This month’s featured degree is criminal justice, a concentration that is at once steeped in tradition and ever-changing, growing, and advancing to meet evolving cultural, economic, and technological realities. If you are passionate about maintaining justice and order in society, an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in criminal justice may be an ideal path of study. These programs develop an in-depth understanding of the criminal justice system, including theories of criminology, punishment & rehabilitation, law enforcement & crime prevention, and criminal investigation.
An associate degree prepares you for entry-level careers in the criminal justice field, such as police or corrections officer. However, more advanced degrees, such as a bachelor’s or master’s, can open up a variety of career opportunities. Indeed, many police officers with a few years of experience in the field choose to return to school and earn degrees, through accelerated residency programs or online programs, to advance professionally to senior or administrative roles in criminal justice. Criminal justice doesn’t just limit you to police work, however; the field includes forensic science and psychology, paralegal work, counter-terrorism, cyber-crime prevention, and information security.
You may even want to use your education in criminal justice as a jumping off point to study law and become a lawyer, lawmaker, or judge. Whatever your career goals, if you are interested in being involved in our legal system, a criminal justice degree can get you started on your path.
To learn more, find out what you can do with a criminal justice or law degree.
Or . . .
Check Out These Fun Facts
- Interested in criminal justice, but have celebrity aspirations? Take a cue from Pauley Perrette, a criminal justice major that formerly dreamed of being an FBI agent, but is now best known for her role on the television series NCIS. Art imitates life imitates art.
- Rick Ross may pretend to be a cartel kingpin to give his rapping some edge, but he likely got the inspiration from his past job in criminal justice as a corrections officer.
- Love spy movies? A criminal justice degree can prepare graduates for highly classified careers as agents in the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, or MI6.
- Want a high tech career? Criminal justice extends to combating cyber-crime and cyber-terrorism.
- Bachelor’s and master’s criminal justice degree programs often include specialization options in areas such as corrections, forensic science, homeland security, or law enforcement.
- Individuals with a bachelor’s in criminal justice may readily pursue many related areas of study after graduating, including degrees in law, psychology, administration, sociology, or political science, opening up a range of career paths.
- As crime persists in society, the demand for qualified criminal justice professionals continues to grow. People will always commit crimes, and laws will always need to be enforced. There is something to be said for job stability.
- Criminal justice doesn’t just mean enforcing justice on criminals; it also entails ensuring criminals receive justice, including fair treatment and respect of their constitutional rights.
The following information, sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reflects common careers for criminal justice degree holders, median annual salaries for 2017, and job outlook growth predictions, 2016–26.
- Forensic psychologists — $77,030, 14% growth outlook
- Forensic science technicians — $57,850, 17% growth outlook
- Information security analysts — $95,510, 28% growth outlook
- Paralegals and legal assistants — $50,140, 15% growth outlook
- Police and detectives — $62,960, 7% growth outlook
- Private detectives and investigators — $50,700, 11% growth outlook
- Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists — $51,410, 6% growth outlook
Five Things I Wish I Had Known…
While criminal justice can be a rewarding field of study, it isn’t always easy. Below are five things many criminal justice students wish they had known before entering the field.
- Not all paths lead to law enforcement. When it comes to criminal justice, you may choose from a wide range of degrees and career options, so don’t assume you will automatically become a cop; do some research to find the right path for you.
- Written communication skills are a must-have. While it may be easy or attractive to blow off writing courses, the reality is that all criminal justice careers involve loads of paper work, and to be good at your job, it is necessary to communicate effectively in the written word.
- Work experience counts! While a master’s degree is impressive, many employers value real-world experience as much as advanced education. Because of this, many criminal justice professionals will spend several years on the job before going on to earn a master’s degree. To make things easier on yourself, make sure any bachelor’s programs you’re considering include a field experience component.
- While criminal justice degrees can lead to careers in just about every community, not every community will have the same needs or offer the same opportunities. If you are committed to working within a particular community (such as your hometown), be aware of that community’s needs, and what kind of employment you can expect.
- Criminal justice professionals must have a clean record. Many employers overlook misdemeanors, but if you have a felony charge on the books, you are better off looking for a different career.
Find the Best Schools!
- The 50 Best Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree Programs
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- The 30 Best Online Bachelor of Criminal Justice Degree Programs
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- The 25 Best Online Master of Criminal Justice Degree Programs
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