Short answer: a lot. A criminal justice degree can be the launching pad for a range of career paths. If you’re interested in this field, you’re likely to find a niche where you can thrive professionally.
In this article, we’ll outline broad areas within criminal justice and highlight possible careers, noting average national salaries and degree requirements.
What do you learn in a criminal justice degree program?
A bachelor’s degree program in criminal justice will give you practical education and training for real-world applications. Some of your courses will focus on topics like methods of policing and procedures in law enforcement. Others will cover institutions and how they function, including courts and the corrections system, as well as related laws.
You’ll also pursue coursework that helps you gain a better understanding of deviant behavior and the social context of crime. These courses draw from fields like sociology, psychology, and anthropology.
Here are four distinct areas within criminal justice that we’ll use to organize career opportunities in the next section:
- Law enforcement: This includes everything connected to preventing crime as well as apprehending criminals.
- The court system: Once law enforcement officers have detained suspects for a crime, the court system handles determining guilt and assigning penalties.
- Corrections: This concerns the confinement, supervision, and rehabilitation of offenders.
- Research: Individuals contribute to a better understanding of criminality, laws, criminal procedures, and the criminal justice system to bring about positive change.
So, how can you put all this knowledge to work? Let’s look at your career options.
What jobs can you get with a criminal justice degree?
As a launching pad, the study of criminal justice gives you flexibility for your future. Below are some careers for you to consider, grouped according to the areas we just outlined.
This may be the area of criminal justice that is most familiar, yet there are more career paths than you might realize. Opportunities are available on the local, state, and federal levels and in both government and private settings. Here is just a sample.
- Average annual pay: $70,750
- Description: Their job is to enforce the law, maintain order, and protect lives and property. Common duties include patrolling, investigating accidents, responding to crimes, and arresting suspects.
- Average annual pay: $56,665
- Description: A state trooper, or state police officer, is employed by a state agency and enforces traffic and criminal laws on state-regulated highways. They also respond to emergencies involving motorists and assist with detours and evacuations.
- Average annual pay: $90,370
- Description: Detectives (or Criminal Investigators) gather evidence to solve crimes. This often involves the investigation of a crime scene and interviewing witnesses.
Fish and Game Warden
- Average annual pay: $58,190
- Description: This is often a state employee who is tasked with enforcing the laws related to hunting and fishing on public lands.
Federal Law Enforcement Agent
- Average annual pay: $67,974
- Description: Many agents are involved in the same kinds of activities as detectives for a local police department, though in this case, the crimes they are concerned with are federal. There are many other specialized roles within this federal agency as well.
The Court System
Some of the key positions in the court system are filled by judges and lawyers. While individuals serving in these roles might have an undergraduate degree in criminal justice, they will also have a law degree. A criminal justice degree can prepare you for law school.
However, there is one important position within the courtroom that does not require a graduate degree.
- Average annual pay: $52,340
- Description: The bailiff functions somewhat like a police officer within the courtroom, tasked with maintaining order and offering protection to the judge and anyone else present. The role also involves certain administrative duties.
- Average annual pay: $40,051
- Description: A victim advocate assists crime victims with preparation for trials and plea bargaining.
The corrections system manages prisoners who are serving sentences for crimes. This includes overseeing efforts for rehabilitation and successful reintegration into society.
- Average annual pay: $53,420
- Description: Correctional Officers guard and oversee inmates in all kinds of correctional facilities. The US has the second largest prison population in the world, so there is no shortage of work in this area.
- Average annual pay: $63,290
- Description: A Probation Officer’s job is to help those who have been convicted of crimes reintegrate into society and avoid offending again. They monitor those who are on probation and also investigate the backgrounds of offenders during a trial to provide advice about appropriate sentencing.
Your bachelor’s degree could be just the starting point of your studies in this field since positions in this last category often require a graduate degree in criminal justice.
- Average annual salary: $51,877
- Description: Crime analysts study patterns and trends in criminal behavior. They can help solve open cases by analyzing evidence at crime scenes, but their research is also central to the development of crime prevention programs.
- Average annual salary: $62,592
- Description: Policy analysts look at existing government policies, laws, and institutions to assess their effectiveness while looking for ways to improve them. They can serve within federal or state agencies or in private settings like think tanks.
Professor of Criminal Justice
- Average annual salary: $58,711
- Description: Professors are usually responsible for a blend of research and teaching. They help train and shape the next generation of criminal justice professionals.
This list is only a sampling of the possible careers open to you with a criminal justice degree, but it supports what we said at the outset: this flexible field can be your launching pad toward success.
Whether your passion is keeping people safe, seeing that justice is done, helping offenders overcome their past, or researching new solutions to some of society’s toughest problems, criminal justice offers a career path for you.
Criminal Justice at Thomas College
Now that you know what you can do with your criminal justice degree, you need to find the school that will open doors for you.
Here at Thomas College, you’ll be in small classes learning from professionals who have worked in the field and will serve as your mentors. Our undergraduate degree program focuses on practical training, so you’ll feel equipped for real-world situations.
We have concentrations in Law Enforcement, Corrections, Homeland Security, Cybersecurity, and Conservation Law Enforcement, giving you preparation that is tailored to your intended career path. Better yet, you have the option to continue your studies with our Master’s in Criminology—the only program of its kind in Maine.