A criminal justice degree provides students with the foundation to pursue success in a variety of careers. From law enforcement to the legal system, public service to private practices, graduates of a criminal justice program can seek employment in a wide range of career fields. Below are a few divisions of criminal justice – and career options within those fields – that criminal justice majors can consider.
Law enforcement is the field mostly frequently associated with a criminal justice degree. The knowledge gained and the skills developed in a criminal justice program directly apply to a variety of jobs within law enforcement.
Officers of the Law: When most people think of careers in law enforcement, the first job that usually comes to mind is a police officer. Although it might sound like a stereotypical career choice, keep in mind the wide variety of officer positions that will provide you with the ability to put your knowledge in action – you’re not just limited to being a police officer! This line of work includes many roles: probation officer, corrections officer, bailiff, state trooper, and more. Once you’ve been in the field for several years, you may have the opportunity to move up to roles at a higher level, such as a deputy, sergeant or detective.1
Forensic Jobs: With a criminal justice degree, you’re not limited to just officer positions, however. If the forensic side of law enforcement interests you, a degree in criminal justice may open doors to positions such as crime scene investigator, forensic analyst, latent print examiner, evidence technician and more.2
These two divisions represent just a fraction of the career options open within the field of law enforcement. You could also be a K-9 specialist, firearms instructor, game warden, ballistics expert or a variety of other positions. While the more specialized careers usually require advanced knowledge and training, a degree in criminal justice is often the first foot in the door to a job that could build to one of these careers.
While it would be hyperbolic to say the possibilities are endless, the number of city, county, state and federal organizations that employ criminal justice majors makes for an impressive list.3 Consider the following departments, agencies and organizations that employ criminal justice majors in the U.S.:
Local and State
- City and state police departments
- Highway patrol
- Sherriff’s offices
- Corrections departments
- State bureaus of investigation
Jobs at the federal level usually require more extensive training and experience – but the opportunities are many, and a background in criminal justice from a law program will certainly help you on your way to qualifying for a career with one of these organizations.
- FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation)
- SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission)
- DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration)
- EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)
- U.S. Inspector Generals
- Secret Service
- Border Patrol
- Bureau of Land Management
A background in criminal justice will also make you a good candidate for jobs in the legal system. From private practice to local and federal government, various legal positions are open in civil and criminal courts, public law offices, personal injury firms, corporations and municipal offices. Although many positions within the legal system require additional training, a criminal justice degree is a good first step toward a job as a paralegal, researcher, law librarian or other position that requires you to assist with the organization, administration and research associated with legal proceedings. If you are interested in becoming a licensed attorney in order to practice law, a criminal justice degree will provide a good undergraduate education for those looking to attend law school.4
Careers in security span traditional security firms, large corporations, small businesses, public institutions, residential communities and private clients. Similar to law enforcement, when most people think of careers in security, the first position that comes to mind is that of a security guard. Jobs in security go beyond working the night shift at a company warehouse, however. While some security jobs focus on the physical protection of people and property, many others are concerned with information security – safeguarding secure data and classified information – or personnel security – ensuring the safety of an organization’s workforce through background investigations and employment screenings, as well as granting the correct security access to the right people.
With a bachelor’s in criminal justice and many years of experience in the field, you may also qualify for positions as the head or director of security. People in these positions are responsible for developing, implementing and managing overall security programs, from managing day-to-day operations to conducting risk assessments and developing strategies to mitigate these risks. More technical positions in this branch include computer security and corporate espionage security.5
Research and Policy
If you want a job that is less hands-on, a career in research and policy might better suit your interests. A large variety of criminal justice organizations have need of people to conduct research, analyze data, write grants, evaluate current programs and develop policy. Positions are available with both private and public agencies, including federal and state government organizations. Job titles include Research Analyst, Research Associate, Grant Researcher, Data Collection Assistant and more. To learn more, contact us today!
- “The Ultimate Law Enforcement Career List for 2021 (with Salaries),” Largest Listing of Law Enforcement Jobs, November 2, 2021, https://golawenforcement.com/articles/the-ultimate-law-enforcement-care….
- “Jobs in Forensics,” Criminal Justice Degree Hub, accessed November 24, 2021, https://www.criminaljusticedegreehub.com/jobs-in-forensics/.
- Discoverpolicing.org, accessed November 24, 2021, https://www.discoverpolicing.org/explore-the-field/types-of-law-enforce….
- “FAQ: What Is the Best Pre-Law Degree?,” Your Lawyer Says, accessed November 24, 2021, https://yourlawyersays.com/2017/04/28/faqs-what-is-the-best-pre-law-deg….
- “What Can You Do with a Criminal Justice Degree? Salary & Career Info,” Public Service Degrees (www.publicservicedegrees.org), accessed November 24, 2021, https://www.publicservicedegrees.org/what-can-you-do/criminal-justice-d….