To many people considering a career in public service, intelligence studies and criminal justice seem like equally good options. Although both degrees offer benefits, there are distinct differences. Criminal justice refers to the government institutions that deal with crime prevention and punishment. Intelligence studies focuses on the collection, analysis and distribution of intelligence that affects our national security. Both provide the public safety and protection, but they offer their own unique challenges.

What Is Intelligence Studies?

Intelligence studies examines specific methods used in intelligence analysis. The U.S. intelligence community uses intelligence analysis to decide whether information is credible and what action to take on that information. This intelligence may range from something as small as troop movements to something as large as terrorism threats.

Since 9/11, the importance of the intelligence and security field has grown significantly, especially in areas that seek to prevent and root out terrorism. The 19 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community all operate their own intelligence gathering missions and require highly-trained professionals who can make tough decisions in intelligence analysis.
Degree programs in intelligence studies focus on the job of intelligence analysts, how they collect intelligence and the overall structure of the U.S. intelligence communities. Courses may include:

  •   Strategic intelligence
  •   Intelligent operation
  •   Threat analysis
  •   International terrorism
  •   Homeland security

What Is Criminal Justice?

The criminal justice system includes all of the government institutions that uphold the law and punish those who break it. This includes police departments, the court system and even the correctional system. Local, state and federal agencies are included under the criminal justice umbrella, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and even groups like the Environmental Protection Agency.

The field of criminal justice continues to grow, with technology increasing both the capabilities of criminals and enhancing the work of those who prevent and detect crime. Criminal justice careers include police detectives, prison wardens and even private security officers. Criminal justice programs seek to give students an in-depth and strong understanding of the law and common issues criminal justice officials encounter. Course topics may include:

  •   Constitutional law
  •   Ethics in law enforcement
  •   Modern issues in law
  •   Court systems and structures
  •   Youth in the criminal justice system

Which Degree Is Right for You?

Intelligence studies and criminal justice degree programs each offer their own unique career paths, benefits and downsides. Those interested in criminal justice will have extensive daily interaction with law enforcement and legal professionals. Those who enter intelligence analysis will deal with foreign affairs and national security issues.
Intelligence studies career growth is strong, especially as threats to the United States continue to increase. With federal law mandating retirement from national security positions at age 57, the need for new intelligence and security professionals is steady. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management estimates that 15,000 and 17,000 jobs are available in this field annually.

The field of criminal justice careers is experiencing slower than average growth (5 percent annually), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How Can I Earn My Degree?

At Point Park University, we are developing the next generation of intelligence analysts and security professionals with our online programs. Whether you choose to pursue a master’s degree or brush up on your skills with a certificate, you will receive a high-quality education from experienced professors. Our fully online, flexible programs offer a supportive environment designed to help you succeed. Learn more about our fully online degree programs today.