If you’ve ever watched a crime procedural on TV and thought, “I want to do that!” then criminal justice might be the career for you.
It is a large field that encompasses law enforcement, corrections officers, legal professionals, social workers, and other professions. Criminal justice can also be broken down into broad areas like policing, corrections, or crime prevention.
However, there are particular jobs within this broad field that may focus more on one of these areas than others.
What is a Criminal Justice Degree Required for?
A criminal justice degree is not required to get a job in the criminal justice field. There are plenty of positions available at all levels that do not require an education beyond high school. For example, there are many police officer and corrections officer positions available at entry-level, as well as jobs like the clerical staff.
Police officers typically begin their careers with basic training provided by their state’s police academy. Corrections officers also attend training after being hired by the state or federal government.
There is also advanced education available for those who wish to pursue a career in investigation or prosecution. Doing a program like an online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice gives you more options when it comes to advanced career paths.
However, entry into these fields usually requires having some prior experience working in law enforcement or corrections.
Criminal Justice Careers & Job Options
Law Enforcement Jobs
Law enforcement jobs are at the top of the criminal justice hierarchy, with police officers on the ground, state troopers, and deputy sheriffs enforcing laws within a certain jurisdiction. These positions can be at entry-level as a community or municipal police officer or a state trooper, or as high-ranking as the Chief of Police in a major city.
In general, law enforcement agencies require that their officers have bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice to be eligible for upper management positions. This is because these supervisors are in need of someone trained in ethics, leadership and management to lead them during various stages of an investigation or operation.
Court officers can also enter into upper management as administrators or judges, but for the most part, like police officers, they need a security clearance on top of their education.
While some court officers are armed, there are many civilian positions available as well. These jobs may have a more administrative focus that requires an additional degree in criminal justice administration.
Corrections officers work with inmates to maintain order and security inside incarceration facilities. They spend their days doing everything from keeping watch and searching cells to escorting inmates during transfer and conducting transfers themselves when necessary.
While entry-level positions may simply require completion of a state or federal academy, higher-paying jobs usually require at least an associate’s degree in criminal justice.
Correctional officers do not remain for long, as a large number of job opportunities in this career are available to people who have already worked their way into law enforcement.
Social workers are highly in demand as they provide assistance and counseling to people with a wide variety of issues, including crime victims. Social workers also help families with children or elders navigate the criminal justice system or other systems like adoption services. They work with schools, hospitals, parole offices, and other social services agencies.
While there is no specific degree required for a position in this profession, you can expect your questions to be answered more fully by someone with a master’s degree in social work.