What Can I Do With a Degree in Criminal Justice?

What Can I Do With a Degree in Criminal Justice?

What can I do with a degree in Criminal Justice is asked by many interested in the field, and there are many rewarding career choices for CJ graduates. Individuals interested in working in the field of criminal justice (CJ) benefit from a vast field that offers many levels of study and career growth options. Additionally, it is also a popular career choice because most CJ careers have good job growth and pay and are very rewarding to the individual.

What is the Criminal Justice System?

The criminal justice system is a set of government institutions and processes established to control and prevent crime, identify and apprehend offenders, and carry out punishments. It is composed of law enforcement agencies, the court system, and corrections departments. So, it oversees the criminal justice process, from investigation and arrest to trial and sentencing.

Career Paths in the Criminal Justice Field

Candidates pursuing this career choice generally have two work environments in either law enforcement or the legal field. Law enforcement and legal career paths in criminal justice work closely together. But, they serve two distinct but complementary roles in addressing crime. Law enforcement is focused on the prevention and investigation of crime, while legal careers focus on the prosecution and adjudication of the crime. Additionally, both law enforcement and legal system offer jobs at the local, state and federal levels.

Law enforcement personnel include correctional officers, state troopers, fire investigators, police officers, border patrol, and detectives. These public safety officers are responsible for patrolling assigned areas and neighborhoods, responding to 911 calls, and apprehending suspects. They also conduct investigations, collect evidence, and interview witnesses.

Legal careers in criminal justice involve prosecuting, trying, and sentencing individuals suspected of committing crimes. These careers include lawyers (prosecutors, public defenders, district attorneys), probation and correctional officers, paralegals, legal assistants, judges, and court administrators.

Together, these two paths work together to ensure that criminals are held accountable for their actions and that society is safe and secure. Both areas offer exciting criminal justice jobs, but it all depends on what area interests the student the most.

What Degrees Are Available?

This field is large and versatile, with many different degree programs for career advancement. The education requirements for specific career options depend on the employer, prior education, and geographic location.

Associate Degree

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


A bachelor’s degree in criminal is a four-year degree that prepares job seekers for more advanced jobs. A graduate may find a law enforcement career as a private investigator or detective.


This level of criminal justice degree takes 2 to 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.


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

Law School

Many graduates with a college degree decide to pursue a law degree. Several law schools offer programs that combine a criminal justice degree with a law degree. Examples of these law schools include the University of Florida Levin College of Law, the University of San Francisco School of Law, the University of Baltimore School of Law, the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, and the University of Michigan Law School.


Post-baccalaureate certificates may be used by someone with a degree but wish to specialize in a specific area. Certificate programs can usually be completed in a year or less.


There are many criminal justice degrees through distance learning. These online programs offer a flexible option for working criminal justice professionals to advance their careers.

law enforcement officer

Career Options with a Degree in Criminal Justice

According to USA Today, criminal justice is a field with degree programs at almost any four-year college. Furthermore, a criminal justice degree is one of the most versatile majors because of its many career possibilities. Job growth also depends on the particular field. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts job growth of 3% for criminal justice jobs from 2021 to 2031.

Police Officers

A police officer’s primary duty is to protect people and property by enforcing local, state, and federal laws. This includes responding to emergency and non-emergency calls. These law enforcement officers conduct investigations, interview witnesses, make arrests, write reports, testify in court, and perform community outreach.

Education Requirement: at least a high school diploma

Expected Job Growth: 3% (BLS)

Average Salary: $66,020 (BLS)

Employment Locations: Local, State, and Federal Governments

Correctional Officers

A Correctional Officer is responsible for the custody, security, and supervision of incarcerated individuals and inmates in a correctional facility. They work in jails and prisons and are responsible for maintaining order, enforcing rules and regulations, and ensuring the safety of inmates and staff. They may also investigate incidents, conduct searches, supervise work assignments, and monitor visitors in correctional facilities.

Education Requirement: at least a high school diploma

Expected Job Growth: 3% (BLS)

Average Annual Salary: $66,020 (BLS)

Employment Locations: county, state, and federal prisons

Probation Officers

A probation officer supervises convicted criminals. This criminal justice professional works with individuals placed on probation after being convicted. They are also called community supervision officers. The probation officer monitors the behaviors and compliance with court orders of individuals on probation. They may provide counseling services, and other services to help them comply with their probation conditions, and ensure they abide by the law. Many probation officers work with the families of the probationers to ensure they are receiving the support they need and are taking the necessary steps to stay out of trouble.

Education Requirement: Bachelor’s degree

Expected Job Growth: 0% (BLS)

Average Annual Salary: $60,250 (BLS)

Employment Locations: State or Federal Government

Parole Officers

A parole officer supervises and supports individuals released from prison on parole. They monitor individuals to ensure that they adhere to their parole terms, providing them with guidance and resources to help them successfully transition back into the community. They also investigate potential parole violations, assess risk levels, and make decisions about parolee’s cases.

Education Requirement: Bachelor’s degree

Expected Job Growth: 0% (BLS)

Median Annual Salary: $60,250 (BLS)

Employment Locations: County or State Parole Offices, or Federal Government

Correctional Treatment Specialists

A Correctional Treatment Specialist (CTS) provides counseling and treatment services to inmates in a correctional setting. This can include individual and group therapy, crisis intervention, and referral services. CTSs also offer education and support services to inmates, including vocational counseling and job training, substance abuse treatment, and life skills education. In addition, they may coordinate with other professionals and agencies to ensure inmates have access to necessary services. These criminal justice professionals are also called case managers or correctional counselors.

Education Requirement: Bachelor’s degree

Expected Job Growth: 0% (BLS)

Average Salary: $60,250 (BLS)

Employment Locations: State or Federal Government

Social Workers

A criminal justice social worker provides mental health services to individuals in the system. They provide social services to victims of crime, offenders, and their families. These professionals work in prisons, juvenile detention centers, and courtrooms, providing counseling, crisis intervention, and referrals to appropriate community services. Additionally, they advocate on behalf of their clients and strive to help them reintegrate into society.

Education Requirement: bachelor’s or master’s degree

Expected Job Growth: 9% (BLS)

Average Salary: $50,390 (BLS)

Employment Locations: local, state and federal law enforcement agencies

Victim Advocates

A victim advocate provides emotional support and guidance to victims of crime and their families. They help victims understand their rights, provide referrals to needed resources and services, accompany victims to court or other proceedings, assist with filing for compensation, help victims and their families understand the criminal justice system, and provide crisis intervention and trauma-informed care.

Education Requirement: bachelor’s or master’s degree

Expected Job Growth: 9% (BLS)

Average Annual Salary: $50,000 (BLS)

Employment Locations: with local, state and federal law enforcement officers and agencies

Forensic Science Technicians

A Forensic Science Technician collects and analyzes important evidence from crime scenes. They use various scientific methods to identify, collect, document, and analyze evidence from a crime scene. In addition to collecting evidence, forensic investigators may also assist in laboratory tests and analyses and testify as expert witness in court. These professionals are also called criminalists or crime scene investigators.

Education Requirements: Bachelor’s degree

Expected Job Growth: 11% (BLS)

Median Annual Salary: $61,930 (BLS)

Employment Locations: city, state, and federal level law enforcement officers and agencies

Private Detectives or Private Investigators

Private detectives or private investigators typically conduct research and investigations into a wide variety of cases, such as missing persons, cheating spouses, background checks, civil and criminal cases, fraud, and computer crimes. They may also provide surveillance services, locate witnesses, collect and analyze evidence, and provide expert testimony in court.

Education Requirements: Associate, Bachelor’s, or Master’s Degrees

Expected Job Growth: 6%

Average Annual Salary: $59,380 (BLS)

Employment Locations: Private Detective Firms, Police Departments, Private Businesses, Organizations, or Individual Clients

Criminal Profilers

A criminal profiler is a detective who works to identify patterns of criminal behavior. They use data collected from crime scenes and interviews with victims, witnesses, and suspects to create a psychological profile of an unknown perpetrator. Then, using this profile, the criminal profiler works closely with law enforcement to identify and apprehend the person responsible for the crime.

Education Requirements: typically need a doctoral degree in psychology

Expected Job Growth: 6% (BLS)

Average Salary: $81,040 (BLS Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Employment Locations: local, state, and federal law enforcement officers and agencies

Forensic Psychologists

A Forensic Psychologist is a professional who applies psychological principles to legal matters. They provide expert psychological services to people involved in legal proceedings, such as criminal and civil court cases. Forensic Psychologists use psychological assessment and evaluation to provide support for the legal system.

They work with a wide range of clients, such as victims, witnesses, defendants, and attorneys, to help them better understand the psychological aspects of a legal matter. They can also provide psychotherapy services to individuals involved in legal proceedings.

Education Requirements: master’s degree

Expected Job Growth: 6% (BLS)

Average Annual Salary: $98,000 (BLS)

Employment Locations: local, state, and federal law enforcement

FBI Agents

An FBI Agent conducts investigations on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). They are responsible for gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and analyzing data to help solve cases. Agents may also be responsible for arresting suspects, testifying in court, and preparing case files for submission to prosecutors. Some typical investigations include organized crime and drug trafficking.

In addition to their investigative duties, FBI Agents may also be responsible for providing security to certain individuals or locations,. They may monitor terrorist activities for national security and provide training to other law enforcement personnel.

FBI Agents must have a bachelor’s degree and at least three years of full-time professional work experience. Additionally, physical fitness is a criterion for this career path. Applicants also need a valid driver’s license for field work and must pass a drug test.

Education Requirements: bachelor’s degree

Expected Job Growth: unknown

Average Annual Salary: $49,746 to $146,571

Employment Locations: federal government offices nationwide

Degree in Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice Careers Based on Degrees

Job opportunities have a lot to do with the level of training and the type of degrees the individual earns. Some possible jobs based on criminal justice education include:

  • Associate’s – paralegal; fish and game warden; detective; a 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 in the recent past has increased the need for all these occupations. This bodes very well for aspiring students wondering what he or they can do with a criminal justice degree.

What Government Agencies hire Graduates with a Criminal Justice Degree?

Some federal agencies that hire individuals with a criminal justice degree are the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and U.S. Coast Guard.

Is a Criminal Justice Career for You?

Only you know if a criminal justice career path is right for you. Consider the educational requirements, career outlook, and job duties associated with a career in criminal justice to determine if it is the right fit. It is also essential to consider your skills and interests when deciding.