What can you do with a criminal justice degree?
Close your eyes and envision what a day on the job might look like for someone with a criminal justice degree.
You might be picturing chasing bad guys, arresting suspects and collecting evidence from a crime scene—in short, what you’ve seen police officers do on TV or in the movies.
But getting a criminal justice degree can actually mean so much more in terms of employment.1 Criminal justice programs might include courses on criminal law, forensics, criminology and victimology, communications, juvenile justice, ethics and more. This exciting field can prepare you for many different jobs that provide hands-on, out-of-the-office work.1
Interested in learning more about what you could do in law enforcement? Check out a few of the options you might have by getting your criminal justice degree:
- Security guard: If you’ve ever been to a concert or event, you probably have plenty of experience with security guards. Their job is to protect property against theft, vandalism or other illegal activities. Typically, that means they monitor alarms and cameras, conduct security checks, respond to emergencies and detain violators. Although some jobs might not have educational requirements, many jobs involve training in report writing, protection, and deterring crises.
- Corrections Officer: Another option someone with a degree in criminal justice might have is getting a job as a corrections officer.1 Corrections officers oversee people who have been arrested or are serving time in jail or prison. They typically work to enforce order, supervise inmates, inspect facilities for safety and security and more. Federal agencies might require college coursework or previous work experience to work as a corrections officer.1
- Private Detective/Investigator: Similar to a police officer or detective, private detectives or investigators work to uncover clues and collect evidence. They, however, do not have police authority and must be cognizant of federal, state and local laws and collect information properly so it will be admissible in court. Typically, they search for information about people’s backgrounds and statements and help find missing people. If you’re interested in becoming a private investigator, a criminal justice degree might help.1 While it varies greatly, some employers require a 2- or 4-year degree in a field like criminal justice.
- Police Officer: When many people think about entering a criminal justice program, they might think about becoming a police officer. Some duties associated with being a police officer are responding to emergency and nonemergency calls, obtaining warrants and arresting suspects, collecting and securing evidence from crime scenes, patrolling assigned areas, filling out detailed reports and more. Police officers are typically good leaders and communicators and exhibit good judgement. They also need to have physical stamina and strength for the job. To become a police officer, many federal agencies and some police departments require college coursework or a degree before candidates can enter the agency’s training academy, so earning a degree in criminal justice could be a good first step.1
As you can see, a criminal justice degree can allow you to enter many fields in law enforcement besides becoming a police officer. Entering the criminal justice field can allow students the opportunity to protect and serve their communities. While every occupation is different and caters to many different types of people, most occupations require perceptiveness, good judgment and great communication skills.
1 Employment not guaranteed for students or graduates.
- What police officers do
- Traits of police officers
- Educational requirements of police officers
- What corrections officers do
- Educational requirements of corrections officers
- What private detectives and investigators do
- Educational requirements of private detectives
- What security guards do
- Educational requirements of security guards