What Can You Do With a Degree in Criminal Justice?

Find Out What Jobs You Qualify for With a Degree in Criminal Justice

African American policewoman writing in notebook
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One of the most important factors involved with choosing a major is the potential for employment in a satisfying career after college. If you're interested in learning about crime and punishment, you might wonder what you can do with a degree in criminal justice.

The Difference Between Criminology and Criminal Justice

First, it's important to understand that criminology and criminal justice degree programs are not the same.

 The two fields are related and they do overlap in some important ways, but they're separate concepts. Your career goals should determine which you choose as your field of study.

Criminology is the study of crime and its causes, costs, and consequences. Criminal justice is the system in which crime is detected and dealt with. In other words, criminology is the theory and criminal justice is the practical application.

What Are Your Criminal Justice Degree Job Options?

A number of job options and career paths exist for those who seek a degree in criminal justice. Most are found in the public sector, either in law enforcement, the court system or the corrections system.

Law Enforcement Career Options

A criminal justice degree is a great way to lay the foundation for a successful career in law enforcement. This degree can prepare graduates for work as police officers, detectives, investigators or police dispatchers.

Not all law enforcement careers require a college degree, but it can still be very beneficial to earn one before starting a career. And some additionally require knowledge or experience in the natural sciences, such as biology and physics. In these cases, a minor in science and major in criminal justice or vice versa might be the ticket.

In addition to police careers, criminal justice majors who are interested in other law enforcement work can look forward to finding careers in crime scene investigation and forensic science. This can include jobs as a forensic science technician, a bloodstain pattern analyst or a forensics ballistics expert.

Careers in the Courts System

The court system is where the innocence or guilt of an individual is decided and where punishment is determined. It offers a diverse field of jobs within criminal justice, all of which serve very important roles in ensuring the fairness and safety of the legal system. Some careers in the court system include:

The roles of prosecutor, defense attorney or jury consultant require advanced schooling, either in a graduate degree program or law school. But other careers such as bailiff or paralegal require only some additional training and certification.

Careers in Corrections

The corrections system is where punishments that have been determined by the courts are carried out. Penalties and sentences can include the fines, restitution, incarceration, probation or parole.

Some corrections careers that are available to criminal justice majors include positions as correctional officers, probation and community control officers or forensic psychologists.

Some jobs in corrections may not require any college at all while others, such as those in forensic psychology, require graduate level schooling. In either case, earning a criminal justice degree can help those interested in working in corrections if they want to move up in their careers.

Job Outlook for Criminal Justice Careers

The job outlook for most jobs in criminology and criminal justice is usually promising even in tough economic times. Communities recognize the need for well-trained law enforcement and corrections professionals, so many cities, counties, and municipalities make it a point to keep officers on the streets and guarding the prisons.

It's a budgeting priority. The courts also receive a great deal of support from their communities, counties, and states, ensuring that jobs are available more often than not.

Rewards of Working in Criminal Justice Jobs

Careers in criminal justice offer a measure of stability not found in all sectors. They typically offer competitive salaries and generous retirement benefits. These, of course, are just a few of the many benefits to earning a degree in criminal justice.  

Beyond the job security and the potential for a comfortable life after retirement, careers in criminal justice provide the intangible satisfaction of knowing that you're working to make a difference in the world. If these career options don't get you excited, learn more about other great jobs in criminology and criminal justice.