Benefits of a Criminal Justice Degree – A Lucrative and Rewarding Career
If you have a passion for the law, along with a knack for problem-solving and the desire to serve and protect your fellow citizens, a criminal justice degree just might be your ticket to a prestigious and rewarding career.
At its core, the criminal justice field focuses on preventing, identifying, and investigating illegal activities, while also apprehending or rehabilitating criminals and seeking justice for their victims. A degree in criminal justice can pave the way for a wide range of career options in law enforcement, intelligence, security, corrections, criminal investigation, and public policy.
The Employment Outlook in Criminal Justice
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the criminal justice field will continue to experience healthy job growth in more than a few of its career tracks. For example, the growing frontier of cybersecurity anticipates a 20% growth in demand, between now and the year 2020, for criminal justice specialists trained in profiling, finding, and stopping online criminals.
Likewise, the BLS projects a 19% employment growth among crime scene investigators, along with a 12% uptick in private security jobs. What’s more, given the steadily growing need for public safety services, coupled with the number of baby boomers reaching retirement, law enforcement agencies will continue to hire qualified criminal justice professionals.
Jobs You Can Get with a Degree in Criminal Justice
Criminal justice is most definitely a field that not only rewards specialization and persistence, but can also lead to a fulfilling and lucrative career. So if you’re now asking yourself “What kinds of jobs can I get with a criminal justice degree?” here’s a look at some of the possibilities, along with their average salaries:
- Police Officer – With an average salary of $57,770, a criminal justice degree is an excellent choice for pursuing a public service career as a police officer.
- Lawyer – Many lawyers opt for a criminal justice degree as a prelude to law school, since it provides an excellent foundation for the practice of law. So once they have completed a doctor of jurisprudence and passed their state’s bar exam, lawyers stand to make an average salary of $130,000+ annually.
- Criminal Investigator – Criminal investigators investigate crimes and bring perpetrators to justice. While many begin their careers with a high school diploma, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice offers greater salary potential – an average of $80,000 per year.
- FBI Agent – A criminal justice degree can also serve as a stepping stone to a career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI agents are classified by role, with average salary ranges from $85,375 (for an Intelligence Analyst) to $152,358 (for a Supervisory Special Agent). But regardless of rank, the FBI requires a minimum education of a bachelor’s degree.
- Fire Investigator – Fires of any kind must be investigated to determine the cause and rule out arson. A criminal justice degree is an excellent starting point, as well as a foundation for advancement in the fire investigation field, which boasts an average annual salary of $57,400.
- Criminologist – Criminology – which typically requires a bachelor’s degree – is projected to grow by 15% over the next five years, in both the public and private sectors. Criminology involves profiling criminals, by collecting and analyzing large amounts of data and transforming it into accurate profiles that identify criminals, while also solving and preventing crimes. And depending on need, specialization, and geographic location, criminologists typically earn between $46,037 and $72,430 annually.
Tips for Pursuing a Degree in Criminal Justice
If you're contemplating a degree in criminal justice, here are a few things to keep in mind before taking the plunge:
- Assess your interest in the law. Although a criminal justice degree paves the way for a multitude of rewarding careers, you're more likely to succeed if you have a genuine interest in both the law and the justice system.
- Zero in on a career track. Having a clear career track in mind empowers you to choose an area of degree concentration that is commensurate with your skills and interests.
- Explore the public service angle. While there are a growing number of professional options in the private sector, most jobs requiring a criminal justice degree lead to a career of public service. So if you’ve always wanted to serve your community, this degree will be an excellent investment in your future.