Whether you’re a student exploring potential career paths or looking to change your professional life, a criminal justice degree offers many opportunities.
A criminal justice degree is an academic program that focuses on the study of the criminal justice system and its various components, including law enforcement, the court system, and corrections. With this degree, you open up a world of opportunities to work in roles that help keep communities safe and bring justice to those who have been wronged.
This blog will delve into the different career paths available with a criminal justice degree and why this field is a smart choice for those seeking a challenging and fulfilling career.
Criminal justice majors have many opportunities and jobs, like becoming intelligence analysts, paralegals, etc. So, whether you’re interested in working as a police officer, detective, probation officer, or in a specialized role like forensic science or cybercrime, this blog will provide valuable insights and information to help you make an informed decision.
Career Paths and Job Roles after Criminal Justice Degrees
Criminal Justice is a broad field that encompasses various career paths and job roles, ranging from law enforcement and corrections to private security and legal support. The specific job role and career path will depend on the individual’s interests, skills, and experience.
Police officers are law enforcement professionals who patrol and maintain public safety in a community. They respond to a complaint or emergency call and provide the required testimonies and evidence for court proceedings.
Once you have entered the local police force, the next step is to move up to the rank of detective. Detectives gather evidence that they need to solve crimes. They are also responsible for interviewing witnesses and persons of interest, making arrests, and keeping an eye on persons of interest in various open cases.
While a detective is responsible for local and state-level crimes, an FBI agent is a federal law enforcement agent who works for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to enforce federal law and investigate national security violations.
Offenses under the Federal Bureau of Investigation are usually financial crimes, cybercrimes, human trafficking, organized crime, insurance fraud, and much more.
Education and Training Required for Law Enforcement officers
Requirements vary by agency, but most law enforcement agencies require a high school diploma or equivalent and completion of police academy training. Some agencies may also require or prefer a college education.
Physical and mental qualifications
Candidates must meet physical fitness standards, pass medical and psychological evaluations, and undergo a background check.
To qualify for a role in law enforcement, the candidate needs to be a US citizen, have a valid driver’s license, and be at least 18 years of age.
The hiring process typically involves an initial application, written and physical ability tests, oral interviews, and an extensive background investigation. Some agencies may also require polygraphs and drug tests.
The process can take several months to complete and may include training and certification in firearms, self-defense, and other skills.
Salary and Job Outlook for Law Enforcement Careers
The average salaries for roles in law enforcement agencies depend on the individual’s position and qualifications. While the median pay for police officers is around $66,020, that of detectives and criminal investigators is $83,170. Those working in federal government agencies can earn up to $93,970.
Job growth and demand
The estimated growth rate for employment as law enforcement officers is 3% from 2021 to 2031. Although the number of job openings per year somewhat makes up for the slower growth rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates an average of around 68,500 new job openings for police officers and detectives each year for the next 10 years.
The role of a Corrections Department is to oversee the management and operations of facilities used to detain individuals convicted of crimes, typically including prisons and jails.
Correctional officers supervise those legally held in holding cells, jails, and prisons. They are responsible for maintaining order in these facilities. This job is physically demanding and has a higher risk of injury. Some of a correctional officer’s responsibilities are monitoring inmates’ activities, checking the inmates’ visitors for weapons or drugs, and ensuring that the facility maintains maximum security, sanitary, and safety.
Parole or Probation officers
Although both these officers essentially work with convicted offenders, there is one big difference between the two. A probation officer works with a specific individual during probation to help them rehabilitate and prepare themselves for life after probation. On the other hand, parole officers have a similar responsibility, but they work with former inmates.
Education and Training Required for Corrections Professionals
Correctional officers need to have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Correctional officers must also complete job training at the academy that can last several months.
Probation officers and parole officers need to have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or an undergraduate degree in a field related to security and protective services. There is also a state-sponsored training program they may have to pass and get a certification that enables them to work.
Physical and mental qualifications
Good communication, critical thinking, decision-making, and organizational skills are essential for jobs as parole officers. These officers also need to have the exceptional emotional stability to be able to cope with hostile individuals and adverse circumstances.
Also, correctional officers must be detail-oriented and have good interpersonal and negotiation skills while being self-disciplined and physically strong.
An entry-level correctional officer at a state prison must have a bachelor’s degree or 1 to 3 years of experience providing assistance, counseling, or supervision to individuals before joining a federal prison. For probation officers and parole officers, candidates may have to fulfill varying criteria based on the state.
However, those with previous work experience, either through internships with other probationers with a justice degree or in the court system, can help get jobs as criminal justice professionals. A master’s degree in psychology, criminal justice, or social work can help these candidates advance to better positions.
Salary and Job Outlook for Corrections Careers
The average salary for bailiffs in local government agencies amounts to around $53,420, while those in state government are $62,090. Correctional officers, on the other hand, make an average of $48,530 and $47,920 in local and state facilities, respectively. Those in the federal government make around $59,920 yearly. Probation and parole officers also make around $61,780 for local agencies and $53,330 for state ones.
Job growth and demand
There is a projected 10% decline in jobs for correctional officers and bailiffs from 2021 to 2031. However, the number of job openings projected per year is still around 33,300 due to the need to replace current workers in the labor force or transfer to other occupations.
A lawyer is a professional who practices law, as an advocate, barrister, attorney, counselor, solicitor, notary, civil law notary, or civil law clerk.
The primary role of a lawyer is to provide legal advice and representation to clients in legal matters, such as criminal cases, civil lawsuits, or contract negotiations. This may involve researching, drafting legal documents, negotiating settlements, arguing cases in court, and advising clients on their legal rights and obligations.
Paralegals and legal assistants support the lawyers by performing various tasks, including conducting legal research, drafting documents, and organizing files. They also need to arrange and collect evidence and other legal documents to help the attorney prepare their case.
Legal assistants must be well versed in using computers and other technology to manage and organize vast amounts of data and documents collected during a case. The job requirements for paralegals vary depending on the law firm’s size.
Education and Training Required to Become a Legal Professional
To become a legal professional, one typically needs to complete the following education and training:
- Undergraduate degree: A bachelor’s degree in any field is generally required.
- Law School: A Juris Doctor (JD) degree from an accredited law school is required to practice law in the United States.
- Bar Exam: After earning a JD degree, one must pass a bar exam to become licensed to practice law in their state.
- Continuing education: In many states, lawyers must complete continuing education courses to maintain their license to practice law.
In addition to formal education and training, some legal professionals gain practical experience through internships or clerkships during law school or by working as paralegals before becoming a lawyer.
A prospective lawyer must take a licensing exam known as the “bar exam.” Those who pass the exam can practice law and are “admitted to the bar.” Most states need candidates to have cleared multiple bar exams.
Anyone with a prior history of criminal behavior is not admitted to the bar. Newly appointed lawyers start as associates in a law firm and work with experienced lawyers to advance to becoming partners in a firm. A lawyer can also choose to get into practice for themselves or join a large corporation as a corporate lawyer.
Judges are usually elected or appointed to their posts and often also need political support for this process.
Salary and job outlook for legal careers
The average salaries for legal careers are:
- Lawyers: These are some of the highest-paying jobs you can get with a criminal justice degree. A lawyer for the federal government receives an average of $152,590, while the state government gets $100,330. Lawyers in legal services get paid an average of $127,530.
- Judges: $130,210 for the federal government, $80,620 for state government, and $78,300 for local government.
- Paralegals: $96,680 for the federal government, $64,740 for finance and insurance, $58,300 for local government, $49,350 for state government, and $48,270 for legal services.
- Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators: $65,310 for state government and $73,610 for local governments.
Job growth and demand
The demand for lawyers is set to increase by 10% between 2021 and 2031. Similarly, job opportunities for legal assistants are projected to grow by 14% in the same time frame. Employment for arbitrators and mediators is projected to grow at 6%, while there may be little or no growth in the job opportunities for judges.
Private investigators and detectives help individuals search for personal, financial, and legal information. They offer services like verifying an individual’s background and statement, finding a missing person, or investigating cyber crimes. They are an integral part of the criminal justice system as they help everyone with investigative services, from attorneys to individuals and businesses.
Forensic science technicians
These individuals work at crime scenes and laboratories. At crime scenes, they need to determine evidence that needs to be collected, take photographs of the crime scenes and make sketches of the crime scene. They also record all observations and evidence found at the crime scenes before they are transferred to the crime lab.
Forensic science technicians then analyze evidence found at the crime scene by performing biological, chemical, and microscopic tests to explore possible links and relationships between suspects and criminal activity. These individuals are also known as crime lab analysts, crime scene investigators, forensic investigators, criminal investigators, or criminalists.
Education and Training Required to Become an Investigator
Private investigators must complete their high school diploma before going through training that can take several months and even go up to a year. Some states may also need them to have 2 or 4-year criminal justice degrees to follow their path in a criminal justice career.
Forensic science technicians must complete a bachelor’s degree in physical science, forensic science, or biology. They can also choose specialized forensic science programs depending on the criminal justice jobs they are pursuing. They also need to undergo on-the-job training before they are allowed to investigate crime scenes independently.
On completing their bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or related fields, forensic science technicians can get entry-level jobs working with experienced investigators to learn the proper lab procedures and methods needed to collect and analyze evidence. They must pass a proficiency exam or be approved by a laboratory or accredited body to do casework independently.
On the other hand, private investigators need to have previous work experience in police departments, military or federal bureaus to start a private investigation company as a second criminal justice career.
Salary and Job Outlook for Investigation Careers
A private investigator can earn a median annual salary of around $64,010 when working in the finance and insurance field or $62,090 if they work for the government. Those working on other kinds of investigations, as guards or in armored car services, can earn an average of around $51,630.
If they work for state governments, crime scene investigators can make an average of $64,250, while those working in testing laboratories make $49,900.
Job growth and demand
Private investigators and detectives have a projected growth of 6% from 2021 to 2031. The approximate number of job openings per year for the next decade is around 3,700. The estimated job growth for forensic science technologists is approximately 11% per year, with about 2,500 job openings per year for the next decade.
Youth Correctional counselor
A youth correctional counselor works closely with juvenile law offenders in correctional facilities. Youth counselors help juvenile offenders transition into productive citizens. They counsel juvenile offenders in groups and one on one with the hope that it deters them from committing a crime in the future that could have them incarcerated.
Victim advocates are trained to support a victim of a crime. They offer emotional support, and information about victims’ rights, help them find the information they need and file out any forms related to the crime victim. Victim advocates accompany victims and their families for the criminal justice proceedings.
Education and Training Requirements for Social Services Professionals
A youth correctional counselor must be highly trained in youth behavior and know psychology, therapeutic techniques, sociology, and the law. A bachelor’s degree in behavioral or criminal science is essential for these criminal justice jobs.
Victim advocates need to have a bachelor’s degree in a field related to criminal justice. They need excellent communication, and interpersonal skills as these are one of those criminal justice jobs that requires you to deal with people who have been the victim of a crime. Some victim advocates also enroll for an associate degree after their criminal justice degrees. Being able to speak an additional language is another plus for these individuals.
Criminal justice professionals looking for social service jobs need excellent communication skills. In some states, candidates for youth counselor jobs must take reading comprehension and writing exams to ensure they are up for this criminal justice career. The applicant also undergoes psychological tests to determine their emotional condition and maturity levels.
Victim advocates do not need any specific credentials. However, a National Credentialing Program conducted by the National Organization of Victim Assistance can help these individuals get professional credentials. Many employers also need the candidate to have prior experiences, such as an internship or volunteering to do social work in law enforcement or the court system.
Salary and Job Outlook for Social Services Careers
The average yearly income for youth correctional counselors is around $61,797, while that of a victim advocate is $42,866.
Job growth and demand
The demand for social service careers is expected to grow in the coming years due to an increasing need for mental health and substance abuse services, as well as support for families and individuals facing challenges.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in the field of social work will grow 11% from 2019 to 2029, which is faster than the average for all occupations.
|Career path||Job roles||Requirements||Salary|
|Law enforcement||Police Officer||High School Diploma||$64,610|
|Detective||High School Diploma||$83,640|
|State Trooper||High School Diploma||$56,665|
|Homeland security||Bachelor’s Degree||$81,000|
|FBI Agent||Bachelor’s Degree||$93,970|
|DEA Agent||Bachelor’s Degree||$65,634|
|Secret Service Agent||Bachelor’s Degree||$65,000|
|Corrections||Correctional Officers||High School Diploma||$59,920|
|Bailiff||High School Diploma||$62,090|
|Parole or Probation officers||Bachelor’s Degree||$61,780|
|Pretrial Services Officers||Bachelor’s Degree||$ 48,893|
|Legal||Lawyer||Bachelor’s Degree + Law Degree||$ 1,52,590|
|Paralegal||Associates Degree||$ 96,680|
|Judges and Hearing Officers||Bachelor’s Degree + Law Degree||$ 1,30,210|
|Arbitrators Mediators and Conciliators||Bachelor’sWMaster’s\La W Degree||$ 73,610|
|Investigation||Private Investigators||High School Diploma + Bachelor’s\ Associate Degree||$ 64,010|
|Forensic Science Technicians||Bachelor’s Degree||$ 64,250|
|Social Services||Youth Correctional Counselor||Bachelor’s Degree||61,797|
|Victim Advocates||Bachelor’s Degree||$ 42,866|
A criminal justice degree opens up many career opportunities in law enforcement, corrections, and the legal system. Graduates with a criminal justice degree can work as police officers, detectives, probation officers, correctional treatment specialists, and many other positions.
Additionally, those with a criminal justice degree can also go on to pursue advanced degrees in law, social work, and other related fields. With its strong demand and growing job market, a criminal justice degree is a valuable investment for those passionate about making a difference in their communities and the criminal justice system.
There are several reasons why pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and an Associate degree in Criminal Justice from the New England Institute of Technology (NEIT) may be a good choice:
- Hands-on learning: NEIT’s criminal justice program is designed to provide students with hands-on learning experiences through practical simulations, case studies, and real-world projects. This program offers an excellent chance to learn more about the challenges and rewards of criminal justice careers in real-world scenarios.
- Experienced faculty: NEIT’s faculty members have extensive professional experience in the criminal justice field, providing students with valuable insights and practical knowledge.
- Relevant curriculum: NEIT’s criminal justice program focuses on the latest developments and trends in the field, providing students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the criminal justice field.
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Is a criminal justice degree useful?
Choosing a criminal justice degree is an excellent decision as it opens up a lot of jobs in the criminal justice field, like in police departments, law enforcement administration, prison reform officers, and national security. Criminal justice students can also choose to be part of the judicial system after law school by studying criminal law or opt for constitutional law and tax law and be part of the corporate world.
Is criminal justice in high demand?
Yes, the demand for professionals in the criminal justice field is high. The need for skilled and knowledgeable individuals in these fields is growing, with an increasing emphasis on law enforcement, corrections, and legal services.
Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in the criminal justice field, including positions in law enforcement, legal services, and corrections, will grow faster than average for all occupations through 2029.
This demand, combined with the growing need for qualified professionals in the criminal justice field, makes pursuing a career in criminal justice a strong choice for those seeking stability and growth.
Is criminal justice a difficult major?
Like any other bachelor’s or master’s degree, a criminal justice degree needs you to put in a lot of hard work and persistence to achieve your goals. The criminal justice degree coursework includes a broad range of topics as this is a multifaceted career. Jobs in this field also need job training, but in the end, criminal justice degree jobs are gratifying, which makes up for the rigorous training you have to undergo.
What can you do with a criminal justice degree?
A degree in criminal justice can lead to various career paths in law enforcement, corrections, and legal services. Some of the most common careers for criminal justice graduates include:
- Police Officer
- Probation Officer
- Correctional Treatment Specialist
- FBI Agent
- Border Patrol Agent
- DEA Agent
- Legal Assistant
- Court Clerk
Other career options include working in private security, homeland security, fraud investigation, and victim advocacy. A criminal justice degree can also serve as a foundation for advanced studies in law, public administration, and other related fields.
The broad range of career options and the growing demand for professionals in the criminal justice field make it a popular and rewarding area of study for those seeking a challenging and meaningful career.