Are you wondering, Is a criminal justice degree right for me? or What can you do with a criminal justice degree? If you have a desire to make the world a better place, you may be interested in learning more about various criminal justice degree careers.
There are plenty of options to explore. If you’re having trouble narrowing down your choices, you might consider pursuing job shadowing opportunities and internships while working toward your degree, as these experiences can give you an inside glimpse into these professions.
In This Article:
- Top 9 Criminal Justice Degree Careers
- Criminal Justice Fields of Study
- Graduate School
- Is a Criminal Justice Degree Right for Me?
Top 9 Criminal Justice Degree Careers
So, what can you do with a criminal justice degree? One of the most obvious choices that may come to mind is to pursue a career in law enforcement. We’ll discuss law enforcement possibilities, but we’ll also take a look at many other career options within the various criminal justice fields of study.
Private Detective or Investigator
A private investigator is hired by a group or individual to investigate suspicious activity to gain useful information to support a criminal case. Many private investigators are hired by attorneys for specific civil cases in which they are needed.
Some responsibilities that a private detective may have include:
- Running background checks
- Interviewing people
- Searching through court records and other public databases
- Conducting surveillance
Different types of cases they can be involved with include family law, background checks, missing persons, white collar crime and infidelity.
A police officer has many responsibilities for the safety and well-being of citizens. They protect the lives and property of individuals by enforcing local, state and federal laws. Other duties they perform are:
- Enforcing traffic laws and writing tickets for violations
- Patrolling assigned areas
- Responding to requests for emergency assistance
- Interviewing suspects
- Providing protection for public events
Detective and Criminal Investigator
Like police officers, detectives and criminal investigators work to ensure the safety of the public by enforcing the laws. They do this by investigating crimes, such as by gathering the facts surrounding the case, speaking with witnesses and victims and gathering evidence.1
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Professor
Criminal justice and law enforcement professors teach students about subjects regarding law enforcement administration, the criminal justice system and its efforts to administer justice and correct criminal behavior. They deliver lectures about the criminal justice system, assign classwork and homework, facilitate class discussions and evaluate students’ progress.2
Bailiffs, also known as marshals, are officers who keep order within a courtroom. They may do this by:
- Managing evidence and documents
- Escorting and protecting jury members
- Enforcing rules within the courtroom
- Assisting the judge
- Guarding the courtroom
- Escorting witnesses and defendants
Bailiffs must have strong interpersonal and negotiating skills and need to be physically strong enough to subdue adults if necessary. They need to be savvy decision-makers who pay attention to detail, control their emotions and think quickly in a crisis.3
Paralegals work within the court system, so this career would also require an emphasis in law. If you become a paralegal, you might find work at the offices of criminal defense attorneys, civil litigation attorneys or prosecutors. Paralegals are support personnel who provide assistance to lawyers by:
- Writing legal documents and correspondence, including contracts
- Investigating the facts of the case, such as by interviewing clients and witnesses and taking formal statements
- Researching laws, regulations and legal opinions that are relevant to a particular case
- Preparing exhibits and notes for the lawyer’s use during a trial
Attorneys provide legal guidance and representation to their clients. An attorney will typically choose to work in either civil law or criminal law. Within those categories, there are specific practice areas that attorneys may choose to handle, such as violent crime defense, traffic violation defense, family law, medical malpractice and contract law. To become an attorney, you will need education beyond a bachelor’s degree. However, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can be a place to begin your educational journey toward becoming an attorney.
An attorney or lawyer will generally:
- Meet with clients and provide advice
- Research laws and regulations and case law precedents to assess applications to a current case
- Prepare and file legal documents
- Represent their clients in court proceedings
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates job growth for attorneys to be 8% from 2022 to 2032, faster than average, indicating an addition of about 62,400 new jobs in the field.4
A court reporter is a skilled professional who is responsible for developing verbatim transcripts of legal proceedings, including trials and depositions. Some court reporters work in state or federal legislatures. Court reporters, also called court stenographers, play an essential role in the modern criminal justice system. Judges, juries, lawyers, plaintiffs and defendants all rely on accurate transcripts of legal proceedings.
The job duties of a court reporter can include:
- Using specialized equipment, including stenography machines, microphones, recording devices and other audiovisual equipment
- Recording all speech word-for-word and reporting the identity of each speaker, as well as their actions and gestures
- Reading back certain sections of the transcript upon request by the judge
- Requesting speakers to clarify any inaudible or incomprehensible statements
There are no universal qualifications for this role, although aspiring court reporters typically complete a training program outside of a bachelor’s degree to learn how to use the stenography equipment. They may also complete a voluntary certification course outside their bachelor’s education. Some states require a professional license as well.5
Probation officers are court officers who meet with people who have been sentenced to probation and require supervision. They are responsible for observing and disciplining the individuals who need to complete their probation programs. Their responsibilities include researching recommended rehabilitation programs, observing the location of clients and managing drug testing.
The educational requirements for these criminal justice degree careers vary significantly. Some may require a bachelor’s degree or higher; some require professional school after earning an undergraduate degree. Others require on-the-job training or a formal training program.
Criminal Justice Fields of Study
If you're thinking of pursuing a criminal justice field of study, you have some options available to you. Consider the following:
Criminal Justice Degree
A criminal justice or justice studies degree will typically provide a broad survey of the three main functions of law enforcement: courts, corrections and judiciary. It’s a solid choice for a wide range of career paths, which makes it ideal for students who aren’t quite sure which criminal justice career they wish to pursue.
A pre-law degree isn’t a specific degree, but rather, it’s a concentration or specialization. A legal studies-related degree concentration can be a relevant choice for students who think they might want to go on to law school to become an attorney.
Forensic Psychology Degree
Forensic psychology is a specialization that deals with psychological issues pertaining to the legal system. For example, a forensic psychology specialist may work with victims of crime or they may assess a criminal defendant’s psychological state.
At the undergraduate level, you might not be able to earn a degree dedicated solely to forensic psychology. Rather, it’s more likely that you’ll choose a general psychology degree with a concentration, such as a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with an Emphasis in Forensic Psychology.
If you are passionate about criminology or law, you may decide to further your education with a master’s degree in criminal justice, with emphases such as legal studies or law enforcement. These programs can help prepare you for a future in criminal justice or allow you to position yourself for possible career advancement.
Is a Criminal Justice Degree Right for Me?
If you think a criminal justice degree could be the right choice for you, you can get started at Grand Canyon University. GCU is pleased to offer the Bachelor of Science in Justice Studies, which can prepare you for a career in law enforcement as you study the criminal justice system, interpretation of the law, cybercrime and more.
Fill out the form on this page to learn more about our justice studies program or other degrees from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
1My Next Move. (n.d.). Detectives & criminal investigators. O-NET. Retrieved Nov. 22, 2023.
2My Next Move. (n.d.). Criminal justice & law enforcement teachers, postsecondary. O-NET. Retrieved Nov. 22, 2023.
3U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, Sept. 6). How to become a correctional officer or bailiff. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved Nov. 22, 2023.
4COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 to 2022 may be atypical compared to prior years. Accordingly, data shown is effective September 2023, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Lawyers, retrieved on Nov. 22, 2023.
5U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, Sept. 6). How to become a court reporter or simultaneous captioner. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved Nov. 22, 2023.
Approved by the assistant dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences on Feb. 14, 2024.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.