Criminal justice is consistently one of the most popular college majors, and for good reason. You can get a criminal justice degree at virtually all colleges and universities. You can even get a criminal justice degree completely online. There are different levels of degrees available as well, with associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees available.
Another benefit of majoring in criminal justice is that there are so many career options available to you after graduation. Some of these careers – like working as a probation and parole agent – are obvious fits for a criminal justice graduate. But there are other occupational pathways you might not have considered with a degree in this field.
Let’s take a look at eight excellent job options for criminal justice graduates.
Though you often don’t need a college degree to become a police officer, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a good basis of knowledge of the criminal justice system. Getting an associate’s degree in criminal justice, for example, will help you develop an understanding of:
- Local, state, and federal laws
- Criminal procedure
- Criminal psychology
- The court system
Additionally, a criminal justice degree often includes coursework in communications and multiculturalism, both of which will be helpful as you patrol the streets as a police officer.
Many detectives begin as police officers. As they gain experience, they are promoted through the ranks. But getting a criminal justice degree can also help you move through the ranks to become a detective.
Since detectives investigate crimes, they need to have a good understanding of processes like crime scene investigation, the chain of custody for evidence, and interviewing techniques. All of these skills can be learned in a criminal justice degree program.
A victim advocate is exactly what it sounds like – someone to speak on behalf of victims of crimes.
In some cases, victim advocates are employed by law enforcement. In others, they’re contracted to provide services to crime victims. Either way, having a deep understanding of the criminal justice system, the investigative process, due process, and so forth, will help you work with your clients more effectively.
For example, a victim advocate is usually responsible for accompanying the victim to court proceedings. So, it would be your job to prepare the victim for what’s to come so they know what to expect in court.
Probation and Parole Officer
A degree in criminal justice is a great way to prepare for work with individuals that have been convicted of crimes. Understanding criminology, for example, might help you recognize red flags when a client has returned to their criminal ways.
As another example, the communication skills you acquire in a criminal justice degree program can help you effectively communicate with clients from many different walks of life. Being able to communicate is essential for building trustworthy relationships with your clients – relationships that can help keep them on the straight and narrow.
Many law enforcement agencies employ or contract with profilers to help them crack difficult cases. Essentially, profilers do this by using their background in criminal justice, criminology, and psychology to develop a profile of someone that’s likely to have committed a crime.
So, for example, a profiler might examine the details of a kidnapping case and determine, based on many different factors, that the likely suspect is a white male in his 30s. Though a profile is guesswork, it’s based on educated guesses that draw on your education in criminal justice.
Paralegals must have an education and training beyond a criminal justice degree. However, starting out with a criminal justice degree is an ideal way to begin your studies.
For example, paralegals must have a deep knowledge of relevant statutes and laws, which is something you often study in a criminal justice degree program. As another example, paralegals often conduct a lot of research for attorneys. Since many criminal justice degree programs have a research component (e.g., research papers, a capstone project, thesis), you can hone your skills in preparation for a career as a paralegal.
After a career in law enforcement, some people become private investigators, which are essentially civilian versions of a police detective.
Being a civilian detective requires a thorough understanding of laws. This pertains to both what other people can and can’t do and what you can and cannot legally do as a private investigator.
A degree in criminal justice familiarizes you with laws, policies, and procedures for many common legal situations. You can also learn essential policing skills that will benefit you as a private investigator.
A criminal justice degree on its own doesn’t qualify you to be a forensic psychologist. However, since forensic psychology operates at the intersection of criminal justice and psychology, beginning your studies in criminal justice will start you off on the right foot.
Often, forensic psychologists work with attorneys and law enforcement agencies. Though the job duties differ from one location to the next, you might expect to be involved in:
- Police officer training
- Testifying as an expert witness
- Helping prepare witnesses for court
- Developing criminal profiles
- Providing counseling services to victims
Again, you’ll need an advanced degree in psychology to follow this job path, but a degree in criminal justice will certainly help you move towards your career goals.