4 Primary Courses of a Criminal Justice Degree Program


A degree in criminal justice is one of the most rewarding, and flexible, degree programs any student can enroll in. Due to the various topics that are covered within this program, students are able to master a variety of skills and topics that are in-demand not only within the criminal justice system, but in the private sector as well. If you’re interested in enrolling in a criminal justice degree program, but wish to have more information regarding your core studies, then you should take a moment to review the following four primary courses and topics covered in all criminal justice degree programs.

Criminal Justice Degree Program Courses:

The Law and Legal System

This is perhaps the cornerstone of any criminal justice degree program. Throughout this course, you’ll be taught the processes, structures and history of the American legal system. This program is designed to introduce students about law who otherwise have little knowledge of this dynamic and complex subject. While this is the general course, it’s an essential building block before pursuing more specialty topics, such as constitutional law, business law or criminal law. Topics covered within this course include the structure the American court system, primary subdivisions of law, which include criminal procedure, law or torts and civil procedure.

Substantive Criminal Law

This essential course covers all topics related to substantive criminal law. While the exact topics covered within this coursework can vary based upon the training institutions, the most common topics include discovering the origins of criminal law, elements of criminal liability, substantive due process, a process of uncompleted crimes, criminal liability defenses and the doctrine of complicity. Other subject areas may include the various elements of crimes against property, public order, morals, habitation and persons.

Law of Criminal Procedure

The law of criminal procedure is a vital subject matter for all criminal justice degree students. Within this subject matter, students will learn about the various laws that determine due process that’s involved in criminal defendants. The foundation of this course is case analyses and case interpretations. Students will learn the relationship between criminal procedures, court system and how the U.S. Constitution plays a role in these processes. Other topics include the use of interrogations and its subsequent confessions, identification processes, state law breaking, conviction by trial, the convictions by guilty plea and considerations related to sentencing.


Criminal justice ethics are one of the most important subject matters as the topics covered within this coursework are applicable to industries outside of the criminal justice system. Throughout the coursework, students learn how to address various ethical issues that may arise when working within the criminal justice system. Throughout a combination of lectures, discussions and hands-on exercises, students are able to cultivate a better understanding in how ethical dilemmas play a role within the criminal justice system.