Entry Level Criminal Justice Jobs

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that many entry-level criminal justice careers should experience above-average growth between 2016 and 2026, including paralegal and forensic science technician careers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that many entry-level criminal justice careers should experience above-average growth between 2016 and 2026, including paralegal and forensic science technician careers. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree can also enter other exciting careers, like policing, corrections, or mediation. Criminal justice professionals can work in law enforcement agencies, courtrooms, law firms, correctional facilities, and bail companies.

Some entry-level criminal justice jobs only require associate degrees, which means that candidates with bachelor’s degrees stand out as highly qualified applicants. With some experience, professionals with bachelor’s degrees find work as managers and high-level law enforcement officers.

Each year, colleges and universities award about 59,581 bachelor’s diplomas in criminal justice-related fields. Comparatively few people earn master’s and doctoral degrees in the subject, as the chart below demonstrates.

Criminal Justice Degrees Conferred by Postsecondary Institutions 2016-17
Source: The National Center for Education Statistics

What is the Minimum Education Needed to Work in Criminal Justice

While some entry-level criminal justice jobs only require a high school diploma or associate degree, a graduate degree stands out in the crowded job market. Higher-paying employers often seek candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. A bachelor’s degree also allows professionals to pursue graduate diplomas, which enables them to work in the highest levels of criminal justice, including as attorneys and judges.

Criminal justice programs give candidates valuable skills, like evidence analysis, investigation, and critical thinking. Students develop these skills in courses on criminal law, corrections procedures, victimology, criminal psychology, and evidence in investigations.

Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice

While criminal justice programs offer different specialties and benefits, they have a few commonalities. For example, most programs require learners to earn 120 credits, which typically takes four years. Students can often transfer general education credits from previously attended accredited schools, which shortens this timeline.

Average Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Statistics
Time to Complete4 years
Average Cost$26,120 per year
Available Online and In Person?Yes
Average Criminal Justice Salary$54,000
Source: NCES/Payscale

Top Entry-Level Jobs in Criminal Justice

Graduates find work in legal firms, law enforcement agencies, and government bodies. While job types vary, they all rely on investigation skills and an understanding of the criminal justice system. While some organizations hire candidates with less education, many prefer applicants with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.


Paralegals and legal assistants work alongside lawyers in every legal field. Their duties include gathering evidence about cases, researching relevant laws, maintaining files, organizing evidence, and interviewing interested parties. While some firms hire candidates with associate degrees, many require applicants to hold bachelor’s degrees.

Paralegal Statistics
Median Pay$50,940
Job Outlook15%

Police and Detective

Police and detective careers require graduates to attend several weeks of specialized training during their time at the police academy. Police officers enforce laws, write traffic tickets, and arrest suspects in their jurisdictions. Detectives analyze evidence and investigate crimes. Law enforcement agencies sometimes require candidates to hold bachelor’s degrees.

Police and Detective Statistics
Median Pay$63,380
Job Outlook7%

Arbitrator, Mediator, and Conciliator

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators act as a neutral third party in legal disputes. They help invested parties come to agreements without taking their grievances to court. These professionals must have bachelor’s degrees, understand civil law, and boast strong communication skills.

Arbitrator, Mediator, and Conciliator Statistics
Median Pay$62,270
Job Outlook10%

Emergency Management Director

Government agencies and hospitals hire emergency management directors to plan for and minimize the risk of disasters. Criminal justice career paths that lead to this position usually start with entry-level positions, like police officer. With a bachelor’s degree and emergency experience, candidates gain the skills they need to keep people safe during disasters.

Emergency Management Director Statistics
Median Pay$74,420
Job Outlook8%

Forensic Science Technician

Forensic science technicians analyze evidence from crime scenes to help detectives find criminals. They collect on-site evidence and conduct tests in dedicated laboratories. Some technicians specialize in specific types of evidence. Most jurisdictions require professionals to hold a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in forensic science.

Forensic Science Technician Statistics
Median Pay$58,230
Job Outlook17%

Explore a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice

Top universities offer options for students who want to enter any area of criminal justice, including police work, paralegal services, and forensics. Learners choose between several concentrations and online options. Before enrolling, prospective degree candidates should research the best criminal justice programs for their career goals.

Explore Criminal Justice Careers

People interested in criminal justice can explore career options at every level. Graduates with an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree can pursue criminal justice career options like bailiff or lawyer. This resource allows prospective students to explore career options by state or degree type.