If looking for a career in criminal justice, there are almost endless opportunities for qualified people with the right outlook. Many criminal justice careers require a degree, but college isn’t the only route to a career in police work, security, criminal law, government, or correctional work. Read on for essential criminal justice career information.
What is Criminal Justice
Criminal justice includes many forms of government crime deterrents, social control, and the punishment and rehabilitation of people who commit crimes. As such, it includes lawmakers, lawyers, political jobs, law enforcement such as police officers, criminal psychologists, police detectives, corrections and probations officers, and many more. Criminal justice also includes security guards and other non-government careers.
What all of these jobs have in common is their commitment to others and to upholding the laws that ensure that innocent people are protected and criminals are dealt with appropriately.
What Can a College Grad Do With a Criminal Justice Degree
There are dozens of different career opportunities available to anyone with a criminal justice college degree. Criminal justice degrees open doors to work as a:
- Coast guard
- Corrections officer
- Court officer
- Court reporter
- Crime scene investigator
- Customs and immigration officer
- Forensic investigator
- Insurance and fraud investigator
- Police detective
- Police officer
- Private investigator
- Probation officer
- Security guard
- Victim service or youth justice worker
Criminal Justice Careers
Criminal justice degrees may be specific in their focus or very general, allowing graduates a great deal of flexibility in choosing a career, as well as the background and training to work in several areas in criminal justice and investigations.
Police officers, security guards, corrections officers and private investigators have fast-moving, vitally important work that protects the lives and interests of people every day. A court officer, probation officer, or forensic scientist, on the other hand, is involved in a different side of criminal investigations, and works at a more meticulous and thoughtful pace.
One of the most important skills for anyone pursing a degree that will lead to a career in criminal justice is strong communication skills. Both written and spoken language skills are paramount in every type of criminal justice work, even those positions that don’t require a degree. The ability to connect with people and create rapport is very helpful for careers in police, detective, court or legal positions. Flexibility, integrity, and a willingness to work long hours are important in all of these careers.
Criminal Justice Online College Degree Options
Online degrees in criminal justice have become some of the most popular and fastest growing distance learning programs. Online colleges and universities offer criminal justice degrees at all levels, from associate degrees to PhDs, and students have the option to major in a growing number of specialties.
For students who are interested in pursuing an online degree in criminal justice, here are some of the options available for specialization.
Online Degrees in Law Enforcement and Administration
Associate and bachelor’s degrees in law enforcement offer students fundamental information about police procedures, crime prevention, and theories of crime and criminal behavior. Some students take these programs in conjunction with police training programs to become officers. Other graduates become corrections officers, probation officers, and private security guards, while some go into victim services or court administration. This specialty also can be a useful choice for students who plan to go to law school or to become a paralegal.
Masters and doctoral degrees in law enforcement and administration equip students with a more sophisticated and theoretical understanding of criminal behavior, prevention, and psychology. These programs typically prepare students for leadership and administrative positions in law enforcement.
Online Degrees in Corrections
Many online colleges offer a specialty in corrections facilities and management. These degrees are designed to help prepare students to work as jail or prison wardens or in jail and prison administration. Other graduates with this degree become bailiffs, who assist with security in courtrooms. Since corrections officers are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, this specialty can be essential for individuals who want to go into this area.
Distance Learning Degrees in Forensics
Forensic science is the study of physical evidence for the purpose of solving crimes, and thus this degree has a much stronger emphasis in science than other criminal justice degrees. Many forensics students earn a general degree in forensic sciences, and then earn an advanced degree in a specialized area of the discipline. Specialties include everything from forensic toxicology (the study of poisons), forensic geology (the study of soil and similar residue found at crime scenes), and forensic DNA analysis.
Online Degrees in Homeland Security
Since the 9/11 attacks, homeland security has become a quickly growing area of criminal justice, and many online colleges and universities offer degrees in this area. Homeland security professionals learn skills that are needed to protect their countries from outside enemies, and also learn to secure the security of the nation from serious inside threats. Some homeland security programs overlap with public safety programs and offer courses in how to protect the public in times of national disaster.
The Growing Array of Online Degrees in Criminal Justice
Criminal justice is a growing field, both because of terrorist attacks and because of the growth in criminal justice technology. There are hundreds of online colleges and universities criminal justice programs and specialties, so it’s important for students to do their research and find the programs best suited for their career goals and interests.