What Can You Do With a Criminal Justice Degree

Police officer looking at security footage

Do you have a passion for criminal justice and a desire to contribute to your community, yet are uninterested in going to the police academy? There are many jobs for graduates with a criminal justice degree that do not require police academy training. Although “police officer” might be the first job you think of when you consider this area of study, it is just one of many criminal justice careers. You may want to consult a career counselor at your school for further information about related career paths.

Paralegal

The criminal justice system is broadly categorized into three main components: law enforcement, courts and corrections. Paralegals work within the court system. 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 invaluable 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
  • Organizing exhibits and notes for the lawyer’s use during a trial

As of September 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for paralegals and legal assistants to increase by about 12% from 2020 to 2030, faster than average, accounting for an estimated increase of 41,400 jobs in the field.1

Child Protective Services Caseworker

If you have a passion for protecting vulnerable populations, you might consider working for Child Protective Services (CPS) as a caseworker. A CPS caseworker works for the county or state, typically in collaboration with law enforcement officers. They are responsible for investigating cases of possible child neglect or abuse throughout their jurisdiction. This job can involve the following specific duties:

  • Evaluating reports of alleged neglect or abuse
  • Visiting the home and interviewing the parent(s) or legal guardian(s), children, other household members, other relatives and medical providers
  • Collecting evidence such as arrest records and medical records
  • Deciding whether a child needs to be removed from a house if the child has been harmed or there is a real risk of future harm

Whenever possible, CPS caseworkers strive to keep families together. If keeping the child in the home is likely to result in harm to the child, the caseworker will then try to place the child with an extended relative. If that is not possible, foster care is considered.

This job can be emotionally challenging as CPS caseworkers are exposed to difficult, high-stress situations. However, these professionals take comfort in knowing that they are making a tangible difference in the community.

Security Guard

Security guards perform similar work to law enforcement officers. However, they are not required to attend the police academy. A security guard is generally posted at one building or organizational campus, which may be an office building, hospital campus, college campus or nightclub. Some security guards stay in one place, such as at the entrance to the building, while others are mobile and patrol the grounds on foot or in a vehicle. The specific job duties of a security guard can include:

  • Verifying that employees and visitors are authorized to enter a certain building
  • Patrolling and inspecting the property to protect it from unauthorized entry, fires, vandalism and other undesirable situations
  • Responding to disturbances quickly, documenting all incidents and collaborating with law enforcement officers when necessary

The requirements to become a security guard vary from one state to the next. Generally, a security guard must have no criminal convictions, pass a background check and complete a security guard training program. Not all positions require guards to carry firearms. If firearms are required, then additional firearms credentialing will be required.

Court Reporter

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

This job does not require police academy training, although aspiring court reporters do need to complete a brief training program to learn how to use the stenography equipment. They may also choose to complete a voluntary certification course. Some states require a professional license as well.

Patrol Officer

A patrol officer is a working member of state or local law enforcement. They perform law enforcement duties to help prevent crimes and protect their cities and states. Some of the duties involved include patrolling highways, investigating car accidents and directing traffic on highways or freeways. Patrol officers may be random, directed or active patrol.

Detective

Detectives usually investigate more serious crimes, such as homicides and robberies. Within larger police departments, detectives can specialize in one type of crime, such as fraud or homicide. Some responsibilities include interviewing suspects, researching cases, collecting evidence and participating in interrogations. Detectives may follow different career paths to become a police, private, missing persons, forensic or homicide detective.

Probation Officer

Probation officers are court officers who meet with people who have been sentenced to probation and need to be supervised. They are personally 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.

You can blend your passion with purpose as a criminal justice degree student at Grand Canyon University. The Bachelor of Science in Justice Studies degree program provides a solid framework of knowledge and skills in areas such as threat assessment, strategic planning, criminal behavior and victimology. To explore our Christian learning community, click on Request Info at the top of the screen.

1COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on September 2021, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants

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.

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