What Can You Do with a Criminal Justice Degree?

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Are you passionate about justice and have a knack for leadership? Then consider working towards a degree in criminal justice! A career in criminal justice sets you up for a lifetime of helping others and supporting your community in a variety of ways.

List of the Top 40 Criminal Justice Careers & Salaries

Once you have earned a criminal justice degree, you can pursue a career in either law enforcement or the legal field. For a comprehensive look at 40 different careers available within the expansive field of criminal justice, see the list below!

Job Title Job Summary

Mid-Career Salary

Judge, Trial Court Presides over cases between prosecutors and defendants in high-level courtroom settings.


Senior Security Consultant Minimizes security risks for a company by providing effective system security recommendations and strategies.


Criminal Defense Lawyer Represents clients who are charged with misdemeanor or felony offenses by a court of law.


Attorney/Lawyer Advises clients on their best course of legal action to handle specific situations.


Special Agent (Federal) Law enforcement specialist who is responsible for the enforcement and investigation of federal matters.


Magistrate Typically presides over cases that involve municipal law, small claims, and misdemeanor trials.


Information Security Analyst Conducts research and collects data in order to develop and implement security solutions for an organization.


Customs Officer Specialized law enforcement official who works to ensure illegal cargo does not cross international borders.


Customs Compliance Manager Manages compliance matters in the customs environment to ensure they meet standard regulations.


Border Patrol Agent Oversees sections of a border between countries to ensure no unlawful activities occur.


Intelligence Analyst Typically works for government agencies to provide information about security threats.


Supervisory Special Agent Specific job within the FBI that is responsible for leading teams of special agents in investigations.


FBI Agent Serves as an investigative agent for the US Department of Justice to handle federal crimes.


Administrative Law Judge, Adjudicator, or Hearing Officer Generally works for the government in overseeing legal procedures and is responsible for adjudicating claims for benefits that it offers.


Coroner Medical professionals that supervise investigations to determine the cause and circumstances of death in criminal cases.


Forensic Scientist Gathers and analyzes material that will be used as evidence by law enforcement officials for court proceedings.


Security Manager Managerial position that plans and coordinates security activities in order to safeguard company assets.


Fraud Investigator Works to determine whether individuals or organizations have committed deception for financial benefit.


Police Sergeant Supervises other officers and is responsible for enforcing state, federal, and local law.


Detective/Criminal Investigator Uses a variety or resources to investigate violations of the law.


Private Detective Works for individuals or companies to gather and analyze facts and information for legal situations.


Police Officer Responsible for enforcing the law within their community and monitoring any threats to public safety.


Criminologist Analyst or scientist who researches what causes criminal behavior in society.


Paralegal Performs legal, regulatory, and business research for lawyers at their organization.


Loss Prevention Manager Protects the profits of an organization by preventing losses from theft, fraud, accident, or abuse.


Court Reporter Court official that creates written transcripts to record the communications during a court proceeding.


Deputy Sheriff Works under supervision of the sheriff’s office to assist in the enforcement of all state and local laws.


Crime Scene Investigator Secures and examines details of evidence left at the scene of a crime.


Probation Officer Oversees released inmates to ensure that the offenders are fulfilling the terms of their probation.


Correctional Counselor Works in jail and prisons to oversee inmates’ behavior and assist with their progress.


Case Manager Helps recovering addicts, elderly, or other at-risk populations with advice and guidance to improve their lives.


Juvenile Probation Officer Works with adolescents who have committed crimes and been released on probation.


Bailiff Maintains order in a courtroom and ensures that proper procedures are followed.


Substance Abuse Counselor Provides therapy and guidance to individuals who are struggling with alcohol and/or drug use.


Correctional Officer Works at a prison or similar institution to maintain the safety and control of all persons in custody at the facility.


Victims Advocate Provides information, guidance, and resources to individuals and their families who have been the victim of a crime.


Police, Fire, or Ambulance Dispatcher Responds to emergency calls in order to efficiently dispatch police officers, medical, and fire personnel.


Court, Municipal, or License Clerk Works for a court in a judicial branch to handle administrative tasks and conduct legal research.


Security Officer Responsible for maintaining the security of a property and preventing theft, vandalism, and damage.


Security Guard Works with a variety of companies and organizations to provide low-level protection against suspicious activity.


*Data provided by the Salary.com and Payscale.com

What can you do with a Criminal Justice Degree?

From the information above, it is easy to see how broad the career scope is within the field of criminal justice. Whether you are interested in administration and the legal process or would like to work out in the field as an investigator or officer, you have numerous options that you can pursue.

The top 40 careers we listed show a range of occupations with pay from $24,000 all the way up to six-figure salaries. Why is there such a wide range of annual pay?  It all comes down to the position held within your department, as well as the level of education and skill you have within the field. As with most careers, those with graduate degrees and additional certifications tend to earn more than those with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

Another important factor to mention is the “mid-career” label of the salaries listed. These numbers represent the annual pay of those who have at least 10 years’ experience within their specific occupation. While most criminal justice graduates start out in entry-level positions, you may end up making more or less than the average listed based upon your specific career path.

What is a Criminal Justice Degree?

The field of criminal justice focuses on enforcing and upholding laws and regulations at a local, state, or federal level. This can be accomplished in several ways, from local police officers to criminal investigators and attorneys that fight for civil rights.

There are online criminal justice degrees available at the associate’s degree level up through doctoral degrees. In addition to educational requirements, most criminal justice careers emphasize real-life experience. With hard work and perseverance, you can work your way up through the ranks to well-paying, high-level career opportunities.

There are many ways to customize your criminal justice degree program so it matches up with your long-term goals. Some of the common concentrations that you can choose from include:

  • Crime Scene Investigation
  • Homeland Security
  • Corrections
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Law Enforcement

If you are already in the workforce or juggling family commitments, there are many colleges that offer reputable online degree programs. With flexible scheduling and the ability to log on anytime and anywhere, you can earn your criminal justice degree at a pace that fits within your busy schedule.

Criminal Justice Career Outlook

It can be challenging to give an overall outlook of criminal justice careers due to the expansive nature of the field. When considering a degree in criminal justice, it is smart to use reputable sources such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to look at the specific outlook for your career of choice.

For example, the BLS projects that private detectives and investigators will see an 5% growth rate from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. In the new and rapidly expanding field of forensics, there is expected to be a 14% increase from 2019 to 2029 – much higher than the national average across all occupations!

For those who want to make a difference in their communities, criminal justice can be an extremely rewarding field. Whether you are interested in supporting laws behind the scenes or want to be up close to the action, the opportunities are endless for careers in which you can use your degree in criminal justice!

Ready to start your journey?
Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.