Criminal Justice Career Guide 2020: Salary and Degree Info

Every country has a system that controls crime and imposes penalties on those who violate the laws of the land. In the U.S., it is known as the Criminal Justice system. It is a set of legal and social institutions for enforcing criminal law according to a defined set of procedural rules and limitations. This system is often divided into separate entities-the federal, state, and military Criminal Justice systems. There are also different systems that govern the crimes of adults and juveniles.

Within the Criminal Justice system, one will find significant subsystems consisted of one or more public institutions and their workforce, from police and law enforcement agencies, trial and appellate courts, and the prosecution and public defender offices to probation and parole agencies, custodial institutions, and the department of corrections. Each jurisdiction has its own set of sentencing guidelines commission.

Those who want to be a part of the Criminal Justice system can build their career by studying Criminal Justice. Often used interchangeably with criminal law and criminology, Criminal Justice refers to the interdisciplinary study of the police, criminal courts, correctional institutions, and juvenile justice agencies. 

Students who are interested in working in this field will be glad to know that the Criminal Justice employment outlook is looking good. It also compensates well. A probation officer, for example, can earn as much as $51,410 annually.

Criminal Justice as a Degree

An exciting field with many sub-fields, a Criminal Justice degree is the best choice for those applying for most sought-after jobs in the Criminal Justice system, from criminal investigator to a law enforcement officer.

The focus of your Criminal Justice degree depends on the type of career you want to pursue after college. Some courses tackle the Criminal Justice system itself, technology in forensics, corrections system, the court and its relation to law enforcement, and the Criminal Justice theories.

Criminal Justice students complete courses in Statistics, Psychology, and Criminology. Most programs let students choose their areas of interest. It can be in the paralegal studies; others aim to master forensic science. A Criminal Justice degree is also a good foundation for those who want to become a police officer and climb the ladder leading to positions like that of a detective.

Undergraduate and post-graduate degrees are offered to Criminal Justice students. Generally, the program curriculum focuses on preparing students to understand the ins and outs of the system and the institutions involved. Courses emphasize ethical concerns, social, and behavioral influences on crime and delinquency.

Students are expected to choose their preferred electives, which can build their career track specializations in different areas of Criminal Justice, including corrections, juvenile justice, law enforcement, legal studies, international justice, or management and administration. Some schools encourage practical experience. Hence they offer internship programs which place students in roles that involve navigating the justice system.

Some of the coursework that students can expect to learn in the Criminal Justice programs include:

  • Theory and Practice of Criminal Justice
  • Drugs and Society
  • Crime in America
  • Principles of Investigation
  • Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Crime Prevention
  • Statistics in Criminal Justice
  • Research Methods in Criminal Justice
  • Criminal Justice Internship
  • Constitutional Law
  • Computer Forensics
  • Corrections
  • Criminal Psychology
  • Forensic Science

Students who want to take up a degree program in Criminal Justice are usually asked to submit their application form and other necessary documentation requirements to the university or college of their choice. Some are required to undergo placement testing before they can be admitted.

It helps if aspiring students have an interest in the aspects of the law, the psychology behind criminal behavior and the law enforcement agencies operate. This degree requires you to learn all of that and more, after all.

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.

Types of Criminal Justice Degrees

The field of Criminal Justice is becoming competitive. Qualified applicants take advantage of the growing industry. Many organizations and agencies prefer applicants with a college degree for many key positions. Having a degree in Criminal Justice is a definite advantage in this day and age, opening up a wealth of employment opportunities. There are several types of Criminal Justice degrees, and each has different benefits. Here are the different levels that you can choose from:

Most positions in the law enforcement field require minimum educational attainment. Usually, a high school diploma can suffice. However, times are changing. More and more agencies are now seeking applicants with an associate degree, at the very least. In an associate’s degree, students will be able to learn all about the fundamentals of law enforcement, court systems, corrections, theories of crime causation, and crime control policies. All of these can help them acquire fundamental knowledge on the Criminal Justice system and help navigate the complexities of law enforcement.

Associate’s Degree

This is where they learn Criminal Justice terms and examine relevant courses like the role of law enforcement, Criminal Justice policies, U.S. court and correctional systems, and forensic science fundamentals.

Bachelor’s Degree

The bachelor’s degree level, on the other hand, can be the best ticket to many different Criminal Justice positions, like those in law enforcement and private investigations. They can also work as probation officers, FBI agents, and as members of judicial courts. Just like in an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree program covers the basics of Criminal Justice, although in a more in-depth approach. Students can choose their specializations, such as law enforcement, legal systems, or corrections. They are also encouraged to acquire practical experience through internship programs.

Some of the topics they will cover include:

  • Justice system for minors
  • Courtroom procedures
  • Criminal parole and probation
  • Relationship between law enforcement, judiciary, and corrections
  • Social and Criminal Justice
  • Application of social justice principles

Master’s Degree

If you want to explore the depths of Criminal Justice more and develop expertise in a particular field, it is ideal for taking up a master’s degree. This degree level considers an associate’s or bachelor’s degree as prerequisites. Most graduates with a master’s degree in Criminal Justice go on to become officers in court or Criminal Justice instructors. Others choose the path of social work.

In this program, students focus on developing their research skills and theoretical knowledge. They look at illegal behavior more thoroughly, examining the factors that can influence it, mentally, physically, and socially.

Students can expect to cover the following topics in this program: philosophical and historical foundations of justice, applied statistics in Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice analysis, forensic identification and profiling techniques, data analysis in criminology, and survey of criminology theories.

Doctorate Degree

Just like any other doctoral programs, a doctorate in Criminal Justice is most suitable for those who want to teach university-level Criminal Justice courses. It is, understandably, more intense and concentrated than a master’s degree program. Students deal with comprehensive exams, and complete a dissertation.

Some of the most common subjects for doctorate programs are criminal psychology, diplomatic relations, homeland security, and many others.

Criminal Justice Specializations

Individuals and agencies work together to fulfill their function in the Criminal Justice system. There is a wide range of specializations within the field, from the police and other members of the law enforcement organizations to the court system, caseworkers, and corrections officers. Those who are interested in building their Criminal Justice must examine their options. What stage of the system is most suitable for you? What is your interest in the Criminal Justice system?

If you want to follow a career that deals with investigating and prosecuting crimes, a specialization in that particular field can set you straight to your chosen path. Having a specialization can help you develop the required and relevant skills needed for a specific position. This will tailor your courses to your goals.

Corrections 

To gain a better understanding of case management the complex dynamics of addiction and offender treatment, a specialization in the corrections field can help students. This is where they learn all about the goals and philosophies essential in correctional interventions. It also helps them come up to sound decisions when it comes to criminal sentencing and penal sanctions.

Forensic Science

Crime scene investigation allows students to explore the sciences behind law enforcement practice and crime-scene investigations. This specialization, known as Forensic Science, focuses on defining the cause and manner of a person’s death. A forensic scientist may also be tasked to notify the victim’s next of kin, interview witnesses, and interpret crime-scene photography.

Homeland Security and Crisis Management

In this specialization, students will be able to work in developing a solid foundation in Criminal Justice that can help them dig deeper into crisis management, ethical issues, critical infrastructures, terrorism, and homeland security. They will learn the specific techniques for protecting critical infrastructures, intelligence gathering, and technologies that are essential in preserving the protection of the homeland.

This course aims to arm them with foundational knowledge across a range of discipline, from risk analysis, emergency plans, and strategic communications to national security and public policies that govern homeland security and risk management.  

Law Enforcement

The rewarding field of law enforcement allows students to explore the relationship between the police force and the communities they are serving. This specialization tackles the fundamentals of Criminal Justice, from police ethics and public policy to developing programs that empower communities in reducing crime. Students who specialized in this program will be able to create knowledge in police theory, law enforcement practice, and organization management.

Aside from positions in law enforcement, corrections, and other public fields, your Criminal Justice degree can also give you opportunities in social work and forensics.

Online vs. Brick and Mortar Criminal Justice Degrees

Since the field of Criminal Justice is continuously growing, universities have been offering the program to allow students to build their chosen career. Whether you want to enter the police academy or become a private investigator, a Criminal Justice degree is a good investment. With the emergence of technology, it becomes even easier to acquire an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree for Criminal Justice. Students also have the option to earn it online.

But which is better, online or brick and mortar Criminal Justice degree?

For those who want discipline and interactive learning, they can go for a traditional Criminal Justice degree. This method of learning lets them interact with their classmates and develop teamwork. Many of the on-campus Criminal Justice programs are accredited. Some of the most acclaimed schools offering a degree in Criminal Justice include Rutgers University in Newark with a B.S in Criminal Justice. There are also the University of Iowa, West Virginia University, and George Mason University.

Those who are already working might find it hard to juggle their school and career. Fortunately, online degree programs are available for working adults who want to explore the field of Criminal Justice or further their education for better chances at promotions. Online degree programs are flexible and do not necessarily require their presence on-campus all the time. They can earn a degree at their own pace, too. Some of the notable online schools offering Criminal Justice degree programs are Arizona State University, the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, University of Louisville, and Ball State University.

Financing Your Criminal Justice Education

Federal student loans, which include direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans, provide lower interest rates than private loans. Some loan plans are exclusive to Criminal Justice students and graduates, such as the NDSL/Perkins Loan Cancellation program that allows up to 100% loan cancellation for full-time law enforcement or corrections officers.

Scholarships and grants from schools, private companies, and the government are made available to Criminal Justice students. An example is the COAG (Constitutional Officers Association of Georgia) and Anderson Criminal Justice Scholarship.

Criminal Justice Career Pathways, Information, and Outlook

There is nothing more exciting and equally daunting than deciding on your career path. The field of Criminal Justice is vast and varied. It can be challenging to pick the best one that is most suitable for your goals and qualifications. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook between 2016-2026 for careers in Criminal Justice is growing 7% faster than average. As of 2016, there 807,000 number if Criminal Justice jobs.

It is also projected that jobs will be most plentiful for professionals who hold a master’s degree in a discipline with industry application. Graduates can seek positions in the local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies. Some of the skills and training that they should hone include know-how in computer science, forensics, psychology, cyber crimes, accounting, and even finance.

Most Criminal Justice graduates enter the field of law enforcement and corrections. Others go on to become professors in esteemed universities while some choose to serve as social workers.

10 Common Criminal Justice Occupations

Unlike many programs in liberal arts and social sciences, the criminal justice degree program emphasizes real-world applications and is in demand by public and private sectors. Students under this degree program have extensive training as well as earn practical skills, allowing them to have the education and skills crucial to landing a career.

Obtaining a criminal justice degree can prepare you to get employed for several career opportunities within the field of criminal justice. While the most common or large population of professionals in the criminal justice field are police officers, there are numerous job options that you may want to explore from computer forensic specialist to FBI agent. Given the fact that there are several opportunities for you in the field, you can find the right career for you that will match your salary expectations, skills, interests, and passion. It is one of the best disciplines for people with a broad set of skills.

Professionals in the Criminal Justice field use their knowledge and training in sociology, political science, psychology, and criminal justice to establish successful careers in the industry.

The criminal justice field is a vast field. As a result, there are many professions to choose from. However, this list explores ten common criminal justice occupations, together with a longer list of related occupations.

Police Officer

Police officers maintain public safety and order, collect pieces of evidence from crimes, pursue and arrest people who commit crimes. They are responsible for the prevention, investigation, and report on suspicious activities. Police officers either work for the Federal, local or State agencies adhering to a strict code of conduct regarding their roles and responsibilities while maintaining the law and integrity of their police powers. An associate or a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or law enforcement is preferable by most private companies or public sectors. Several medical examinations, written and physical fitness tests, as well as training, are required for employment qualifications.

Starting Salary: $38,850/year

Security Guard

Security guards are sought after wherever there are properties and people to protect. They monitor and patrol establishments, buildings, residential areas, and other places to prevent or stop crimes, theft, or violence. A security guard may also monitor employees as they are in and out of the building, ensuring the safety of everyone in the company. The majority of them have high school diplomas and are employed immediately in entry-level positions. However, some pursue additional training and education, such as an associate’s degree to land a more top paying job.

Starting Salary: $28,963/year

Lawyer

Lawyers are advocates offering clients personal or business courses of action with the alignment of research, laws, and judiciary decisions. They represent parties in criminal trials advising their clients regarding legal rights and obligations. These people can specialize in a specific field of law such as criminal law, intellectual property, international law, or environmental law, among others. Lawyers earn a bachelor’s degree, study three years of law school to prepare for bar examinations and some licensing programs as a requirement of the practice of their profession.

Starting Salary: $74,980/year

FBI Agent

FBI Agents are one of the highest paid professionals in the criminal justice field. They are highly trained individuals who investigate spying activities, terrorism, cybercrime, public corruption, civil rights violation, crimes, and weapons of mass destruction. Before becoming an FBI agent, individuals must undergo extremely rigorous hours of training in academics, operations, firearms training, and case exercises. FBI Agents have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. There are numerous career opportunities that these professionals can start with, including Intelligence Analysis, Finance, and Accounting, Information Technology, Engineering, or Applied Science, to name a few.

Starting Salary: $56,980/year

Judge

Judges are influential decision makers, often having to make a conclusion or verdict based on the pieces of evidence presented during trial hearings. They are responsible for making sure that lawyers comply with the rules and leading trial procedures. Also, these people preside over court hearings, uphold the rights of individuals involved in legal processes, and manage legal proceedings. Judges are elected or appointed by the public or the government.

Before becoming a judge, they earn undergraduate studies of any degree; however, the majority of them hold degrees in business or commerce, economics, history, or political science. After receiving an undergraduate degree, they proceed with graduate studies by earning a Juris Doctor degree in Law, completing three years of study at a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). Prospective lawyers with JD degrees must pass the Bar Exam and later on work as attorneys before acquiring their judgeship. Lawyers must be appointed to become judges. Opportunities in continuing education are required on most judges throughout their profession to stay up-to-date with the fundamentals of law.

Starting Salary: $104,000/year

Probation Officer

Probation officers work with offenders who have served their time in prison for serious crimes, supervising people who have been released from jail and remanded to parole, demonstrating ethical behavior and compliance with the policies and conditions of parole. They help offenders join fitting support programs and treatments such as anger management or substance abuse. They enlist them to house assistance and vocational programs so that they can be employable. To become a probation officer, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, social work, psychology, or any related field is required. There are additional training and certifications needed to become a probation officer such as firearm certifications or a valid driver’s license.

Starting Salary: $43,862/year

Corrections Officer

Corrections Officers supervise inmates who have been jailed and are being held for trial procedures. They are in charge of those who have been convicted of serious crimes and serving time in prison, penitentiary, or reformatory. They document inmates’ behavior and anything unusual during their shift, inspect all areas of the prison or institution, guard against prisoner escapes, and maintains order in the institution. Corrections officer can establish their careers with only a high school diploma. However, prospective candidates earn an associate or a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice to seek career advancement. In some federal sectors, corrections officer must obtain a bachelor’s degree or three years of professional experience in a related field.

Starting Salary: $42,000/year

Crime Scene Investigator

Crime Scene Investigators work at crime scenes, taking photographs, creating an illustration of the crime scene and jotting down detailed information about the crime scene. They investigate crimes by collecting and analyzing physical evidence as well as collect tissue, body fluids, and hair from a crime victim. Crime scene investigators collect and analyze all the pieces of evidence in the objective of providing accurate information that will help in convicting the person of a crime. They are meticulous about details and able to prepare reports, forms, and written documentation about their findings. Prospective candidates must earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or any related field such as chemistry or biology.

Starting Salary: $58,230/year

Forensic Scientist

Forensic Scientists help catch and convict suspects in criminal matters. They handle pieces of evidence from crime scenes for police departments for investigation. They collect pieces of evidence and analyze these in a laboratory and summarize their reports and findings in written documentation. Forensic scientists can specialize in biochemistry, blood spatter patterns, fingerprinting, handwriting analysis, or chromatography. They may find work in federal, local or state law enforcement agencies, hospitals, and crime laboratories. Also, they use laboratory facilities to analyze evidence collected at the crime scene to determine if certain substances and objects are related to the victim and the suspect. Forensic scientists usually hold a bachelor’s degree in the natural sciences or a master’s degree in forensic science. Employment awaits candidates who undergo extensive training on laboratory equipment use.

Starting Salary: $54,990/year

Criminologist

Criminologists work to solve the reasons behind the motive of the crime or predicts when the next crime will be committed. They use their understanding of psychology and human behavior in combination with knowledge and background of demographics and crime rates to untangle the root cause of criminal activity. They are a type of sociologist, working on preventing crimes and profiling types of crimes. Criminologists usually have a bachelor’s degree in criminology, psychology or sociology. However, a master’s degree in behavioral science or any related field is preferable by many federal and private industries.

Starting Salary: $43,487/year

Other Criminal Justice Occupations

Indeed, the field of criminal justice is broad; thus, there are several opportunities suitable for everyone’s interest and goals. It is an exciting field of study for people who have a specific set of skills. If you are interested to know other criminal justice-related professions, we have listed other occupations that will broaden up your horizon.

30 Highest Paying Criminal Justice Careers

The criminal justice field offers a wide selection of career opportunities. The federal, local, and state government agencies provide numerous job openings in the related field. Also, private sectors offer employment opportunities for prospective candidates. Some criminal justice job opportunities require a college degree, while some only require a high school diploma. However, salaries and career advancements are directly related to earning an undergraduate or graduate degree. Depending on your preference and passion, wages should not be the primary indicator of a fulfilling career in the criminal justice field. There are several factors, such as lifestyle, interest, work conditions, and work benefits.

Our list provides the top 30 highest paying criminal justice jobs, including their salaries and roles.

Lawyer

Lawyers have one of the most lucrative salaries in the criminal justice field. They can work anywhere either from small courts or in multi-district litigation. Some of them establish their law firms, while some work for large firms. They represent their clients in civil and criminal trials regarding their rights and obligations. To become a lawyer takes a lot of time and resources; however, the rewards are fulfilling and worth it. Lawyers can specialize in a specific field, including insurance, criminal law, international law, bankruptcy or environmental law among many other concentrations.

Lawyer Salary: $163,000/year

Secret Service Agent

Secret Service Agents dedicate their lives to protecting the lives of dignitaries and work in unraveling a fraud investigation for government sectors. The nature of their job mainly involves case investigation without compromising the safety and security of the majority. They have one of the most dangerous professions in the criminal justice field. Secret service agents are often involved in traveling for work assignments. Also, they learn protocols which revolve protection of the common good or government properties at the highest level. They undergo personal background examinations and may need to carry a weapon for their safety.

Secret Service Agent: $125,000/year

Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigator

Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigators usually investigates financial issues such as money laundering and fraud. However, when tax evasion becomes a deliberate act, the criminal investigator is sent by the internal revenue service criminal investigators to facilitate. These professionals must have familiarity with the techniques used in the forensic exploration of internet banking systems and automated systems. They must have the capabilities to analyze and interpret complex financial data.

Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigator Salary: $115,871/year

Fingerprint Specialist

Fingerprint Specialists own magnifying lens that hovers fingerprint fragments that are essential in carrying out their specific roles and responsibilities. They can reconstruct the profile of criminals through the use of latest technologies, combining all the pieces of information or details to come up with written documentation that will serve as strong evidence to the perpetrators of the crime. Fingerprint specialists may testify in courtrooms during trial procedures.

Fingerprint Specialist Salary: $105,211/year

Judge

Judges lead trial hearings and ensure lawyers comply and abide by the rules and regulations of the court. They are responsible for making important decisions, creating a verdict based on the pieces of evidence presented during the trial. Judges start their careers as lawyers, allowing them to gain experience and practice their profession. Nominations from the public or government sectors are the way to become a judge after years of study and professional experience.

Judge Salary: $104,000/year

Customs Border and Protection Officer

Customs Border and Protection Officers inspect and screen individuals as well as inspect goods crossing in and out of the U.S. borders. They have good judgment and a careful eye for unusual or suspicious activities or physical appearances. Customs border and protection officers are familiar with the laws and regulations which cover what items are allowed to take in and out of the United States. Furthermore, they must be comfortable in questioning and apprehending suspicious individuals.

Customs Border and Protection Officer Salary: $91,000/year

Information Security Officer

Information Security Officers are firewall experts who know the assessment and protection of security systems for organizations. They are people who enjoy keeping up to date with the latest technological innovation in infrastructures and network security. Also, these people ensure the safety and security of the system and its compliance with specific standards.

Information Security Officer Salary: $90,041/year

Federal Protective Service Officer

Federal Protective Service Officers have a great sense and knowledge about federal buildings and facilities that require continuous protection and safety measures. They receive training to understand the vulnerabilities of building facilities and ensure safety from terrorist attacks. These people promote the safety and security of the building facilities, providing the installation and maintenance of security systems and fire alarms. Moreover, they organize emergency preparedness drills, create contingency plans, and employ a K-9 aided team to preserve the safety of establishments or specific areas.

Federal Protective Service Officer Salary: $89,000/year

Crime Scene Supervisor

Crime Scene Supervisors collect and gather pieces of evidence at a crime scene as well as supervise a team of crime scene technicians who work with them. They have extensive knowledge with the ins and outs of gathering evidence at the crime scene. They are knowledgeable with fingerprint lifting, and taking photographs of blood spatters for investigation. Crime scene supervisors write documentation and reports of findings created by their team. Also, they possess excellent communication skills as well as the ability to follow standards.

Crime Scene Supervisor Salary: $86,724/year

Immigration Enforcement Agent

Immigration Enforcement Agents are responsible for detaining and expelling foreigners who violate the laws and policies of U.S. borders. They protect the country by overseeing terrorist and drug smugglers. They process and transport individuals suspected of malicious transactions within their jurisdiction. There are times these professionals learn a foreign language.

Immigration Enforcement Agent Salary: $86,047/year

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents (ICE Agents) prevent smuggling activities of any kind between the United States and international borders. Often, they apprehend criminals who transport illegal guns or drugs in the country. Also, they control and prevent illegal migrants from entering the U.S.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Salary: $86,047/year

Prison Warden

Prison wardens are responsible for overseeing the entire area of prison facilities operations. They must have an overview of the cost and maintenance of prison upkeep and maintenance as well as supervising on the grounds, cafeteria, and the staff. One of their responsibilities includes monitoring inmates who are released or detained. Also, they must have an in-depth understanding and background of psychology and excellent communication skills with a sense of order and integrity.

Prison Warden Salary: $80,558/year

Internal Revenue Service Internal Security Inspector

Internal Revenue Service Internal Security Inspectors see to it that no corruption, fraud, and anomalies within the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). They make sure that employees have a high level of integrity and honesty within the department. These people investigate misconduct or any illegal transactions involving people who are in the IRS, including corrupt employees and bribery. Also, they conduct a background check of all prospective IRS workers.

Internal Revenue Service Internal Security Inspector Salary: $73,000/year

Computer Forensic Specialist

Computer Forensic Specialists locates and investigates illegal activities and transactions that have taken place in digital settings such as laptops, computers, or mobile devices. They are meticulous people who can conduct reports and documentation that are important for interrogatory interactions. These people may interview criminals or showcase pieces of evidence during trial hearings.

Computer Forensic Specialist Salary: $70,035/year

Inspector General Investigator

Inspector General Investigators is to check and verify whether a particular set of processes within the government sector is fully compliant with ethical standards. They eliminate and correct all kinds of fraud and inefficiency in the governmental offices. Moreover, they verify financial records of departmental processes to ensure there are no discrepancies in the office.

Inspector General Investigator Salary: $69,000/year

FBI Agent

FBI Agents are highly trained individuals who have numerous responsibilities, working to protect and defend the U.S. in a multitude of probable capacities. They work against civil rights violations, violent crimes, public corruption, cybercrime, significant thefts, or terrorism. They are part of an organization that values integrity and commitment to the foundation. FBI agents are one of the few glamorized law enforcement positions in the country, maintaining its reputation and credibility at the highest level. The majority of them studied political science, criminal justice or engineering, while a few of them completed a degree in law.

FBI Agent Salary: $68,209/year

Drug Enforcement Administration Agent

Drug Enforcement Administration Agents evaluate evidence and collaborate internationally to stop dangerous criminals who supply the country with illegal drugs. They investigate massive criminal activities related to drug imports, and related crimes in the U.S. DEA agents facilitate drug intelligence programs and are accountable for criminal arrests. They have risky roles and responsibilities as they may work in dangerous or remote areas. A DEA agent’s job requires a bachelor’s in criminology, criminal justice, or any related field.

Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Salary: $65,000/year

Criminal Profiler

Criminal Profilers conduct interviews with the criminals’ family members or identify pieces of evidence gathered by the police department. They are often called by the police department to assist them in figuring out the person responsible for the crime or how it took place. Criminal profilers have the capabilities to break down basic data or evidence to establish personal or psychological profiling of the criminals and how the crime was committed.

Criminal Profiler Salary: $62,888/year

Customs Inspector

Customs Inspectors are people who quickly notice suspicious behaviors and telltale signs of individuals who smuggle in illegal weapons or drugs. They make sure that people and goods crossing the borders of the United States do not harm or pose any threats to the country. In exceptional cases, they undergo training to work with canine units to complete their roles and responsibilities. Moreover, they work with law enforcement agencies and Homeland Security.

Customs Inspector Salary: $62,252/year

U.S. Postal Inspector

U.S. Postal Inspectors evaluates and investigates incidents that involve the U.S. postal service. They check people who send illegal substances through the mail. If the letter looks suspicious, U.S. postal inspectors are not allowed to open it without a search warrant. U.S. postal inspectors must possess excellent analytical thinking skills and sincere interest in protecting the common good.

U.S. Postal Inspector Salary: $61,503/year

Criminal Justice Policy Advisor

Criminal Justice Policy Advisors work with senior officials within the government in preventing domestic violence or human trafficking. They provide assessment and counseling of employees regarding criminal justice policies on the federal, local, or state level. Criminal justice policy advisors assess old processes and develop new and improved programs to satisfy the needs of society. The majority of them have excellent verbal and non-verbal communication, providing solutions and recommendations through written proposals as well as the ability to see how the system works.

Criminal Justice Policy Advisor Salary: $61,452/year

Digital Forensics Examiner

Digital Forensics Examiners are interested in keeping up-to-date with the latest innovations and computer technologies. They trace criminal activities on deleted computer files. They are experts at knowing how to reveal and restore deleted or hidden files. Digital forensic examiners must be able to work alone and work long hours on a particular assignment. They often require education and certifications in computer and digital forensics programs or criminal justice.

Digital Forensics Examiner Salary: $60,618/year

Criminalist

Criminalists gather and assess pieces of evidence and clues related to the crime and put together the pieces of information to establish a report and findings. They must know how to interpret unique clues on DNA samples and traces of evidence in a discharged firearm. They rely on scientific approaches, not psychic abilities, to solve the mysteries involved in a specific crime. They need to have excellent communication and analytical skills.

Criminalist Salary: $59,926/year

Border Patrol Agent

Border Patrol Agents are dedicated to providing safety and security of borders from illegal migrants and terrorist activities. They must be familiar with different devices that track unlawful entry to the U.S. Border patrol agents’ primary role is to be vigilant and alert of any unwanted physical activities within the borders of the country. The majority of them are usually assigned in remote areas. Furthermore, they must be able to screen people while vested in firearms.

Border Patrol Agent Salary: $58,673/year

Classification Officer

Classification Officers determine the prison sentence of convicted individuals. They receive training in psychology and use their capabilities and understanding of human behavior when screening and interviewing inmates. Classification officers verify and assess prisoners’ records and background altogether in making assessments or profiling. They must have an excellent sense of judgment to assess and comprehend criminals’ records.

Classification Officer Salary: $57,471/year

Counter-Terrorism Analyst

Counter-Terrorism Analysts are experts in understanding and evaluating information that will uncover terrorist groups and activities harming the security of the United States. They have a strong background in cultural and anthropological aspects of terrorist groups threatening the country. Also, they present mitigation plans and excellent strategies to discover a series of developing terrorist activities. These people possess excellent logical skills and must be updated on international affairs as well as they often speak and understand multiple foreign languages.

Counter-Terrorism Analyst Salary: $56,000/year

Deportation Officer

Deportation Officers identify and subdue suspected illegal immigrants in the U.S. They know the rules and regulations which define an illegal immigrant status. Deportation officers also work with Homeland Security to make sure all related matters and paperwork are adequately handled. Deportation officers must have a few years of professional experience in the standard law enforcement field.

Deportation Officer Salary: $54,073/year

Crime Lab Analyst

Crime Lab Analysts have one of the most exciting jobs in the criminal justice field. They integrate the sciences and showcase their knowledge and capabilities in a forensics laboratory. They study and analyze pieces of data or information extensively from crime scenes to prove the innocence or guilt of people who are involved in criminal behavior. They produce written documentation based on DNA results or molecular biology. Also, some of them may provide their results or testify in court hearings.

Crime Lab Analyst Salary: $51,729/year

Criminologist

Criminologists have an in-depth understanding of psychology and human behavior with a background in demographics and crime rates to uncover the root causes of such action. They discover the mysteries why these crimes have been committed or predict when the next crime will likely to happen. Some of them work in the crime prevention field, understanding the crime based on psychological approaches or methodologies.

Criminologist Salary: $43,487/year

Correctional Officer

Correctional Officers are people who maintain peace and order within the prison facilities or detention establishments. They assign people who will be in charge of inmates within the jails. They monitor transactions and records of inmates’ visitors and related activities. They are always on alert for illegal activities and exchange of drugs and weapons within the facilities. People with vigilance are suitable for this position.

Correctional Officer Salary: $34,964/year

Part-time Criminal Justice Jobs

As a criminal justice degree holder, you have the countless opportunities and possibilities to get a career as a real-life counterpart of superheroes and crime-fighting guys in movies. In the real world, the criminal justice field can also offer job security.

If you are looking for extra income opportunities, apply for these part-time positions offered by private companies and government sectors:

  • Faculty Criminal Justice
  • Hospice Social Worker
  • Criminal Justice and Criminology Temporary Part-Time Faculty
  • Criminal Investigator
  • Case Manager Criminal Justice Field
  • Adjunct Instructor – Criminal Justice
  • Client Services Specialist – Criminal Justice
  • Medical Social Worker
  • Lead Organizer
  • Forensic Accountant/Auditor
  • Criminal Justice Records Management Systems Administrator
  • Evidence Technician
  • Criminal Justice Technician
  • Security Operations Manager
  • Field Investigator
  • Public Safety Assistant
  • Child Forensic Interview Specialist
  • Criminal Justice Clinician
  • Visitation Monitor
  • Part-Time Case Manager
  • Paralegal Studies Adjunct
  • Economist Adjunct
  • Adjunct Pool
  • Visiting Faculty, Criminal Justice

10 Unique Criminal Justice Careers

Criminal Justice careers are traditionally found in security departments, law enforcement agencies, courtrooms, and the FBI/CIA. However, there are unique and not commonly known criminal justice careers that you might find exciting to work. The majority of these professions required additional extensive training to be qualified, but earning a bachelor’s degree is a stepping stone towards a fulfilling criminal justice career.

Arson Investigator

Arson Investigators are partly detectives and partly fire investigators. They are people who arrive at the scene after a fire incident to identify the cause of the fire and identify whether criminal activity is involved.

Blood Spatter Analyst

Blood Spatter Analysts are people who locate and collect blood samples and study blood patterns to provide insights and investigative reports related to the crime. They take photographs, handle biohazardous content, write documentation, and testify in the trial procedures.

Polygraph Examiner

Polygraph Examiners operate lie detector examinations that hook criminals before asking that person a series of questions related to the crime. They conduct lie detector tests that measure the subject’s heart rate and other physical indicators of them telling the truth or otherwise.

Criminal Profiler

Criminal Profilers are detective workers who use their knowledge of psychology and criminology to help resolve crimes. They develop a list of traits and characteristics that suspects will likely have, enabling investigators to narrow down their search in the resolution of crimes.

Forensic Ballistics Expert

Forensic Ballistics Experts gather essential information and clues regarding how weapons such as guns were used during the crime. They provide details regarding bullet trajectory and penetration, describing how far the shooter was and on the exact location when the trigger was pulled.

Background Screening Expert

Background Screening Experts use research skills and methodologies to discover court records and find any crimes facilitated by the individual. They perform a more serious investigation on the background of the criminals.

Crime Prevention Specialist

Crime Prevention Specialists are responsible for developing crime prevention campaigns. They organize events that spread awareness about the safety of the target audience. For example, they go to communities and provide talks with children and the youth about staying safe and being vigilant against suspicious activities around their area.

Crime Scene Fingerprint Analyst

Crime Scene Fingerprint Analysts work in forensic laboratories using technologies to preserve, evaluate, and examine fingerprints.

Forensic Entomologist

Forensic Entomologists are equipped with the knowledge and training to examine the insects found in a crime scene and uncover clues. These insects provide relevant information about the time of death and whether the corpse was moved or not from a specific location.

Digital Forensics Expert

Digital Forensics Experts are highly-skilled and knowledgeable in extracting evidence from different digital devices.

Top Travel Criminal Justice Careers

There are numerous international career opportunities for criminal justice degree holders. Individuals interested in international criminal justice careers have the freedom to choose whether they work for the U.S. government or within an international organization such as the United Nations.

Why should I earn a Criminal Justice degree?

A Criminal Justice degree is not for everyone. It is most suitable for those who want to build their professional career as a protector of the community and an advocate of the ethical treatment of offenders. People who have a strong desire to serve their communities will fit right in this profession. The same is true for those who are curious about the way the Criminal Justice system works.

In terms of job outlook, being in the field of Criminal Justice is tantamount to ensuring that the law is upheld at all times. Quite commonly, undergraduates end up being pursuing corrections careers or law enforcement work. The forensics path, meanwhile, is for qualified individuals who has had extensive training in the field. Similarly, professors and criminologists are holders of a master’s degree or higher.

Acquiring a degree does not only lead to an easier path to employment, but it can also pave the way to promotions and ideal positions that can help shape your career for the better and contribute to your professional growth. In an academic atmosphere, the framework of your future career is taught, from theories to valuable skills.

As with other jobs, writing and filing reports are an essential skill that Criminal Justice graduates acquire.

Having a degree can also add confidence. Promotions are often done by examining one’s performance at work, but if everyone has an exemplary record, the best way to stand out is to have a distinguished educational background. An educated police force is an answer to the increasing complexity of police work.

Ultimately, the choice to pursue a Criminal Justice degree lies in your hands. It is crucial to weigh the options before you decide to jump into a four-year college course. If done right, a good education can set you up for success.

What skills do Criminal Justice students develop or enhance?

A field with plenty of opportunities, the Criminal Justice profession is not cut out for everyone. The right candidates must possess certain qualities integral to their line of work, whether it is in law enforcement, legal, corrections, security, or forensics.

The changing society and advancements in technology mean the Criminal Justice system needs to adapt to a more sophisticated approach when it comes to modern policing. And although it is a profession initially dominated by men, the Criminal Justice field is gradually opening up women.

So, what kind of men and women can easily navigate the Criminal Justice world? Take a look at some of these essential qualities that they need to develop and enhance.

Since Criminal Justice professionals are expected to maintain and uphold the basic ethical standards of society, they should adhere to it as well. They should not only have to be well-versed in the details of law but also have a good understanding of embodying the ethical standards that govern both the law and society.

For one, they must be aware of the difference between right and wrong and how they should apply this knowledge in a difficult situation. The public gives their trust in Criminal Justice professionals to uphold the law and do what is right, after all. By adhering to ethical standards, you are setting an example for your department or office.

Writing

Playing a huge role in the lives of many Criminal Justice professionals, writing is a skill that cannot be underestimated. Any job in the Criminal Justice system tends to rely on strong written communication skills, from creating reports to policy-making.  

A report can impact the outcome of a case. It is needed when one is trying to get approval for a warrant as well as proposals for funding. By explaining your findings from an investigation thoroughly and accurately in writing, you will be able to safeguard the truth and serve justice.

Research

Another proficiency that a Criminal Justice professional must possess is the ability to conduct research, including finding the right resources and assessing what you have gathered. Being in this profession requires you to deal with and utilize with various data and information that can be used to solve a case.

Patience

Since the Criminal Justice system is deeply rooted in government regulations and laws, there are bound to be a lot of collaboration with different agencies that can result in tons of paperwork. It is not uncommon to wait for weeks or even months before the case can go to the court. That is why patience is emphasized as a trait for Criminal Justice professional. Waiting, after all, is part of the job.

Empathy

Because being in the position of power requires you to come to decisions that can change lives, it is vital that you understand situations and their relation to human nature. Having empathy can help you do your job better because you are not only dealing with law and order but also taking into consideration the individual motivations and sufferings. This way, you won’t lose your humanity.

Are there additional requirements for a Criminal Justice career?

As one of the fastest growing fields, Criminal Justice is high in demand. However, it is not easy to enter the profession because of some requirements and limitations that not everyone can qualify for.

First, there is the age requirement for some areas of the Criminal Justice field. Many local and state law enforcement agencies stipulate an age qualification for hopeful applicants, requiring their age to be a minimum of 18 to 21 years. Those who choose the juvenile justice system must at least be 18 years of age.

For the FBI, agents must at least be 23 years old. Some agencies establish a maximum age for eligible applicants, just like the federal government which requires their employees to be not more than 37 years old.

Second, there is the height and weight restrictions. Law enforcement agencies require their employees to be at least 5’8’’. Most of the jobs in the Criminal Justice system have to deal with the physical that is why they must have proportionate height and weight. In short, they must meet the physical fitness requirements.

They are expected to perform strenuous physical activities like running at a fast pace and lifting heavy weight for a significant amount of time, all done without sustaining an injury. It is also essential for applicants to have sound hearing and vision capabilities to make them safer and more effective for their jobs. This might require them to take hearing and visual acuity and color perception tests.

There are grounds for disqualification as well, like noticeable deficiency of physical coordination, obesity, or other physical impairments that can hinder them from doing their job. Many of these requirements are there to ensure your safety and maximize your productivity as an employee.

The Criminal Justice system does not employ gender limitations. However, some exceptions apply, like in terms of correctional facilities that require only female workers to assist and supervise female offenders.

In the end, though, it depends on the agency or department you are applying for. That is why it is highly advisable for you to research the field or area you want to enter to check the qualifications and requirements. This will help you avoid wasting time and effort in applying for a job that has restrictions.