Best Criminal Justice
Career Jobs

Learn everything you need to know about the criminal justice profession and what jobs you should be considering

Top 3 Reasons to Choose a Career
in Criminal Justice

Career
Flexibility

The Criminal Justice profession offers a wide variety of options. You can work in the court system, law enforcement (local, state, or federal), or in the Adult or juvenile system. The career path and options in CJ are only limited by your limitations.

Positive
Role Model

People that work in the criminal justice sector are the ultimate role models in their respective community. The fact that you'll come into contact with so many different types of people in your career means that more likely than not, there will be someone that looks up to you.

Job
Security

Not a lot of people nowadays benefit from the level of job stability you will find in a criminal justice job. Crime is on-going and never takes a break (even on holidays). This means a CJ career won't be as vulnerable to a slowdown in the economy like the private sector.

The Most in-Demand Criminal Justice Careers

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Minimum Requirements To Land a Criminal Justice Job

Basic Qualifications to Work in Criminal Justice

  • Must possess a High School Diploma, G.E.D. or equivalent.
  • Must possess a valid driver’s license.
  • Must be a U.S. citizen, or permanent legal resident of the US
  • Must have no felonies, and serious misdemeanor convictions
  • Must successfully pass all stages of the hiring process
  • Must be someone of good moral character & reputation
  • Must not be someone that has a pattern of lawlessness
  • Many CJ jobs require at least an associate/Bachelor’s degree from an accredited Univ.

Typical Criminal Justice Careers

Common Criminal Justice
Career Jobs

  • Probation Officer
  • Criminal Investigator
  • Lawyer/Attorney/Judge
  • Paralegal
  • Police Officer
  • Correctional Officer
  • Private Detective
  • Fish and Game Warden
  • Air Patrol/Aviation
  • Canine/K9 Officer
  • Security Guard
  • State Trooper
  • Crime Scene Investigator
  • SWAT Team
  • Computer Forensics Specialist
  • Fraud Investigator
  • FBI Agent
  • CIA Agent
  • US Postal Inspector
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • Police Dispatcher
  • Homeland Security
  • Homicide Detective
  • DEA Agent
  • Secret Service Agent
  • US Marshal

Average Salary & Pay Scale With a CJ degree

Higest Paying Criminal Justice Jobs

*Criminal Justice Career Salary source: Bureau Labor Statistics

Lawyers/Attorneys
$130,490*
Judges, magistrates, etc
$110,940*
Judges, magistrates, etc
$88,340*
First-line supervisors of police and detectives
$81,250*
Detectives & criminal investigators
$75,720*
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators
$75,550*
Miscellaneous legal support workers
$60,070*
First-Line supervisors of correctional officers
$58,780*
Transit and railroad police
$58,560*
Police and sheriff’s patrol officers
$56,260*
Police and sheriff’s patrol officers
$55,670*
Probation officers & correctional treatment specialists
$52,110*

Criminal Justice Career Job Overview

All You Need to Know About Criminal Justice Degrees

Earning a criminal justice degree is becoming more and more popular for students with a sharp eye on future careers. The criminal justice field is growing and evolving constantly, adapting to new laws and the international threat of terrorism. Those with interests in law, law enforcement, political science, terrorism, immigration, or drug regulation often choose to study criminal justice in order to jumpstart or advance their careers.

Criminal justice degrees are available at all levels. Available degrees will vary depending on which school a student selects, but may include:

  • Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Master of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • PhD in Criminal Justice

These various degree levels will provide different employment opportunities and specialization options, so students should weigh their options and goals carefully before selecting a program.

Who should earn a criminal justice degree?

Criminal justice is a broad field that encompasses several disciplines. As such, programs leading to criminal justice degrees attract individuals from many careers and interests. Those who pursue a top criminal justice degree may have experience in fields such as:

  • Law Enforcement
  • Legal
  • Military
  • Rehabilitation
  • Politics

Many criminal justice students are young, first-time students with no related experience, while some, especially those pursuing advanced degrees, have many years of experience that they wish to channel into personal research projects.

What should you expect in a criminal justice degree program?

Criminal justice degree programs will vary significantly depending on the school and education level. Some advanced programs will emphasize personal research over classroom experience, and students will be expected to complete in-depth projects in order to complete their degree. Advanced students will generally also focus on developing an expertise in a specific area, where as those earning associate’s degrees or bachelor’s degrees will take a wider range of classes. These courses may include:

Criminology
Not surprisingly, the theories behind criminology are the fundamental basics that most criminal justice students will begin their education with. Criminology focuses on the psychology behind criminal behavior, as well as the outside factors that lead criminals to commit crimes and the societal reaction to various crimes.

Criminal Court Systems
Students are generally required to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the United States criminal court system, no matter what specialization they may be interested in. These courses will also include a study of the constitution in relation to the criminal court system.

Juvenile Criminal Justice
There are many legal and ethical particulars unique to juvenile criminal justice, which is one of the most popular specialization options at nearly all schools. These programs tend to focus more on rehabilitation efforts than punishment.

Criminal Justice Administration
This course will discuss the administrative technicalities associated with running criminal justice organizations, including managing financial resources and assessing the effectiveness of crime prevention and criminal rehabilitation programs. Students may also study legal requirements of criminal justice.

Criminal Organizations
Once a very popular specialization option, a course in organized crime is often offered by universities for students interested in studying major terrorist groups, both domestic and international. Students will learn the history of organized crime groups and understand the typical hierarchy.

Most schools will encourage students to participate in internship programs while enrolled in schools. Students often work with counseling professionals in criminal rehabilitation centers or prisons. Depending on where they attend school, other students may find opportunities with government agencies.

What should you do with a criminal justice degree?

A criminal justice degree can open the door to many careers, and will often set candidates apart when working toward career advancement. Some careers a graduate of a criminal justice degree program may pursue are:

Some students choose to pursue further education after completing their criminal justice degrees, often by attending law school or earning ad advanced degree in criminal justice. Many others commit to specialized training in law enforcement or the armed forces. Either way, a criminal justice degree can often prove a viable investment, leading to steady employment and comfortable salaries.

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What kinds of jobs can I hold with a degree?

After you earn your education through criminal justice certification or a degree program, you will begin your search for criminal justice jobs. There is a wide variety of careers that you may qualify for, depending on the level of education that you have attained. Of course, there will be more careers for majors who have earned bachelors or masters degrees than there will be for someone who has less education, like a certificate or a criminal justice associate degree online.

As you think about different jobs for criminal justice majors, you should also consider whether you want to find jobs right away or pursue further education. Most students who earn degrees in this field do not immediately pursue careers. Instead, they eventually continue their education by earning graduate degrees in related fields. For that reason, the list of criminal justice degree jobs below includes careers with a degree and jobs that you can get with some additional education.

Police Officer

Police officers are among the jobs with a criminal justice degree that students think of most frequently because of their visibility in the community. Police officers regularly patrol certain areas and respond to emergency calls for help from citizens. They investigate suspicious activity and arrest criminal suspects. Some police officers specialize in specific types of criminal cases like narcotics, fraud or homicide.

To become a police officer, you must complete 6 months of intense training at a police academy. And though it is not required, it is recommended that you complete your associates degree, which takes about 2 years. Once they have gained some experience, police usually make about $53,500 per year working for local, county and state police departments.

Federal Special Agent

Federal agents investigate more serious offenses than the regular police, like organized crime, unsolved murders, drug trafficking and national security threats. Special agents collect evidence for lab analysis during their investigations and provide expert testimony in court.

To become a federal special agent, you need a 4-year bachelors degree and 2 to 3 years of experience in law enforcement. There are several agencies you could work for, including the CIA, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. Therefore, your pay can vary according to your workplace, but you can expect a base salary of at least $43,440, which will increase over time as you gain experience.

Correctional Treatment Specialist

A correctional treatment specialist has a highly specialized criminal justice career that involves working with convicted criminal offenders in jails and prisons on a one-one-one basis. Treatment specialists evaluate individuals to assess whether they are ready to rejoin society without risk of committing more crimes. They also help former inmates adjust to society by providing them with job training, counseling and education.

The minimum amount of education required in this career is a bachelors degree, which takes 4 years. You can earn about $47,200 in this job.

Paralegal

Another career in criminal justice is a paralegal. These criminal justice professionals, who are also known as legal assistants, help lawyers and attorneys to prepare for their cases. They also perform administrative duties like taking notes at meetings, preparing legal documents, interviewing clients and filing documents. But although they perform some of the same functions as attorneys, they cannot offer legal advice to clients.

There are many ways to prepare for a paralegal career. The shortest route is a certificate, which takes about a year. But you can also earn associates degrees, which take 2 years, or bachelors degrees, which take 4 years. You can expect to make an average paralegal salary of about $46,700 while working at law firms or in the legal department of corporate businesses.

Attorney/Lawyer

Attorneys play a central role in the criminal justice system. They are responsible for prosecuting and defending suspected criminals in court and working on their behalf to negotiate plea bargains to avoid going to trial. In order to create arguments for prosecution or defense, they research legal issues to develop persuasive statements.

You have a long educational road ahead if you want to be an attorney. You will have to earn a bachelors degree and graduate from law school, which will take 7 to 8 years altogether. Attorneys also need to pass state bar exams before they can legally practice law. But all of this work tends to pay off, because you can earn an average salary of $112,800 in this position. As an attorney, you can work for the government or for private law firms.

How hard is it to gain admission to a criminal justice college?

Many students tend to feel anxious before applying to an accredited college. If you are applying to an university for the first time, you should know that there are different admissions requirements for various degree levels. Remember that you can earn certificates, associates degrees, bachelors degrees, masters degrees and doctoral degrees in this field. So even though it is fairly difficult to gain admission to graduate school at a university for criminal justice, you will find that it is far easier to get into the best universities at the undergraduate level if you apply to a community college or a 4-year university.

What should I know about applying to a certificate program?

Certificates in this field are offered at 2 levels. Therefore, the requirements for admission to certificate programs depend on whether you are applying to an undergraduate or a graduate program. It is easier to get into an undergraduate certificate program because there are fewer admissions requirements. Although you do need to have a high school diploma or GED, you do not need any previous college experience. You will simply need to send in copies of your transcripts along with your application.

However, the requirements are a little stricter for a graduate certificate. To enroll in a graduate certificate program, you need to have a bachelors degree. Although your degree does not necessarily have to be in criminal justice, it must be from an accredited school.

What about applying to a criminal justice associates degree program?

Associates degree programs at a traditional or online college have approximately the same admissions requirements as undergraduate certificates. That is, you do not need to have a degree, but you need to send in proof of your high school diploma or GED along with copies of your transcripts when you apply. Your application may also be improved by 1 or 2 letters of recommendation from your teachers, though not all colleges require these.

What do I need to apply to a criminal justice bachelors degree program?

Bachelors degree programs have somewhat more difficult requirements for applicants. Although you do not need to earn a degree before you apply, you can apply with an associates degree and transfer your credits over. Generally, universities want students who have demonstrated an interest in the subject through their high school coursework or extracurricular experiences. Therefore, you should highlight any work or volunteer experience you may have. Like associates degrees, you will need to send in copies of your high school diploma or GED along with your transcripts when you apply to a bachelors degree program. Finally, nearly all top colleges for criminal justice require students to submit 2 to 3 letters of recommendation along with their applications.

How hard is it to get into a graduate program for criminal justice?

Graduate programs as a whole have more rigorous standards for admission than undergraduate programs. Therefore, students who are applying to masters programs must hold a bachelors degree. Although your degree can be in a subject other than criminal justice, you will have a better chance of admission if it is in a related field, like psychology or sociology.

Finally, it is usually quite difficult to gain admission to a doctoral program. PhD programs prefer applicants who have several years of work experience in criminal justice or a related field, like psychology, sociology or criminology. Although most PhD programs do not require applicants to have a masters degree, your application will benefit from research experience in any of these fields.

Is it easier to get into an online school to study criminal justice?

Accredited online colleges have the same admissions requirements as brick-and-mortar schools. Therefore, you should not expect the admissions process to be any easier if you want to earn an online criminal justice degree. However, the applications process may be a bit faster for online criminal justice programs because you can often apply and submit your documents online instantly rather than wait for paper applications to be received in the mail.

If I’m not sure I want to get a degree in criminal justice, what are some other programs I could apply to?

If you decide not to get a criminal justice degree, you may want to consider studying criminology. Criminology is most commonly offered at the graduate level, so this is a good option if you studied criminal justice as an undergraduate. Although criminology is also concerned with crime prevention, it focuses on crime as a social problem. Criminologists seek to isolate the causes of crime as they examine the effects it has on society.

Depending on your interests, you could also consider earning a law degree if you are not sure that criminal justice is the right fit for you. However, like degrees in criminology, law degrees require you to have already earned a bachelors degree.

At the bachelors level, sociology may be a good field to pursue since you will have the chance to study human behavior and social problems, which is part of the curriculum of bachelors degree programs.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Most frequent questions and answers

I have a bachelor's degree in criminal justice now what?

The next step after getting a Criminal Justice degree is limitless, but you must decide in what direction you’d like to go with your degree. There are three main parts within the criminal justice system that you should consider pursing a career in, and they are law enforcement, courts and corrections.

what can you do with a criminal justice degree ?

There are many different things that you can do with a criminal justice degree as a career in Criminology is multi-facet in terms of the things that you’re able to do. However, the most sought after careers in criminal justice are usually in law enforcement like FBI, DEA, Secret Service, ICE, police officers, federal correctional officers, probation officers, Parole Officers.  

what can you do with a bachelors in criminal justice

Having a bachelors in criminal justice means that you can work in the federal level as many of the jobs there require a bachelor’s degree. You can work in corrections, law enforcement or within the court system with a Bachelors.

jobs you can get with a criminal justice degree?

Some of the jobs that you can get with a criminal justice degree are police officer, correctional officer, probation officer, parole officer, federal parole officer, state trooper, and more.

what jobs can you get with a criminal justice degree?

The jobs that are available to those that have a criminal justice degree is pretty extensive. In a nutshell, you can become a police officer, Federal Correctional Officer, State Police Officer, Parole Officer, Crime Scene investigator, Customs and Border Protection agent, Jailer. 

do you need a criminology degree to be a detective?

You don’t need a criminology degree in most local agencies to become a detective, but you must understand that you’ll likely need to spend at least 2 years as a patrol officer before interviewing to become a detective. 

Best Criminal Justice Career Path
Questions & Answers

What can I do with a degree in criminal justice?

If you decide to earn a degree, you will be able to choose from a variety of professions, because traditional and online programs will teach you a wide skill set combined with the theory of criminal behavior and prevention of crime. Because professionals typically become law enforcement officers, lawyers and judges, you should think about getting a degree in criminal justice if you are interested in the judicial system.

The next thing you need to know about this field is that the amount of education you need depends on the career that you want to pursue. For some jobs, an associates degree or an online criminal justice bachelor degree will be enough. For instance, you rarely need more than a high school diploma or associates degree and 6 months of police academy training if you want to secure an entry-level law enforcement job. But if you want to become a lawyer or judge, you should expect to attend criminal justice graduate programs.

You can earn every level of education in this subject, from certificates that take less than a year to doctoral programs that can require more than 5 years of graduate study. As you look for a program, you should also keep in mind that you can earn both traditional degrees at brick-and-mortar schools or online degrees. In fact, at every level, you can seek certificates or degrees online.

Will I be able to find a job right after I get a degree?

Regardless of your position, as a professional, you will protect the public and their property by enforcing laws. But the ease of difficulty of finding a job with a criminal justice degree depends largely on the career that you want to pursue, because there is a lot of variation in the jobs that you could qualify with a traditional or online degree.

For instance, if you decide to become a paralegal, who assists lawyers with their cases, you should be able to find a job fairly easily since qualified individuals are in demand in that field. But you will have a more difficult time finding a job as a police officer or a lawyer, since those fields are saturated with qualified individuals.

That doesn’t mean that you should not pursue traditional or online degrees, but you should expect to put a lot of effort into your job search. You will need to network with other professionals and boldly promote your knowledge and skills in order to find a job in your field.

Finally, you should be aware that you may need to make a great deal of sacrifices for your criminal justice career. For example, paralegals and lawyers often work demanding and unpredictable schedules, while law enforcement officers suffer high rates of on-the-job injuries.

Can I still find a job if I get my criminal justice degree online?

Online degree programs are widespread, and it is possible to find a job with a diploma from an online degree program. However, if you choose to study online, you should make sure that your school is accredited. An accredited online degree will provide you with a valuable education that will be respected by your future employers.

In addition, remember that the best online criminal justice degree programs offer internships, which will help you to learn the practical on-the-job skills that you will need to be successful in your career. All top criminal justice degree online programs recognize the necessity of learning these hands-on skills. In fact, internships are so vital that you should not attend an online program that does not offer you a chance to gain work experience.

What kind of work will people with degrees in criminal justice do?

Criminal justice professionals attempt to prevent criminal behavior and to deal with it when it does occur through rehabilitation or imprisonment. Even though careers are varied, they can be grouped into 3 general categories:

Law Enforcement Officers

Law enforcement professionals include police officers, detectives, private investigators and federal special agents. These professionals respond to emergency calls, investigate crimes and arrest criminal suspects.

Corrections Officers

Unlike law enforcement officers, who seek out suspects, corrections officers work inside facilities like jails and prisons to supervise convicted criminal offenders. In addition, parole and probation officers keep track of offenders who have been released from jail to assist with their readjustment to society and make sure that they do not commit new crimes.

Legal Professionals

Legal professionals are the lawyers, paralegals and judges who make up the judicial systems. They work for the courts, at private law firms and at government offices. They defend and prosecute accused criminals or negotiate plea bargains to avoid going to trial.

Questions Answered About Applying to
a Criminal Justice Program

How hard is it to gain admission to a criminal justice college?

Many students tend to feel anxious before applying to an accredited college. If you are applying to an university for the first time, you should know that there are different admissions requirements for various degree levels. Remember that you can earn certificates, associates degrees, bachelors degrees, masters degrees and doctoral degrees in this field. So even though it is fairly difficult to gain admission to graduate school at a university for criminal justice, you will find that it is far easier to get into the best universities at the undergraduate level if you apply to a community college or a 4-year university.

What should I know about applying to a certificate program?

Certificates in this field are offered at 2 levels. Therefore, the requirements for admission to certificate programs depend on whether you are applying to an undergraduate or a graduate program. It is easier to get into an undergraduate certificate program because there are fewer admissions requirements. Although you do need to have a high school diploma or GED, you do not need any previous college experience. You will simply need to send in copies of your transcripts along with your application.

However, the requirements are a little stricter for a graduate certificate. To enroll in a graduate certificate program, you need to have a bachelors degree. Although your degree does not necessarily have to be in criminal justice, it must be from an accredited school.

What about applying to a criminal justice associates degree program?

Associates degree programs at a traditional or online college have approximately the same admissions requirements as undergraduate certificates. That is, you do not need to have a degree, but you need to send in proof of your high school diploma or GED along with copies of your transcripts when you apply. Your application may also be improved by 1 or 2 letters of recommendation from your teachers, though not all colleges require these.

What do I need to apply to a criminal justice bachelors degree program?

Bachelors degree programs have somewhat more difficult requirements for applicants. Although you do not need to earn a degree before you apply, you can apply with an associates degree and transfer your credits over. Generally, universities want students who have demonstrated an interest in the subject through their high school coursework or extracurricular experiences. Therefore, you should highlight any work or volunteer experience you may have. Like associates degrees, you will need to send in copies of your high school diploma or GED along with your transcripts when you apply to a bachelors degree program. Finally, nearly all top colleges for criminal justice require students to submit 2 to 3 letters of recommendation along with their applications.

How hard is it to get into a graduate program for criminal justice?

Graduate programs as a whole have more rigorous standards for admission than undergraduate programs. Therefore, students who are applying to masters programs must hold a bachelors degree. Although your degree can be in a subject other than criminal justice, you will have a better chance of admission if it is in a related field, like psychology or sociology.

Finally, it is usually quite difficult to gain admission to a doctoral program. PhD programs prefer applicants who have several years of work experience in criminal justice or a related field, like psychology, sociology or criminology. Although most PhD programs do not require applicants to have a masters degree, your application will benefit from research experience in any of these fields.

Is it easier to get into an online school to study criminal justice?

Accredited online colleges have the same admissions requirements as brick-and-mortar schools. Therefore, you should not expect the admissions process to be any easier if you want to earn an online criminal justice degree. However, the applications process may be a bit faster for online criminal justice programs because you can often apply and submit your documents online instantly rather than wait for paper applications to be received in the mail.

If I’m not sure I want to get a degree in criminal justice, what are some other programs I could apply to?

If you decide not to get a criminal justice degree, you may want to consider studying criminology. Criminology is most commonly offered at the graduate level, so this is a good option if you studied criminal justice as an undergraduate. Although criminology is also concerned with crime prevention, it focuses on crime as a social problem. Criminologists seek to isolate the causes of crime as they examine the effects it has on society.

Depending on your interests, you could also consider earning a law degree if you are not sure that criminal justice is the right fit for you. However, like degrees in criminology, law degrees require you to have already earned a bachelors degree.

At the bachelors level, sociology may be a good field to pursue since you will have the chance to study human behavior and social problems, which is part of the curriculum of bachelors degree programs.

Questions Answered About The Importance of Knowing Which Criminal
Justice Program Makes Sense For You

How do I choose a good program?

Criminal justice is among the most popular majors for undergraduates, and hundreds of schools offer a program online and in on-campus classrooms. Although it may seem impossible to choose the top online program or brick-and-mortar campus for you, there are a few things to look for that can help distinguish 1 program from another. As you look for quality brick-and-mortar or online criminal justice schools, you should look for accredited schools that offer internships and career resources.

How important is accreditation?

Accreditation can be a tricky issue because it can mean a couple of different things. You have to pay attention to context when you are looking for accredited criminal justice programs online. The American higher education system relies on 2 types of accreditation to mark the quality of academic institutions: program-specific and institutional.

Program-specific accreditation is granted by professional organizations to specific programs in a college or university, like a teaching program. For certain professions, program accreditation is essential. But for degrees, program-specific accreditation is not particularly important. Although the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences does certify a handful of outstanding programs, you don’t need to worry if your program isn’t among them. You do not need to graduate from a specially accredited program in order to get a job as a professional.

However, you do need to attend an institutionally accredited school. This type of accreditation is awarded to universities, colleges or technical schools as a whole. If a school is accredited, it means that your degree has value and it will be accepted by employers anywhere as proof of your education. You should never attend a traditional or online criminal justice degree from a school that isn’t accredited.

Will I have to do an internship or get hands-on training in my program?

Not all programs offer internships, but all of the best traditional and top online programs will do so, at least at the undergraduate level. Internships are important in the field of criminal justice, because law enforcement and corrections officers must have hands-on skills in order to deal with potentially violent or unbalanced criminals and to defend themselves on the job.

Internships are especially important if you want to attend an online program. You can learn the theory of criminal justice well in the online environment, but you cannot learn skills like negotiation in this environment. The best online criminal justice programs recognize the limits of online learning and provide students with internships to fill in the practical gaps.

Undergraduate internships typically occur during the last semester of college. They often last for about 1 semester, although the specifics of your internship may vary according to the type of professional that you want to be. Clearly, a future law student will not have the same internship experience as someone who wants to become a parole officer. Before you enroll in online programs, you should investigate the program to see whether it will place you in an internship or not.

Will my program help me find a job as a criminal justice professional?

No matter what school you attend, good brick-and-mortar and the best online programs will have career resources available to you. A high-quality program will have established relationships with local affiliates like police departments and law firms so that you can gain work experience through internships. In addition, your school should have a career center where you can find the latest local job postings in your field so that you do not miss an opportunity to apply for jobs in your area.

Even if your school does not offer such resources, you can still take some actions to keep yourself visible on the job market. A simple way to showcase your professional knowledge and skills is to join a networking site, like LinkedIn, where you can connect with thousands of other professionals. You can also join associations like the American Criminal Justice Association and the Institute for Law and Justice. By actively participating in these organizations, you can show potential employers that you are serious about your career and dedicated to the ideals of criminal justice and the prevention of crime.

Questions About Getting a Bachelors Degree in CJ

Can I get a bachelors degree in criminal justice?

Bachelors degree programs take an in-depth look at the theory and practice of criminal justice. They are offered at many 4-year universities across the nation, since they are relatively common degree choices for undergraduates.

You can earn traditional degrees from a brick-and-mortar institution or get an accredited online bachelors degree. Regardless of the learning format you choose, a traditional or online bachelors is enough to qualify you for jobs as a paralegal, federal agent or private investigator. But you should keep in mind that a lot of students choose to continue their education in criminal justice graduate programs. After your bachelors degree, you can pursue a masters in the same subject with an online masters degree in criminal justice. Or, you can study related fields like sociology, criminology or law in order to earn an advanced degree and increase your job opportunities.

What kinds of bachelors degrees can I earn?

You can earn a couple of different degrees at the bachelors level. Although both of these degrees carry the same value on the job market, you should look at the degree plans for each to decide which path is better for your career goals.

A bachelor of arts degree in criminal justice has more liberal arts classes, so you will gain a broad background that is based in the humanities as you study other disciplines in addition to criminal justice. The bachelor of arts is generally preferable if you want to apply to graduate school in any of the social sciences, like sociology or criminology.

A bachelor of science degree is more technical in nature than the bachelor of arts. The bachelor of science teaches more practical skills for working in the field and is grounded in the sciences. This degree is the best option if you want to start a job in the field immediately after you graduate.

How long does it take to earn a criminal justice bachelors degree?

As you search for a program, keep in mind that the amount of time it takes to earn your degree may vary according to the length and depth of your program and whether you elect to earn your degree from a brick-and-mortar institution or get an online bachelor degree in criminal justice. Nonetheless, it typically takes students about 4 years to earn a degree, which normally consists of 120 to 128 credit hours.

What classes will I take in my bachelors degree program?

Most bachelors degree programs require students to complete core courses like an introduction to the criminal justice system, criminal law and sociology. Then you can choose a focus within your program and take electives that interest you, like policing, corrections, juvenile offenders and private security, among others. Remember that your curriculum may offer slightly different courses than this, especially if you choose to earn your bachelor degree online.

Can I earn my bachelors degree online?

Many busy adults are interested in an online bachelors degree because of the convenience and flexibility that it offers. Whether online study is right for you depends on your circumstances. For instance, if you have no experience in the criminal justice field, you should not pursue an online degree unless it guarantees you placement in an internship. Without an internship, you will not gain practical skills from your online program and it will not be as valuable as a traditional degree. As you look for a program, remember that the best bachelors degree online programs offer internships.

On the other hand, if you are already a working criminal justice professional like a police officer, internships are less important since you already have the practical skills that it takes to succeed in your position. If that is the case, there are no significant drawbacks to earning a top online criminal justice bachelor degree in order to gain a promotion or otherwise advance your career.

What kinds of jobs can I get with a bachelors degree in criminal justice?

Bachelors degrees are sufficient for most jobs in the field. For example, you can work with social service agencies that provide services to inmates and their families. In addition, a bachelors degree will qualify you for careers as local, state and federal law enforcement officers. And with a bachelors, as opposed to just police academy training or an associates degree, you will also be more qualified for supervisory positions in police departments and correctional facilities.

Questions About What You Can Earn as a Criminal Justice Professional

What kind of salary will I earn as a criminal justice professional?

It is very difficult to estimate the average salary for professionals due to the wide range of careers that are included in the discipline. For example, the average salary of a police officer is $53,500 per year, but the average salary for an attorney is approximately $120,000 per year. To average these 2 criminal justice salaries would not give an accurate portrait of the criminal justice degree salary that all students can expect after graduating with a degree in this field.

In addition, each profession can be affected by factors like geographical location, the size of the company or organization that you work for and the amount of education that you have earned. For instance, the average salary for paralegals is about $47,000 per year. But some paralegals earn as little as $29,260, while others earn more than $73,450.

In short, it is not useful to give an average of all salaries. Instead, you should look for the profession that interests you the most and find out about the criminal justice salary in that job. A good place to begin your research is to look at the data gathered by the government at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What is the job outlook for criminal justice professionals?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for professionals in general is positive. Therefore, you can expect to find employment with a criminal justice degree. However, as with a survey for the average salary, it is best to examine the job outlook for different careers individually, rather than as a whole since a significant amount of variation exists. Below are the job outlooks for several of the major careers:

Police officers and detectives will see a 7% increase in jobs in the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They held 794,300 jobs in 2010, but growth in these jobs will be slower than the national average projected for all occupations.

Lawyers will also face strong competition for jobs through 2020. Despite the amount of education that they have to attain, employment will increase by only 10% in the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2010, there were about 728,200 lawyers working in the United States, but a reluctance on the part of older lawyers to retire combined with the fact that more legal tasks are being delegated to paralegals mean that jobs will continue to be scarce. However, it is expected that employment opportunities will be best for law school graduates who are willing to relocate for their jobs.

Paralegals and legal assistants will have positive job prospects since their employment is expected to increase by 18%, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics states is a little better than average for all occupations. There were about 256,000 paralegals and legal assistants employed in 2010, but that number is expected to rise to more than 300,000 by 2020.

Do all criminal justice professionals earn the same salaries?

Not all workers in this field earn the same salary. In fact, it ranges from about $30,000 on the lower end of paralegal salaries to well over $100,000 per year for attorneys and judges. Therefore, the factor that influences your salary the most is the career that you choose.

In addition, salaries are usually affected by the size of the city and company that you work for. People who work in densely populated urban areas tend to make more money than people in rural areas in order to offset the higher cost of living in cities. Likewise, you will probably make a bigger salary if you work for a large department, office or organization because it will be able to afford a larger payroll than a smaller business.

How can I increase my salary once I become a criminal justice professional?

The best way to make more money in a career is to increase your education. Like most professions, employers value workers who have strong educational backgrounds, so 1 way to earn a raise is to get more education. That could mean earning an additional degree, like getting a masters degree if you work in law enforcement so that you can be an administrator. It could also mean earning an additional criminal justice certification. For example, you do not have to be certified to get a job as a paralegal, but your job opportunities and salary will increase if you earn that certification. And if you earned your education through an online criminal justice degree, you can make yourself seem more valuable to potential employers by completing an internship.