Careers For Criminal Justice Majors

By Staff Writers

Published on October 19, 2021

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What Can You do With a Criminal Justice Degree

Criminal justice degrees can be used to advance in a criminal justice career or to enter an entirely new field; police officers looking to become detectives, high school graduates interested in crime scene investigation, and individuals looking for careers that serve and protect society can all benefit from degrees in criminal justice. For students who do not have a set goal or plan for their degree, meeting with a counselor and exploring job options throughout their college career is vital. Students can use the wide range of degree types and concentrations available to find the right fit in criminal justice careers, be it criminal investigation or victim advocacy. Criminal justice degrees can also open the doors to many non-traditional and unexpected careers in both the public and private sectors. Here, you can learn about the different careers available in the field of criminal justice and the types of degrees needed for them.

Concentrations Available for Criminal Justice Majors

Computer Science and Cybercrimes

Students studying criminal justice with concentrations in computer science will learn techniques specific to investigating cybercrime. Programs also often teach students how to investigate traditional crimes with digital methods. In addition to their criminal justice courses, students in cybercrime programs will need to take multiple computer science and technology courses.


A criminal justice degree program with a concentration in forensics typically includes courses which introduce students to the legwork of crime investigation. Students study research techniques, investigative methods, and the protocols for preserving and interacting with crime scenes. Programs with an emphasis in forensics generally include science and technology courses.

Human Services

Programs with concentrations in human services introduce students to the social issues associated with crime and teach them the techniques available for preventing recidivism, rehabilitating criminals, and protecting victims. Students often prepare for careers working closely with communities and individuals affected by crime. Programs may include sociology and psychology courses.

Management & Administration

Students in programs with concentrations in administration and management study the structure of the criminal justice system in America as well as the theories behind various aspects of crime. Students may learn leadership techniques and study the philosophies behind rehabilitation techniques and the potential social or economic causes of crime.

National Security

Criminal justice programs with concentrations in national or homeland security teach students about investigating and preventing crimes against America and its citizens. Students study dangers such as weapons of mass destruction and international or domestic terrorism. Courses in these programs may include international politics and foreign language or culture studies.

Mean Annual Salary by Concentration

Computer Crimes Investigator$62,960
Forensic Science Technicians$61,220
Correctional Treatment Specialist$51,410
Correctional Officer, Supervisor$66,880
Protective Service Officer$72,760

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As with many industries, the more prestigious the criminal justice career the more education it requires. Careers with managerial components often require master's degrees and many lucrative jobs may require doctorates. Additionally, careers with the federal government may require more education than those at the state level or in the private sector. Luckily, criminal justice careers are available in a wide range of disciplines no matter the degree level; plenty are available for individuals who decide graduate studies are not for them. In some cases, experience can even be accepted in lieu of a degree, meaning that someone with significant experience in the field may be able to advance without earning a higher degree and that someone without extensive experience may be able to use a degree to further their criminal justice career. Continue reading to explore the wide range of options available to graduates of criminal justice programs, ranging from bachelor's to doctorate degrees.

Bachelor's Degrees in Criminal Justice

As previously discussed, bachelor's degree programs often allow for concentrations which help prepare students for specific subfields of criminal justice while simultaneously introducing students to the broader field of criminal justice. Bachelor's programs in criminal justice, allow students to learn about the criminal justice system as a whole, explore options, and find a focus or passion. Extensive lab work, projects, and even internships further help students build the skills necessary for entering criminal justice fields. Some well-known criminal justice careers, such as police officer, do not necessarily require a bachelor's degree, but a degree may be valuable or even necessary for advancement.

Parole Officer$42,408
Victim advocates$34,790
Bachelor's Degrees

Source: PayScale

Master's Degree in Criminal Justice

Individuals looking for career advancement or a deeper understanding of criminal justice may want to earn a master's degree. Master's programs often introduce students to the philosophical underpinnings of the criminal justice system, with courses exploring why crime is committed rather than how to fight it. Careers which require or benefit from master's degrees often approach crime from this direction. They also may require the leadership and communication skills master's programs often teach and foster. For more information on the types of criminal justice master's programs available, here is our guide. To learn more about the careers available for those with master's degrees in criminal justice, continue reading.

Forensic Psychologist$63,004
Emergency management specialists$57,590
Immigrations and customs officers$57,590
Security managers$64,774
Master's Degree

Source: PayScale

PhD in Criminal Justice

The next step after a master's program is a doctorate. Careers which oversee entire departments or are tasked with deciding policies and protocols may require the expertise and knowledge that comes with earning a doctorate. Similar to master's programs, PhD students often research the philosophical and sociological approaches to crime. Unlike a master's program, these rigorous programs involve years-long research that culminates in a dissertation that is reviewed by experts in the field. PhD programs also give students the opportunity to work closely with leading experts in the field. Here are some examples of the prestigious careers that require the expertise and experience that comes with a PhD.

FBI agents$63,692
Prison warden$80,558

Source: PayScale

Unexpected Careers for Criminal Justice Majors

TV shows, movies, and books have popularized many criminal justice fields, such as crime scene investigation, offender profiling, and criminal psychology. However, these well-known careers are far from the only ones available to jobseekers with criminal justice degrees. Lesser known positions and industries are available in both the public and private sector.

While they may not be associated with Hollywood glamor, these careers still employ the investigative skills vital to criminal justice. Some of these opportunities still carry the same exciting components as their popular counterparts, including undercover work and national security concerns. Many of these unexpected careers are hiding in plain sight: retail industries, the United States Postal Service, national parks, and the Transportation Security Administration all need employees with the skills and knowledge gained through criminal justice programs. Continue reading to explore five of these unexpected—but still challenging and exciting in their own right—criminal justice careers.

Air marshals$67,249
Fraud investigators$58,834
Game wardens$46,314
Loss prevention investigators$51,228
Postal inspectors$62,069
Unexpected Careers

Source: PayScale

Professional Resources for Criminal Justice Majors

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