Criminal Justice Degree Career Options

So you’re interested in working in the criminal justice system? While you may understand that many careers within this field require a degree in criminal justice, what exact career opportunities do those with a criminal justice degree qualify for? In order to fully answer this question, it’s essential that you understand some careers require different levels of education. For example, some criminal justice careers only require a certificate or associate degree in criminal justice, while others require a bachelor’s degree or a graduate level degree to qualify for employment. Regardless, the criminal justice system offers a wide array of exciting, challenging and rewarding career opportunities for those with an education in criminal justice.

Criminal Justice Degree Career Options

Business Intelligence Analyst

This professional-level career works in the private and government sector to provide market and financial intelligence to help assist in the decision making process. These professionals work closely with data repositories, and utilize their skills to create reports that are essential when it comes to implementing crime prevention tactics or altering public policies. As of 2014, the average salary for this position is $77,000 per year.

Mental Health Counselor

While you may not think a criminal justice degree would prepare you for a career as a counselor, due to its intensive studies on human psychology and behavior, this is an excellent degree for those interested in working as a mental health counselor. These professionals work with individuals or groups to help prevent issues pertaining to mental health. Topics generally include addiction, substance abuse, self-esteem issues and stress management techniques. Generally, those who hold a criminal justice degree will work in correctional facilities as their mental health counselor. The average annual salary for this position is just over $46,000 per year.

Police Officer

Working as a police officer gives you a direct window into your community. If you truly wish to make a difference by fighting back against crime to make your community safer, then this is the career option for you. These professionals generally require a certificate or degree in criminal justice as well as completion of a police training academy. The average salary for police officers is $48,000 per year.

Probation Officer

If you wish to directly work with those who are released from a correctional facility, then a career as a probation officer may be your ideal career. These professionals monitor the actions of parolees who were recently released from a correctional facility. Within the duties of this job, you’ll hold a direct influence on how these individuals adjust to life outside of the correctional facility by helping secure specialized treatment programs. The average salary for these professionals is just over $47,000 per year.

Can I Get an Online Criminal Justice Degree?

In our fast-paced world, many who wish to start a new career are left feeling disheartened as they don’t have the time or financial abilities to attend a traditional on-campus degree program. While in recent years the use of online, or distance learning, programs have risen in popularity, there are many considerations students and professionals face. Perhaps the most prevalent of these considerations and concerns is whether or not the quality of education of an online program is the same as an on-campus program. When you wish to study criminal justice, the quality of your education will directly influence the success you have post-graduation. Therefore, one of the biggest questions students is involving this subject matter is, “Can I get an online criminal justice degree?”

Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

The simple answer to the aforementioned question is, yes! You absolutely can enroll in an online security guard training course; however, there are several considerations you must ponder upon before agreeing to a specific online program. The most important out of these is the school accreditation. In order to obtain an “official” degree, the institution must be accredited by the U.S. Department of Education; however, it’s always suggested to only attend an online program that’s accredited by third party organizations.

The next element you should look for is the reputation the school has within the industry. While many institutions are accredited by the U.S. Department of Education, the reputation these schools have within the criminal justice system is lacking. Therefore, it’s best to choose a nonprofit college or university. While for-profit training institutions may offer criminal justice degree programs, their primary concern isn’t your education, but rather their bottom line.

While the aforementioned are vital when it comes to determining the value of an online criminal justice degree program, it’s the actual coursework that determines the true value of your online education. As a general rule of thumb, make sure you only choose a degree program that involves the following primary core studies:

  • Criminal Law and the Legal System
  • Substantive Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedures
  • Criminal Justice System Ethics
  • Police Organization
  • Police Administration
  • Theories of Criminal Behavior
  • Criminology
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Forensic Sociology

Although the aforementioned is general subjects, they are essential when you wish to pursue a career within the criminal justice system. If you’re in doubt regarding the validity of an online degree program, reach out to a local college or university. Make an appointment with a representative of the criminal justice department to discuss the course offerings within a particular online degree program. Doing so ensures your training is conclusive and meets standard requirements.

Why Criminal Justice is Vital in Our Society

Since the dawn of civilizations, there has been a need for a criminal justice system. Unfortunately, as humans progresses, so did the desire to commit crimes. Due to the massive growth of our culture and civilization, the criminal demographic has expanded. While the need for criminal justice is vital on many levels, what exactly does this industry consist of, and moreover, why is it a truly important function of our society? If you’re interested in pursuing a criminal justice degree, understanding that criminal justice is vital may be the most important element of your studies.

Criminal Justice is defined as the determination of rights and protection of these rights based upon local and federal laws. When applied to our society, criminal justice is one that ensures fairness and equality for all citizens according to the laws and statutes this system upholds. Without a fully functioning criminal justice system, our entire civilization would degrade into anarchy. Various studies have found that if there was no criminal justice system, the “strong” would steal and take advantage of the “weak,” and the wealthiest within a civilization would have the right to create the laws, which benefit them and hurt the disenfranchised.

Those who founded the United States of America understood the danger associated with a loosely based criminal justice system. It was with this understanding they joined together and created a portion of the Constitution that pertains to how the criminal justice system should operate.

The foundation of the entire criminal justice system is based upon our Constitution. Due to this importance, the Judicial Branch was created and carried out to not only interpret the various statutes within the Constitution, but to enforce these laws and regulations. It’s with the belief that every person, regardless of age, race, wealth or social class receives the same protection under the law.

As a criminal justice student, you’re carrying on this tradition. Throughout your studies, you learn not only the law, but how the criminal justice system integrates these laws into the lives of citizens. It’s with the work you do that innocent people avoid incarceration and those who truly need help from the government receive the assistance they require. Without our criminal justice system, the foundation and fabric of our society would crumble. So, when you’re sitting in class and the fingertips of boredom begin to inch into your mind, remember the importance and value the subject you’re studying has on the very operation of our country.

Criminal Justice Degree Salaries

While you may have a genuine desire to make a difference in your community, many who are interested in a career within the criminal justice system are also concerned with their salaries. Even though some of the positions available within this career aren’t the highest paid, the job security and difference they’re able to make in the safety of their community make this a highly respected career option. If you’re interested in getting a degree in criminal justice, but want to learn more about what the pay will be, then continue reading to discover salaries for the most common careers open to those with a degree in criminal justice.

Criminal Justice Degree Salaries: Law Enforcement Agents

If you’re interested in working in law enforcement in specific government agencies, such as the DEA, INS or the ATF, you can expect to have a take-home salary that ranges between $26,000 and $50,000 per year. The actual salary is dependent on many factors, which include: your geographic location, level of completed education and previous experience.

Perhaps the highest paid law enforcement agent within this field are FBI agents, which earn anywhere from $61,000 to $69,000 per year, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Justice. It’s important to note that the aforementioned salaries can increase significantly when overtime is taken into consideration. In fact, most of the aforementioned salaries can expect a 15 to 30-percent increase in their actual take home salaries when you add in overtime and other bonuses.

Criminal Justice Degree Salaries: Forensic Science Technicians

Do you enjoy working with various scientific technologies to help solve a case? If so, then a career as a forensic science technician may be your ideal choice. According to data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who work as forensic science technicians make an average of $51,000 per year; however, the highest earners who work in the private sector earned $84,000 per year. Are you looking for a higher take-home salary? If so, then you’ll want to work for the Federal Executive Branch of the criminal justice system, which featured an average take home salary of $92,000 per year.

Criminal Justice Degree Salaries: Corrections Officer

If you have an associate or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field, then you may be interested in starting a career as a corrections officer. The armed security training is intensive, but you will be well prepared for the classroom training with your existing degree and education. While this is a demanding job, there are several excellent benefits, one of which being their salary. As of 2014, the average salary for a correctional officer ranged anywhere from $42,000 to over $64,000 per year. Of course, the actual salary is determined by education, experience and the facility in which they worked. If you stick with this career, you can expect to advance to a Correctional Supervisor, which carries an average annual salary that ranges from $59,000 to over $90,000 per year.