Inside Criminal Justice: Degrees, Careers and the System
“To enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law.”
Upholding the law, protecting citizens, preventing and solving crime and prosecuting lawbreakers are some of the duties that criminal justice professionals work toward. There are many different departments, positions and subject areas within criminal justice, each at local, state and federal levels. All of these individual entities work together to help keep the country safe and secure.
The Department of Justice includes more than 50 agencies that cover everything from the legal system and tax division to drug enforcement and violent crimes. Some of these agencies, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), cover a wide array of subject areas, while others have a more narrow focus, like the Office on Violence Against Women.
Since criminal justice incorporates so many different areas, there is an abundance of education and career options in this field.
Criminal Justice Associate Degrees
Criminal justice programs can be found at any level of education, as well as on-campus or online. Associate degrees in criminal justice can prepare a student for a variety of jobs including security, loss prevention and court clerks.
An associate’s degree can even help with becoming a police officer, though additional training in a police academy would be needed. Classes in a two-year criminal justice program may include topics like law and public policy, basics in forensic science and the role of law enforcement in society.
Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degrees
Bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice can be general or specialized in a particular area, like corrections or law enforcement. Some programs may have specific graduation requirements regarding GPA or coursework needed.
Depending upon the focus of the student, criminal justice bachelor’s programs can cover areas like parole and probation, courtroom protocol or crime scene investigation. A bachelor’s degree is required for certain federal positions and may also help a graduate work in positions like corrections or parole officers.
Criminal Justice Master’s Degrees
Master’s degree programs allow students to delve deeply into their desired subject area. Students in these programs often get to combine hands-on experience with intensive research. Some master’s programs require students to write a thesis before graduating. A bachelor’s degree and particular Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores may be necessary to get into a master’s program in criminal justice.
Coursework is contingent upon the program and specialties. Some courses in criminal justice master’s programs include policy analysis, applied statistics, criminal profiling and forensic identification. Leadership positions may require master’s degrees. Other career options include criminal justice administration and investigative consulting work.
Criminal Justice Careers
There are plenty of specialized careers in the criminal justice field, including:
- Computer forensics. Uncovering information, evidence or potential threats through digital means is what computer forensics is about. Working in this field may include analyzing data for reporting or giving testimony in legal cases.
- Crime scene investigator. Collecting evidence from crime scenes and analyzing what it means is the job of crime scene investigators. Their work helps to find the information needed to solve crimes.
- FBI agent. Working as an agent for the FBI is a prestigious and demanding job. Agents protect the entire country and work with law enforcement agencies to solve crimes and defend against threats.
- Forensic accountant. Examining financial records to uncover illegal activity like corruption or embezzlement is the role of a forensic accountant. This position exists in the public and private sector and can be done at a state or federal level.
- Forensic psychologist. Studying human behavior is an essential part of solving crimes and determining the mental state of victims and law violators. Forensic psychologists work to examine and evaluate people involved in criminal cases. They also may serve as expert witnesses during trials.
With so many education options and a wealth of potential careers available, criminal justice is a field bursting with opportunity. Working in this industry helps the entire country, so it is a very rewarding career path. The first step to pursuing a criminal justice degree is figuring out which education option matches a person’s interests. Getting a good criminal justice education can help lead to a fulfilling professional career.