Common Criminal Justice Degree Career Options


Perhaps one of the most in-demand degree choices for those who wish to be involved in the legal system is one in criminal justice studies. Earning a degree in criminal justice (as either a standalone degree or one in combination with another specialty) qualifies graduates for a wide array of career options. Generally speaking, three of the most common career options for graduates include: corrections, law enforcement and investigations.

While these are the three most commonly chosen career paths, there are many other variables that go into the final selection. These include: The type of degree youĂ­ve earned, previous work experience, personal interests and your unique professional/personal aptitudes.

Career Option #1: Corrections

When compared to the previous two career options, which primarily involves preventing crime and apprehending persons believed to be involved in a crime, a career within the corrections industry primarily deals with persons who have been either convicted or accused of a crime. Once a person is arrested but before a conviction persons accused of criminal activity are typically stored in jails. Within these locations, they must be monitored and guarded. This is where your career as a corrections officer comes into play.

Graduates of a criminal justice degree program generally work as correctional guards in either jails or prisons. Some graduates even find their way into the career of probation officers, which involves monitoring parolees to ensure they adhere to the official terms of their release. What many people don’t know is a career within the corrections industry can lead into other opportunities, such as counseling or administrative roles.

Career Option #2: Law Enforcement

Upon graduating from a criminal justice degree program, many students find their way into the law enforcement career pathway. While this form of employment requires additional police academy training, the foundation elements learned within a criminal justice degree establishes an ability to work in a wide range of law enforcement careers.

As a criminal justice student, you can find yourself employed with specific areas of law enforcement. For example, common career paths include border patrol agents, transportation security agents, fish and game officers as well as local police officers. If this career path interests you, make sure to look up additional training requirements. For more on how to become law enforcement, see this source.

Career Option #3: Investigation

Investigators work to solve highly specific crimes that have been committed. Generally speaking, these professionals are known as Private Investigators. While this career option has been glamorized by popular media, in real life, private investigators are contracted by companies and private individuals to investigate crimes or to obtain information about a specific person. If you’re interested in this career option, there are many specialization certifications you can earn to become a specialist in this field.

Exploring the Criminal Justice Educational System


Types of Degree Programs

The criminal justice educational system is one of the most complex and varied out of any other industries. The academic credentials associated with this industry can be as streamlined as a certificate program to as advanced and involved as a PhD. When determining the level of education you should obtain, you must hold a solid understanding of where you wish your career to take you. If you wish to work in upper management positions, you should be prepared to obtain advanced-level degrees. However, if you wish to work on a more entry-level basis, then a certificate, diploma or associate degree program may be your ideal choice.

Types of Criminal Justice Degree Programs

While there are many variations when it comes to a criminal justice degree program, there are several foundation degree programs that most interested parties will choose from. These include:

Certificate Program

Within a certificate program, you’ll generally undergo less than 12 months of study. These programs are ideal for candidates who wish to work in the criminal justice industry without having to spend the time and money on a college degree. A certificate in criminal justice prepares you for an entry-level role within the industry. Take note, if you decide to pursue a degree, most certificate programs don’t offer transferable credits. Therefore, you’ll have to start from scratch.

Associate Degree Programs

For those who are looking for a more solid foundation within this industry, but don’t want to spend the money on a limited certificate program, typically find a two-year associates degree in criminal justice is their ideal choice. This degree program qualifies you for higher-paying career options and is relatively cost-effective (especially when obtained at a community college). The most attractive option of an associates degree in criminal justice is its transfer-ability should you desire to return to school at a later date.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs

Those who wish to enter the criminal justice industry in a higher-positioned role, or wish to work in a specialty field, generally find their way into a four-year criminal justice degree program. Typically, this program requires a total of 60 credit hours spread out over eight semesters. Much like the associate’s degree option, a bachelor’s degree program offers an excellent foundation for those who wish to obtain an advanced degree program, such as a graduate certificate.

Graduate Certificate Program

If you’re searching for a way to heighten your employment options, many bachelor’s degree students choose to complete a graduate certificate program upon graduation. These smaller, more refined, training programs are typically about a specific topic within the criminal justice industry. This is an excellent option for those who know exactly where they wish to work upon graduation.

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