If you already have or are thinking about pursuing higher education focused on criminal justice you will no doubt be wondering what you can do with a criminal justice degree. The good news is that a Bachelor’s and even and Associate’s degree will give you a big advantage when it comes to finding a job and earning a better wage. Even if you are interested in an entry-level job which does not require a degree, only a high school diploma, a degree will certainly secure you a spot and usually put you a few rungs up the ladder when you begin, as well as set you up for earlier promotions.
When pursuing a degree in criminal justice, it is important to consider if the actual criminal justice degree is the best choice for your desired profession. Although a CJ degree will be very beneficial for all jobs in criminal justice, some careers may require a degree in a related field or graduate degrees and with a criminal justice degree as a secondary but important qualification. Jobs like:
- Forensics – Biology, Chemistry, Accounting and Computer are all a requirement depending on what type of forensics you are interested in. An understanding of how to apply these skills towards criminal investigation from your CJ degree will set you apart.
- Social Work – A degree in social work or psychology would be a requirement for all social workers. Social work focused around the corrections system will benefit heavily from a degree in criminal justice as well.
- Prosecutor – A law degree is a requirement for this law position, however law is a field with many niches. What you choose to specialize in will be determined by your education. A prosecutor should have a background in criminal justice, while a family law practitioner will not.
There are examples of careers where a criminal justice degree is the secondary requirement to enter the field, as they require you to be highly trained in both your field of expertise as well as the importance of the criminal justice system.
Focus on a Justice Degree
There are many jobs where your criminal justice degree will be the only education required to qualify for the position or will give you the edge we went over earlier. The majority of “field agent” type jobs, with federal organizations like the ATF , DEA, US Marshal and FBI, as well as state and local police will require (for the federal and state positions) or regard very highly (for some state and local positions) applicants who have an education in criminal justice. In the court system, the bailiff is the most likely candidate for someone with a criminal justice degree and in corrections those on the side of enforcement, rather than rehabilitation, like the prison guard and correctional officers benefit most.
So if you’ve been wondering what can I do with a criminal justice degree, you should consider whether you are aiming for a career in the enforcement side of the system, in any of the three branches, or a job on the more investigative, legislative or rehabilitation side of things. For enforcement careers, a criminal justice degree will be the only ticket you need for success, while in jobs that require additional training, it will stand side by side with your job specific training as an equal.
Meeting Experience Requirements
Some jobs may have requirements for a certain number of years experience in a related law enforcement position, as well as a degree. This is especially true of many federal positions. If we take the FBI for instance and look at the requirements for becoming a field agent they are:
- U.S Citizenship
- 23-37 years old
- Bachelor’s degree from a 4 year college or university
- 3 years professional work experience in a related field
- Pass a written exam
- A valid drivers license
This really shows the amount of planning that is required if your goal is to join a federal organization like the FBI. An 18 year old high school graduate will need to take a 4 year program, likely a criminal justice program, and generally finish at the age of 22 or 23. On top of that, 3 additional years experience are required so if a job is available immediately after graduation for 3 years, an application to the FBI will not be possible until the age of 25 or 26 unless in some unlikely event the experience is gained concurrently with the degree.
The U.S Marshal Service has similar requirements of a bachelor’s degree, 1 year specialized experience or a combination of education and experience equivalent to the GL-07 level. They even state
Extra consideration is given for those with a 3.0 or 3.5 GPA and higher as well.
This should should you how important an education in criminal justice is for advancement and for those jobs above entry-level positions.
Find out More
Hopefully this starts to answer the question, “What can you do with a criminal justice degree?”. For more information on what you can do with a criminal justice degree, check out our list of criminal justice jobs which also provides education requirements for different careers.