Criminal Justice Fields: What Can I Do With a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice?
8 Min Read
When you choose to major in criminal justice, you could envision a future career in any number of environments. Perhaps you want to keep your community safe as a police officer, but you could just as easily picture a future in a law office, courtroom, or any number of related fields. As an industry, criminal justice has a broad reach and includes a variety of career opportunities.
There are three main fields in criminal justice: law enforcement, the courts, and the corrections system.1 Careers in each field have their own duties and responsibilities. However, all jobs in criminal justice involve maintaining the safety of the public as well as that of accused and convicted people.
What can you do with a bachelor’s in criminal justice? Read more about the fields in criminal justice and careers you could pursue below.
Law enforcement is the branch of criminal justice that responds to reports of crime. Careers within law enforcement function to investigate crimes and identify people who violate laws. Law enforcement professionals may be employed at the local, state, or federal level.
Median Salary: $66,9072
Detectives gather and interpret evidence to determine the facts of criminal cases. People who work as detectives must be skilled in problem solving, investigating, and interviewing suspects and witnesses. In cases where a crime has been committed and a perpetrator identified, detectives also make arrests. Within the law enforcement field of criminal justice, detectives are often involved in cases of serious crime. They shoulder the responsibility of identifying criminals and keeping their community safe.
Fish and Game Warden
Median Salary: $58,1903
Fish and game wardens help enforce the laws governing fishing and hunting. They may also be involved in investigating damage caused by wildlife. Fish and game wardens are most often employed by state governments, but they may work at the local level as well. Those employed in this role may also work closely with experts in the sciences and other related fields.
Median Salary: $66,02024
Police officers enforce the law in a state or local jurisdiction. Their responsibility is to protect and serve the communities in which they work, so police officers often respond to emergency situations, conduct traffic stops, arrest people who have committed crimes, and perform other duties to carry out criminal justice. Like all jobs in law enforcement, police officers must be detail-oriented and skilled in observation, organization, and communication. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 828,800 people are expected to be employed as police officers by 2031.
Median Salary: $59,3805
Private investigators have many of the same responsibilities as police officers and detectives, but they work for individuals and businesses instead of working for public law enforcement agencies. Professionals in this role conduct surveillance, collect evidence, and perform background checks. Private investigators cannot make arrests, but they sometimes provide law enforcement agencies with information that leads to the apprehension of criminals. Employment of private investigators in the field of criminal justice is expected to grow 6% by 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
FBI Special Agent
Median Salary: $83,7726
FBI special agents investigate violations of federal law. The FBI is highly selective in hiring special agents, so candidates interested in pursuing this career must be proficient in areas such as strategic planning, investigation, risk management, and documentation. Earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can help you gain these practical skills. People who work as special agents often specialize in areas like cybercrime, intelligence, financial fraud, and counterterrorism.
The court system is the field in criminal justice that hears cases and makes decisions based on local, state, and federal law. After a person is charged with a crime, they enter the court system for trial and sentencing. All jobs in the court system work together to ensure that trials are carried out smoothly and with respect for the laws of the land. Many who work in the courts also go on to work in related fields, such as law.
Median Salary: $52,3407
Bailiffs are law enforcement officers who work in the courtroom. Their job is to maintain order and protect the safety of everyone involved in the proceedings. Bailiffs may also be responsible for escorting judges, jury members, or defendants to and from court. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most bailiffs are employed by local governments. However, many work for state governments as well.
Median Salary: $38,9368
Victim advocates work within both court and law enforcement environments. They support victims in many ways, from helping them find temporary shelter to obtaining necessary medical services. Victim advocates may accompany victims to court, help them prepare for interviews, and even provide counseling. Important skills for individuals working in this role include crisis intervention, case management, and communication.
Median Salary: $56,2309
Paralegals assist lawyers in preparation for court and other legal matters. They carry out research and help attorneys file motions, memoranda, pleadings, and briefs. Often, individuals in this role also accompany attorneys to court. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for paralegals is growing much faster than average at 14% through 2031.
The corrections system is the field in criminal justice that supervises and rehabilitates people who are convicted of crimes. In many cases, corrections employees work with incarcerated people; however, they may also supervise those who have been paroled or placed on probation. The goal of all jobs in the corrections system is to ensure convicted individuals can reenter society without committing further crimes.
Median Salary: $42,94610
Parole officers work with formerly incarcerated people when they are released from jail or prison early due to good behavior or other circumstances. Criminal justice professionals who serve as parole officers help former inmates find housing, employment, and services they may need. Parole officers also monitor people who are on parole to make sure they’re not involved in further criminal activity.
Median Salary: $47,92011
Correctional officers maintain order and safety in jails and prisons. These officers enforce the rules of the facilities in which they work and strive to keep incarcerated people safe. Correctional officers may also be involved in surveillance and are responsible for reporting any concerning inmate behaviors to prison management.
Median Salary: $60,25012
Probation officers work with people who have been convicted of crimes and sentenced to probation instead of incarceration. These officers supervise their probationers to ensure they’re not involved in further criminal activity. They may carry out employment checks and home visits. They may also help convicted people find treatment opportunities and rehabilitation services. Probation officers may work specifically with juveniles or adults.
Median Salary: $89,45313
Prison wardens oversee all operations within a prison, including supervising correctional officers. A warden’s job is often administrative, but they may also help manage inmate behavior. Individuals in this role are responsible for the safety of both incarcerated people and correctional officers. They also work to improve conditions in the prison and make staffing and financial decisions. People hoping to become wardens must be skilled in operations management, people management, and security maintenance.
Many options exist regarding what you can do with a bachelor’s in criminal justice. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement, the courts, or the corrections system, your first step is to earn your degree. Methodist University’s 100% online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice will prepare you for a successful career through practical coursework and hands-on learning. Apply or request more information today.
- Mays, G. Larry & Fidelie, Laura Woods. Chapter 1 Summary. In American Courts and the Judicial Process. Oxford University Press. Retrieved on October 18, 2022, from “https://global.oup.com/us/companion.websites/9780190278892/stu_res/ch01/summary/.”
- “Average Detective Salary.” Payscale. Retrieved on October 14, 2022, from “https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Detective/Salary.”
- “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021: 33-3031 Fish and Game Wardens.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved on October 18, 2022, from “https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333031.htm.”
- “Police and Detectives.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved on October 14, 2022, from “https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm.”
- “Private Detectives and Investigators.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved on October 14, 2022, from “https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/private-detectives-and-investigators.htm.”
- “Average Special Agent (Federal) Salary.” Payscale. Retrieved on October 14, 2022, from “https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Special_Agent_(Federal)/Salary.”
- “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021: 33-3011 Bailiffs.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved on October 14, 2022, from “https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333011.htm.”
- “Average Victim Advocate Hourly Pay.” Payscale. Retrieved on October 14, 2022, from “https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Victim_Advocate/Salary.”
- “Paralegals and Legal Assistants.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved on October 14, 2022, from “https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm.”
- “Average Parole Officer Salary.” Payscale. Retrieved on October 14, 2022, from “https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Parole_Officer/Salary.”
- “Correctional Officers and Bailiffs.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved on October 14, 2022, from “https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/correctional-officers.htm.”
- “Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved on October 14, 2022, from “https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/probation-officers-and-correctional-treatment-specialists.htm.”
- “Average Prison Warden Salary.” Payscale. Retrieved on October 14, 2022, from “https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Prison_Warden/Salary.”
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