Criminal Justice Career Options
Pursuing a degree in the criminal justice field can provide solid, lucrative and rewarding opportunities in a wide range of career paths. Graduates from criminal justice degree programs can find work in both the public and private sectors or go on to graduate school, allowing the greatest degree of flexibility when deciding on the right career.
Degree programs in criminal justice typically include coursework in the following areas:
- Ethics and best practices
- Administration in the law enforcement environment
- Security management
- Corrections and institutional management
- Procedures and law
- The U.S. and state court systems
- Drug and alcohol-related crimes
- Juvenile offenses and delinquent behavior
- Forensic psychology and evidence collecting
These classes are intended to provide a complete foundation for future employment opportunities in law enforcement, corrections, public service and the legal fields.
While some associate degree programs are available, most employers prefer applicants with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. A background check may also be required for certain employment opportunities, especially in the corporate or public sectors of the job market.
Is criminal justice a good major for you? If you have above-average communication skills, strong empathy, leadership qualities and unwavering judgment in high-stress situations, a career in criminal justice could be an excellent fit for you.
Is Criminal Justice a Good Major?
In general, obtaining your bachelor's degree in criminal justice can provide you with a number of exciting career opportunities. Along with jobs in law enforcement, corrections, rehabilitative services, and other public service fields, your background in criminal justice can serve as the foundation for law school and a career as an attorney. Social workers, forensic scientists and professional educators also benefit from the skills and knowledge gained from a criminal justice degree.
Pursuing a criminal justice career can be challenging. For example, law enforcement officers are often required to have a high degree of physical fitness and strength. Additionally, the stress involved in life-or-death decision making or providing rehabilatative services to juveniles or other people in need can result in emotional stress if you’re not prepared to take on these challenges. Empathy and fast, accurate reflexes also can be critical elements for success in this in-demand and varied field.
Criminal justice careers do offer significant benefits for those with the perseverance and determination needed to achieve success:
- The ability to help others overcome obstacles and start over after a series of mistakes
- Opportunities to move up through the ranks to positions of higher responsibility
- In some professions, the ability to set your own hours and be your own boss
- The chance to work with others in a team environment
- Growing demand for professionals in the criminal justice field
- Competitive salaries and opportunities for career advancement, especially for those with proven experience in their chosen profession
Considering the various criminal justice career options available to you can help you to make the right choices regarding your educational and employment goals. Here are some of the most popular career paths for graduates of criminal justice bachelor's degree programs.
Criminal Justice Career Options & Salaries
After graduating from an accredited criminal justice degree program, many students move directly into positions in law enforcement, corrections and other areas of the criminal justice job market. Other students go on to graduate school or law school. Here are some of the most popular career paths for graduates of criminal justice bachelor's degree programs.
After completing a criminal justice degree, some students go on to pursue a law degree and a career in the legal field. The skills and knowledge gained in your criminal justice coursework can provide substantial support for future careers in criminal law prosecution or defense. Recent studies show the demand for lawyers will remain steady for the next eight years, making this career field an excellent choice for students planning to enter the job market.1
Minimum Educational Level: Doctoral degree
Median Pay: $115,820 per year
Pursuing a career in law enforcement can provide you with the opportunity to protect and to serve families throughout your community. Rural areas with smaller police forces may be willing to accept applicants with an associate degree; however, most metropolitan police academies prefer those who have already completed a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a closely related field.
Police officers perform a variety of activities that include administrative duties, evidence collection, investigation and protection of public safety. They may also be called upon to perform traffic stops and patrols and to testify in court regarding cases with which they have been involved.
Minimum Educational Level: Associate degree (Bachelor’s degree often preferred)
Median Pay: $60,270 per year2
Correctional and Probation Officers
Correctional treatment professionals and probation officers deal directly with those who have been charged with and convicted of criminal offenses. These dedicated individuals serve on the front lines of the criminal justice system. Their duties may include supervising people who are currently on parole or probation and ensuring that these individuals do not return to their previous criminal activities. In the prison setting, correctional officers also are responsible for ensuring the safety of inmates and preventing them from engaging in prohibited activities while serving their sentences.
Minimum Educational Level: Bachelor's degree
Median Pay: $49,360 per year3
Forensic science technicians put their scientific knowledge to work on behalf of the criminal justice system. By investigating crime scenes and performing necessary laboratory tests, these individuals can provide valuable support to other law enforcement officials. DNA testing, fingerprints and blood spatter evaluations are all part of the job for many forensic scientists. In some cases, students may combine their criminal justice degree program with a minor in a natural science or forensic science, allowing them to provide a higher level of expertise in the crime scene investigations field. Forensic science is one of the most popular careers in the criminal justice field. As a result, competition for available positions may be intense, especially in larger cities and metropolitan areas.
Minimum Educational Level: Bachelor's degree
Median Pay: $56,320 per year4
If you’re interested in setting your own hours and being your own boss, taking on the challenges of private investigations may be an exciting option. Private investigators can use advanced computing resources and technologically advanced strategies to track down debtors and investigate various matters on behalf of individual or corporate clients. These investigative professionals may also perform background checks on behalf of employers to ensure the high moral standing of job applicants and current staff members. A degree in criminal justice can provide private investigators with the knowledge and skills needed to stay on the right side of the law and to achieve success in the public investigations field.
Minimum Educational Level: Associate degree or less
Median Pay: $45,610 per year5
After completing a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, some students go on to graduate school and pursue careers in law, political science, public administration and other related fields. The skills and knowledge sets acquired during a course of study in criminal justice can offer significant advantages for those interested in a career in public service or politics.
The bachelor's degree program in criminal justice offered by Gwynedd Mercy University can prepare you for a career in this exciting and rewarding field.
Our criminal justice program requires 125 credit hours and incorporates a capstone project and internship to ensure you are well prepared to take on the challenges facing the modern criminal justice professional. Here, you will find the personalized attention you need to achieve your goals.
Additionally, we are affiliated with the Municipal Police Academy at the Montgomery County Public Safety Training Campus. Located in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, this police academy allows eligible students in their senior year to obtain on-the-job training and experience without interrupting their educational progress. Participation in this program is included as part of your tuition and offers an exceptional chance to learn more about the challenges and rewards of criminal justice careers in real-world scenarios.
The GMercyU Difference
You can begin your journey to a rewarding career in the Criminal Justice field at Gwynedd Mercy University. We offer a 10 to 1 student-faculty ratio and routinely feature nationally-recognized guest speakers, allowing you to really benefit from your classroom experience. At Gwynedd Mercy University, we are committed to your success. We deliver the best possible combination of theoretical study and hands-on experience to ensure you are well-prepared for the career of your choice in the evolving criminal justice field.