New criminal justice degree programs offer courses developed by industry experts

Starting in spring 2024, KU’s School of Professional Studies will offer a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in criminal justice. These new degree programs were created in response to a growing demand for criminal justice professionals.

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To address an increasing demand for professionals in law enforcement, court administration, policy analysis, law, security, and intelligence, the KU Edwards Campus is offering two new undergraduate criminal justice degree programs in 2024. The program includes a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in criminal justice, which emphasizes humanities courses, and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in criminal justice, which focuses more on lab work. 

The criminal justice program will be offered fully online through the KU Edwards Campus School of Professional Studies. In-person classes will also be available at both the Edwards and Lawrence campuses. Although KU’s criminal justice program was initially designed to be a degree completion program for students who already work in the industry or have a 2-year degree, traditional freshman and sophomore students on the Lawrence campus will also be able to declare criminal justice as their major. 

The criminal justice core curriculum features courses such as policing, corrections, and courts and sentencing. Two concentration options are available for students interested in specializing their degree. The law enforcement leadership concentration will be particularly beneficial for current law enforcement officers seeking advancement in their careers. The law and society concentration explores how the law works in practice in fields such as public administration, courts, nonprofits, policy, policing, and the justice system. 

“If the student is interested in courts or moving into law, there is a concentration for that,” says Susan Whitford, program director for KUEC’s criminal justice program. “If they are currently employed in law enforcement and are working toward a promotion, we have a concentration in law enforcement leadership. We hope to add several more concentrations as well.” 

The courses in the criminal justice program are developed by instructors who are experienced practitioners in the field. All instructors have minimum of five years of experience and a graduate degree in their subject area, helping enrich the curriculum to be more applicable to students’ careers. Students can also benefit from leveraging their instructors’ professional networks.

“Students in this program are not just getting a traditional higher education,” Whitford says. “They get the added benefit of learning from practitioners from the field and having those professors helping guide them into employment in the field.”

The criminal justice program requires students to complete a capstone project in their specific area of interest, such as mental health, victim advocacy, corrections, or re-entry. Students may also work at least one semester of an internship with an agency or entity in this area. Both the internship and capstone project offer students valuable experience and relevant skills that increase employment potential and workforce readiness.

Field trips, special events, and speaker series will take place throughout the semester to provide additional opportunities to get involved in the field outside of classes. As a way to integrate into the professional community, students will be able to join regional and national associations as well as a criminal justice club on campus.

Applications are open now, with classes for the bachelor’s in criminal justice beginning in January.

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