What do you think of when you hear that someone is pursuing a criminal justice degree? While many of us would immediately assume they want to work in law enforcement, this isn't always the case.
A degree in criminal justice opens up many exciting opportunities and criminal justice careers, ranging from law enforcement and private security, to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In this article, we'll look at various criminal justice major jobs you can pursue; no matter what you're into, there's a path in this field that will suit you!
What Jobs Can You Get with a Criminal Justice Major?
The criminal justice field is experiencing rapid expansion and job growth. Getting a degree in criminal justice isn't a guarantee that you'll ever become a police officer, solve crimes, and put someone in handcuffs, but it's a great place to start if that's your goal.
Here are a few possibilities that illustrate the many avenues open to those interested in a career in the criminal justice system:
1. Police Officers
The job of a police officer is to enforce the law and keep the peace. To do so, police officers must be familiar with state and federal laws, as well as local ordinances, and they must be able to understand and interpret the evidence they collect. Law enforcement officers must be able to effectively communicate with the general public, witnesses, and victims, as well as meet the job's physical requirements, including passing a fitness test.
Being a police officer is just one of the many jobs you can get with a criminal justice major. You will need to complete police academy training, and most departments require officers to have at least two years of experience before being promoted. Furthermore, police officers must maintain physical fitness to pursue and apprehend suspects.
2. Parole or Probation Officers
While probation and parole officers both deal with convicted felons, these positions are not interchangeable. Probation officers help specific people work toward rehabilitation and prepare for life beyond supervision during their time on probation, which is still technically a form of punishment. Parole officers have similar responsibilities, though they deal with parolees - i.e., convicted criminal offenders who have been released from incarceration - instead of current inmates.
Both are necessary for convicts to continue their education, find satisfying work, and succeed in rehabilitation, all of which require strong interpersonal and communication skills.
3. Forensic Psychologists
Forensic psychologists apply their criminal justice major and forensic psychology training to help solve crimes and understand criminals. They frequently provide expert testimony and psychological evaluations for law enforcement agencies, attorneys, and court proceedings.
Forensic psychologists may also provide counseling and support to victims of crime, and some work in private practice, where they may give expert testimony in civil cases or conduct psychological evaluations for child custody disputes. Others work in prisons or mental health facilities, providing inmates or patients with counseling and treatment.
Forensic psychologists typically have a master’s degree in psychology as well as forensic training, and many states require licensure for psychologists who provide public services, and some states have forensic licensure.
This is a well-known criminal justice job. Detectives are police officers who have been promoted enough times to be left in charge of investigating homicides and other violent crimes. They interview witnesses and suspects, prepare search warrants, and work closely with prosecutors and other law enforcement officials to build cases for criminal trials, in addition to gathering evidence at crime scenes.
To solve complex crimes, detectives must have a strong understanding of the law, as well as the ability to think critically so they can lead criminal investigations. They must also be able to keep their cool in stressful situations and have excellent communication skills, as they will be in frequent contact with victims and other law enforcement professionals, and might have to conduct interrogations as part of a criminal investigation.
Being promoted to a homicide unit is the furthest a detective can go before becoming an official. Therefore, homicide detectives have prior experience as patrol officers and as detectives in other units (e.g., organized crime, financial fraud, drug trafficking/narcotics, missing persons, etc.), and some agencies also require homicide detectives to have a criminal justice degree or a bachelor’s degree in a related field.
5. Forensic Science Technicians
Undoubtedly, this is one of the jobs for criminal justice majors which gets the most screen time in popular media about the criminal justice system. Forensic science technicians, also known as crime scene investigators or forensic investigators, spend their days working to collect and analyze evidence from crime scenes.
Technicians in the field of forensic science are responsible for investigating crime scenes, collecting evidence, and analyzing that evidence, in addition to other tasks. They then conduct in-depth scientific and technical analyses to find answers. However, they will usually get a bachelor’s degree in a particular scientific field and then might pursue an associate degree in criminal justice.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for forensic science technicians is bright, with an anticipated 11% increase in demand between 2021 and 2031. If you're interested in using science to learn the truth, willing to take on responsibility, and develop your technical skills, this could be one of the best criminal justice careers to embark on.
6. Correctional Officers
The criminal justice career path of a correctional officer is to supervise inmates in correctional facilities (i.e., prisons). Their primary goal is to keep the facility safe and orderly; to do so, they must be familiar with and follow all security procedures.
They must also be able to handle difficult situations calmly and effectively. Inmates can be disruptive, violent, or emotionally unstable, so correctional officers must be able to remain calm under pressure and not overreact and harm their charges.
In addition, correctional officers search cells for contraband, accompany inmates to and from court hearings, and monitor visits from family members and legal representatives. A correctional officer may also be in charge of providing inmates with basic medical care in case of an emergency.
7. FBI Agents
Agents working in the Federal Bureau of Investigation are in charge of investigating federal crimes and ensuring public safety at the national level. They collect evidence, conduct interviews, and testify in court. Counterterrorism, crime scene investigation, and digital forensics are some areas in which FBI agents may specialize. Degrees in criminal justice are generally valued when applying to the FBI.
While most of their work for the Federal Bureau is done away from the public eye, FBI agents occasionally give media interviews and public presentations. An FBI agent might also cooperate with local, state, and other federal law enforcement agencies during an investigation to collect evidence and apprehend suspects.
8. CIA Agents
Individuals working as CIA agents must have a strong desire to serve their country and be willing to risk their lives. They must also be in good physical condition and have prior experience with firearms.
Furthermore, they must be fluent in multiple languages and have a keen eye for detail. CIA agents typically hold a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, finance, or a scientific field such as biology, chemistry, or physics.
Those who want to become CIA agents must first go through a rigorous application process that includes a thorough background check. Once hired, they receive extensive training at the CIA Academy. After completing their training, CIA agents are sent to various locations around the world to gather intelligence.
A criminal justice major who becomes a paralegal will generally be responsible for assisting lawyers by researching and investigating legal cases, drafting documents, and managing client communications. They could also up their chances of getting this job by completing a legal studies associate degree or going to law school.
Criminal law paralegals may have additional responsibilities, such as investigating crimes, conducting interviews, and gathering evidence. The specific duties of a paralegal will vary depending on the size and type of law firm for which they work. Still, all paralegals must be able to perform the tasks assigned to them accurately and efficiently.
Criminal justice majors who want to work as a paralegal should have strong research, writing, and communication skills.
10. Forensic Accountants
A forensic accountant is an accountant who specializes in financial crime investigation. They are frequently employed by law enforcement agencies, but they may also work for private firms or as independent consultants. A forensic accountant's job requires a thorough understanding of both accounting and the law.
Forensic accountants must be able to analyze financial statements and spot irregularities that may indicate criminal activity (e.g., financial fraud, money laundering, etc.). They must also be familiar with legal procedures for conducting investigations and presenting evidence in court.
In addition to these technical skills, forensic accountants must also have strong written and verbal communication skills, as they may be called upon to write reports or give testimony in court. As the demand for their services grows, forensic accountants are expected to play an increasingly important role in the criminal justice system.
11. Private Investigators
A private investigator is someone who is hired to gather information about a person or organization. A private investigator's job description varies depending on the type of investigation being conducted.
For example, a law firm investigator may be asked to spy on a spouse suspected of cheating in a divorce case. In contrast, an insurance company investigator may be asked to gather information about suspicious claims for premium payouts.
Private investigators are typically hired to gather evidence that can be used in court. This could include taking photos, interviewing witnesses, and running background checks. Private investigators must also be ethical because they frequently deal with sensitive information.
This position is not among jobs that require a criminal justice degree, although some employers may prefer to see applicants with additional post-secondary education. Moreover, private investigators are often former police officers who have left law enforcement.
12. Youth Correctional Counselors
You will work with juvenile offenders to provide rehabilitation and support as a youth correctional counselor. Your responsibilities will include developing individualized treatment plans, monitoring progress, and providing guidance on their path to becoming productive members of society.
You will also work with other professionals, such as probation officers and social workers, to ensure each juvenile offender gets the best care possible.
In addition to counseling, you will be responsible for keeping records and preparing reports about your charges. This position requires a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field. Years of experience working with juvenile offenders will be advantageous as well.
To be a youth correctional counselor, you should have a strong desire to help others and be prepared to deal with challenging behavior.
What Are the Different Types of Criminal Justice Degrees?
There is a wide range of academic credentials criminal justice professionals can earn in the field of criminal justice, from an associate degree to a Ph.D. Here is a brief rundown of some of the most common criminal justice degree types and the careers they prepare students for:
An associate degree in criminal justice typically takes two years to complete and is required for many entry-level jobs in the field. This degree program includes courses in constitutional and criminal law, criminology, and police procedures.
Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degree
A bachelor's degree in criminal justice usually takes four years to complete and is required for many jobs in the field. A bachelor's degree program requires students to take courses in research methods and statistics, in addition to constitutional law and criminology.
A master's degree in criminal justice usually takes two years to complete and is required for many careers in the field. A master's degree program requires students to take classes in advanced criminology, criminal procedure, and advanced research methods.
The highest level of education available in the field is a doctorate degree in criminal justice. Doctorate programs typically last four years and include coursework in criminal psychology and sociology. Doctoral students must also complete a dissertation on a criminal justice-related topic.
Criminal Justice Major Careers: Bottom Line
When considering a career in criminal justice, one can choose from many options. You can work in the field, responding to crimes in progress or collecting evidence from crime scenes, or you can follow your scientific inclinations and examine crime scene evidence in a lab. Another option is to find a job where you can counsel and assist people trying to make a clean break from their criminal past.
A career in criminal justice is not only secure, but can also be very satisfying, especially with professions that have less contact with actual criminal activity.