Henry Steele
Henry Steele
Managing Editor

The field of criminal justice is incredibly wide and varied and includes many different professionals. It actually describes an entire system, in which government institutions and practices are included and designed to maintain control of social structures to deter crimes and mitigate them, and to sanction people or institutions who break the law, imposing rehabilitation efforts and/or criminal penalties.

Opportunity

Because the field of criminal justice is so wide, and because crime as a whole not only continues to exist but to change and evolve as well, there will always be a huge demand for those involved for people who are well-versed in this field. Because of the wide variety of careers within criminal justice, however, it can be difficult to determine just how big the demand is. Nevertheless, there have been some reports on it, including:

  • Campus Explorer, which has reported that law enforcement, corrections, security, and firefighter jobs will be in particularly high demand for the foreseeable future.
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which has reported that legal occupations are expected to grow by 5% by 2024, which is as fast as the national average. This translates into 64,600 new jobs. However, this does not take into consideration positions such as law enforcement or security.

Career Paths

The field of criminal justice is so wide that it can be difficult to determine what the various career paths are. The BLS has reported that legal occupations include:

  • Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators, who earn $58,020 per year on average
  • Court reporters, who earn $49,500 per year on average
  • Judges and hearing officers, who earn $109,010 per year on average
  • Lawyers, who earn $115,820 per year on average
  • Paralegals and legal assistants, who earn $48,810 per year on average

What demonstrates just how wide the field of criminal justice is the report by Payscale.com, which has also listed a number of criminal justice careers, namely:

  • Contracts managers, who earn $62,500 per year on average
  • Property managers, who earn $79,250 per year on average

Meanwhile, Indeed.com has also reported on positions within the criminal justice field, with salaries as shown below:

  • Custom Protection Officers, who earn on average $13.44 per hour
  • Case Managers, who earn on average $21.21 per hour
  • Loss Prevention Managers, who earn on average $13.74 per hour
  • Security Officers, who earn on average $11.39 per hour
  • Field Investigators, who earn on average $18.55 per hour
  • Private Investigators, who earn on average $24.92 per hour
  • Surveillance Investigators, who earn on average $19.21 per hour
  • Public Safety Officers, who earn on average $14.58 per hour
  • Police Officers, who earn on average $21.08 per hour
  • Probation Officers, who earn on average $19.21 per hour
  • Siu Investigators, who earn on average $21.05 per hour
  • Victim Advocates, who earn on average $15.90 per hour
  • Paralegals, who earn on average $19.68 per hour
  • Social Workers, who earn on average $24.65 per hour
  • Senior Fraud Investigators, who earn on average $23.58 per hour
  • Fraud Investigators, who earn on average $18.08 per hour
  • Counselors, who earn on average $13.88 per hour
  • Records Coordinators, who earn on average $14.62 per hour

Salaries

Clearly, the exact job someone will take on in the field of criminal justice is of tremendous importance when it comes to how much can be earned. Another key factor is where people work in the country. A caveat to this, however, is the fact that most cities and towns where salaries tend to be higher than the national average, will also have a cost of living that is higher.

Payscale.com has reported that:

  • People in Cleveland, Ohio, earn between $46,216 and $92,000 per year.
  • People in San Antonio, Texas, earn $25,188 per year.

Career Profiles, meanwhile, has taken information from the BLS to report on the five best states to work in for criminal justice professionals. They are:

  • California, with average annual earnings of $52,900
  • Texas, with average annual earnings of $40,600
  • New York, with average annual earnings of $52,300
  • Florida, with average annual earnings of $40,000
  • Illinois, with average annual earnings of $47,600

Employers

Again, due to the wide expanse of the field of criminal justice, it would be nearly impossible to list all the potential employers. However, they include:

  • Private practices, which are particularly interesting for those interested in criminology, law, and forensics
  • The ATF
  • The CIA
  • Police departments across the country
  • Courts across the country
  • The DEA
  • ICE
  • Homeland Security
  • The FBI
  • The INS
  • The IRS
  • U.S. Marshals
  • Sheriff departments across the country
  • Prisons and jails across the country
  • Probation departments across the country
  • Drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers across the country

Career Profiles has reported on the biggest employers for criminal justice professionals, which are:

  • Local Government, which employs 1,378,200 individuals, with average annual earnings of $53,170
  • Investigative and Security Services, which employs 668,400 individuals, with average annual earnings of $26,600
  • State Government, which employs 391,000 individuals, with average annual earnings of $51,000
  • Federal Government, which employs 147,800 individuals, with average annual earnings of $65,000
  • Elementary and Secondary Education Institutions, which employ 69,900 individuals, with average annual earnings of $81,000

Bachelor’s Degree

To become involved in the field of criminal justice, a bachelor’s degree is generally the minimum requirement. In fact, there are many positions where a master’s degree, or even a doctoral degree, is needed to further your career. Additionally, many criminal justice organizations, like the FBI, will require not just a high level of education, but also the passing of rigorous training. That said, the bachelor’s degree is your starting point, and you have many universities to choose from if you are interested in such a degree.

One such university is Penn State Online, which offers the Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. Interestingly, this degree program is available online. This gives people the flexibility to study and work at the same time, or to study at a time, place, and pace that is convenient to their personal needs. The degree program has received certification from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS), which is a testament to the quality of the program.

During your bachelor’s degree at Penn State, you can expect to complete courses in:

  • Criminology
  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Courts and the Prosecution Process
  • Corrections in America
  • Ethics in Criminal Justice
  • Statistical Analysis for the Social Sciences
  • Elementary Statistics
  • Methods of collection, presentation, and analysis of quantitative data in the social science, procedures, interpretation, and application
  • Descriptive statistics, frequency distributions, probability, binomial and normal distributions, statistical inference, linear regression, and correlation
  • Security Administration
  • Alternatives to Incarceration
  • Border Security
  • The Juvenile Justice System
  • Arts
  • Humanities
  • Health and Physical Activity
  • Natural Sciences
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Writing and Speaking
  • Quantification

Master’s Degree

To really further your career opportunities in the field of criminal justice, you will need to complete a master’s degree. This will give you the opportunity to really focus on a specific area of the criminal justice system. Sometimes, your bachelor’s degree will already have done this to some degree. Generally, however, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is very broad in nature.

An excellent example of a master’s degree in criminal justice is offered by Capella University, which is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. This degree is available online, giving people the opportunity to study in a way that is convenient to them. Accreditation is vital because it demonstrates that the program meets or exceeds minimum standards accepted within the profession.

Admission Requirements

Each school is entitled to set its own admission standards. However, generally speaking, these are very similar. This is because the admission criteria show that someone has the academic capabilities of completing a program at master’s degree level. The admission criteria for the Capella University Master in Criminal Justice are:

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • All official transcripts
  • Proof of English proficiency

Some universities have more stringent application requirements, and will also request things such as:

  • A personal statement
  • Letters of recommendation
  • A resume
  • GMAT/GRE test scores

Curriculum

One of the reasons why accreditation is so important is because each school is entitled to set its own curriculum. However, only if the courses meet the minimum standards will it receive accreditation. The program at Capella University, as previously stated, is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, which indicates that you will hold a degree that is accepted all over the country. The courses included in the program are:

  • 21st-Century Communication and Leadership
  • Professional Practice and Collaboration in a Diverse and Dynamic World
  • Introduction to Critical Analysis and Research
  • Criminal Justice Theory
  • Justice, Security, and Democracy
  • Criminal Justice Policy and Administration
  • Crime Intelligence Analysis
  • Integrative Project for Criminal Justice

Besides these courses, you will also have to complete a number of electives. These will align your degree to one of two possible outcomes: criminology or corrections.

Financial Assistance

Gaining an education is a costly endeavor. Fortunately, there are ways to circumvent this to a certain degree. First of all, the cost of time can be mitigated by studying online, as it gives you the opportunity to take the time you need and that is convenient to you, potentially even working alongside your degree program. The greater issue for many, however, is the financial cost associated with a degree program, and particularly for a master’s degree. However, all schools have a bursar’s office that will be more than happy to assist you with applications for financial assistance, and most also offer scholarships and grants to certain students.

You also have the opportunity to apply for external scholarships and grants, including the:

  • Maine Chiefs of Police Memorial Scholarship, to the value of $500
  • Robert Shuker Scholarship Fund, to the value of $15,000
  • National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives National Scholarship, to the value of $2,500
  • George Hutchinson Writing Competition, to the value of $3,000
  • FCBA Association Scholarships, to the value of $5,000
  • FCBA Judicial Scholarships, to the value of $10,000
  • George H. Nofer Scholarship, to the value of $5,000
  • Bryce Harlow Foundation Fellowship Program, to the value of $8,000
  • HCBF Scholarship Program, to the value of $2,500
  • State Representative Irma Rangel Memorial Scholarship, to the value of $2,000

Generally speaking, to apply for these types of scholarships, you will need to meet certain criteria. This includes studying towards a certain concentration, being a member of a professional organization, belonging to a certain minority group, demonstrating financial need, and/or holding a certain GPA.

Certifications

Obtaining a certification is always beneficial to further your career. That said, it will require a further investment of both time and money to obtain a certification, and also to maintain it. However, most feel that you will see a significant return on this investment. Certifications in the field of criminal justice that you may want to consider include:

  • Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional (CCJAP)
  • Criminal Justice Awareness and Terminology Certification
  • Peace Officer Skills (POST) Training Certificate
  • Certified Paralegal (CP)

For some positions, certification is a requirement.

Associations

Finally, if you want to further your career in the field of criminal justice, it is recommended that you join professional organizations and associations. You may want to consider doing so at the bachelor’s degree level. Being a member of these associations furthers your professional standard, gives you the opportunity to always be up to date with latest developments, allows you access continuous education courses, may provide you with scholarships opportunities, and enables you to build a professional network. Some of the professional associations you may want to consider becoming a member of include the:

  • National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA)
  • National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice
  • National Associations Active in Criminal Justice (NAACJ)
  • American Criminal Justice Association (ACJA)
  • National Criminal Intelligence Resource Center (NCIRC)

References

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