What Can You Do With a Criminal Justice Degree?

James M. Tobin
by
Updated March 26, 2024
Edited by
Criminal justice students can pursue multiple paths after graduation. This guide explores jobs you can get with a criminal justice degree.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Most of the jobs you can get with a criminal justice degree function within law enforcement, courts, and the correctional systems. These roles help you make a positive social impact while earning strong returns on your educational investment.

The level of education you’ll need to enter the field varies by job role and work setting. Some positions require only an associate degree, while others prefer or demand graduate-level schooling.

You can also pair criminal justice studies with degrees in other fields, such as healthcare and nursing, to build specialized credentials or expand your career options.

Major employment categories for criminal justice graduates include:


  • Policing, security, and investigative sciences
  • Courts, corrections, and rehabilitation
  • Social work
  • Academia and research
  • Business and technology

This career guide explores dozens of jobs you can get with a criminal justice degree. Use it to plan your educational path toward a rewarding career that helps you make a positive difference.

Popular Online Criminal Justice Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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Law Enforcement and Security

Police Officer

  • Median Salary:$65,790
  • Job Outlook (2022-32):+3

Police officers protect public safety and enforce local laws. They monitor threats to the public, patrol neighborhoods to deter criminal activity, and respond to complaints and emergency calls.

Police officers also interview survivors and witnesses, collect evidence at crime scenes, and arrest suspects. During a trial, police officers testify about investigations and the evidence collected. Law enforcement jobs like police officer require a high school diploma.


Detective or Criminal Investigator

  • Median Salary: $86,280
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +1%

Detectives and criminal investigators investigate serious crimes, including property crimes, assaults, drug crimes, and homicides. They analyze evidence, interview survivors and witnesses, and build cases against suspects.

These professionals document their investigations by writing reports and cataloging evidence. They work closely with district attorneys and judges to ensure legal requirements are met while conducting investigations. Detective and criminal investigator jobs typically require a high school diploma, though some departments may require a bachelor’s degree.


Deputy Sheriff

  • Average Salary:$52,423
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +3

Deputy sheriffs enforce state and local laws to protect public safety. They patrol the jurisdiction to respond to emergency calls or crimes in progress. Deputy sheriffs also investigate public complaints, interview witnesses, and carry out criminal investigations.

Like other law enforcement officers, deputy sheriffs may serve warrants, conduct searches, and appear in court as witnesses. Deputy sheriffs may need a college degree in criminal justice.


FBI Agent

FBI agents conduct investigations for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They collect evidence, interview witnesses, and identify suspects. FBI agents often work with local law enforcement agents to arrest or detain suspects. They work at field offices across the country and at the FBI’s regional or national headquarters. Careers in federal law enforcement require a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, criminology, or a related field. Agents must also complete specialized training.


State Trooper

State troopers are law enforcement officers at the state level. They perform similar duties as police officers, including investigating criminal activities. State troopers arrest and question suspects, interview witnesses and victims, and testify in criminal trials. They also secure crime scenes, provide emergency assistance during natural disasters, and serve warrants. Law enforcement jobs like state trooper generally require a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement or criminal justice.


Border Patrol Agent

Border patrol agents monitor the country’s borders to halt illegal immigration and stop contraband items, like drugs, from crossing the border. They patrol land and water borders to prevent trafficking while monitoring border crossings and ports for illegal activities and threats.

Border patrol agents rely on electronic sensors, aircraft monitoring, and other technology to keep the border secure. Like other federal law enforcement jobs, border patrol agents typically hold a bachelor’s degree.


Private Investigator

  • Median Salary:$52,120
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +6%

Private investigators conduct investigations by performing surveillance, completing background checks, and analyzing documents. They help clients recover lost assets, find missing persons, and research financial fraud.

Private investigators may work in the field or in an office, depending on the type of work. Their duties can include reviewing financial documents, locating witnesses, and serving legal documents. The educational requirements for this career vary, but some private investigators hold a bachelor’s in criminal justice.


Security Officer

  • Median Salary:$34,770
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): -1%

Security officers keep private properties secure. They prevent theft, property damage, and vandalism by patrolling the property, managing entrances to the property, and keeping records on visitors. Security officers must respond to emergencies by restraining unauthorized visitors and contacting emergency personnel.

In addition to protecting against theft, security officers protect against safety violations and fires. The position requires variable hours, and some employers prefer candidates with a background in criminal justice.

Corrections and Rehabilitation

Correctional Officer

Correctional officers maintain safety and order in prisons and jails. They enforce procedures in the facility, conduct inspections of holding cells to confiscate banned items, and monitor inmates to make sure they follow procedures.

Correctional officers also maintain logs and write incident reports to help wardens review operations. Most correctional officers complete some college training in law enforcement or corrections. For example, entry-level criminal justice jobs in corrections may require an associate degree.


Prison Warden

Prison wardens are the most senior correctional officers in prisons. They perform administrative and supervisory duties, such as creating schedules, managing budgets, and setting policies to promote safety.

In addition, prison wardens make employment decisions about hiring and training. They also act as leaders within the prison while delegating responsibilities to correctional officers. Prison wardens typically hold a bachelor’s in criminal justice and have several years of professional experience in corrections.


Parole Officer

Parole officers help criminal offenders rehabilitate and re-enter society after serving a prison sentence. They place parolees in temporary housing and work placements while monitoring the parolee’s behavior.

Parole officers also connect parolees with job training programs and vocational rehabilitation opportunities. During an offender’s parole, the parole officer monitors the parolee and creates reports on their compliance with the conditions of parole. Parole officer jobs often require a criminal justice bachelor’s degree.


Probation Officer

  • Median Salary:$59,860
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +3%

Probation officers help criminal offenders follow their probation orders. They investigate offenders to determine whether they should receive probation, work with law enforcement officers and judges to determine probation requirements, and meet with offenders to explain the terms of a probation sentence.

During an offender’s probation, the probation officer regularly meets with them to monitor their compliance. Criminal justice careers in probations generally require a bachelor’s in criminal justice or a related field.


Correctional Treatment Specialist

  • Median Salary: $59,860
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +3%

Correctional treatment specialists provide social services for offenders currently in custody. They also support offenders on probation or parole by helping them access rehabilitation services. These specialists meet with offenders to design rehabilitation or treatment plans. They make recommendations about conditional release or parole and follow up to make sure the offender follows the plan. Correctional treatment specialists also recommend education or employment stipulations for offenders. The position typically requires a bachelor’s in criminal justice or a related field.

Counseling and Social Work

Substance Use Counselor

  • Median Salary:$49,710
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +18%

Substance use counselors help people dealing with substance use disorders. They counsel people and groups on overcoming addiction, and evaluate patients to create a personalized recovery plan.

Counselors help clients make progress toward their goals and connect with community services. Most positions require at least a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued license, while some roles require a master’s in counseling or a related field.


Victim Advocate

Victim advocates help survivors navigate a time of crisis or recover from experiencing crimes. For example, they may help survivors of domestic violence create exit plans and obtain services.

Victim advocates also work with law enforcement officers to support survivors during and after a trial. Some of these professionals offer counseling or run support groups. The role typically requires at least a bachelor’s in social work, psychology, or criminal justice.

Courts and Legal Services

Bailiff

  • Median Salary: $49,100
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): -2%

Bailiffs maintain order in courtrooms. They announce the arrival of the judge, instruct jurors and witnesses on where to sit, and escort files to the judge. Bailiffs also handle disturbances during a trial by escorting people from the courtroom or removing jurors from the courthouse. Depending on the size of the court, the bailiff may also escort defendants from the courtroom or arrange lodging for jurors. Some bailiff jobs may require law enforcement training.


Court Reporter

Court reporters create written transcripts of court proceedings. These transcripts serve as official records of trials. During a trial, court reporters record statements from witnesses, attorneys, and judges. They may also read back portions of transcripts during the trial.

Some court reporters use stenotype machines to create a shorthand account of a trial, while others use recordings or software programs to create written transcripts. Court reporters typically receive specialized training through a technical or vocational program.


Paralegal

Paralegals assist attorneys by providing legal support services. They file legal materials like motions, interview clients, and edit legal documents. Paralegals also accompany lawyers to court, edit briefs, and supervise junior paralegals. They need strong written communication skills, knowledge of legal terminology, and familiarity with the legal system to perform their duties. Most paralegal positions require an associate degree or certificate, but some employers prefer candidates with a bachelor’s in paralegal studies or a related field.


Mediator

Mediators resolve legal disputes, acting as a neutral third party to help both sides negotiate and reach a resolution. Mediators help parties avoid a trial by reaching a nonlitigious agreement.

During the mediation process, mediators examine documents and interview both parties to understand the case. Mediators work to reach a confidential agreement with both sides. They typically hold a bachelor’s degree, and many mediators have backgrounds as attorneys.

Forensics and Laboratory

Forensic Science Technician

  • Median Salary:$63,740
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +13%

Forensic science technicians (also known as criminalists or crime scene investigators) analyze material in laboratories to solve criminal cases. Generalist technicians analyze crime scenes, collect evidence, and draw conclusions from the results. They also testify about their findings and the analysis process in court. As specialists in forensics, they may also train law enforcement officials on the best procedures at crime scenes. This role typically requires a bachelor’s in forensic science or a related field, though some employers may require a master’s degree.


Forensic DNA Analyst

Forensic DNA analysts specialize in conducting laboratory analyses of DNA samples. They work with police and crime scene investigators to analyze DNA samples found at crime scenes. When analyzing DNA, forensic DNA analysts use equipment, like spectrometers, to isolate genetic material.

After conducting an analysis, forensic DNA analysts can use it to create a genetic profile of the suspect. They also write reports on their findings and testify in court about their conclusions. Forensic DNA analysts typically need a bachelor’s degree.


Blood Spatter Analyst

Also known as bloodstain pattern analysts, blood spatter analysts help investigators reconstruct events involving violence or injuries resulting in blood loss. These specialized professionals attend crime scenes and examine documented evidence, analyzing the shapes, sizes, and orientations of bloodstains. They then forward an evidence-based hypothesis about the sequence of events that created the bloodstain.

To enter the field, combine a criminal justice or forensic science degree with specialized analytical training. The International Association for Identification provides valuable professional certifications and information on relevant training programs.


Forensic Chemist

Forensic chemists help coroners and medical examiners determine causes of death by running laboratory tests. They perform toxicology tests, analyze chemical reports, and conduct tests on evidence.

Forensic chemists also develop tests to isolate drugs from samples. As specialists in chemistry and toxicology, forensic chemists must understand how to use different instruments to analyze samples. Forensic chemists must hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in chemistry or a related field.


Forensic Entomologist

Forensic entomologists use their knowledge of insects to help law enforcement officials conduct criminal investigations. They study insects on postmortem bodies to help determine things like time of death.

Forensic entomologists can also link victims and suspects using insect evidence, determine where someone died, and collect samples to solve murders. They also write reports and testify about their findings in court. Forensic entomologists need college-level training in biology, entomology, and criminal justice.

Research and Academia

Crime Analyst

Crime analysts extract insights from both qualitative and quantitative data sources. They work alongside law enforcement officials to create actionable strategies for applying that data to address criminal activity and other public safety risks.

Relevant college majors include criminal justice and criminology. Additional coursework or a minor in statistics or data analysis may enhance your skill set. You can combine schooling with International Association of Crime Analysts certification to enter this career path.


Criminologist

Criminologists specialize in studying patterns of criminal activity in a specific geographic area, and using that analysis to propose potential solutions. In their duties, criminologists work with a variety of stakeholders including law enforcement, politicians, policymakers, and community members.

Criminologists may also play an active role in developing laws and social policies for deterring, preventing, or remediating criminal activity. These professionals typically hold at least a master’s in criminology, criminal justice, or sociology.


Postsecondary Teacher

Criminal justice postsecondary teachers develop curricula, lead courses, advise students, and grade student assignments. They may also author textbooks and/or design or partake in criminology or criminal justice research initiatives.

Postsecondary instructors typically hold professional or doctoral degrees in criminal justice or related fields. In some cases, they also have extensive professional experience and transition into teaching roles following their active careers.

Business and Technology

Forensic Accountant

Forensic accountants detect fraudulent activities and conduct investigations. They work in insurance, banking, and law enforcement, analyzing financial evidence and serving as expert witnesses in trials.

Forensic accountants who work with police departments uncover white-collar crimes like embezzlement, money laundering, or hidden assets, sometimes using analytical software programs to uncover fraud. Most positions require a bachelor’s or master’s degree in accounting or a closely related field, like forensic accounting, finance, or criminal justice.


Fraud Investigator

Fraud investigators analyze data to uncover cases of financial fraud. They work in the accounting, insurance, and law enforcement fields, where they examine financial information and identify fraud.

Fraud investigators also conduct interviews with witnesses and suspects to build evidence in fraud cases. They may also testify in court. Many of these professionals have backgrounds in law enforcement or private investigation and a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, or a similar field.


Digital Forensics Analyst

Digital forensics analysts recover materials and data from computers, smartphones, and other digital devices. They rely on software programs and cybersecurity techniques to recover deleted information and corrupted files.

Analysts working in law enforcement gather information related to criminal activities, create reports based on their findings, and may testify during trials. These specialists often hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science or criminal justice.


Information Security Analyst

  • Median Salary:$112,000
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +32%

Information security analysts protect an organization’s data by implementing cybersecurity procedures. They install and manage security hardware devices and software applications, making sure that unauthorized users cannot access confidential data.

Information security analysts also train users on accessing secure data. When data breaches occur, they conduct investigations and implement system improvements to prevent future cyberattacks. A bachelor’s in cybersecurity, computer science, or cyber criminology can prepare you for this role.

Criminal Justice Careers That Require Advanced Degrees in Other Fields

Forensic Nurse

Forensic nurses are specialized registered or advanced practice nurses who assist survivors of sexual assault, violence, neglect, or abuse. They provide compassionate care, gather physical evidence for use in criminal prosecutions, and sometimes serve as expert witnesses in court.

To become one, you’ll need to follow the standard path to registered or advanced practice nursing licensure. Then, add specialized training meeting the educational guidelines specified by organizations like the International Association of Forensic Nurses.


Forensic Psychologist

Forensic psychologists apply their knowledge of psychology to understand crimes and evaluate criminals. They work with law enforcement to create criminal profiles, evaluate the competency of suspects to stand trial, and conduct psychological research.

Forensic psychologists may also interview incarcerated people to understand their motivations, diagnose mental health issues, and write reports for courts to use when making sentencing decisions. Careers in forensic psychology often require a doctorate in psychology or counseling and a state-issued license.


Forensic Dentist

Forensic dentistry, also known as forensic odontology, is a medical specialization focused on identifying human remains through analysis of dental records. Related tasks may involve analytical examination of orally inflicted tissue traumas such as bite marks.

This important concentration helps law enforcement solve violent crimes and bring closure to families with missing loved ones. To become one, you can combine a doctor of dental medicine (DDM) or doctor of dental surgery (DDS) degree with specialized forensic or criminal justice training. Organizations like the American Board of Forensic Odontology offer specific guidance on training requirements.


Forensic Anthropologist

Forensic anthropologists specialize in studying and analyzing human skeletal remains on behalf of law enforcement and criminal investigators. They provide vital insights about victims’ physical characteristics and possible causes and times of death.

Equipped with these clues, investigators may then succeed in identifying the remains and prosecuting any related criminal actions. To become one, you’ll need to combine criminal justice training with a bachelor’s in anthropology and a master’s or doctorate in biological or forensic anthropology.


Medical Examiner

A medical examiner is a specialist physician who investigates and determines the causes of sudden, unusual, or suspicious deaths. They also identify detailed specifics about the time and manner of death in homicide cases.

To become a medical examiner, you must follow a lengthy multistep process. As an undergraduate, you can study criminal justice, biology, chemistry, or other science majors. Then, proceed to medical school, specialize in forensic medicine, obtain a physicians’ license, and undertake a fellowship and residency.


Criminal Defense Attorney

Criminal defense attorneys are legal specialists who represent people or organizations accused of criminal wrongdoing. They defend clients during legal and court proceedings, which involves extensive legal research, strategic preparation, and documentation requirements.

You can prepare for a career as a criminal defense lawyer with a bachelor’s degree in legal studies, criminal justice, or political science. Then, proceed to law school, specialize in criminal law, and pass your state’s bar examination.

Frequently Asked Questions About Jobs for Criminal Justice Majors

Is criminal justice a good major?

Criminal justice is an ideal major for many careers in law enforcement and the court and correctional systems. These degrees directly lead to roles in policing, social work, victim and survivor advocacy, crime analysis and prevention, and criminal rehabilitation. You can also combine a criminal justice degree with training in other fields to access advanced and specialized careers.

What can you do with a criminal justice degree?

Common jobs you can get with a criminal justice degree include police officer, probation officer, correctional officer, private investigator, and social worker. With additional training, you may also pursue specialized and technical roles in forensic science, medicine, research, public policy, and law, among other areas.

What criminal justice job pays the most?

Two of the top-paying jobs available to professionals with standalone criminal justice degrees include police chiefs and prison wardens. Both positions represent the summit of their professions, and typically require many years of on-the-job experience in addition to schooling.

You can enter other high-paying careers by combining criminal justice with a few different advanced degrees. Examples include forensic dentists, criminal lawyers, and information security analysts.

What is the easiest career in criminal justice?

Fish and game wardens typically work in peaceful natural surroundings, which may appeal to you if you’re seeking a low-stress career. Bailiffs also perform predictable and relatively light duties in courtroom settings. However, “easy” is a relative concept, and many of the more accessible jobs in criminal justice, such as security guards and corrections officers, involve significant safety risks.

Is getting hired by the FBI hard?

The FBI is highly selective: According to Tulane University, the agency chooses less than 20% of candidates who apply. In 2019, the FBI received approximately 32,000 applications for 900 available special agent positions. For your application to succeed, you’ll need to excel on a demanding set of written tests and meet elevated physical and mental fitness standards.

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