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Pursuing a degree in the criminal justice field can provide solid, lucrative and rewarding opportunities in a wide range of career paths. Students pursuing a criminal justice major 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.
Criminal Justice is the system in which criminals are identified by their crimes, detained, judged and punished. The main components of the criminal justice system include law enforcement, the court system, and corrections facilities. Each part of the system works together in order to form the criminal justice system to ensure that laws are upheld and criminals are fairly judged and sentenced for their crimes.
After graduating from criminal justice schools with an accredited criminal justice degree program, many students who choose a criminal justice major 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.
Police officers work to enforce laws on a local, state, or federal level while protecting the lives of citizens. Some of their responsibilities include patrolling areas to ensure welfare and safety, responding to calls regarding crime, complaints and suspicious activity, incident reporting, issuing citations, and making arrests.
Source: USA Today
Correctional officers supervise those being legally held in jails, prisons, and holding cells with an overall duty to maintain order. It is a very physically demanding job with a heightened risk of injury. Some of their responsibilities include; checking inmates and visitors for weapons and drugs, monitoring activities of inmates, and inspecting facilities to ensure they meet the maximum sanitary, security, and safety measures.
Private Investigators aid in cases on the local, state, and federal level and are a crucial member in investigating legal, financial, and criminal cases, as well as locating missing persons. PI’s typically work for private citizens, attorneys, and businesses. Some of their responsibilities include; researching, interviewing and conducting/monitoring surveillance.
Criminal Profilers are special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who provide investigators with a psychological or physical description of a suspect through intensive analyzation. Through this, they are also able to determine a suspect's motives by visualizing the crime and its events from start to finish.
Crime Prevention Specialists work closely with communities to help them determine strategies and ways to prevent crime in that given area. Their responsibility includes making recommendations on ways communities can be better prepared for crime as well as ways to ensure or implement more reliable security, such as neighborhood watch.
The Crime Scene Investigator works at crime scenes and analyzes every aspect of it, finding and collecting evidence such as DNA and fingerprints. They also assist the Criminal Profiler in determining why and how exactly the crime happened.
Drug Enforcement Administration Agents (DEAs) play a huge role in the war on drugs by enforcing laws on controlled substances and preventing the distribution of illegal narcotics. DEAs conduct investigations within the United States primarily, but they do conduct international investigations and work closely with Border Patrol and Customs Enforcement agents if the United States is affected.
A Homicide Detective’s duty is to identify murder suspects by collecting and examining evidence and clues left behind at crime scenes. These pieces of evidence or clue could include things like DNA and fingerprints.
Jail Screeners adjust and process inmates sentences by closely analyzing their behavior. Their analysis is extremely important because it determines if/how an inmate would handle being released back into society.
Probation Officers supervise convicted criminals who are sentenced to probation rather than prison. They keep continuous communication between them and the offender as well as the offenders family members to ensure they are meeting all of the terms of their probation.
Narcotics Officers work to prevent the selling, distribution, and use of illegal drugs. This includes the investigations of drug trafficking as well as possession. Some of the duties and resources include surveillance, K9-units, wiretaps, and undercover work.
Parole Officers main duty is to supervise criminals who get released from prison to ensure they stay out of trouble and do not end up back in prison. They do this by helping them find housing and employment as well as anything that is necessary for their rehabilitation.
State Troopers work to enforce driving and safety laws on local and state roads. A few of their responsibilities include; monitoring roads and highways, issuing traffic citations and tickets and assisting in motorcycle and vehicular accidents.
Youth Correctional Counselors work closely with juvenile law offenders in correctional facilities to help them transition into productive citizens. Their main responsibility is to counsel juvenile offenders individually and in groups in hopes of deterring them from committing further crimes in the future that could land them in incarceration.
An NSA Police Officer’s main responsibility is to protect the property of the NSA. They patrol the grounds of NSA buildings with firearms, assist in counter-terrorist operations, and administer weapons training to NSA employees.
Criminal Justice Instructors teach a variety of courses surrounding law enforcement and leading issues within law enforcement. Their duties include; delivering lectures and presentations, leading discussions, and grading tests and assignments while ensuring their students receive the utmost beneficial and relevant education on criminal justice.
Fingerprint Technicians are a crucial member of an investigative team as they help to determine suspects based on findings of evidence. Some of their responsibilities include; collecting, examining and analyzing fingerprints left behind at crime scenes.
The duty of a Deputy Sheriff is to ensure and enforce law and order. Some of their responsibilities include; making arrests, interviewing witnesses and victims, questioning suspects, collecting and filing evidence and testifying in court.
A Customs Inspector works with Homeland Security to make sure that no people or items that cross the border pose any threat to the United States. This includes monitoring people's behavior closely to rule out any smuggling of weapons or drugs. K9-units are often the partners of Customs Inspectors.
A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent works to protect the United States from espionage, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and organized crime. Their responsibilities range from field work to research. Working as an FBI agent can be very dangerous and often requires traveling and unusual hours.
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 rehabilitative 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:
Considering the various criminal justice career options available to you can help you to make the right choices regarding your educational and employment goals.
You can begin your journey to a rewarding career in the criminal justice field at Gwynedd Mercy University as a criminal justice major. We offer an 10-to-1 student-faculty ratio and 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.
Additionally, we are affiliated with the Municipal Police Academy at the Montgomery County Public Safety Training Campus. 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.
GMercyU's criminal justice 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.
6 Job growth between 2014-2026, according to information provided in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook.