Criminal justice student learning crime scene investigation from state police

Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice

Hands-on training. Real-world experiences. Relationships with industry professionals. You’ll get it all with a criminal justice degree from Southwestern Michigan College.
Whether you want to go into law enforcement, investigation, forensics, or use your degree as a stepping stone to law school, the criminal justice degree will prep you with the subject-matter expertise and practical training you need to pursue your goals with confidence.

  • About the Degree

    Hands-on experience is a center point of the program, providing a means to solidify the knowledge gained in the classroom.
    In the criminal justice program, your classes will combine thorough instruction, in-class exercises, interactions with CJ professionals, and real-world experiences to provide a strong introduction to the criminal justice field.
    You’ll learn about the U.S. legal system, criminal law and justice, and law enforcement. You’ll develop an understanding of the criminal psyche, exploring psychology and human behavior, environmental influences, the role of substance abuse, disorders, and treatments. You’ll examine the dynamics involved in conflict management specific to corrections and research issues facing the legal system. All your courses will be taught by experienced, advanced legal professionals and may include presentations by local law enforcement in SWAT, K9 drills, and other training scenarios. You’ll graduate with a strong understanding of criminal justice principles and the ability to communicate effectively in the field.
    As a CJ student, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in the criminal justice honor society, the criminal justice club, and our winning SkillsUSA team.
    The criminal justice degree is a two-year degree designed for either immediate employment or to transfer to complete a bachelor’s degree at Ferris State University.  It can also be adjusted for transfer to other four-year institutions for a bachelor's degree in forensics, law, criminal justice, and related areas. The CJ degree is offered on the Dowagiac campus, and the corrections, probation, and parole track is offered in an evening program format on the Niles campus.

  • What You’ll Learn/Courses and Curriculum

    View the full curriculum guide for the Associate in Applied Science in Criminal Justice.

  • What Can I Do With a Criminal Justice Degree?

    With the associate degree, you will be equipped for positions in law enforcement, courts, corrections, dispatch, security, and related fields. With an advanced degree, you may qualify for advanced positions in law enforcement or for work in forensics, investigation, or law.

    Careers and Salaries
    Career Option Salary
    Police and Detectives: $74,910
    Correctional Officers: $53,290
    Lawyers: $145,760
    Private Detectives and Investigators: $49,540
    Probation Officers: $61,800
    Forensic Science Technicians: $64,940

    2023 median pay. Source: The Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Bachelor’s Degree Option

Earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice on our Dowagiac campus through our partnership with Ferris State University. SMC CJ programs are designed to transfer into Ferris programs, saving you time and money.

Learn more about Ferris at SMC programs here.

Entrance of SMC with Students who are taking Ferris State University classes

Evening Options

The Corrections, Probation, and Parole track is available in an evening program format, so that you can balance your family and work while earning your degree.

Ask an advisor for details.

Smiling police officers standing near police station

Clubs and Honors Societies

CJ Club

Join the CJ Club to be introduced to professionals employed in the criminal justice system, from local, state and federal law enforcement, the prosecutor’s office, adult and juvenile corrections and others.

Sigma Mu Chi

Sigma Mu Chi is SMC’s chapter of Lambda Alpha Epsilon, the international honor society of the American Criminal Justice Association. It seeks to promote relationships among graduates of police schools, research projects in the field and a better public understanding of police organizations among other goals. 

Campus Photos June 2019 65


The Foster W. Daugherty Building is home to all communications, social science, and humanities classes at SMC.