Individuals interested in working in the field of criminal justice (CJ) have many career choices from which to choose because it is such a vast field that is offered at many levels of study. It is also a popular career choice because most CJ careers have good job growth, good pay and also are very rewarding to the individual.

What This Field Entails

Candidates who decide to pursue this as a career choice generally have the choice of two options. CJ careers usually fall into the category of either law enforcement or the legal field. The law enforcement portion deals with arresting or incarcerating criminals and may include policemen, jailers, and those dealing with enforcing the law. The legal portion of CJ deals more with after the crime, such as lawyers, probation officers, paralegals, legal assistants, etc. Both areas offer exciting work, but it all depends on what area interests the student the most.

What Degrees Are Available?

This field is such a large and versatile field with so many different degrees offered. The career options that may be available to an individual is usually dependent on the level of study the candidate has attained.

Associate – This degree takes about two years to complete and prepares students for entry-level CJ positions such as assistants and technicians.

Bachelor’s – This four-year degree prepares students for more advanced jobs such as probation officer, private investigator or detective.

Master’s – This level of study takes 2-3 years beyond the baccalaureate program and prepares students for advanced jobs in the CJ field. Examples include social workers, corrections administration and officers of the court.

Doctoral – This is the highest level of study and requires a couple of years of study beyond the bachelor’s and master’s level. Graduates of CJ doctoral programs are prepared to work as researchers, instructors or professors.

Certificate – Post-baccalaureate certificates may be used by someone who already has a degree but wishes to specialize in a specific area. Certificate programs can usually be completed in a year or less.

Online – There are many CJ programs offered through distance learning today.

Related Resource: The Top 20 Most Affordable Accelerated Master’s in Criminal Justice Online for 2018

Career Options

According to USA Today, the criminal justice is a field with programs offered at almost any four-year college and one of the most versatile majors because of the many career possibilities it offers. Job growth also depends on the particular field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth for various jobs in the field for the decade of 2016-2026:

  • Police and detectives – 7%
  • Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists – 6%
  • Correctional officers and bailiffs – 7%
  • Social Workers – 16 %
  • Forensic science technicians – 17%
  • Private detectives and investigators – 11%
  • Paralegal and legal assistant – 15%

Careers Based on Degrees

Job opportunities have a lot to do with the level of training and the type of degrees that have been earned by the individual. Some possible jobs based on degrees earned in the CJ field include:

  • Associate’s – paralegal; fish and game warden; detective; police officer
  • Bachelor’s – law enforcement; probation officer; corrections officer; state and federal courts; trainer or teacher; forensics
  • Master’s – forensic psychologist; police and detective supervisor; correctional officer supervisor; criminologist; criminal profilers; forensic examiner; security management
  • Doctoral – FBI agent; criminal investigator; CIA analyst; victim’s advocate; FBI intelligence analyst; crime analyst

Whether it’s law enforcement or legal, there are so many careers available because the recent wave of crimes the recent past has increased the need for all these occupations. This bodes very well for aspiring student wondering what he or she can do with a degree in criminal justice.