What Can You Do With A Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice?
A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can help you prepare for a variety of law enforcement roles. As a criminal justice major, your skills and knowledge can help you make a difference every day. But how do you get started and what’s the best criminal justice job for you?
Jan 11, 2023
8 min read
A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can help you prepare for a career in a variety of law enforcement roles, including jobs in the court system and corrections. Criminal justice majors can also expect to have higher than average job security once they secure a position. After all, there’s always a need for justice to be served. But how do you get started in the field and what role will be the best fit for you? Here’s what you should know about what you can do with a criminal justice bachelor’s degree.
What jobs can you do with a criminal justice degree?
Those studying criminal justice are often interested in making a difference in their communities by enforcing the law and protecting those around them. At the same time, you want to ensure the jobs you qualify for are rewarding and allow you to provide for yourself and your family. While not all careers in the field require a degree, it can make you a more stand-out applicant – especially for competitive jobs. So what can you do when you graduate from criminal justice school? Depending on what you’re interested in and where you live, there are several different opportunities you can pursue.
1. Police officer
Police officers typically respond to emergency and non-emergency calls for help from the public, patrol designated areas, conduct traffic stops, and issue citations. To become a police officer, you generally need to have a high school diploma or equivalent, complete screening and testing processes, attend a police academy, and participate in field training, though requirements can vary by state.
While you may not be required to have a degree to qualify for a job as a police officer, your degree can help you build foundational knowledge and skills that can give you the confidence and credentials to stand out. Having a criminal justice bachelor’s degree could also potentially help you qualify for a higher starting salary! For example, police officers with a bachelor’s degree can earn around $59,788 to $62,221 per year.
2. Police dispatcher
Police dispatchers answer emergency and non-emergency calls, gathering necessary information, and alert the police or other emergency service providers to the issue and where to go.
A degree is not required to work as a dispatcher but it can be helpful to earning a higher salary. On average, a dispatcher with a bachelor’s degree can earn $39,239-$42,038 per year.
Bailiffs are law enforcement officers who maintain safety and order in courtrooms and can earn an average entry-level salary of $48,320. Depending on your state requirements, you’ll need to be a certain age (usually 21, though some states accept 18 year old applicants), have a high school diploma or equivalent, pass background checks, and complete on-the-job training. However, some states also require you to have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field to be eligible for the job, so it’s best to research your state’s specific regulations for this role before taking the next steps.
4. Court clerk
Court clerks are responsible for administrative duties within the court they work in, including managing all clerical functions for that court from documenting legal documents that were received to issuing licenses or permits.
The average salary for a court clerk is $42,787 per year.
5. Correctional officer
Correctional officers are responsible for overseeing individuals who’ve been arrested, from those awaiting trial to those who are incarcerated. Enforcing the rules is a must during every shift, and you can find yourself doing tasks like transporting inmates or even conducting searches to ensure the rules are being followed. Corrections officers can earn around $47,920 per year depending on where they work.
6. Homicide detective
Homicide detectives investigate murders caused by criminal activity. Working within the police department, detectives will interview witnesses and suspects, review evidence, and arrest suspects.
To become a homicide detective, you need to have experience as a police officer, a degree in criminal justice, and have interview and problem-solving skills. The average salary for a homicide detective is $75,280 per year.
7. FBI agent
FBI agents work for the government and can do a variety of jobs, depending on what they’re interested in and what they specialize in. Not all FBI agents work in the field investigating federal crimes. Many work in offices as accountants, in surveillance, or forensics.
To become an FBI agent, you need to have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field, at least two years of professional experience, complete the selection process, pass background checks and interviews, and successfully complete field training.
The average salary for an FBI agent is $68,200 per year, though pay can vary widely based on several factors.
8. Parole officer
Parole officers supervise people who have been released from prison and put on parole. You need at least a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice to become a parole officer, and, if you want to work at the federal level, you need a master’s degree.
The average salary for a parole officer is $42,570 per year.
9. Victim advocate
Rather than working with criminals, victim advocates are dedicated to helping the victims of crimes recover, through both emotional support and help with legal services.
While a degree isn’t necessarily required, having a bachelor’s degree is often preferred by employers.
The average salary for a victim advocate is $38,904 per year.
If you want a job in law enforcement, an online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Penn Foster College can help you take the first steps toward preparing to be a competitive prospect. Becoming a police officer, investigator, or police dispatcher may not require you to complete a degree, but your degree can help you build foundational knowledge and skills that can give you the confidence and credentials to stand out. Those working in this area of criminal justice can see an average salary of around $61,600 depending on your role, your experience, and where you live.
If a job in the court system sounds more your speed, your degree could help you prepare for a range of careers from bailiff to court clerk, case administrator, courtroom assistant, and more. You’ll play a vital role in the process of the justice system while having a career that may have more steady and predictable hours than law enforcement. Bailiffs are law enforcement officers who maintain safety and order in courtrooms and can earn an average entry-level salary of $45,760.
If you’re looking for a more active role, becoming a correctional officer could be the perfect fit. Correctional officers are responsible for overseeing individuals who’ve been arrested, from those awaiting trial to those who are incarcerated. Enforcing the rules is a must during every shift, and you can find yourself doing tasks like transporting inmates or even conducting searches to ensure the rules are being followed. Corrections officers can earn between $31,140 and $76,760 depending on where they work.
What do you learn in a criminal justice degree program?
With a wide range of career options after graduating from a criminal justice program, it can be tough to imagine the classes you’d take to build your knowledge and skills in the field. But in Penn Foster’s eight-semester Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degree, you’ll cover a range of courses from general education to career-relevant subjects. Subjects you’ll learn include
- Courts. You’ll look at the relationship between the various branches involved in the United States Courts system, from building an understanding of basic structures of the courts to the successive steps involved in cases.
- Police Studies. You’ll look at the role of policing in America, as well as the role of management, the nature of patrolling, and different strategies for investigating and solving problems.
- Criminal Law. You’ll review the history of criminal law and take a closer look at crimes and their underlying elements.
- Administration of Justice. This course examines the different parts of the judicial and criminal justice system in detail, including insight into how the organization works.
How long do you go to school for criminal justice?
Depending on what part of the criminal justice system you’re hoping to become involved in and what jobs you’d like to qualify for, the amount of school needed for this field can vary. Some jobs, like becoming a paralegal or legal secretary don’t necessarily require long periods of study; in fact, shorter diploma courses that can be completed in six months or less can prepare you to jump right into the workforce. But for positions that require more in-depth education and knowledge, earning a degree in the subject can take a bit longer.
With Penn Foster’s online college degrees, students like you can set your own pace and meet your goals around your schedule. While a Criminal Justice Associate Degree won’t necessarily prepare you for the same jobs a bachelor’s degree can, it’s a great way to get your foot in the door of the criminal justice field. Our flexible associate degree is four semesters and can be completed within two years. It’s a good first step if you’re not 100% sure that this is the degree for you. After you graduate from the associate’s, you can take the leap and enroll in the bachelor’s degree to round out your criminal justice education.
If you know, however, that you definitely want to work in this industry, you can start with the bachelor’s degree right away. Our degree is self-paced like all Penn Foster courses and can be completed in a timeframe that works for you. Since it is a full degree, though, it can take around four years to graduate.
Start preparing for a career in criminal justice with Penn Foster today.
You don’t have to wait for a new semester or school year to start to make a move toward a new career. With Penn Foster, you can enroll and start classes as soon as you’re ready. You can enroll online today or reach out to one of our expert Admissions Specialists at 1-888-427-6500 with questions and for help getting started.
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