What can you do with a Criminal Justice Degree

What can you do with a Criminal Justice Degree?

Earning a criminal justice degree opens up a wide range of career opportunities in the criminal justice system and law enforcement. This versatile degree provides a strong foundation for working directly with the public to maintain safety and security.

A criminal justice degree equips you with skills to analyze crime data, understand criminology theories, and apply laws and regulations. You will gain interpersonal, investigative, and communication abilities to interact with offenders, victims, witnesses, and the community. The program covers patrol procedures, forensic science, court procedures, correctional practices, and security methods.

Common Criminal Justice Degree Jobs

There are various professional paths you can take with a criminal justice degree. Many jobs involve protecting lives, rights, and properties of individuals and the community. Some common criminal justice careers include:

Law Enforcement

With a criminal justice degree, you can work as a police officer, detective, sheriff’s deputy, state trooper, or federal agent. These jobs involve patrolling areas, responding to emergencies, investigating crimes, making arrests, and testifying in court. Law enforcement officers maintain order, enforce laws, and keep the public safe at the local, state, and federal levels.


You can work as a correctional officer, prison guard, probation officer or parole officer. These professionals supervise individuals who have been arrested or convicted of crimes. Duties involve overseeing detainees and inmates in jails, prisons, and parole/probation programs. You will monitor and control behaviors to prevent disturbances.

Private Security

There are opportunities in private security working as a security guard, loss prevention officer, or corporate investigator. These professionals use surveillance equipment to protect assets, property, and people from theft and harm. Duties involve monitoring premises, investigating suspicious activities, and apprehending violators.

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With science-focused criminal justice training, you can analyze evidence to aid investigations as a crime scene investigator, crime scene technician, or forensics science technician. These professionals photograph crime scenes, collect and preserve physical evidence, and perform lab analysis.

Legal Support

You can assist legal professionals as a paralegal or legal assistant in law firms, government agencies, and corporate legal departments. These positions research laws, manage documentation and files, and gather evidence to support attorneys.

Criminal Justice Career Salaries

Salaries for criminal justice careers vary by position, level of experience, education, and geographical location. However, competitive compensation and benefits are typical due to the demanding nature of the work. Here are average national salaries for popular criminal justice jobs:

  • Police Officer – $67,600
  • Detective – $89,300
  • Correctional Officer – $48,190
  • Probation Officer – $55,690
  • Private Detective – $52,840
  • Crime Scene Investigator – $59,150
  • Paralegal – $56,610

Generally, those with a bachelor’s degree earn more than colleagues with just a high school diploma. Higher positions in management, administration, and government agencies also offer six-figure salaries.

Skills Gained with a Criminal Justice Degree

Earning a criminal justice degree equips you with versatile skills applicable across fields. Along with specialized law enforcement training, you will develop:

Communication Skills

Successfully conveying information through writing, speaking, and documentation is vital. You must synthesize details into clear reports and neverethelss interact sensitively with people in difficult situations.

Analytical Abilities

Reviewing complex data to assess situations is key. Identifying issues and solving problems require logic and critical thinking. These skills aid in criminal investigations and creating safety improvements.

Leadership Qualities

Responsibly managing people and projects are essential. You need to oversee teams, provide training, delegate tasks, make quick decisions under pressure, and remain composed in emergencies.

Research Expertise

Collecting and verifying information using technology assists investigations. Digging through records and databases to gather background details provides a comprehensive understanding of criminal cases.

Technological Proficiencies

Using forensic tools, security equipment, lab technology, and computer programs are routine. Operating devices to extract clues and capture evidence takes technical know-how.

Flexible Career Options

A criminal justice degree offers diverse occupational choices across the public and private sectors. Graduates can tailor their career path to suit their professional passions and lifestyle.

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Varied Work Environments

Days could be spent in an office, patrol car, courtroom, correctional facility, crime scene, laboratory, or out in the field. Experiencing new environments keeps the job interesting.

Mobile Positions

Many criminal justice roles are active and require moving around various indoor and outdoor locations. You may prefer mobile responsibilities instead of being stuck at a desk.

Helpful Schedules

Shift work is common allowing for flexible scheduling. Night, weekend, holiday, overtime, part-time, and full-time opportunities accommodate different needs.

Steady Government Employment

The majority of jobs reside within government at the local, state, and federal level providing stability. Government agencies rarely downsize due to the essential public services offered.

Advanced Education for Career Advancement

Further education beyond a bachelor’s degree can open up greater career opportunities, increased authority, and higher salaries.

Master’s Degrees

A Master of Science (MS) in Criminal Justice enhances analytical, leadership, and management skills for supervisory roles. An MBA adds business expertise for administrative capacities. A Master of Public Administration (MPA) brings policy knowledge for government jobs.

Law Degrees

Juris Doctor (JD) degrees and LLM advanced law studies prepare for attorney, judge, and advisor positions developing, implementing, and interpreting laws. You can work within the judicial system overseeing fair court practices.

Doctoral Degrees

A PhD develops expertise for upper-level university instruction, research, and publishing. A PsyD or PhD in forensic psychology enables counseling offender rehabilitation and profiling criminals. An EdD allows teaching at higher education institutions.

Job Outlook for Criminal Justice Careers

The job outlook for criminal justice fields is very positive nationwide. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in law enforcement and legal professions is projected to grow 7% from 2020 to 2030, as fast as the national average for all occupations.

Factors driving the steady demand include:

  • Population growth requiring additional legal and public safety professionals
  • Increasing crime rates needing more law enforcement
  • Focus on homeland security and counterterrorism
  • Advances in cybercrime and digital evidence technology
  • Ongoing prison and correctional facility construction
  • Retirements opening up positions at all levels
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Government positions offer competitive employee benefits and job stability. Private corporate security jobs will also continue increasing as businesses expand and require protection. Overall, earning a criminal justice degree leads to bright career prospects.

Rewarding Public Service Mission

Beyond stable income potential, a criminal justice career provides the reward of positively impacting your community. You will support maintaining order and safety through challenging situations. By deterring crime and helping rehabilitate offenders, you contribute to more peaceful and socially just communities.

Earning a criminal justice degree starts you on a lifelong path of public service. Your knowledge and skills will grow throughout your career through continuous on-the-job learning and development opportunities. Bringing compassion and integrity to the role enables making a meaningful difference in people’s lives through your work.


A criminal justice degree opens doors to diverse, exciting, and meaningful careers protecting the public’s safety and rights. Well-trained graduates are needed across law enforcement, forensics, corrections, security, legal support, and regulatory fields. This degree provides a springboard to launch your mission of public service in a variety of environments. Your skills will be put to good use helping investigate crimes, enforce laws, and rehabilitate offenders to maintain justice.


What are the highest paying criminal justice careers?

The highest paying criminal justice careers are police supervisors, federal law enforcement agents, forensic psychologists, and upper management roles in government agencies. These advanced positions earn well over $100,000 annually.

What can you do with a criminal justice degree besides law enforcement?

A criminal justice degree leads to alternatives beyond police work, including correctional officer, parole officer, private security guard, crime scene investigator, claims investigator, border patrol agent, court administrator, victim advocate, and forensic technician jobs.

Is it hard to get a job in criminal justice?

Government opportunities are very competitive, but hiring needs are ongoing, especially as baby boomers retire. Earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, maintaining a clean record, gaining experience via internships, and passing exams help candidates stand out for jobs.

Do police officers need a criminal justice degree?

A criminal justice degree is rarely required to become a police officer but recommended. Many departments require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. The training helps officers succeed and gain promotion. Alternate degrees in law enforcement or public administration can also qualify applicants.

What jobs can I get with an associate’s degree in criminal justice?

With an associate’s degree, typical criminal justice jobs include police officer, correctional officer, security guard, prison transport officer, 911 dispatcher, bailiff, detective assistant, and loss prevention associate. Further education allows qualifying for investigator, probation/parole officer, and supervisory roles.

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