A criminal justice degree provides graduates multiple career options in the fields of law enforcement, probation, corrections, or private investigations. Criminal justice jobs include positions as police and sheriff’s officers, crime scene investigators, correctional officers, FBI agents, crime analysts, or probation officers. Jobs in the criminal justice field offer solid pay, medical benefits, and a chance to make a difference in the world, especially when working as a juvenile probation officer. The field offers many entry level criminal justice jobs along with those which require an advanced degree.
A criminal justice degree doesn’t limit a person to work solely in law enforcement. Many jobs in the criminal justice field are available in the private sector, including jobs as private investigators, fraud investigators, directors of security and more. Many insurance companies hire graduates with a criminal justice degree to investigate suspected fraudulent insurance claims. Private investigators also conduct surveillance on people suspected of reporting false workers’ compensation claims and more.
Federal Law Enforcement
Entry level criminal justice jobs are often available in many branches of the U.S. government, including Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or the Central Intelligence Agency. These jobs in criminal justice include positions as FBI agents and crime and intelligence analysts, though it helps to have more than just a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice for these coveted positions. The interview and testing process for a position in the federal government can be long and arduous, sometimes taking up to six months or more. Candidates must submit to a job screening process that includes an extensive background investigation of the candidate.
Because of the nature of law enforcement work, before a graduate is hired for a criminal justice position, he or she must pass several series of tests including written and oral tests, a background check and a psychological review. Most jobs in the criminal justice field also require the candidate to pass a physical examination and a drug test. Many jobs in criminal justice require candidates to be a minimum of 21 years old, and for federal positions, no older than 37 years of age when applying. The reason is that many of the jobs in criminal justice demand strenuous physical activity. Candidates must be in top physical health. Those convicted of a felony won’t be eligible for any of the jobs in criminal justice. Most candidates must have a valid driver’s license, as well. Accepted candidates for law enforcement positions at the city, county, state, or federal level also participate in additional training before beginning work.
Probations and Corrections
Probation officers, though not in law enforcement, work very closely with police and sheriff’s departments. Probation officers are usually officers of the court and often have to testify whether a person should receive probation or stay in jail. Testimony is presented by request of the court after the probation officer has interviewed the person in question. Because of these aspects of the job, probation officers must have good writing and speaking skills as well. Probation officers typically work either in adult or juvenile probation, but typically not both unless they work in a small county or city.
Correctional officers oversee people or individuals who are awaiting trial for a crime or those convicted of a crime already serving time in the jail or prison system. A criminal justice degree prepares students to work as correctional officers in city or county jails or state and federal prisons. Correctional officers for cities or counties usually work in jails where criminals are serving sentences less than a year or two. Correctional officers that work for the state or federal prison system often deal with criminals of a different nature than those typically found in city or county jail. Because of the nature of the work, correctional officers must have a strong fortitude and handle themselves well in any kind of situation.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook remains solid through 2018 for positions in criminal justice. Jobs are expected to grow “faster than average,” providing many opportunities for employment in this field. Graduates with a master’s in criminal justice can expect to be at the top of the list for most any position applied for because of the additional education. Some criminal justice jobs actually require candidates to have a master’s degree before applying for a position while other entry level criminal justice jobs only require a high school diploma or GED. When studying for a criminal justice degree, a minor in sociology or psychology helps to make a candidate more appealing.