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Staff Writers
Updated March 24, 2021

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Getting a criminal justice degree is one of the best ways to find work in the legal field. While some students earn a bachelor's degree before applying to law school, others use their degrees to enter a police training academy or to work for the government. Those who have one or more criminal convictions might wonder if they can still get one of these degrees and work in the field. The answer is that it really depends on what those students want to do with their degrees.

See our ranking of the 50 Best Value Colleges for a Criminal Justice Degree.

Types of Jobs and Salaries

A criminal justice degree can prepare a student for working in a variety of jobs. They might work as teachers in community colleges and vocational schools or as law enforcement professionals. Legal assistants and private detectives might earn one of these degrees before working in the field too. The

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) puts the median salary of a private detective or investigator at around $50,700 a year. This includes those who go to work right after finishing high school and those who have a college degree. Other positions in the criminal justice field may require a college degree and have a higher median salary.

Degree Types

The most common type of criminal justice degree is a bachelor's degree. Colleges offer both Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts programs in criminal justice. These programs usually take four years to finish but can take longer for part-time students. Community and junior colleges offer Associate of Arts (AA) degrees that students can complete in only two years. Graduate programs often take two years to finish too and may include a thesis requirement. This is a final paper that students submit after doing several semesters of research and work. Many graduate schools now offer these programs online. Students can also earn a doctoral degree in criminal justice.

Criminal Convictions

Criminal convictions can include both misdemeanor and felony charges. A misdemeanor is a type of less serious crime and may result in just a weekend in jail and/or community service. Felony charges are much more serious and include rape, murder, and assault. Students can earn a criminal justice degree with one or more convictions, but they may have a difficult time finding work after they graduate because of those convictions. Many jobs include a background check that will weed out anyone convicted of a crime.

Future Success

Government agencies such as the CIA and the FBI will not hire anyone with a criminal record. Those applying for one of these positions must sign documents that say they were never convicted, but they will also go through an extensive background check. Some students may want to petition for a pardon or ask that the court seal their records. The court will generally see juvenile records too. This can increase the chances of the individual finding a job in the criminal justice field. Most college programs will accept any student who meets its admissions requirements without looking at their backgrounds.

When a student applies to a college or university, he or she will complete an application and submit their transcripts and test scores. They may need to write an essay and decide what they want to study too. Students can get a criminal justice degree if they were charged with a crime, but they may have issues finding a job later because of those convictions.

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