Criminal Justice Administration vs. Criminal Justice

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by sideman, Mar 26, 2013.

  1. sideman

    sideman Active Member

    I wanted to get some feedback on these two degrees. Some schools offer CJA and most CJ. The main difference I can see is that the CJA degree offers more courses in leadership, management and organization. I'm presuming this would be of help to a person already in the CJ field. But what about those looking to enter the field? And by doing the CJA degree would it have more utility than the CJ degree?
  2. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    Utility as in the knowledge that can be applied on the job? An entry-level employee would probably forget everything they learned in a CJA program by the time they move into a leadership position. By the time someone is in a leadership position in a law enforcement agency, I think an MPA or MBA would be better. The undergraduate CJA programs I've seen look pretty weak when it comes to teaching how to manage large organizations, but I haven't really looked at too many.

    As someone who works for a law enforcement agency, I can tell you that it is of the utmost importance that the chief/sheriff and leaders of the other divisions know how to manage budgeting and personnel issues. Sheriff is usually an elected position and I would take someone with administrative experience over someone with just law enforcement experience. Our last sheriff was horrible, he cost our county a lot of money, and morale was low among the detention officers due to the forced overtime caused by his mismanagement of personnel. Our new sheriff has no LEO experience, but she is already proving to be better than our last one. It's kind of hard to be worse.

    Utility as in getting an entry-level job? Human resources and hiring managers probably won't even try to figure out the difference between the two. They'll see similar names; and, if it checks the box, it checks the box.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2013
  3. NorCal

    NorCal Active Member

    I completely agree and my experience is very similar. When I was a young cop I toyed with the idea of going back to college. The conversation occurred during a joint county wide training exercise with two Police Chiefs present who overheard my remark. Both told me that a CJ/CJA degree of any kind lacked utility because just about everything you need to learn can be acquired through the police academy, field training, and just through experience OTJ.

    Both of them told me a degree in business is much more advantageous to ones career, considering any degree with give you preference points during initial hire, but as you promote they look for other skills found in business and less in CJ for the same reasons that sanantone explained. Plus with a business degree you always have something to fall back on if you have to get out of LE due to injury, and a degree in CJ will make you, and I quoted one of the police chiefs, "The highest trained security guard at the mall."
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 28, 2013
  4. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    I agree with you and the advice you've been given. This is the same advice I've been given. I've already argued with Sideman about this before on another forum, so I didn't even bother with mentioning the general utility of a CJ degree. But if he really wants to study CJ, he should at least make sure the school is RA if he's going to live in Texas. TCLEOSE does not recognize NA degrees and some police departments won't accept NA associates to fulfill their 60-credit hour requirement.
  5. ebbwvale

    ebbwvale Member

    I have had some considerable experience in law enforcement in a similar country to the US. Some time in senior management. I also had a fair bit of interaction with US federal law enforcement. My view is this:
    1. The Police Academy will provide you with the entry level skills that you need to start on the street;
    2. The complete package ends when you have acquired street competency by the mentoring of a competent street police officer;
    3. The value of education is wha is useful for you if you have to leave law enforcement. It is a risky business and I don't mean just physical risks either. Police departments are full of politics, budget cuts, and litigation. Most stress on street police comes from the administration in the larger police departments anyway (there is research to back me up on this);
    4. When you hit the higher levels of policing you will be dealing with other public officials and mainly trying to negotiate the best outcomes for your agency. You may need good business training so you speak the same language. I note that you have a JD. This is a great start. Budgets dominate conversations so accountancy is a good skill to have. There is almost a sliding scale i.e. the higher you go the less contact with crime and the more with finances and civil/administrative law.
    Having said this, many police do not go high and build skill at the operational level but you won't know what area you want to specialize in until you have some experience. A CJ degree may be good for this.

    My advice is concentrate on what you need for entry. Concentrate on learning your tradecraft after entry, then decide if you want management or street work. A CJ degree may be useful for advanced tradecraft but a business qualification works better in management. Always remember that you may not in policing forever and the choice to leave may not be yours, but staying may not be in the best interests of you or your family. Things happen out there and politics is everywhere.
  6. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    Ah yes, your experience in law enforcement is abundantly clear. Only an insider has the kind of knowledge that you just wrote about. Outsiders will never truly understand the accuracy of your statement.
  7. sideman

    sideman Active Member

    Thanks to everyone who responded.
  8. truckie270

    truckie270 New Member


    I work in the fire service where the debate is similar. I frequently have the same discussion with those in my dept. with those who are intent on pursuing a fire service administration (FSA) degree over any other degree such as management/business/public. admin. I always end the discussion asking how the FSA degree would help put food on the table if he/she were to fall off of a roof tonight and not be able to work in the fire service tomorrow - no one ever seems to have a good answer to that one.
  9. ebbwvale

    ebbwvale Member

    Yes i totally agree. We had a saying here that nobody was more ex than an ex police officer. You may have a lot of skills but the public see you in a one dimensional framework. I often get told," You were a police officer, you would think this." I would then reply, " You were a pharmacist (or whatever they may be) you must think that." They often get shocked that I would think that they were a stereotype!

    I guess police, like firemen, get passionate about their careers. Nothing wrong with that, but it is cautionary to remember that one day you will be signing the visitor's book to your old stationhouse where you once entered as a right. You need to separate yourself from your job. Policing makes that very hard to do and police administrations make it even harder (everybody wants passionate and committed workers). I think your point about the food on the table is excellent. I always said when they take the uniform off you, who will care more about you, the service or your family? Act in the best interests of those that care the most.

    Recently, my old service threw all the management jobs open and the incumbents have to apply for their own jobs back (great loyalty). A lot won't get them and these will be the guys that have sweated for the service but don't have the resumes or politics that now suit. Most will have no job to go to, significant numbers have been divorced, have no money and are looking down the barrel of the minimum wage in their middle age. I don't think I would be doing a CJ or a CJA degree myself.

    I did an MPA and I am now doing a Masters in Counseling (I want to get away from management). Human services options, such as counseling, may be useful as police often do more of that unofficially than many would have you believe. These options build on an existing skills base. You are also moving towards a new profession(you are dealing with the same people from a different angle). It may also help you inside policing. Just a thought.
  10. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    The following two opinions have been previously written by others at this website:

    1. A graduate degree is good for someone who is already successful in their career.

    2. If you ever want to teach at the college or university level, then get a graduate degree in the discipline that you want to teach.
  11. NorCal

    NorCal Active Member

    I will second or third (truthfully I lost count) the sediment that there are a ton of politics in law enforcement; so being extremely diplomatic can come in handy, which can be difficult when handling your own kind. :slap:

    As you progress through your career you'll find yourself involved in extracurricular activities such as union negotiations, disputes involving city hall/ county board, and even the district attorney's office. These are just some of the situations you will face throughout your career where a degree in CJ/CJA just won't do you any good IMO.

    I'm trying to not sound too hypercritical of CJ degrees, because they do have their place in the world. But if you aim is to just get hired, and any degree will give you preference points, try to expand your view and refrain from being so shortsighted when it comes to your intended career path.
  12. sideman

    sideman Active Member

    I see. So strictly from a LE standpoint it's best not to get a CJ degree. However, I can see value in the degree if you enter private security or work in the CJ system other than a LE officer. Incidentally these would be more of my goals vs. pursing work as a LE officer.
  13. BlueMason

    BlueMason Audaces fortuna juvat

    I would agree with that... I taught at a Police Academy and very few had CJ degrees; those that did had done so to better their chances of getting in (which played no relevance whatsoever)...and as was said, within LE, there is no advantage to having a CJ degree. If promotion is important and you want to stand apart from other applicants, have a relevant degree. More specifically, something in management. As you go up the ranks, you manage people and resources and do less .. police work.
  14. SivilSavage

    SivilSavage New Member

    Unless you want to join the U.S. Marshal Service, then you are required to have at least a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice or a related field. I believe the same goes for Secret Service.
  15. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    A degree in business administration might help you move up to management at a security company, but you usually have to start at the bottom unless you already have law enforcement, military, or middle to upper management experience. Those two degrees would also be helpful for fraud investigations. For corporate security, criminal justice probably has the edge. However, it is nearly impossible to compete with someone with law enforcement experience and a degree.

    The only other area where CJ might have an advantage is in corrections as you move up the ladder. Also, Texas will light you apply to become a private investigator without experience if you have a bachelor's in CJ. For social service jobs in the criminal justice system, you will be competing with the other social science and human services majors.

    There are a few government agencies that have a preference for criminal justice or related degrees. Related degrees include sociology according to the U.S. Marshal Service. However, the U.S. Marshal Service's wording is weird. What is an area of study that's related to a field in law enforcement if it's not criminal justice or a similar degree? Are they talking about law enforcement specializations such as white collar crime, transnational crime, homeland security, drug enforcement, cybersecurity, forensics, etc? Or, are they talking about law enforcement and police science degrees?
    U.S. Marshals Service, Qualifications

    It doesn't look like the Secret Service has a preference for any major.
    United States Secret Service: Employment Opportunities - Special Agent

    The DEA gives preference to CJ majors along with several other unrelated majors.

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