Careers in Criminal Justice

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See what types of law enforcement careers you'll qualify for with a degree in criminal justice and discover what further training these careers require.

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Understand how a criminal justice degree prepares you for a future in the legal field as a lawyer, paralegal, or court reporter.

What Can I do with my Criminal Justice Degree?

As you consider criminal justice degree programs, it is natural to wonder about employment options after graduation. Most often, an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree is the foundation and starting point for a majority of criminal justice careers. In some cases, even after you receive your degree, you will need additional certification (e.g., if you want to become a cop). To become a criminal researcher, social worker, or lawyer, you will need a graduate degree.

Sometimes a criminal justice degree may not be the best option for your career goals. For instance, if you are interested in becoming a criminologist or a profiler, you will need a background in criminology and psychology. If you choose to pursue a career in a technical specialty like forensics, you will need a rigorous knowledge of chemistry and biology, in addition to your criminal justice knowledge. Your career goals should influence your decision about what kind of education you pursue.

Criminal justice careers typically fall into one of two categories: applied criminal justice, or theoretical criminal justice. Applied criminal justice refers to careers related to the practice of criminal justice, like policing. Theoretical criminal justice refers to careers that deal with the causes of criminal behavior and society’s response to crime, like forensic psychology and criminology. Below, we have profiled the most popular career choices, along with their educational requirements.

Take A Look at Some Criminal Justice Careers

Criminal justice careers typically fall into one of two categories: law enforcement or legal. Law enforcement refers to careers related to the practice of criminal justice, like policing and those that deal with the causes of criminal behavior and society’s response to crime, like forensic psychology and criminology. Legal careers focus on providing legal services to individuals and businesses as a legal representative or as a public official in the courts. Below, we have profiled the most popular career choices, along with their educational requirements.

Law Enforcement Careers

The following career paths will enable you to enter law enforcement either at the local, state or federal levels. Read each description to develop a point of view on whether your career selection is right for you.

Bailiff

Bailiffs are law enforcement officers who are responsible for maintaining order and providing security in courtrooms. Also called marshals or court officers, their duties vary depending on their location, but typically include enforcing courtroom rules, opening court by announcing judges’ arrivals, guarding sequestered juries, delivering documents, taking custody of offenders, and calling witnesses to the stand and presenting the oath.The educational requirements for bailiffs can also vary depending on their location. Some local and state law enforcement agencies require at least a high school diploma or GED, while others require some college and law enforcement or military experience. Others prefer bailiffs to have an associate’s or bachelor’s criminal justice degree. However, for employment on the federal level, a bachelor’s degree and related work experience is a requirement for entry-level positions.In addition to the minimum education requirements, bailiffs may also be required to complete a formal training program that includes instruction in topics like custody and security procedures, use of firearms and chemical sprays, self-defense, CPR, and first aid.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that jobs in this field are expected to increase eight percent between 2010 and 2020. The rising demand is expected to be a result of the growing population and the need to replace retiring employees. The BLS also reports that the median annual salary for court bailiffs was $38,570 in 2010. The lowest 10% earned $18,980 or less, while the top ten percent earned $66,400 or more.

If you are interested in pursuing a career as a bailiff, you are encouraged to contact local and state law enforcement agencies, courts, and schools with criminal justice programs to connect with internship resources. In addition, you may consider applying to attend one of three 12-week internship sessions sponsored by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.  The program is open to criminal justice seniors and graduate students.

As part of your preparation for a bailiff career, you may enjoy exploring subjects like law enforcement systems, community policing, and critical incident analysis.

Border Patrol Agent

Border patrol agents are the law enforcement officers of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  They are primarily responsible for patrolling the Mexican and Canadian international land borders and the coastal waters surrounding the Florida Peninsula and the island of Puerto Rico to detect, prevent and apprehend terrorists, undocumented aliens and smugglers of aliens at or near the land border. Working with other law enforcement officers, they help to facilitate the flow of legal immigration and importation of goods while preventing illegal trafficking.To qualify for the GL-5 level, the lowest rank, you must have at least three years of general work experience that demonstrates your decision-making and ability to maintain composure in potentially dangerous situations. A four-year degree may be substituted if you don’t have the required background experience. Although there is not a requirement that your degree be in a particular field, a bachelor degree in criminal justice may help to give you a competitive edge.Once hired, border patrol trainees must attend a 58-day training program at the Border Patrol Academy. During the training you’ll receive instruction in both border patrol and federal law enforcement subjects. Federal law enforcement subjects include communications, report writing, and ethics and conduct. Border patrol-specific training includes instruction in areas like immigration and nationality law, border patrol operations, physical training, and Spanish.

Since knowledge of Spanish is critical as many of the persons border patrol agents come into contact with speak only Spanish, trainees are tested for Spanish speaking skills within the first two weeks of training at the academy. If you cannot pass the exam, you will have to complete eight weeks of Spanish language training in addition to your basic training.

The employment rate for this field is expected to grow by 7% between 2010 and 2020, as predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, heightened security concerns regarding American border safety and illegal immigration has resulted in a need for qualified applicants, therefore, individuals who are bilingual or have law enforcement or military experience are expected to find the best job opportunities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average annual border patrol agent salary was $55,010 in 2010.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)’s Career Interns program is available to collegiate juniors and seniors. Career interns who successfully complete the educational requirements, and the career or degree-related work experience totaling 640 hours, will be considered for conversion to a permanent position upon completion of the program.

If you are in a criminal justice career as a border patrol agent, you may consider taking classes like homeland security and terrorism, crime prevention, and policing in context.

Bounty Hunter

Bounty hunters are individuals who execute warrants by locating, apprehending, and transporting fugitives who have forfeited their bail by failing to appear in court. Bounty hunters are also sometimes referred to as bail enforcement agents, fugitive recovery agents, or bail fugitive investigators.Although there are not any specific education or training requirements to become a bounty hunter, several schools offer online and video training courses that may help you prepare for a career as a bounty hunter. However, you may consider pursuing a criminal justice associate’s degree to gain a fundamental understanding of criminal behavior and the law, and especially the statutes in your state. For example, you should know your rights and limitations as a bounty hunter as it relates to the use of force or firearms. Additionally, you may also consider becoming trained in the areas of safety and self-defense.The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 21 percent employment growth for bounty hunters through 2020, due to an increasing demand for security and safety. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, reports the median annual salary for bounty hunters as $42,870 in 2010, bounty hunters are typically independent contractors, and they typically earn a commission of between 10 to 25% of the bond. Therefore, the annual earnings for bounty hunters are dependent on the number cases taken and a person’s apprehension success rate.

Licensing requirements vary by state. For example, in Connecticut, potential bounty hunters must meet several requirements, including submitting copies of driving records, credit reports, high school or college transcripts, and letters of reference. Candidates must also complete a minimum of 20 hours of approved criminal justice training. On the other hand, Louisiana only requires potential bounty hunters to complete at least eight hours of training to qualify for licensing and to wear clothing that identifies their profession once they are licensed by the state.

Students thinking of becoming bounty hunters typically take courses like constitutional law, criminal procedure, or criminal investigation.

Corrections Officer

Correctional officers work in the penal system, which is the corrections and rehabilitation segment of the criminal justice system. Corrections officers are responsible for maintaining security within prisons. Their duties can include supervising inmates, conducting cell searches, restraining inmates, and preventing assaults, insurgences, and escapes.The basic education requirement for corrections officers is a high school diploma or a general education development (GED) certificate. However, some state and local agencies may require applicants to have some college credits. In many cases, military and law enforcement experience can be substituted for education. If you would like to work in corrections on the federal level, you will need to possess a bachelor’s degree. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related subject is a hiring requirement for correctional officers in federal prisons.

In addition to the academy training that most agencies provide to new corrections officers, there is usually also on-the-job training. New recruits typically shadow a more experienced officer for several weeks or months, and they receive training in the legal limitations and boundaries of their position. Lastly, many agencies also offer new recruits training in the use of firearms and self-defense to ensure their safety when working with inmates. On the federal level, corrections officers are required to go through 200 hours of formal training during their first year of employment, and to keep up with changes and developments by participating in annual in-service trainings.

The job outlook for correctional officers is relatively fair, according to t he BLS. Between 2010 and 2010 the employment of corrections officers is predicted to grow by five percent, which is slower than average. However, there will continue to be a demand for corrections officers due to population growth and prison overcrowding. The BLS also reports that the average annual salary for corrections officers who worked in jails in 2010 was $39,040, while the average annual salary for corrections officers working in federal prisons was $54,310.

The majority of internships for corrections officers can be found on the federal level. The Federal Bureau of Prisons operates a Pathways Internship Program that offers students career exploration and development opportunities. Successful completion of the program can improve your eligibility for permanent positions once you complete your degree.

Students interested in a career as a corrections officer typically take courses like
criminology, criminal behavior, and corrections and rehabilitation.

Crime Scene Investigator

Crime scene investigators, also called forensic science technicians, process crime scenes to collect, identify, classify, and analyze evidence. They work with the police to help apprehend individuals suspected of criminal activity. Crime scene investigators can also be critical to a prosecutor’s case since their crime reports and testimony can either help convict or acquit suspects in criminal cases.The educational requirements for crime scene investigators vary by location and employer. Many crime scene investigation careers require a bachelor’s degree in either forensic science or a natural science, like biology, with an emphasis on criminal investigation, or a criminal justice degree with a background in science.  Others may require a criminal justice degree with some background in science. Smaller or rural agencies may hire applicants who have a high school diploma or GED equivalent.Because they require extensive on-the-job training before working independently, newly hired crime scene investigators must complete on-the-job training in the form of an apprenticeship. During the apprenticeship they are paired with more experienced investigators to learn proper methodology and procedures for collecting and classifying evidence.  Additionally, criminal investigators who work in a crime lab must complete DNA-analysis training, which can last for 6 to 12 months, while firearms analysis training can last up to three years.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of crime scene investigators is forecasted to grow by 19% through 2020. The increased use of forensic evidence in court cases accounts for the projected increase in the number crime scene investigator positions that will become available. BLS also reports that the average annual salary of crime scene investigators was $51,570 in 2010. Actual salaries vary depending on location, degree level, and experience, which may account for the fact that the lowest 10% in the field earned less than $32,900, and the top 10% earned more than $82,990 in 2010.

Typically, students interested in exploring crime scene investigation careers are able to gain practical experience by participating in internship programs sponsored by, or by securing summer employment with, a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency. Crime Scene Investigator Network offers students resources associated with education and careers in crime scene investigation, including internship listings.

Students interested in studying crime scene investigations may find taking classes like blood patterns and crime scenes, crime scene photography, and foundations of criminal investigation interesting and helpful.

Criminal Profiler

Criminal profilers create psychological profiles of criminals to identify behavioral patterns, which can help officers isolate their searches to suspects who fit a particular profile. Criminal profilers examine crime scenes, interview witnesses and victims, and analyze crime scene evidence to gather the information needed to create a psychological profile. They may work within a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency, and they may be called upon to give expert witness testimony in a court case.Education requirements for criminal profilers are not clearly defined, however, it is recommended that if you are interested in becoming a criminal profiler that you obtain at least a bachelor degree in criminal justice, psychology, or behavioral science. Other possible educational pathways can include pursuing a double major in psychology and criminal justice, or getting a criminal justice bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in psychology or forensic psychology.The Behaviors Science Unit (BSU) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) offers basic behavioral science training seminars to various groups including domestic and international law enforcement officers, U.S. military and intelligence officers, new agents, and academic personnel, when appropriate. The training includes topics such as bio-psycho social aspects of criminal behavior, applied criminology, death investigation management, and juvenile crime and behavior.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for criminal investigators is expected to be 3% between 2010 and 2020. Job opportunities for state and federal criminal investigators are expected to be competitive due to greater opportunities for growth and higher salaries. The BLS also reports that the job outlook for psychologists is 22% during the same time frame, however, since criminal profiling is a small occupation, there is expected to be intense competition for the positions that will come available during the decade.

The mean annual wage for criminal investigators and detectives, according to BLS, is $68,820, while the average annual wage of psychologists is $68,640, which may give you an idea of what the average salary is for a criminal profiler.

The FBI’s Behavior Science Unit offers full-time unpaid internship opportunities during the spring and fall semesters to qualified undergraduate, graduate, and post graduate students interested in exploring careers in criminal profiling.

As you consider your educational pathway to pursuing a career as a criminal profiler, you may consider taking courses like sociology of deviance, psychological factors of crime, and crime, deviation and conformity.

Criminologist

Criminologists typically work in local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. They are responsible for studying and analyzing the behavior and methods of criminals, in order to determine what motivates them. Once criminologists have identified criminal patterns, law enforcement uses the information to assess potential criminal situations, and to predict (and prevent) additional crime.Entry-level criminologists usually hold a bachelor’s degree in criminology, sociology or psychology.  However, many federal and private industry employers prefer that criminologists hold at least a master’s degree in behavioral science or a closely related field of study. Choosing to pursue a master’s degree from one of the top criminal justice graduate programs may take you up to two years to complete, but having an advanced degree can definitely give you a distinct advantage when competing for jobs in your field.According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment growth rate for criminologists is expected to be 18% between now and 2020. Even though individuals with advanced degrees will enjoy the best career opportunities, bachelor’s and master’s degree holders should do well in fields such as criminal justice, public policy, or victims services.

National salary data on PayScale.com indicates that criminologists can typically earn between $38,986 and $61,079, with a median annual salary of $46,464 as of February 2013. As a recent bachelor’s graduate, you can expect to generally start out toward the lower end of the pay range, and increase as you gain experience, certifications, and specialized training during the course of your career.

There are a wide variety of criminologist internships available to students enrolled in both on-campus and online criminal justice degree programs. Many internships are available through local, state, and federal law enforcement, corrections, victim services, and rehabilitative agencies. However, your school can be a good source for arranging internships also.

There are not any licensing requirements to enter the criminologist field. If you are considering pursuing a career as a criminologist, courses like correctional philosophy, psychological factors of crime, and meta-analysis in criminal justice are typically the types of classes enjoyed by others in your field.

Customs Agent

Customs border and protection officers, or customs agents, are federal law enforcement officers of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responsible for enforcing U.S. customs laws for every item or individual that enters or leaves the country. They are present at every international airport, seaport, and land border crossing to ensure to detect and confiscate smuggled goods, prevent individuals without legal authorization from entering the country, and to ensure import duties are paid.To qualify for the entry-level rank of GS-5, the lowest rank, you must have at least three years of general work experience that demonstrates your ability to interact well with people and to learn and apply information. If you do not have the required professional experience, a bachelor’s degree may be an acceptable substitute.Once hired, as a customs agent trainee, you are required to attend a one-month training program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC). During your training you’ll receive instruction in basic law enforcement skills, cross-cultural communications, entry and control procedures, and U.S. customs import and export laws. If you are selected for duty in area requiring knowledge of Spanish, you may receive an additional six weeks of language training if you do not pass a Spanish proficiency test.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate for this field is expected to grow by 7% between 2010 and 2020. Additionally, heightened security concerns regarding illegal immigration, terrorism, and gun trafficking has resulted in a need for qualified applicants, therefore, if you are bilingual, or have law enforcement or military experience, it is expected that you should have the best employment opportunities.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average annual border patrol agent salary was $55,010 in 2010.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)’s Career Interns program is available to undergraduate juniors and seniors, as well as students enrolled in criminal justice graduate programs. Career interns who successfully complete the educational requirements, and the career or degree-related work experience totaling 640 hours, will be considered for conversion to a permanent position upon completion of the program.

If you a considering a career as a customs agent, you may enjoy taking criminal justice courses like psychology of criminal behavior, drugs and crime, and deviance and social control.

Federal Special Agent

The role of federal special agents falls under the law enforcement category of the criminal justice system, but instead of being assigned to a single geographic area, the entire country is their jurisdiction. As the nation’s primary investigators, they are responsible for enforcing over 300 federal statutes and investigating criminal activities that threaten national security.

To meet the educational hiring requirement for a federal special agent, you must have, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and at least three years of professional work experience. You must also be able to pass physical, medical, and psychological exams in addition to a series of lie detector tests.

Along with the basic educational requirements, federal special agents must undergo an intensive 20-week training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. The training includes classroom and practical instruction in areas like national security investigations, interviewing, and criminal investigations.

Although BLS reports that the expected job growth for investigators in general will be 7%, it is also expected that federal special agent positions will remain competitive due to a higher rate of pay, opportunities for inter-agency transfers, and greater room for advancement and promotions. According to Payscale.com, the median salary for a federal special agent is $68,619.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) offers several 10-week summer internship opportunities to junior and senior undergraduate students interested in learning about FBI operations and exploring career opportunities with the Bureau. Students may work at one of 56 field office locations, FBI headquarters in Washington, DC, or the Criminal Justice Information Services Center in West Virginia.

If you are a student interested in federal special agent career opportunities or pursuing an online criminal justice degree, you may enjoy taking class like fundamentals of law, forensic science, or investigative and intelligence techniques.

Game Warden

Game wardens are commissioned peace officers who patrol the lands and waterways of their communities to enforce fishing, hunting, and boating safety laws. Game wardens may patrol borders as part of their state’s homeland security initiative, investigate environmental crimes, and conduct search-and-rescue operations in a state’s lakes and rivers. They also educate the public regarding environmental laws, assist other law enforcement agencies with apprehending criminals, and render aid during natural disasters, such as floods and hurricanes.

Game wardens typically have to meet specific hiring criteria, however, the requirements can vary greatly by state. Some states require candidates to have a high school diploma or general education equivalent (GED), while other states require game warden candidates to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Some hiring preference may be given to people with previous law enforcement experience.

Once hired, game warden cadets are required to attend a game warden training academy typically at the state’s game warden training center for, depending on the state, 18 to 36 weeks. During the training, they receive instruction in various subjects including wildlife and natural resource management, boat operations, defensive tactics, water rescue, homeland security, use of firearms, and law enforcement curriculum and tactics.

According to BLS, there will only be 400 new game warden positions will be created between 2010 and 2020, which is roughly a five percent growth between 2010 and 2020. Jobs for game wardens should remain competitive since state and federal agencies typically offer higher pay and more opportunities for advancement than local agencies. In addition, BLS also suggests that candidates who are bilingual, or who have law enforcement or military experience will find the best opportunities in federal agencies. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also reports that the median annual salary for game wardens in 2010 was $49,730.

There are several types of internships offered on the federal level by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The fish and game departments in most states also have their own internship programs, as well. For example, Trinity River NWR offers the Student Conservation Association (SCA) internship to college students interested in conservation. In addition to receiving a work assignment, interns also receive a weekly stipend, a place to live during their internship, and transportation for work.  In addition, students who satisfy the terms of their internship also receive an academic scholarship through the SCA Program.

If you are a criminal justice student interested in pursuing a career as a game warden, you may enjoy taking courses like public safety operations, wildlife management, and occupational crime.

Law Enforcement Officer

Law enforcement officers are responsible for maintaining public safety, preventing criminal activity, and apprehending criminal offenders within their jurisdiction. They also work with other agencies within the criminal justice system by helping to ensure violators are prosecuted by testifying in court, interviewing victims, and locating witnesses to crimes.Most police departments require applicants to have a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent, and some agencies require at least a criminal justice associate degree. However, you should have a bachelor’s degree or higher if you want to move up the ranks within a police department.

Before being sworn as a law enforcement officer, you must attend basic training at a police academy that, depending on your agency and location, may last from 12 weeks to over a year. During basic training, you will receive classroom and hands-on instruction in areas that will help you be successful as a law enforcement officer, such as community policing, use of force, self-defense, and ethics.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall job outlook for law enforcement officers is favorable. On the local level, the expected rate of employment growth is 7%, however, most municipal agencies experience high turnover rates that can create job opportunities for qualified applicants. On the other hand, it is estimated that the outlook for federal law enforcement officers will continue to be competitive because of higher salaries and more opportunities for advancement. BLS also reports that the average median salary for law enforcement officers in 2010 was $53,540.

College students studying criminal justice may apply to any one of the 12-week internship sessions held three times a year by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.  The program is   open to criminal justice seniors and graduate students. In addition, many local police departments have cadet programs, which allow qualified individuals who have not meet the hiring age requirement to gain work experience and receive training that prepares them to transition to a law enforcement officer position once they become eligible.

There are not any licensing or certification requirements for becoming a law enforcement officer. If you are considering becoming a cop, you may enjoy taking constitutional law and sociology. You may also consider taking a foreign language if you will be working in an urban area with diverse populations.

Military Police

Military police are charged with the duty of protecting the lives and property of enlisted personnel by enforcing military laws and regulations. They are also responsible for controlling traffic, preventing crime, and responding to emergencies on military bases. Similar to their civilian law enforcement counterparts, military police perform patrols; interview witnesses, victims, and suspects in investigations; conduct crime scene security processing; and arrest and charge criminal suspects.All branches of the Armed Forces require their members to be high school graduates or have equivalent credentials, such as a GED. However, if you are interested in becoming an officer, you will typically need to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree to qualify for officer training.To join the Army’s military police, you must first take the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). The ASVAB helps determine your suitability for certain occupations, and your score determines the types of training programs that may accept you. If you are accepted, you will then have to participate in a 20-week job training  program in addition to the on-the-job training in police methods you will receive.

During those 20 weeks, you will receive classroom and field instruction. Topics that are covered include basic warrior skills and use of firearms; traffic and crowd control; investigating and collecting evidence; military/civil laws and jurisdiction; and arrest and restraint of suspects.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook in the military should be very good. Although the number of active-duty personnel may decrease due to wars and regional conflicts, overall the size of the Armed Forces is expected to remain constant between now and 2020. In addition, as personnel move up the ranks, retire, or leave the service, there will be an increased need to fill entry-level positions.

The average base salary for an Army military police sergeant is $29,380. However, according to the Army, that salary is supplemented by $24,580 worth of benefits, including a housing and food allowance, special pay, health care, and tax advantages, making the net income for a military police sergeant around $53,960.

There are various internship opportunities available for students who participate in a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at their college or university, however, there are no internships available specifically for military police. Additionally, there are not any licensing requirements to meet prior to enlisting in the Armed Forces.

Although a degree is not required to become a military police officer, taking courses like police and society, criminal investigation, and theories of crime and deviance as part of a criminal justice degree can help prepare you for a variety of opportunities in this niche.

Parole Officer

Parole officers work with individuals who have been released from prison or jail and are serving parole until their actual sentence release date. The role of the parole officer is to aid in the offender’s rehabilitation and help them avoid returning to prison. Parole officers accomplish this by providing offenders with resources, such as family and substance abuse counseling, job training, or educational programs to help them re-enter society and change their behavior patterns to reduce the risk of recidivism.State and federal corrections and justice departments most often employ parole officers. To enter the field, you must have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field. Federal parole officers are typically required to have at an additional year of graduate-level studies in areas like social work, sociology, or counseling.Specialized parole officer education can typically include coursework in interviewing and counseling, juvenile processes, parole terminology, case law, adult criminal justice systems, statutes, fines and restitution, and court reports and presentations. These kinds of courses can help new parole officers gain the knowledge and develop the skills they need for success in their career.

As large numbers of existing parole officers are expected to retire within the next few years, there will be more new openings for qualified applicants, making the job outlook for parole officers solid. According to BLS, employment of parole officers will grow at a rate of 18% between 2010 and 2020. Parole officer salaries vary depending on experience, education, and location. The BLS reports that the median annual salary for this field was $47,200 in 2010.

Internships in this field provide students studying criminal justice the opportunity to gain working knowledge of the parole process and the day-to-day responsibilities of a parole officer. Typically, interns are allowed to handle many of the basic parole officer functions, including verifying offenders’ employment and residence information, assisting with offender background investigations, maintaining files and records, and entering information into the agency’s computerized database.

There are not any specific licensing requirements for parole officers. However, most states require parole officers to attain some form of certification once they have completed training and probationary programs.

Criminal justice students focusing on parole officer education may enjoy courses like race, gender, class and gender in a correctional context, or administration of community-based corrections programs.

Police Detective

Police detectives are ununiformed officers who collect evidence, investigate criminal activity, conduct interviews of suspects, witnesses, and victims, and arrest suspects.Typically, police detectives start out as patrol officers, so the entry-level criteria for detectives is the same as it is for cops. Also, like uniformed police officers, detectives are often called upon to testify in court to support a prosecution’s case against an offender. They also help district attorneys by ensuring the evidence they collect and the confessions they receive are admissible in court.

Police detectives must complete a few years as a patrol officer before being eligible to take a written examination that qualifies them to become detectives. Having a criminal justice degree may help you earn a higher salary as an officer, and may give you a competitive advantage when applying for detective and other promotions.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 119,400 criminal investigators and police detectives in the U.S. in 2010, and most of them worked for local police departments and the federal government. The BLS predicts that job opportunities in most local police departments will be good, but there will be a lot of competition for police jobs in state and federal agencies. The BLS also reports that in 2010 the  median annual salary for detectives and criminal investigators in the U.S. was $68,820.

If you are considering pursuing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, you may find taking courses like criminology and public policy, police administration, and criminal investigation interesting and beneficial.

Private Investigator

Private investigators are non-law enforcement detectives who conduct surveillance, find facts and information, and analyze and present their findings as it relates to their clients’ personal, legal, and business matters. They provide many services, including tracing missing persons, conducting background checks, and investigating suspected criminal activity. In many cases, their investigation can overlap with a criminal investigation being conducted by law enforcement officers. They may also be called upon to share their findings with the authorities and to testify in court.Although most private investigators have some college credentials, most firms do not have formal education requirements, and private investigators typically learn on the job.

In addition to learning how to collect data, private investigators need to acquire industry-specific knowledge to succeed in their field. For example, investigators may need to study accounting, finance, business management, and fraud prevention to be effective as corporate investigators. Or, they may choose to go into criminal investigations, which would call for a degree in criminal justice, criminology, or law enforcement.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the best opportunities will be found in entry-level investigative work for people with previous law enforcement or military experience. The job outlook for private investigators is still quite positive, in general. There were 34,700 private investigators employed in 2010, and BLS predicts the field will experience a 21 percent increase in growth by 2020, which is faster than all other occupations are expected to grow. The anticipated growth stems from increased security concerns and the increased demand to protect confidential data and property from theft and exploitation. According to BLS, the average median pay for private investigators was $42,870 in 2010.

Although there are no formal educational requirements, most states require private investigators to become licensed. The licensing requirements vary significantly from state to state. For example in Texas, the Texas Department of Public Safety requires that an individual has at least a year of work experience with a registered licensed security company and completion of five levels of security and investigation training to qualify for a private investigator license. However, in Florida, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Licensing, only requires that an applicant complete the first 24 hours of an approved 40-hour course to satisfy the training requirement.

Students interested in private investigations may be also interested in courses like policing, investigative function, and organized crime in America.

Probation Officer

The terms probation officer and parole officer are often used interchangeably, however, the two positions are actually different. Probation officers work with offenders who have been convicted of a crime, but were granted probation in lieu of jail time, and parole officers work with offenders who have served jail time. Probation officers develop and implement rehabilitation plans that include home and work visits, counseling referrals, and overseeing drug tests and electronic monitoring to ensure the offender doesn’t endanger anyone or themselves. Except for in very small or rural areas, probation officers typically work with either adults or juveniles, but not both.Typically, agencies require probation officers to have a bachelor’s degree in corrections, criminal justice, or another closely related field. However, if you don’t have related work experience, you may be required to have a master’s degree in criminal justice or corrections as a substitute for experience. In general, some states require probation officers to complete a training program sponsored by the state before seeking certification, and others require an on-the-job probationary period of six months to one year before being allowed to take a certification exam.In addition to college courses, probation officers can participate in professional development training that helps to develop skills in areas like social perceptiveness, inductive reasoning, judgment and decision making, problem sensitivity, and maintaining interpersonal relationships, all of which can help probation officers do their jobs well.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (BLS), the employment growth rate for probation officers is expected to be 18% through 2020, which is average for all occupations. It is also predicted that the job outlook for probation officers will remain stable due to a large number of the workforce that will retire in the coming years. Also, the acceptance of community-based corrections programs has led to decreased sentencing, which also increases the need for probation officers.

The BLS also reports that the median annual salary for probation officers was $47,200 in 2010, however, the upper 10 percent earned more than $80,750. Because actual salaries vary depending on experience and education, it may be worth the investment to pursue a master’s degree in criminal justice or a similar subject to increase your earning potential.

Probation officer internships can provide criminal justice students with the opportunity to gain practical experience. Interns are usually assigned tasks related to low-level offenders, like verifying offenders’ employment and residence information, assisting with offender background investigations, maintaining files and records, and entering information into the agency’s computerized database.

There are not any specific licensing requirements for employment as probation officers. However, most states require probation officers to attain certification once they have completed training and probationary programs.

As a criminal justice student interested in a career as a probation officer, you may consider taking courses like theories of crime prevention, criminal justice ethics, or juvenile delinquency.

Security Officer

The security officer’s role in the criminal justice system is to deter criminal activity, enforce laws, and to monitor all levels of activity to protect property against theft, defacement, fire, and other forms of illegal activity. Security officers accomplish this by monitoring alarms and surveillance cameras, controlling access to specified areas, interviewing witnesses in case of court testimony, and detaining criminal offenders for the police.In most cases, employers require security officers to have a high school diploma or a GED. Employers who hire armed security officers, however, typically give preference to applicants who have completed some criminal justice coursework or who have law enforcement experience.For the most part, you do not need to have any specific training to qualify for a security officer position, as most employers provide on-the-job training to new officers. The specific type and amount of training you may receive varies and is dependent on the type of security work you are hired to do. ASIS International, an organization of security practitioners, has developed training guidelines that recommend 8 to 16 hours of on-the-job training in addition to 8 hours of annual training. In general, training typically covers emergency response protocol, first aid, public relations, detention of suspects, and report writing.

The guidelines also recommend annual firearms training for armed officers as required by the state in which they work. If you are interested in becoming an armed security officer, your training will be more rigorous and involve training in use of force and weapons retention. You may also be tested periodically in the use of firearms.

Industry sources indicate that as concerns about terrorism and crime continue to rise, the need for the protection of people and property will also rise. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the employment rate for security officers to grow by 19% between 2010 and 2020, which translates to around 195,000 new positions becoming available during that time frame. Although many people are drawn to the field because of the low training requirements and part-time employment positions, the field experiences a great deal of turnover, which will create additional job opportunities. Security officers with related experience, such as a background in law enforcement or a criminal justice degree, will be the most competitive and secure the best prospects.

The average median wage for security officers is $23,920, however, the top 10% of security officers earned $41,680.  If you have professional experience and more education, it can translate into a higher pay rate for you. Taking classes like public safety operations, criminal justice ethics, and police community relations can help to give you a competitive edge in the job market.

Security officers are required to be licensed in most states. Although specific requirements vary by state, in general, you should be at least 18 years of age, pass a criminal background check, not have a history of drug use, and complete the required amount of training. Also, if you want to become an armed security officer, attaining a firearm license is a separate process. In some states, the licensing agency is the Department of Public Safety, and in others it is the Division of Licensing. It is advisable that you check with the state in which you will work to verify the specific agency and requirements for your situation.

If you are considering pursuing a security guard career, classes like police function, criminal justice ethics, and police and society may be of interest to you.

Sociologist

Sociologists working in the criminal justice system study how social influences affect individuals and groups, especially in the context of the social forces related to crime and delinquency. They also examine how criminal justice agencies and institutions affect people’s lives.  The findings of their sociological studies can help lawmakers and law enforcement develop, implement, and evaluate public and crime control policies.Generally, the entry-level educational requirement for sociologists is a masters’ degree. If you are interested in becoming a sociologist within the criminal justice system, you may consider earning a bachelor’s degree sociology with a specialization in criminal justice and a master’s degree in sociology to prepare for a sociologist career.According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment growth rate for sociologists is expected to be 18% between now and 2020. It is expected that the growth can be attributed to the use of sociological research in policy development, and in the research of social issues, problems, or programs. BLS goes on to report that the median annual salary of sociologists was $72,360 in 2010.

As a recent graduate, you should expect your actual salary to vary, depending on your degree level, years of relevant experience, and geographical location. For example, the lowest 10%  of sociologists earned less than $44,000, while the top 10% earned close to $130,000 in 2010.

There are a wide variety of internships available to undergraduate and graduate students of criminal justice who want to explore sociologist careers. Typically, most sociology and criminal justice-oriented internships are available through local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, juvenile justice departments, adult corrections agencies, and criminal law organizations.

There are not any licensing requirements for becoming a sociologist. If you are considering pursuing a career as a sociologist, courses like current social problems, sociology of crime and punishment, and structure factors in crime are typically the types of classes that may be enjoyed by other students in your field.

Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse counselors in the criminal justice system typically work with either adult or juvenile offenders and their parole or probation officers to provide assessments, education, and treatment plans to help offenders recover drug and alcohol addiction. Substance abuse counselors also provide group and individual counseling to inmates, offenders on probation, parolees, and the families of the offenders.Depending on the type of work, state regulations, level of responsibility, and the counseling setting, the educational requirements for substance abuse counselors can range from a high school diploma or equivalent to a master’s degree. However, substance abuse counselors working in private practice must have a master’s degree and a state license to practice counseling. As part of the licensing requirement, you will need to complete 2,000 to 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. That is a substantial time commitment, as it will take you anywhere from one year to 18 months to complete the required number of hours working 40 hours each week. If you work part-time, it may take you even longer.According the BLS, the employment of substance abuse counselors is expected to grow by 27 percent through 2020. They speculate the fast rate of growth will be due to the criminal justice system’s attempt to curb offender recidivism by requiring substance abuse treatment as part of an offender’s sentence, or in lieu of jail time.

The BLS also reports that the average annual salary for substance abuse counselors was $38,120 in 2010. However, salaries are determined by location, education, and experience. For example, the lowest 10% of substance abuse counselors earned less than $25,000, while the upper 10% earned over $60,000.  Therefore, earning a master’s degree in counseling, criminology, psychology, or a related subject could be a very good investment in your career.

Students pursuing an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree should be able to secure internship opportunities through hospitals, human and social services organizations, mental health outpatient centers, and residential substance abuse and mental health facilities. Schools with criminal justice programs may also be able to help you connect with criminal justice professionals to arrange substance abuse counseling internship opportunities within the context of corrections.

Licensing is required for substance abuse counselors in private practice. Specific licensing requirements vary from state to state, however, general requirements include holding a master’s degree, completion of 2,000 to 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience, and a passing score on a state-approved licensing exam. Additionally, the requirements for substance abuse counselors who do not operate in private practice are also different. Therefore, it is recommended that you contact your state’s regulating board and your state’s licensing board to verify the actual licensing requirements for your state.

In addition to mandated licensing, substance abuse counselors may also seek voluntary certification. The certified criminal justice professional (CCJP) credential, also known as certified criminal justice addiction professional certification, is for criminal justice professionals who provide treatment services to adult and juvenile drug offenders. If you have a criminal justice degree, it may be possible to apply your bachelor’s or master’s degree towards the certification’s education requirements. Becoming certified demonstrates professional competency in your field.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in substance abuse counseling, you may also be interested in taking courses like drugs and crime; alcohol, drugs, and society, and sociology of crime and punishment.

Transportation Security Administration Officer

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers are security guards responsible for protecting people, property, equipment, and freight at airports, seaports, and rail terminals. Their primary duties include screening passengers and baggage for weapons, explosives and illegal items; guarding vehicles to ensure nothing is stolen during loading or unloading; and watching for criminal activity.The hiring requirements for TSA officers include a high school diploma or GED and at least one year of security-related work experience. TSA officers must also pass a background check, drug screening, and physical exam. TSA officer candidates are required to complete a basic training program that includes at least 40 hours of classroom instruction and 60 hours of on-the-job training to achieve initial certification as a check point TSA officer.  Students interested in pursuing supervisory TSA officer positions are encouraged to consider completing a criminal justice associate degree for a more competitive edge.According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of TSA officers is anticipated to grow by 10% through 2020, which is about average for all occupations. The average median salary for TSA officers in 2010, as reported by BLS, was $37,070.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) offers several paid and unpaid internship opportunities in its various operation areas, including transportation security, management, administration, and professional services to undergraduate and graduate students.  As a criminal justice student, you may consider taking courses like criminology, theory and practice of crime prevention, and terrorism.

From paralegal to judge, the legal careers listed below will expand your understanding of legal paths you can take. Some require advanced degrees, but many are viable alternatives post-graduation.

Attorney (Defense)

Defense attorneys are lawyers who specialize in representing or advocating for the accused in criminal court cases. They are usually either hired by individual clients or by the government as public defenders.To become a lawyer, you typically need to complete at least seven years of full-time study after high school, which includes a four-year undergraduate degree and three years of law school. Earning a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) and passing your state’s bar exam should allow you to practice law in your state.Before you can begin your studies, most law schools require you to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), which measures your aptitude for the study of law. LSAT scores are usually a determining factor in law school admission, so it is important that you prepare for the exam. In law school, you will study subjects like civil action, criminal procedure, legal research and writing, property law, criminal law, and constitutional law. You may also choose a specialization, such as family or corporate law, while in law school.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts a 10% growth in the employment of defense attorneys between 2010 and 2020. However, even with the 73,600 new jobs expected to be added during that timeframe, competition is expected to be strong due to economic factors and budget constraints potentially negatively affecting hiring trends.

According to BLS, the average annual salary of defense lawyers was $112,760 during 2010. The actual income of a new defense attorney income can vary depending on factors such as whether you open your own practice, work for a large law firm, or work for the government as a public defender.

Typically, law students are able to gain practical experience by participating in internship programs sponsored by their schools, or by securing summer jobs in a variety of legal environments, including law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies. In addition, agencies like the U.S. Department of Justice offers several paid and unpaid internship opportunities in its management offices, litigating divisions, legal and policy offices and investigatory and law enforcement offices to undergraduate and graduate students.

Specific procedures vary by state, but in general, attorneys must become licensed by passing the written bar exam upon completion of law school. Since the exam is administered through each state, you must pass the bar in each state you would like to work. Some states also require attorneys to pass ethics exams and other state-specific tests.

Students considering becoming defense attorneys typically enjoy courses like the law of deprivation of liberty, law and science in criminal justice, and evidentiary issues in criminal justice.

Attorney (Prosecutor)

Prosecutors are licensed lawyers who are either elected or hired to represent local, state, and federal governments in criminal cases against individuals or groups charged with criminal activity. They work closely with law enforcement officers, participate in criminal investigations, interview witnesses and victims, present evidence in court, and help to determine the punishment or settlement criminal defendants should receive.To become an attorney, you typically need to complete at least seven years of full-time study after high school, which includes a four-year undergraduate degree and three years of law school. Earning a juris doctor (J.D.) degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) and passing your state’s bar exam should allow you to practice law in your state.Before you can begin your studies, most law schools require you to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The LSAT measures necessary qualities to succeed in law school, such as reading comprehension, logic, reasoning, and analytical thinking skills. Admission to law school competitive and the test scores are usually a determining factor in law school admission, so it is important that you prepare for the exam. During the first half of law school, you will learn fundamental aspects of the law such as civil procedure, legal research and writing, property law, and constitutional law. In the second half of law school, you may choose a specialization, such as tax or criminal law.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts a 10% growth in the employment of prosecution attorneys between 2010 and 2020. The growth is attributed to the continued need for prosecution lawyers in federal government to prosecute civil and criminal cases on behalf of the United States.

According to BLS, the average annual salary of defense lawyers was $112,760 during 2010. During the same year, the lowest 10% earned less than $54,130 and the top 10 percent earned more than $166,400. Your actual income as a new prosecution attorney income will vary depending on factors such as size of agency, government level, and geographic location.

Law students have a variety of internship opportunities to choose from to gain exposure and practical experience. You can participate in internship programs sponsored by your school or secure a summer job in a variety of legal environments, including law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies. Also, the U.S. Department of Justice offers undergraduate and graduate students several paid and unpaid internship opportunities in its litigating divisions, legal and policy offices, and investigatory offices.

Although specific procedures vary by state, in general, attorneys must become licensed by passing the written bar exam upon completion of law school. Since the exam is administered through each state, you must pass the bar in each state you would like to work. Some states also require attorneys to pass ethics exams and other state-specific tests.

Students interested in becoming prosecution attorneys typically enjoy courses like the law and the legal system, constitutional criminal procedure, and legal foundations of the trial process.

Court Reporter

Court reporters are critical to the field of criminal justice because they are able to create verbatim and accurate transcripts of legal proceedings, meetings, depositions, and speeches. Their responsibilities include ensuring legal records are complete, accurate, and secure. Most court reporters receive their education at either a community college or vocational school. The programs are varied, depending on the transcription method learned, so the amount of time it takes to complete training can be from six months for a certificate to two to four years for an associate’s degree. Additionally, court reporter training programs usually include English grammar and phonetics, legal procedures, and legal terminology courses.Court reporters are also required to meet on-the-job training requisites upon completion of a training program. Certified court reporters are also required to complete online training and continuing education classes to maintain their National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) certification. Lastly, licensed court reporters must also meet their state’s licensing continuing education requirements as well.The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment of court reporters will grow by 14% by 2020. The anticipated employment growth is attributed to the increased use of court reporters outside the traditional legal setting. Court reporter services are currently being used for closed captioning on the Internet and on television. In addition, court reporters with real-time captioning experience and Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) will have the best job prospects.

In 2010, there were approximately 22,000 court reporters working in the U.S., and over half worked in state and local government. The median annual wage for court reporters was $47,700 that same year.

There are internship opportunities for court reporting students wanting to gain practical experience by applying their classroom knowledge to real-life situations. Your school should be your first point of reference for approved work sites if you need to complete an internship for graduation. However, court reporting agencies like AccuScript, Inc. offer working and student internships that allow students to explore careers as freelance court reporters and to help students transition smoothly from court reporting student to professional court reporter.

Court reporting students may find taking courses like business and professional writing, introduction to law and the legal system, and basic computer skills for legal professionals useful.

Judge

Judges commonly preside over trials or hearings regarding nearly every aspect of society on the municipal, state, and federal levels. They ensure proceedings are orderly and fair. Judges also interpret the law and apply precedent with the objective of protecting the legal rights of both the prosecution and the defense. They also give directions to the jury in a jury trial, or they rule on a defendant’s innocence or guilt in trials without a jury.For the most part, judges are required to have a law degree. Earning a law degree usually takes seven years of full-time study after high school that includes four years in undergraduate studies and three years in law school. Most judges have years of experience working as an attorney before being elected or appointed into judgeship.All judges in each state must go through some form or training or orientation. Judicial training is provided by agencies such as the National Judicial College, the Federal Judicial Center, the American Bar Association, and the National Center for State Courts. Continuing education courses are also required by most states, and can vary in length from a few days to a few weeks. Also, federal administrative law judges are required to be lawyers and to pass an exam administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, very little change is expected in federal and state judgeships because each new position that comes available due to death, retirement, or expiration of term must be authorized and approved by state or federal legislature. Therefore, employment of judges is expected to grow by seven percent through 2020, which is slower than average for all occupations. In 2010, the median annual salary for judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates was $119,270, while the average salary for administrative law judges was $85,500.

There are not really any internships for judges, as the individuals typically appointed or elected into judgeships have considerable law experience from working as attorneys. However, for students interested in criminal justice internships, the U.S. Department of Justice has a listing of the paid and unpaid internship opportunities available in several agencies.

There are not any licensing requirements specific to the position of judge; however, most judges are required to be licensed to practice law. Since many judges were lawyers before they became judges, they already hold a license.

Students interested in pursuing a career as a judge typically enjoy courses like the specific problems in law and social control, capital punishment, and juvenile justice.

Paralegal

A paralegal (or legal assistant) works in private law firms or government agencies. Depending on their experience and education, paralegals can perform many of the same tasks an attorney would. Paralegals help lawyers prepare for hearings, trials, depositions, and meetings. Additionally, paralegals may also investigate the facts of a case, draft pleadings and motions, or conduct legal research.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it is projected that employment of paralegals will grow by 18 percent between 2010 and 2020. This growth is attributed to things like law firms cutting costs by using more paralegals to reduce overhead, and corporations hiring paralegals as part of an in-house legal system to avoid the high cost of having law firms on retainer.

Competition for jobs is expected to remain strong, but paralegals who are formally trained, have experience, and who are specialized will have the best job prospects. Aundrea mentioned that freelance paralegals face a different set of challenges in the fact that, even though they have the freedom to be their own bosses, they don’t spend as much time doing actual “paralegal work”—this is because they have to balance their roles as paralegals with being entrepreneurs.

The BLS also reports that the average annual salary of paralegals was $46,68 in 2010, while the lowest 10% earned less than $29,460, and the top 10% earned in excess of $74,870.  Actual salaries vary, depending on geographic location, degree level, professional experience, and the size of your employer.

Most paralegal training programs will offer you an opportunity to participate in an internship in which you can gain practical experience by working in a corporate legal department, a public defender’s or attorney general’s office, a law firm, or a nonprofit legal aid organization. Internships typically are for several months, and can sometimes lead to a permanent position.

There are not any licensing requirements to become a paralegal, however, most employers expect paralegals to seek voluntary certification through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). If you are considering a career as a paralegal, you may enjoy taking courses like introduction to criminal justice, courts and criminal justice, and legal foundations of the trial process.