Criminal Justice Degree Careers
This article will outline and briefly describe twenty of the most popular occupations in the criminal justice industry. Every job on the list is a position that might catch the interest of a prospective professional in the field. Hopefully, one of the jobs on the list will be perfect for you or at least spark some career searching inspiration.
- ATF Agent
- Correctional Officer
- Correctional Treatment Specialist
- FBI Agent
- Fire Inspector
- Fish and Game Warden
- Forensic Psychologist
- Forensic Science Technician
- Homicide Detective
- Insurance Fraud Investigator
- Parole Officer
- Police Officer
- Postsecondary Teacher
- Pretrial Services Officer
- Private Investigator
- Probation Officer
- Security Guard
- State Trooper
- Criminal Justice Degrees and Requirements
- Where to Obtain a Criminal Justice Degree?
- Should I Get a Criminal Justice Degree?
Agents working for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, more commonly known as ATF Agents, have important federal responsibilities. The day-to-day tasks of the occupation mirror those of other law enforcement agents, packed with investigating, testifying in trials, serving and obtaining warrants, and carrying out tactical operations. Typically, ATF agents work closely with, and sometimes alongside, other law enforcement agencies.
Academically, there aren’t many set-in-stone requirements on the path to becoming an ATF Agent. There are affiliated exams and training programs that must be successfully completed, but it is highly recommended that individuals earn an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree before joining the ATF. Those foundational degrees make it easier for criminal justice professionals to advance their career in the future.
The median annual salary for ATF agents is $61,000.
These criminal justice professionals are tasked with maintaining safety and enforcing rules within state, local, or federal correctional facilities. They record inmate behavior, inspect facilities, search for contraband, and supervise inmate activity. Correctional officers are also in charge of any and all inmate transport. It’s important that these individuals are dedicated and highly alert, looking for any sort of violation or security breach.
At minimum, correctional officers are required to have a high school diploma or equivalent academic qualification, but it’s important to note that federal prisons require either a bachelor’s degree or one to three years of full-time experience in the field. Again, it’s important to note that a foundational degree makes it easier to move up the ranks professionally and academically.
The median annual wage for all correctional officers is $44,330.
Correctional treatment specialists work very closely with parole and probation officers to develop rehabilitation plans for their specific cases. They study behavior and previous crimes committed by probationers and parolees in order to form an understanding of what they may need in the rehabilitation process, and to determine how dangerous they may be. These specialists even work with inmates and prison staff to set up possible release plans. Often times, correctional treatment specialists also speak with families of probationers and parolees about their rehabilitation.
A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field is required for individuals looking to earn a career in this profession.
In the most recent data for correctional treatment specialists, the median annual wage associated with the position is $53,020.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the United States’ nationwide law enforcement agency tasked with protecting its citizens from large threats on the home front. They prevent and investigate acts of terrorism, organized crime activity, and other larger criminal threats. The FBI has the resources to carry out investigations and operations that a local police force may not be able to handle. FBI agents make up the organization’s formidable law enforcement body.
Like similar law enforcement occupations, its necessary for prospective agents to successfully complete certain training programs and assessments, but individuals going for positions with the FBI generally have significant experience in the field. Many have been in law enforcement for years and they are required to have earned at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field.
The average yearly salary for an FBI agent is $64,465.
There are countless federal, state, and local fire codes, regulations, or fire safety suggestions. First and foremost, fire inspectors are tasked with ensuring that all the official codes are properly followed by public, federal, and private entities. They also help formulate emergency evacuation plans, typically for schools or larger businesses. Occasionally, fire inspectors are tasked with administering burn permits and monitoring those burns, as well. Bottom line, these professionals ensure that everyone is as safe as possible when it comes to fire.
This occupation, like some other common criminal justice jobs, is typically reserved for individuals with significant experience in the field. Because of that, almost every fire inspector has earned at least an associate’s degree. Also, most states require the successful completion of certain official assessments and/or training programs. Be sure to learn the correct requirements associated with the state in which you’d like to be employed.
The median annual wage for fire inspectors is $62,510.
Fish and game warden, like fire inspectors, are in charge of preserving safety and making sure individuals follow specific regulations. These professionals focus on enforcing official legal codes surrounding hunting and wildlife preservation. They check permits, patrol property, investigate suspicious behavior, and look into public reports or concerns about park activity.
Individuals in this profession are required to have a high school diploma or an equivalent certification, and they are required to pass necessary assessments and training programs mandated by the state. Even though a high school diploma is the minimal requirement, most fish and game wardens have a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Not only is that a preferred qualification, a foundational degree like that can help progress your professional career.
The median annual wage for fish and game warden is $56,410.
Individuals in this occupation are almost always licensed psychologists that have decided to specialize in forensic implementation of psychological theory. In terms of daily tasks, forensic psychologists profile criminals based on evidence, diagnose mental conditions associated with active cases, assist in evaluating the mental competency of witnesses or defendants, and conduct interviews to gain a more in-depth knowledge of active cases. Forensic psychologists are also expected to take detailed notes on interviews and evaluations.
These criminal justice professionals are licensed psychologists, which means they are required to have a master’s degree in psychology and the correct state-mandated licensing. That kind of extended higher education degree gives individuals the chance to take extensive coursework on the specialized nature of forensic psychology.
The median annual salary for forensic psychologists is $66,906.
Forensic science technicians are responsible for collecting and cataloging all evidence present at a crime scene. These individuals are expected to be extremely thorough, meticulous, and exhaustive when it comes to recording and collecting the evidence. This is the material that allows detectives to solve cases and prosecutors to rightfully punish the correct, guilty criminals. Forensic scientists collect evidence, run laboratory tests on that evidence, make detailed sketches of the crime scene, record important data on the crime scene’s location, and even recreate models of the crime scene for further investigations.
Prospective forensic science technicians are required to earn at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Instead of earning a degree in criminal justice, forensic science technicians usually earn a degree forensic science, or they study a subject like chemistry and align their available coursework with forensics. Once the proper degree is earned, many individuals new to the field train with experienced veterans.
The median annual salary for forensic science technicians is $58,230.
Homicide detectives make up a specific branch of the police force. These professionals usually come up through the ranks of the police force to the homicide department, and that department is tasked with investigating deaths that may have been caused by murder or manslaughter. Detectives interview witnesses and suspects, work alongside forensic science technicians to understand evidence, and procure warrants to solve murder cases. Then, they work with a prosecutor and testify to ensure their work on the case is effectively taken into account in the official court case.
A high school diploma or equivalent certification is necessary in order to become a detective. Prospective homicide detectives are also required to successfully complete a police academy program.
The median annual salary for detectives and criminal investigators is $81,920.
These professionals have duties that are very similar to a much more common insurance claims adjuster or examiner. Insurance fraud investigators look into insurance claims with extreme attention to detail, but they are almost always called upon when investigating suspicious insurance claims. One or more parties involved suspect foul play, and they employ an insurance fraud investigator. Individuals in this field will thoroughly investigate both parties to ensure the claim is legitimate or that one party is at fault.
The technical educational requirement for this position is a high school diploma or equivalent certification, but many employers look for experienced criminal justice professionals to fill this role. A four-year degree or significant experience in a related position would give a prospective candidate a substantial leg up.
For all insurance fraud investigators, the median annual salary is $65,900.
Paralegals provide assistance to lawyers to help ease the daunting workload that comes with court proceedings. In the early stages of a case, paralegals familiarize themselves with the facts of the case, conduct research on laws and statutes that may be helpful, and set up necessary interviews for the lawyer or law firm they are employed by. Then, these entry-level legal professionals typically summarize the work they’ve done so the lawyer may access that information easily during the trial. After the trial, paralegals are tasked with cataloging and filing all material associated to that case.
For prospective paralegals, one popular academic option is an associate’s degree in paralegal studies, but more and more employers have begun to require four-year degrees for prospective paralegal candidates. That being said, this is one of a few jobs on this list that does not rely on professional experience or the completion of a training program to obtain.
The median annual salary for paralegals is $50,940.
A parole officer’s responsibilities closely mirror those of a probation officer, which will be detailed later in the list. The main difference between the two is that parole officers work with individuals who have been recently released from serving a prison sentence. These criminal justice professionals are tasked with making sure these individuals return to society in a positive, safe way.
A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field is required.
The median annual salary for a parole officer is $53,020.
Police officers, both state and local, carry out the majority of our country’s necessary general law enforcement activities. These individuals patrol certain areas within their jurisdiction, respond to emergency calls, keep a watchful eye out for suspicious activity, and ensure the safety of the community. On any given day, they may also be responsible for collecting crime-scene evidence, obtaining warrants, issuing citations, arresting suspects, testifying in court for an active case, or preparing detailed reports surrounding police operations in which they were involved.
Potential job requirements have a lot to do with the specific police department you’d like to work for. Some require completed coursework or even a four-year degree in criminal justice or a related field.
Postsecondary teachers in this field teach college-level courses on criminal justice, corrections, and other facets of law enforcement. These educators usually have both significant experience in the field, in the classroom completing coursework, and in the classroom teaching their own classes or conducting guest lectures. Professors in this field may teach general undergraduate courses on criminal justice or more specific graduate level courses, depending on their personal interests and area of expertise.
To teach higher-education courses, most academic institutions require that prospective professors have earned their doctorate degree in the field.
For postsecondary teachers focusing on criminal justice, the median annual salary is $61,900.
The pretrial services officer occupation is similar to the aforementioned correctional treatment specialist position. They are tasked with analyzing an individual’s past crimes and behavior to determine their potential danger to society. These professionals generally work with judges in settled cases that do not feature a full trial. Also, when pretrial services officers work on cases with full trials, they are responsible for ensuring a defendant cooperates with the terms of their release and is present for trial dates.
Employers require a four-year undergraduate degree in criminal justice or a related field.
The median annual salary for a pretrial services officer is $53,020.
Private investigators work within the law as citizen’s without police authority to find important legal, financial, or personal information about an individual or organization. They search public records, conduct surveillance of people involved, carry out necessary interviews, and use any and all legal means to find out what their client needs to know. Private investigators, sometimes referred to as PIs, can be extremely important in divorce cases, instances of fraud, and other similar, more private matters.
When it comes to seeking employment as a PI, the job requirements can depend solely on the employer. Some require a high school diploma, others require a two-year degree, and even others require a four-year undergraduate degree. A Bachelor of Science in criminal justice would certainly give you a leg up in competition for a PI position.
The median annual wage for private investigators is $50,900.
Probation officers are criminal justice professionals responsible for monitoring and tracking the progress of individuals placed on probation. These officers ensure the people assigned to them aren’t a danger to society and that they continually make positive progress. They may conduct drug tests, relevant interviews, and provide certain resources, like job training.
A bachelor’s degree in a related field is almost always required in this line of work. Criminal justice is one of the recommended majors.
The median yearly salary for probation officers is $53,020.
Prosecutors are employed by state, local, or federal governments, and they are tasked with prosecuting cases that are brought to court. When someone breaks the law and police solve the case, a prosecutor is tasked with bringing the evidence to court and ensuring that the guilty party is given the appropriate punishment. Basically, they are tasked with effectively representing their employer in court.
Prosecutors are licensed lawyers, so they must complete a four-year undergraduate program, a three-year law school program, and then they must pass the American Bar Association’s official examination. While you may not begin practicing law after earning a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice, it is an extremely advantageous step in building your criminal justice expertise.
The median salary for prosecutors vary based on employer:
- Federal government: $145,160
- State government: $86,900
- Local government: $94,490
Security guards are responsible for protecting and monitoring public places, government-owned property, private businesses, or even private homes. They may be stationed at a specific security position, or they may be given a route or location to patrol. Security guards observe behavior, keeping a close eye out for suspicious and/or illegal activity. These individuals respond to emergencies, keep records of incidences or key observations, and monitor security alarms or cameras.
Many employers require a high school diploma, and security guards must be registered in their state of employment. However, more senior-level positions within security organizations require a four-year undergraduate degree in a related field, like criminal justice. Also, armed security guards must successfully complete official weapons training programs.
State troopers have responsibilities that closely mirror those of a police officer, they concentrate their efforts on state-owned properties like interstates and highways. Accidents, traffic violations, and suspicious activity on these properties are monitored and taken care of by state troopers. In some cases, when state troopers patrol an are with a relatively small police force, they can act as backup and provide some extra manpower or other resources.
Again, job requirements depend on your employer or state of employment. Some require a high school diploma while others require some form of higher-level associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a related field. A criminal justice degree would provide excellent foundational knowledge for a prospective state trooper. Also, before employment, state troopers must pass official training programs and assessments.
For state troopers, the median annual salary is $54,518.
Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice
This is a two-year degree that gives a very basic overview of the criminal justice landscape. Fundamental information on the court system, law enforcement, crime, and crime prevention are featured in this entry-level degree program. An option like this may be helpful for prospective police officers who do not want to commit to a four-year program but want to pick up some knowledge before enrolling in the police academy.
- High School Diploma or equivalent
The Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice is associated with a traditional four-year undergraduate degree program. It focuses on a lot of the same topics as the associate’s degree, but the courses are much more in-depth. This degree can help criminal justice professionals get a leg up when it comes to searching for work, and it’s very important in terms of educational and career advancement. Someone with this academic certification may be able to earn a senior-level position after amassing some on-the-job experience.
- High School Diploma or equivalent
Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice
A master’s degree typically takes two years of additional coursework on top of a four-year undergraduate degree. Usually, individuals that pursue this graduate-level degree would be looking for an executive position in the field. It would be very advantageous for someone with significant professional experience looking continue making their way up the promotional ladder. The degree program is customizable, allowing individuals to take courses catered toward their personal interests or career goals.
- High School Diploma or equivalent
- Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice or related field
This is not a very common degree option. It’s basically reserved for individuals hoping to teach criminal justice courses in a postsecondary setting. A degree like this, while customizable to the scholar, is not typically helpful for further professional promotion purposes. It may help an individual striving to become a prison warden, but the very top-tier positions in criminal justice are usually earned through experience and professional commendations.
- High School Diploma or equivalent
- Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice or related field
- Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice or related field
When looking for the right place to earn your criminal justice degree, you should look for accredited higher education institutions with experienced professors, guest speakers at the forefront of their profession, and great relationships with local law enforcement organizations. Gwynedd Mercy University’s criminal justice program features all of those characteristics along with a very low faculty to student ratio. GMercyU also provides administrative assistance to students looking to enroll in a local police academy or criminal justice affiliated training program. In that environment, every criminal justice scholar will be given the best opportunity to learn and to gain real world experience.
Be sure to check out our criminal justice program page for more information.
A criminal justice degree is extremely versatile, opening the door to countless professional opportunities. Whether your looking for an entry-level security job, or if your determined to strive for an executive level position, this degree is extremely helpful. If any occupation on this list caught your interest, or if you have a passion for doing what’s right, consider earning your degree in criminal justice. If you have any questions, you can get more information about a criminal justice degree from GMercyU by completing this form.