Peirce College, the Philadelphia school that caters mainly to working adults, will offer a new degree in criminal justice - expected to be a growth area in an age of terrorist threats.

Peirce officials said the program would help graduates find jobs in corporate security as well as in government and traditional law enforcement. The program will offer associate's degrees for now, eventually expanding to bachelor's degrees.

What makes it different from some other programs, they said, is that students can customize their degree for a particular career, concentrating on policing, corrections, investigations, private security, or juvenile justice.

The school is considering offering a course on homeland security.

"As the U.S. population continues to increase, so does the need for more and more criminal-justice professionals," said Brandi Brice, an assistant professor of legal studies at Peirce.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the number of criminal-justice jobs will grow 11 percent by 2016. At the same time, more employers are setting higher minimum standards for applicants.

"We pick the degree programs that offer opportunity and growth," said Lisa Paris, assistant vice president for marketing and communications. "Working adults who will be paying for their education themselves, they look for a degree that will provide a credential that will earn them more money or earn them a promotion."

Peirce officials said some work completed by graduates of the Philadelphia Police Academy and Corrections Officer Training Academy may count as college credit.

Peirce is located near 15th and Pine Streets. It was founded soon after the end of the Civil War by Thomas May Peirce to provide business education to returning soldiers who sought work in the city's mercantile houses.

The 2,600-student college offers bachelor's and associate degree programs in business, health care, information technology, and paralegal studies.

Criminal-justice classes will begin in January.

It's a field "that is constantly evolving," Brice said. "There will always be the need to continue to develop innovative ideas and approaches."

Contact staff writer Jeff Gammage at 215-854-2415, jgammage@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @JeffGammage.