Criminal Justice Occupations

Job Spotlight - Criminal Justice

If you are looking for a major, and you have interest in crime and legal professions, you may want to look at Criminal Justice. Besides covering a number of subjects that you may have interest in, this major will give you greater understanding of how criminal laws and the legal system works. Not to mention that a Criminal Justice Degree can open a wide range of possibilities when it comes time to narrow your search for a career.

Resource: U.S. Bureau of Labor StatisticsCriminal Justice FAQsIf you want to find out more about Criminal Justice degrees and what they can offer you, then you have a found a great resource for this information. On this page we will cover a number of the most popular questions concerning this major, picking the right schools, types of careers and what does the future hold. If you have any questions we haven’t covered or have a suggestion to make this resource better, please contact us.

What is Criminal Justice?

Criminal Justice is the study of the theories behind how crimes and criminals are identified, apprehended, tried and punished. The wide range of topics that fall under the Criminal Justice category can be split in to three distinct areas and these are law enforcement, legal and court system and corrections. The good thing is that since Criminal Justice is so expansive in size, there are quite a number of careers that one can be employed in with this type of a degree.

Let’s get a better understanding of what each of these terms mean towards the study of Criminal Justice.Law EnforcementPolice officers or other law enforcement agencies are charge of preventing and fighting crime. They also investigate, collect evidence, interview witnesses and arrest those suspected of crimes. Another responsibility of law enforcement is keeping the peace and helping the community grow and prosper.Legal and Court SystemThe people working in the legal system such as judges, lawyers and associated personnel are charged with weighing the evidence and doling out punishment to guilty parties. Punishment could be a fine, jail or prison time. Those working in this field are sometimes called to perform research on methods and ranges of punishments for offenders.CorrectionsThe corrections department is made up of corrections officers, wardens and counselors who help detain or imprison convicted individuals. They also work to rehabilitate through various education and work programs. When a prisoner is released, they will deal with probation or parole officers who monitor the good behavior of the former prisoner.

What is the Best Way to get in to Criminal Justice?

There are a lot of jobs and careers associated with Criminal Justice. The best way to get started is by going to a four-year college or university offering Criminal Justice as part of their degree programs. We strongly recommend that anyone looking to go in to CJ to get at least a bachelor’s degree if not higher to help improve their opportunities for finding a job and or advancement.After you finish school, you will want to find a job that best fits your interest in Criminal Justice. That can be anything from investigating crimes as a police officer, detective or a government agent to working more in the Criminal Justice administration type of jobs as a law clerk, becoming a lawyer or even teaching at a college or university. The choice is mainly up to you and what exactly you are looking to achieve with this type of degree.InternshipsGaining experience is an important factor when trying to start a career in Criminal Justice. Those who looking to earn their Criminal Justice Degree may want to take advantage of some of the internships that may be available in your area or your field of interest. When you start looking in to internships you will quickly find that there are basically three different types or categories when these internships fall in to. The three main categories are: government agencies, court system and correctional institutions.Most students in Criminal Justice programs will get involved with an internship their senior year which they can gain much needed real-life experience along with academic credit. Working either through the program’s placement service or on their own, students can be paired up with a wide range of organizations that offer internships. Some of these include:

One final note on Criminal Justice internships, most of these internships are paid positions. This is great news for most college students who may fear working long hours for credits and no pay. If you can prove yourself as a fast learner, hard worker and great team player, you may find that these internships can lead to a job offer once you graduate.

Where Can I find Criminal Justice Schools?

Those seeking to major in Criminal Justice should be able to find plenty of options around the country. From large universities to the smaller community colleges. The internet can serve as a good resource of finding out which schools in your area offer this type of program. Definitely spend some time doing some research on any college or program before you enroll.Here are some tips on what you should look in to before you apply to any school or program:

  • Make sure that the school is an accredited institution
  • Find a respected Criminal Justice program that fits your budget
  • Ask about any specializations that the department has to offer
  • Read school forums or reviews on the internet to find out what students think of the program
  • See if the program offer internships and if so, will you be able to do an internship in your specialty
  • Research the background of the professor to see if they have academic training as well as real-life experience
  • Check to see if the department is keeping up with the changing times by discussing subjects such as terrorism or cyber-crimes.
  • See if you can find the graduation rate of students in this major
  • Ask around if the program is more theory based or trying to prepare students for a career

Can I Earn an Online Criminal Justice Degree?

Yes you can! You will find that a majority of the core courses in an online Criminal Justice program are very comparable to those held in the more traditional on-campus style schools. Before you choose an online program, you will want to make sure that it is an accredited college and the classes are comparable.As you probably already know, most careers nowadays require some post-secondary education. For some people online schools offer a great way to get an education and improving their career prospects with a degree. Online schools can offer a number of benefits that you may not be able to enjoy while going to a traditional college. Some of these benefits include:

  • Being able to take you classes any time of day
  • Study from anywhere with an internet connection
  • Get an education while still working a full-time job or being a stay-at-home parent
  • Flexibility in scheduling
  • Earning a degree from some of the most respected programs without having to relocate

However, online colleges may not be for everyone. You must be able to work independently, be a self-starter and stay focused. Even though you can study anywhere or at any time, you still need to schedule your day to fit in the classes.

Are There Different Types of Criminal Justice Degrees?

There are five levels or degrees you can choose to earn for Criminal Justice. Your choice is a bit dependent on what your ultimate goal is within this field. For a better understanding, let’s look at each level and find out which Criminal Justice degree is best for you.CertificateOffered at some schools as basically an introduction in to Criminal Science, a certificate can be in your hands in less than a year. This may give you an edge on jobs not requiring a college education. If you decide to earn a degree later on, you will have to start at the beginning since a certificate usually transfer credits over.Associate DegreeThe first level of degrees that will take you about 2 years to complete. The topics covered in this type of program will be the very basics of Criminal Justice. A growing number of law enforcement agencies are starting to require at least an associate degree for consideration of hiring. Credits earned while getting your associate degree can usually be transferred over for those looking to earn a higher degree.Bachelor DegreeThis is a 4 year degree that will help prove to potential employers that you are committed and willing to put in the work for a job in Criminal Justice. A bachelor degree will open up a wider possibility for jobs in areas that a certificate or associate degree are not enough to meet the minimums. A bachelor degree can serve as a foundation for graduate degrees you may want to earn later on. We highly recommend that if you are serious about Criminal Justice you should at least try to earn your bachelor degree as it is becoming the new minimum for a number of related jobs.Master DegreeA master degree is a graduate level degree and will be a bit harder to earn than a bachelor degree. The requirements for enrollment in a master level program are different from school to school and at times competition for placement can be tough. Do not let yourself get depressed if you are not admitted right away. Master degree holders are mainly people looking to work in a supervision type of role within Criminal Justice. You will be seen as an expert in one of the specialty niches in the field.Doctoral DegreeBy far one of the toughest levels of degrees to obtain. The work necessary to earn a doctoral degree is rigorous and intense. Typically earned by those who want to teach Criminal Justice in a university setting or become a full-time researcher. Few people need to go this far for their degree but if they do, the pay can be very generous.

What Kind of Courses Will I Take as a Criminal Justice Major?

The courses taught in Criminal Justice will provide you a foundation for a future career and more. Outside of the core classes such as English, communications and math, you will be immersed in the world of theory and reality of crime and the justice system. Some of the typical courses taught in Criminal Justice include:Introductory classes in Police Theory, Criminal Justice, Court Systems and Corrections

  • Ethics
  • Criminology
  • Research Methods
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Criminal Law
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Organizational Behavior and Management
  • Criminal Justice Policy
  • Constitutional Law
  • Forensic Science
  • Domestic Violence
  • Probation and Parole
  • Crisis Prevention Management
  • Gang and Organized Crime Theory
  • Homeland Security
  • Violence Against Women
  • Counter Terrorism and Intelligence
  • Private Security

How Long are Criminal Justice Program to Complete?

The amount of time you spend studying Criminal Justice mainly depends on the type of degree or certification you want to earn. Most certificate programs can be finished in as short as a few months and as long as a year. Associate degree will 18 months to 2 years while a bachelor degree can be received within 4 years.

What Are Some Popular Criminal Justice Careers?

Criminal Justice lays down the foundation for a great number of exciting and rewarding careers for you to choose from. Some of these jobs will require licenses and possibly further education. Some of the more popular jobs that people may want to try to get with their Criminal Justice degree are:

Other Careers to ConsiderIf you find out that Criminal Justice isn’t your bag of tea, there are also careers that you can use your degree in. Some of these jobs include:

  • Social Worker
  • Intelligence Analyst
  • Mental Health Counselor
  • Healthcare Social Worker
  • Chemist
  • Family Social Worker
  • Business and Finance Intelligence Analyst
  • Researcher
  • Housing and Urban Development
  • IRS Criminal Investigator
  • Conservation Officer
  • Case Manager
  • Youth Services Counselor
  • Employment Counselor

What is the Outlook for Criminal Justice Degree Jobs?

As you can probably guess, there isn’t a definitive answer to this question due to the large number of jobs that can fall under the Criminal Justice category. However, it should be said that there will be employment opportunities for those seeking a job with a CJ degree. For more detailed information on any specific job, you should look up the latest projections released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.Criminal Justice Careers 2012 2022 Projected Growth Comparison

What Should I Expect for a Criminal Justice Salary?

Just as we have mentioned above, the large number of jobs that fall under the Criminal Justice category is difficult to give a straight up answer. If you are looking for a specific career please use the detailed salary information presented on the U.S. government site of O*Net.Criminal Justice Salary Comparison
Quick Facts: Top Jobs For a Criminal Justice Degree
OccupationMedian Annual SalaryRecommended Education2012-2022 Projected Outlook2012 Number of Jobs2012- 2022 Estimated Job Growth
Fire Inspectors$53,990Bachelor’s degree6% (slightly slower than average)12,200800
Police Officers$56,980Bachelor’s degree5% (slightly slower than average)780,00041,400
Attorneys$113,530PhD10% (slightly faster than average)759,80074,800
Corrections Officers$38,970Associate’s degree5% (slightly slower than average)469,50023,000
Probation Officers$48,190Bachelor’s degree-1% (Little or no change)90,300-900
Legal Assistants$46,990Associate’s degree17% (faster than average)277,00046,200
Quick Info: Ways to Start a Career in Criminal Justice
Path to finding your new criminal justice career
• Determine what kind of job you are looking for
• Intern in a related agency before you graduate
• Complete your post-secondary school program
• Decide if you want to go to grad school
• Find a job in your area of interest
Best methods for a job search
• Networking
• Internships
• Job boards on internet or local newspaper
• Cold calling agencies
• Job fairs
Be prepared for:
• Long and intensive interviews
• Criminal background check
• Drug testing
• Psychological assessment exams
• Physical fitness tests
• Polygraph test
Quick Info: Criminal Justice Degrees and Certificates
These are types of awards you can earn for criminal justice
• Certificate
• Associate Degree
• Bachelor Degree
• Master Degree
• Doctoral Degree
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