8 of the Best Types of Jobs You Can Get With a Criminal Justice Degree

Types of Jobs with a Criminal Justice Degree

Earning a Criminal Justice degree can open many career opportunities in law enforcement and the legal system. There are many types of jobs with a criminal justice degree so, before you enroll in a degree program, it’s vital to have a solid understanding of the different career options in the field. Understanding the careers in the field will help you figure out where you should focus your time and studies. For example, some professions require graduate-level education while others prefer an applicant with a couple of years of experience. 

There’s a broad array of occupations in the field of criminal justice available to you once you earn your criminal justice degree. There are positions in agencies throughout all levels of government (local, state, and federal). You can choose to specialize your skills in your chosen career path down the line, which allows for more significant professional growth. Criminal justice careers present a wide array of duties, from working in a crime lab analyzing evidence to apprehending criminals and conducting traffic stops.

Criminal justice jobs require mentally and physically tasking work that can be dangerous. Those who work on the field’s frontlines put their lives on the line daily to keep the general public safe. In contrast, those working behind the scenes in the lab or investigation ensure that criminals are apprehended for their crimes. Criminal justice is vital for maintaining a safe and orderly society, making it a rewarding field to go into. The various types of jobs you can get with a criminal justice degree also allow everyone to find their niche within the field.

Let’s breakdown the different types of jobs with a criminal justice degree and discover which one is best for you.

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Local Police Officer 

Types of Criminal Justice Degree Jobs - Local Police Officer

Job Responsibilities:

The primary duty of a local police officer is to ensure the community’s safety in which they serve. Officers are responsible for handling emergencies and patrolling their community, all in an effort to keep the general public safe. 

A local police officer’s typical duties include responding to emergency calls and providing first aid when needed, investigating crimes such as murder, robbery, and drug deals, and enforcing traffic laws. Also, officers are required to write reports on their daily activities and encounters. These reports take up much of an officer’s day. However, they often become essential pieces of evidence in court. 

Local police officers are typically employed by cities, counties, schools, and universities. When people think of the title of ‘police officer,’ they usually picture a local police officer because they are the first line of response in most emergencies. 

A local police officer’s job is extremely dangerous, but many officers don’t mind the risk because of how rewarding the career is. Local officers play an essential role in maintaining the safety of their community. Police presence deters many criminal activities, and when crimes do occur, it’s their job to assess the situation and mitigate the danger. 

Education and Training:

There is no set standard across agencies for the level of education and training of officers. Some agencies only require applicants to have a high school degree to begin training, and others require a bachelor’s degree. 

Applicants do not need any previous experience or training to become a local police officer. The agency that you are hired through will teach you everything you need to know. Once you’re hired by an agency, you will be enrolled in a rigorous training program. Police training programs are a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on application. You can expect to learn about various topics such as law, civil rights, investigation, traffic control, self-defense, emergency response, and firearms training. Once you complete training, you will be partnered with a veteran officer until you are able to serve on your own. 


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports police officer salaries as the following:

  • Average Annual Salary: $63,380
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $106,090
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $36,550

Source: The Balance Careers

Related: 10 Different Types of Police Jobs

Corrections Officer


Job Responsibilities:

Corrections officers are responsible for overseeing inmates in rehabilitation facilities, jails, and prisons. It’s their duty to maintain order within the facility by ensuring that inmates follow the rules, break up fights, perform facility inspections, and write up reports. 

The tasks of a corrections officer vary depending on their role. However, a corrections officer can expect to search cells and inmates for prohibited items such as weapons or drugs and ensure that inmates have adequate living conditions. Also, they are vital in preventing inmate escapes by performing inspections for signs of tampering. 

Corrections officers oversee many aspects of the day to day lives of prisoners. They’re responsible for ensuring that inmates are acting accordingly, transported when necessary, and don’t have any injuries or medical issues. These officers also are a liaison between inmates and the courts by providing reports, maintaining files, and updating officials on notable occurrences. 

Education and Training:

Just like local police officers, the required education and training of a corrections officer vary by location. If you want to have a career as a corrections officer, it’s essential that you check your department’s application requirements. 

Although requirements vary, all correctional officers must hold at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Some state and local governments require corrections officers to obtain higher education such as an associate’s degree in criminal justice or complete a vocational program. 

The training for a corrections officer is similar to police officer training. Many corrections officers complete their training alongside law enforcement officers because they frequently use the same facilities. Once you complete training, you will work alongside an experienced officer who will teach you the required knowledge and skills for the job. Shadowing or apprenticing length varies by facility. However, you can expect it to last from a few months to a year. 


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported corrections officer salaries as the following:

  • Average Annual Salary: $47,830
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $82,900
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $24,620

Source: Criminal Justice Degree Schools


Types of Criminal Justice Jobs - Detective

Job Responsibilities:

Detectives are experienced officers who investigate crimes to collect evidence against suspected criminals for prosecution. Typically, detectives are chosen by their department out of a pool of experienced officers who applied for the position. Detectives working for large departments usually specialize in a particular type of crime, such as sex, drugs, homicide, and property crimes. 

Detectives work with officers, crime scene investigators, and evidence technicians to establish a prosecutor’s solid case to take to court. They must have keen analytical skills since they are responsible for gathering facts and evidence and then determining which ones are useful for the case. They must analyze evidence to reach a conclusion about what exactly occurred when the crime took place. 

Education and Training:

Since detectives start off as police officers and work their way up, they have the same basic educational and training requirements as regular officers. During the hiring process, an aspiring detective must complete a written exam to make sure they have the adequate investigation and reasoning skills. 

In order to be considered for a detective position, an officer must have several years of experience working on the force. This is necessary because detectives must have a solid understanding of policy knowledge and skills.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported detective salaries as the following:

  • Average Annual Salary: $63,380
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $106,090
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $36,550

Source: The Balance Careers

FBI Agent

Best Criminal Justice Degree Jobs - FBI

Job Responsibilities:

The FBI is the United State’s federal frontline of security. Their primary goal is to protect the United States from national security threats and serious criminal offenses. Working as a special agent for the FBI is extremely dangerous yet exciting. The work is unlike any other career path. 

The FBI divides their agency into several investigative divisions: cybercrime, whitecollar crime, foreign counterintelligence, and terrorism. Agents may actively investigate crimes on the field or do administrative and managerial duties, including training or public affairs. 

The work of a special agent is often demanding and unpredictable. Typically agents are expected to work 50 hours a week and be on call 24/7. Since crimes can occur at any time, agents often work irregular hours, including weekends and holidays. Special agents work long and tasking hours to ensure that international or domestic criminals do not threaten the United State’s national security. 

Education and Training:

All aspiring agents must hold a bachelor’s degree at the minimum, and many agents have a master’s degree or higher. Popular majors include criminal justice, political science, law, psychology, computer science, international studies, etc. The FBI does not require applicants to have a certain degree; however, it helps to possess a degree in a relevant field. 

FBI applicants are required to have at least two years of full-time work experience. However, if you possess a master’s degree or higher, you may apply with only one year of experience. After applying, you must pass multiple rounds of testing and interviews used to weed out unqualified applicants. 

Phase I testing includes logic reasoning, situation judgment, and a personality or psychology test. If you pass Phase I, you move on to Phase II testing, which consists of an interview, fitness testing, drug testing, a polygraph examination, and background investigation. After the agency hires you, you will be sent to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. The academy instruction includes 20 weeks (800 hours) of training in four concentrations: academic, firearms, case exercises, and operational skills.


FBI agents are paid on the GL schedule, which is used for federal law enforcement officers. In training, agents are paid at level GL-10 ($51,921 per year). After completion of training, salary depends upon the agent’s field assignment. After a two-year probationary period, agents are paid on a general pay scale, with many agents reaching the GS-13 level ($78,681 per year) within five years of working for the bureau.

Source: Criminal Justice Degree Schools

Forensic Scientist

Best Criminal Justice Degree Jobs - Forensic Scientist

Job Responsibilities:

Forensic science combines scientific study with the elements of the criminal justice system. Forensic scientists are highly educated professionals who analyze physical evidence left at crime scenes using the scientific method and a logical approach.

Forensic science is a broad field that has many specializations in different scientific areas. A forensic scientist can choose to practice in the following areas: chemistry, biology, toxicology, or ballistics. A forensic scientist’s duties vary depending on their specialty, but all forensic scientists identify and analyze physical evidence left at crime scenes.

Forensic scientists typically work inside a crime lab, where they have the ability to test, compare, and analyze evidence retrieved by crime scene investigators. They may also be required to report to the scene of the crime when the collection and preservation of evidence are difficult if taken from the crime scene.

Education and Training:

Aspiring forensic scientists must complete a bachelor’s program or higher in forensic science, physics, biology, chemistry, or criminal justice. Although many agencies do not require forensic scientists to hold a certain degree, many look for programs that are approved by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC).

It’s common for forensic scientists to need certification, given the many areas and specializations within the field. Professional certifications usually involve specific education and testing in a given discipline. In addition to education and certification, forensic scientists must undergo a background investigation, complete a polygraph exam, and pass a drug test.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported corrections officer salaries as the following:

  • Average Annual Salary: $52,840
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $85,210

Although, a forensic scientist’s salary depends heavily on whether they work for a local, state, or federal agency. Also, their experience, specialization, and education level.

Source: Crime Scene Investigator EDU


Criminal Defense Attorney

Types of Criminal Justice Jobs - Criminal Defense Lawyer

Job Responsibilities:

 Criminal defense attorneys are tasked with defending individuals, organizations, or entities that have been charged with a crime. Criminal defense attorneys can handle a broad spectrum of cases, including domestic violence, drug crimes, theft, sex crimes, violent crimes, embezzlement, and fraud. 

Criminal lawyers can work in state, federal, or appellate courts, all of which include representing their client who’s facing criminal charges. They’re responsible for bail bond hearings, plea bargains, representing their client on trial, revocation, appeals hearings, and post-conviction remedies. To build up a strong case for their client, criminal attorneys investigate and analyze the case, study case law, negotiate with the prosecuting attorney, and file motions on their client’s behalf. 

Criminal defense attorneys can either work for a private firm or as a public defender. Private firms are typically higher-paying. However, it’s easier to get a job as a public defender when starting off. Criminal defense attorneys often work irregular and long hours, usually over 40 hours a week. They spend their time meeting with clients, preparing documents, conducting research, and representing their clients during trials. 

Education and Training:

Criminal attorneys must complete a bachelor’s program then obtain a law degree. For their undergraduate degree, they can major in any field. However, the most popular majors are criminal justice, political science, pre-law, and philosophy. After obtaining a law degree, criminal attorneys must pass the bar exam in whatever state they choose to practice. 

Some lawyers also choose to earn a board certification from the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification (NBLSC). Which does the American Bar Association accredit a non-profit organization to board-certified attorneys.


Criminal defense attorney’s salaries depend on the scope of their practice, clientele, location, and firm. Public defenders and attorneys working for non-profit organizations typically make a lot less than defenders working for a private firm. 

Experienced criminal defense attorneys that work for a private firm can earn over six figures a year. Typically, the highest paid criminal defenders represent high-profile cases for wealthy clients.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the salary for all attorneys, including criminal defense, as the following:

  • Average Annual Salary: $120,910
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $208,000
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $58,220

Source: The Balance Careers

Related: 10 Different Types of Criminal Defense Attorneys

Victim Advocate

Types of Jobs with Criminal Justice Degree - Victim Advocate

Job Responsibilities:

A victim advocate is specifically trained to provide an individual who was the victim of a crime with knowledge of the options available to them and emotional support. They help victims to find resources by reaching out to criminal justice organizations and social work agencies and fill out the necessary paperwork for them. By providing resources and information on agencies that offer helping services, the victim advocate can better ensure that they receive the help and care they need after the event. 

Victim advocates commonly have knowledge in areas such as grief counseling, trauma cleanup, and legal services. Advocates often work staffing crisis hotlines, support groups and hold in-person counseling to victims. Job responsibilities for an advocate vary depending on what organization they choose to work for and their specialization.

A victim advocate’s primary service is to provide immediate relief or assistance following the event of the crime. After the victim completes law enforcement interviews, advocates are available to provide aid necessary for the individual’s needs, such as shelter, food, water, counseling, and contact information for specialized agencies. 

Education and Training:

A victim advocate typically possesses at least a bachelor’s in criminal justice, social work, psychology, or a related field of study. Some advocates have graduate degrees in their chosen area of study as well, which allows for further career advancement.

Although it’s not required, individuals with interest in this career path commonly complete certification through the National Organization for Victim Assistance. Certification as a victim advocate leads to more career opportunities and a higher salary. Training for victim advocates typically lasts a year through local law enforcement agencies, legal offices, social services, or courts. 


The career of a victim advocate falls under the field of social work or social services. When salary is recorded, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics groups victim advocates with social workers. 

Social worker salaries are reported as the following:

  • Average Annual Salary: $58,410
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $85,000

Source: After Math

Private Investigator

Types of Criminal Justice Jobs - Private Investigator

Job Responsibilities:

Are you interested in the criminal justice field but hesitant about working for a government agency? Private investigators are licensed to preform investigative work independent of law enforcement agencies. Clients hire private investigators to do detective work. They can have their own practice, work for an agency, or are employed by a corporation such as an insurance company or a law firm. Private investigators may choose to specialize their services in an area such as computer investigation or forensic accounting or offer general investigative services. 

Private investigators are responsible for fact-finding and gathering information. They do this through the means of computer investigation, surveillance, interviewing, and going undercover. Unlike detectives, private investigators can be hired for services that don’t violate the law, such as surveilling a partner suspected of infidelity. Private investigators spend much of their work day surveilling suspects to gather photographic and recorded evidence. Even though private investigators don’t work for the government, law enforcement often uses their collected evidence during criminal investigations. 

Education and Training:

Although private investigators are not required to have a degree, it is helpful to have some criminal justice education level. Many private investigators also have relevant experience in criminal justice, which allows them to have the skills and knowledge to advance their careers. 

In most states, it’s required that private investigators are licensed to practice. Licensing varies by state. However, it typically includes attending private investigation courses, testing, and background investigation. Some private investigators may also need a concealed weapons permit, depending on their area of work. 


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the salary for private investigators as the following:

  • Average Annual Salary: $50,090
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $89,200
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $29,310

Source: The Balance Careers


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