Why You Should Earn a Criminal Justice Degree

If you’re looking to start a career in a dynamic and evolving industry, then you’ll want to consider earning a degree in criminal justice. Unlike popular opinion, a criminal justice degree isn’t just applicable for those who wish to pursue the steps to become a police officer. This unique educational program offers a well-rounded curriculum capable of setting you up for a vibrant career within the legal and criminal justice system.

Whether you’re seriously considering earning a criminal justice degree or are simply wanting more information, the following information will help you truly understand why obtaining this degree can help set you up for a long-lasting and fulfilling career.

Reason #1 – Job Growth
According to the latest statistical data, the criminal justice and legal industry is expected to experience significant growth over the next decade. In fact, the United States Depart of Labor predicts this industry will grow by 22 percent per year. With such solid job growth, this makes the criminal justice industry an attractive option for those seeking long-term career stability.

Reason #2 – High Competition in Industry
Because of the immense amount of growth and interest within this industry, competition is high. Therefore, in order to ensure a spot within this industry earning a degree is essential. Regardless of the specialization you wish to work in, in order to ensure entry into the workforce obtaining an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice will set you up for prolonged success.

Reason #3 – Networking Opportunities
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of earning a criminal justice degree is your opportunity for networking with industry professionals. The people you encounter throughout your time in college can help not only secure employment upon graduation, but also mentor you while you expand your understanding within this complex field of study.

Reason #4 – Higher Annual Salary
This should come as no surprise. Those who complete a degree program are set up to earn significantly more per year than those who only hold a high school diploma or certification in criminal justice. In fact, according to the United States Census Bureau, those who earn a bachelor’s degree earn an average of 62 percent more money than those who only have a high school diploma.

Reason #5 – Expanded Career Options
As with many industries, the criminal justice industry offers greater career growth opportunities for those who hold a degree. These options are even greater for those who successfully complete a bachelor’s and master’s degree program.

Court System Career Options With a Criminal Justice Degree

The criminal justice system is one of the most dynamic and ever-evolving out of any industry. Because of the wide array of career opportunities, those undertaking a criminal justice degree program have a plethora of job opportunities. If you’re interested in working in an environment that affects how law is applied and carried out, then a court system career may be your ideal choice. While certain court system career opportunities require an advanced level and specialized degrees, the foundation of any career in this field is an online criminal justice degree. The following court system careers are some of the most commonly available for criminal justice degree holders.

Court System Career Options

Court System Career

If you’re interested in pursuing any of the following careers, then it’s recommended to discuss necessary educational pathways with a career counselor or an adviser within your college or university or research on the internet to find a reputable program to pursue.

  • Bailiff – This professional-level career secures a courtroom while in session. Throughout their daily duties, bailiff’s monitor court attendees to identify various security threats, such as weapons or explosive devices. Upon entering the courthouse, a bailiff will typically frisk attendees to ensure they do not bring any weapons into this hallowed setting. Other common duties of a bailiff include instructing jurors and other courtroom attendees on proper protocol. When absolutely necessary, a bailiff acts upon the instruction of a judge to remove those from courtrooms due to inappropriate behavior. To work as a bailiff, one must obtain a high school diploma and a certificate or associate’s degree in criminal justice. Completion of a police academy training may be required.
  • Court Clerk – Court clerks work in the administrative field within a court system or in legal buildings. If you’re searching for an office-based career within the court system, this may be your ideal option. Typical daily duties include processing documents, notifying individuals of upcoming court dates as an examining court documents to ensure no mistakes have been made. Before a trial, court clerks review case folders to ensure all essential documents are included. They also are responsible for filing legal paperwork, such as marriage licenses, property deeds and mortgage titles. Court clerks are required to hold an associate’s degree in criminal justice.
  • Paralegal – Also referred to as legal assistants, paralegals assist attorneys by providing clerical and research assistance. Typical job functions of this position include: trial assistant, scheduling meetings, gathering and preparing documents for hearings as well as investigating cases to help gather facts. Along with the aforementioned, these professionals assist in the creation of specific legal documents, such as contracts, separation agreements and tax return documents. Many students opt for a paralegal certificate online, as law firms typically require an online associate’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in paralegal studies.

Private Security Career Options

While many criminal justice students have a desire to work within the criminal justice system, some are not comfortable with the requirements and responsibilities that’s involved within the law enforcement industry. If you have a desire to provide security for a community, but wish to avoid the level of training and danger police officers must go through and deal with, then a career within the private security sector may be your ideal choice. Many of the following careers require a standard criminal justice education with specific security training. Of course, the exact level of training is dependent on the level of security a position requires.

Private Security Career Opportunities

  • Security Guard- Within the private security industry, there are literally hundreds of various employers and job opportunities. While some of these opportunities are within a retail or a commercial property, environment, others are highly focused and deal with clients on a one-on-one basis. The primary responsibilities of a security guard is to secure a specific location through the use of manual surveillance and technological surveillance options. While working in retail and banking environment is often a viable option, those who are wealthy or famous often hire private security guards. The requirements to become a security guard differ based upon the employer. For example, some organizations only hire security guards who have undergone police academy training while others are open to those who’ve simply graduated from a criminal justice degree program with an emphasis in private security. Additionally, depending on your state and local laws, it may be benefitial to earn a security guard card or get a perc card online as part of your comprehensive training. In general, the requirements to become a private security guard include: being at least 18 years of age, holding a high school diploma, feature a clean criminal record and completion of a criminal justice training program with an emphasis in private security. Enhance your job opportunities by completing a security guard certificate training program along with an associate’s in criminal justice. The primary roles and responsibilities of this position include: outstanding communication skills, highly focused and able to change plans at a moments notice. Due to the nature of this career, you must also be accepting of potentially dangerous situations.
  • Private Investigator – A private investigator dprivate-investigationiffers from a detective, as detectives typically work with police departments and must undergo a specific level of police training. In the most general sense, private investigators are responsible for offering protection services and investigating the backgrounds of individuals and companies. As a P.I. you’ll likely be hired out by a private party to investigate a specific situation. While the levels of investigation that’s legal is determined by state and federal laws, these professionals generally call upon computer databases and hard copy research to identify information that’s desired by their client. The educational requirements for private investigators can vary based upon the employer. For example, investigators for insurance companies generally require education within the insurance realm. As a general rule of thumb, private investigators should obtain a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in investigation. Aspiring P.I.’s may want to consider obtaining a bachelor’s in criminal justice and a certificate in private investigation.

Correctional System Career Options

In the United States, the correctional system is designed to not only house criminal offenders, but rehabilitates these criminals for re-entry into the general population. If you’re currently pursuing a degree in criminal justice, you’ve likely come across topics and coursework related to the corrections system. While entry into this field requires specialized training beyond an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, such as police and security training programs, a criminal justice degree is the first step in entering this salary rewarding and challenging career.

Correction System Career Opportunities

The following career opportunities are geared toward those interested in pursuing a job within the correctional system. While each state may feature its own entrance requirements, the majority of these positions requires at least a certificate in criminal justice studies. You will find the compensation for a career in law enforcement or security services is well worth the time and investment.

  • Corrections Officer – These professionals work directly in prison and jail facilities that house criminal offenders. This position may also be referred to as detention officers. The primary responsibilities of a correctional officer is to monitor inmate activity, secure the facility and prevent fighting among inmates. This position may be found in municipal jails, federal and state prisons, police agencies and in a sheriff’s department. Along with physical monitoring, correctional officers must create detailed reports of inmate activity, behavior and progress.
  • Probation Officer – Also referred to as a parole officer, this position monitors newly released inmates or criminal offenders who were offered probation instead of jail time. In some areas throughout the country, this position is known as community supervision officers as these professionals monitor the behavior and progress of criminals. They are responsible for ensuring offenders meet the terms of their probation and parole. They also offer guidance and a certain level of counseling for those seeking to re-enter the community as an asset and not a burden.
  • Substance Abuse Counselor – This is a highly-specialized career option within the corrections field. The primary responsibility of this position is to provide inmates and offenders an opportunity to rid themselves from substance abuse issues. Counselors work one-on-one with addicts and offer personal and professional assistance. The requirements for working as a substance abuse counselor vary by state. However, the majority of state’s requires these professionals to hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in psychology, social work or sociology. These counselors must also become certified by their state and pass extensive background checks. If interested in this career path, contact your state licensing board to determine specific qualifications and educational requirements.

Criminal Justice Degree for Aspiring Lawyers

If you’re dedicated to making a true difference in your community, then a career as an attorney may be your ideal choice. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 10 percent job growth by 2020, and with an average annual salary of $113,000, this is a very lucrative career opportunity. However, with its prestige in payment and its influence in the community, it requires a substantial amount of schooling. In order to become a lawyer, students must progress to graduate level studies. However, the undergraduate degree earned plays a substantial role in determining what graduate programs an aspiring lawyer may gain entry to.

Although there’s no specific undergraduate degree for those wishing to become an attorney, the majority of students choose criminal justice or a similar degree program track. This major is popular as it delves into the inner workings of the criminal justice system while providing students with the necessary level of education to excel in a graduate law degree.

Criminal Justice Degree and Pre-Law

The primary goal for an aspiring attorney is to gain pre-law education. These topics provide an entry-level, or foundational, education that’s essential for law students. While pre-law is not a major, the coursework within a criminal justice degree program will prepare students for this challenging, yet rewarding, career option.

Because pre-law is not an “official” undergraduate degree program, it’s essential that students enroll in a criminal justice degree program. However, not just any criminal justice degree program will do. It’s essential that the program you enroll in places emphasis on select courses. If you’re interested in becoming a criminal lawyer, the following courses must be included throughout an undergraduate program:

  • Economics – This course provides students a non-technical introduction to the basic-level theories and concepts regarding economics in the United States. Regardless of the type of law you wish to practice, this coursework prepares students for advanced-level economics studies, which are typically required in a graduate law degree.
  • Ethics – An ethics course is designed to answer fundamental questions regarding “right” and “wrong” within society and within the criminal justice system. As a law student, ethics will be the primary topic of many courses. Therefore, it’s essential that an aspiring law student master this entry-level coursework.
  • Political Science – Regardless of the type of law you wish to practice, you’ll be dealing directly within the political system. Therefore, it’s essential that all students obtain knowledge regarding political science. This course typically emphasizes theory application and reasoning within the realm of social sciences and how these modes of thinking apply to the political landscape.
  • Criminology – In the most fundamental sense, criminology is the study of the of crimes. Throughout the course, students will learn about the various aspects of crimes, criminals, victims and theories relating to criminal behavior. For aspiring criminal lawyers, this is an essential course. Students can expect to undergo several levels of criminology coursework within their undergraduate and graduate degree programs.