Criminal Justice Career Paths

  • Law Enforcement Officers
  • Postsecondary Law Enforcement Teachers
  • Private Detectives and Investigators
  • Correctional Officers
  • Probation Officers

Today's job market is one that has a number of promising career options for a criminal justice graduate. From working as a law enforcement officer to entering the legal profession, the graduate can easily enter a career that is both personally and professionally rewarding. This is especially true due to the continuing growth of careers in the field of law enforcement and its related professions.

Resource: 50 Best Value Colleges for a Criminal Justice Degree

Currently, anyone obtaining a degree in this field can use it to enter a wide range of professions, both private and governmental. Among the most popular choices among newly graduated professionals are the following:

Law Enforcement Officers

Ranging from local police officers to federal agencies such as the ATF and FBI, many employers require at least a bachelor's degree for new officers. Although smaller jurisdictions may not require a degree, having one can improve the candidate's probability of obtaining the job. The BLS currently estimates the 2016 annual median pay for this profession to be $61,600. Finally, LEOs enjoy a very high degree of job security in this field, making it especially attractive for those who wish to make it their only career.

Postsecondary Law Enforcement Teachers

The growing interest in law enforcement and legal affairs continues to drive a need for qualified teachers. Depending on the school, the candidate may need a bachelor's or graduate degree in the field of criminology. Law enforcement teachers may find themselves working in a variety of institutions, including general four-year colleges, community colleges, law schools or academies for LEOs. Salaries can vary widely, depending on the nature of the school and the graduate's qualifications, with some prestigious universities offering salaries for experienced faculty that can exceed $100,000.

Private Detectives and Investigators

Graduates of justice programs can easily become private detectives and investigators. Many states require that all candidates pass an examination before they can become a licensed private detective. In addition to working as a self-employed private detective, many businesses hire investigators as part of their internal security department. Because state licensing and regulatory requirements can vary widely, anyone interested in this position should consult their state's relevant regulatory departments for further information.

Correctional Officers

Correctional Officers are a specialized type of law enforcement officers. These individuals help to oversee individuals who are detained or serving out their sentence in a jail or prison. Although many states permit correctional officers to be hired with a high school diploma, obtaining a degree in criminology will dramatically improve the candidate's career options. There are a wide range of potential employers for correctional officers, including local jails, juvenile detention facilities and federal prisons. In addition, many jurisdictions outsource some of their operations to private prison operators who will then independently hire staff for the facility.

Probation Officers

Probation Officers work with convicts who are currently on parole or probation in order to assist them in re-entering society as law abiding citizens. In most cases, candidates for this field must have a bachelor's degree and will be required to pass a number of examinations. Depending on the individual's specific position, he or she may work at an institution, such as a prison or courthouse, or work in the field, visiting probationers at their home or place of work. Because a probation officer's findings will often determine whether a convict will remain on probation or be returned to prison, they will also closely work with other LEOs, their district attorney's office and the judiciary.

Ultimately, a graduate in this field has a vast range of possible jobs to choose from. Not only are these careers professionally rewarding, but they also offer the very real personal satisfaction that comes from serving society. In fact, the continuing focus on law enforcement in the United States means that these criminal justice graduates can enjoy a very bright professional future.