Earning a bachelor's degree in criminal justice is a solid foundation for building your career. Criminal justice programs offer different concentrations, which prepare students for diverse law enforcement roles.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for fire inspectors will grow 10% from 2016-2026.
While degree requirements vary, most criminal justice professionals need at least a bachelor's degree. For instance, students interested in jobs like federal agent, probation officer, investigative reporter, park ranger, victim advocate, or emergency management director must have a bachelor's degree. Graduates can also pursue careers in cybersecurity, social services, legal assistance, digital forensics, or homeland security.
Careers a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Can Prepare You For
Earning a bachelor's in criminal justice prepares for a variety of careers related to law enforcement, and employment rates for many of these positions are projected to grow. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for fire inspectors will grow 10% from 2016-2026. Below are a few other potential careers for criminal justice graduates.
Police and Detective
Police officers and detectives are responsible for protecting lives and property and investigating crimes. Most police departments prefer applicants with bachelor's degrees; in fact, they're required for federal agents or fish and game wardens, which are specializations police officers can pursue. Students seeking fish and game warden positions should also study biology, wildlife science, or natural resources, while those hoping to become federal agents should acquire computer science or accounting skills.
Coursework in a criminal justice program focuses on the practical skills law enforcement personnel need, like effective verbal and written communication, quick problem solving, and strong leadership. Students also study local and federal law, civil rights, and police ethics.
Forensic Science Technician
Earning a bachelor's is necessary for anyone pursuing a forensic science technician career. Forensic science technicians assist in criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing evidence. They often specialize in a particular type of laboratory analysis, such as toxicology, pathology, or DNA, and they need a good understanding of math and science.
Most people who pursue this career path have a bachelor's in a natural science, like biology or chemistry, and a master's in forensic science. Often, they work for police departments and must also go through police academy. Some criminal justice programs provide the necessary specializations for forensic technician positions, but students should be sure to research this in advance, as it is not universal.
Emergency Management Director
Students interested in administrative positions should consider becoming emergency management directors. Emergency management directors are responsible for responding to natural disasters and other emergencies. They write preparedness plans and coordinate the response during emergencies. Candidates for these roles need previous experience in disaster planning, emergency response, or public administration.
A criminal justice degree helps students develop skills in critical thinking, decision making, effective verbal and written communication, and strong leadership, which are all key skills for this career. They also often offer specializations in public administration, emergency management, public health, or finance, which can help graduates stand out in the job market.
Probation Officer and Correctional Treatment Specialist
A probation officer or correctional treatment specialist provides social services to help rehabilitate criminal offenders in custody, on probation, or on parole. They evaluate clients, develop plans for rehabilitation, and provide resources.
Candidates for these positions usually need bachelor's degrees in criminal justice, social work, behavioral sciences, or a related field; however, requirements differ by jurisdiction. Some officers and specialists concentrate on a particular type of casework, such as domestic violence or substance abuse. Others work with specific populations, like juvenile offenders.
Skills applicable to this career path include critical thinking, effective communication, informed decision making, and emotional stability. Students in criminal justice programs also learn the ins and outs of the prison system, which helps them to understand the pathways their clients have taken and to advocate for their needs.
Arbitrator, Mediator, and Conciliator
Typically, arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators are responsible for facilitating negotiation and dialogue between disputing parties in an effort to help resolve conflicts outside of the court system. They are usually brought in to try to prevent a civil court dispute from going to trial, though they can also serve as expert witnesses in court proceedings.
Candidates usually have a bachelor's degree, though advanced positions often require a master's or higher. The coursework of a criminal justice program prepares students developing their skills in listening, writing, critical thinking, and respectful interpersonal communication.
Explore a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice
Prospective students considering a bachelor's in criminal justice, our round-up of reputable law enforcement programs is a great place to start. Many of these programs are offered fully online, with core courses in law enforcement, technology, and interpersonal skills, and electives in related fields like computer science or psychology. However, some programs require on-site training for practical skills, like lab work or evidence-collecting.
Learn More About Criminal Justice Careers
Students interested in an online bachelor's in criminal justice should also check out our program page, where they can learn more details about what to expect from an online law enforcement program. This resource covers specific programs and highlights popular topics in criminal justice, including available degrees, career options, and job statistics from across the United States.