related discipline, will prepare students for a successful career in criminal investigations and various other positions within the fields of law enforcement and criminal justice. This two-year degree program is ideal for students who want to excel in their chosen field of expertise, as well as for those seeking management and supervisory positions.

Earning a master's degree is also great preparation for investigative careers in the private sector. Private security firms and consulting agencies are always seeking experienced criminal justice professionals with advanced training and knowledge.

Below you can explore degree and certificate programs that will help prepare you for a career in investigations.

Public & Private Investigation Degree Programs

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