Career Possibilities With a Criminal Justice Degree

If you’re searching for a degree that’s flexible while offering skills that are viable in a host of career paths, then a criminal justice degree may be your ideal choice. Criminal justice degrees are available in a myriad of types, ranging from a two-year associate’s degree to an advanced master’s degree. While certain job opportunities are only available to those with a higher degree level, a two or four-year criminal justice degree opens a wide array of jobs and careers within the crime or justice industries. The following is only a sample of possible careers with a criminal justice degree.

Law Enforcement

There is no shortage of job openings for those looking to get into a law enforcement. Jobs are available on the local and county levels all the way up to state and federal levels. Within this industry, you’re given a host of options, such as an entry-level sheriff’s deputy to an advanced-ranking FBI official. Those who have little experience will likely find more opportunities on the local level of law enforcement.

Maybe you’ve always wanted to become a police officer – then checkout YourPoliceCareer for a great resource. But maybe you’ve wanted to work in law enforcement, but not as a traditional police officer. What then? Don’t worry, you’re still in luck. A criminal justice degree may allow students to be employed in different forms of law enforcement. Examples of such career options include:

Advancing to Other Criminal Justice Professions

While other careers, such as those that involve investigation and corrections, are possible, many may desire a more advanced-level career. One of the most beneficial aspects of a criminal justice degree is its ability to set the foundation for advanced degrees and specializations.

In most cases, you may obtain a two or four-year degree in criminal justice and then seek a higher education in a related specialty. However, some students may find it beneficial to major in criminal justice and minor in a related field. By doing so, you’re increasing possible career opportunities and are provided with a more well-rounded education this dynamic and complex industry demand.

The following careers require additional training in other fields, but with a foundation in criminal justice, these career options are obtainable by most students. These career options include:

  • Counselors
  • Court System Support Staff (bailiffs, court clerks, etc.)
  • Prosecution Attorneys
  • Defense Attorneys
  • Criminal Justice Teachers
  • Medical Examiners
  • Coroner
  • Judge

Common Myths About the Criminal Justice System

It seems America has an obsession with crime and criminals. With hundreds of movies, television shows and books designed around this industry, it’s no surprise that millions are interested in pursuing a career within the criminal justice system. If you’re considering a move into this challenging and reward industry, there are several myths you must understand are nothing more than media hype and misunderstandings. In order to gain a better understanding of this dynamic industry, take a moment to review the top common criminal justice system myths propagated across the internet.

Myth #1 – Investigations Are Dangerous and Result in Shootouts and Car Chases

While this is definitely a possibility for some professionals involved within the criminal justice system, it is far from commonplace. To help clarify this myth, let’s take a look at the latest statistics involving gun-related deaths caused during an investigation. Out of the 92 police officers that died while in the line of duty in 2013, only 47 of these were killed intentionally – or during a shootout. Have images of police chases causing car accidents and violence throughout neighborhood streets? Unfortunately, this is far from the case. 96 percent of police departments carefully pursue suspects while 40 percent of law enforcement agencies end high-speed chases the moment a suspect has been identified. This means, once the driver and occupants are identified, the chase ends and other methods of capture are used.

Myth #2 – Fingerprint Identification is the Best Way to Catch a Criminal

While TV shows convey fingerprinting as the “go to” for solving crimes, this is far from the truth. In fact, only one in four criminal lab investigations include workable fingerprints. Moreover, just to give an idea of how this little piece of evidence is relied upon, there are nearly 2,000 mistaken fingerprint matches in the United States per year. Therefore, criminal investigators must rely on far more than a fingerprint left on a coffee mug to solve a crime.

Myth #3 – Our Streets Are Filled With Serial Killers

While the notion of serial killers lurking among civilians on the subway make for an excellent crime novel, the truth is far less intriguing. In fact, less than one percent of all murders in the United States are done by a “serial killer.” Moreover, over 81 percent of all murder cases in the United States involve only one victim and one murderer.

Myth #4 – Gathering Evidence Only Takes a Few Minutes… Like in the TV Shows

While physical evidence is the cornerstone for the majority of crimes, tangible physical evidence is quite difficult to locate and process. Unlike what is shown on television shows and in movies, processing biological evidence doesn’t take hours, or even days. To gather tangible biological evidence, the process can take months. In fact, only two thirds of all biological evidence gathered from crime scenes is utilized and examined. Moreover, less than one percent of all crimes are solved through the assistance of DNA.

For more, see the Top Ten Law Related Movies Every US Law Student Should See.

Guide to Becoming a Probation Officer

Probation officers play a direct role in supervising convicted offenders who were given a non-correctional facility sentence. If you’re searching for a career that’s challenging, but also one that can make a significant difference in the life of a convicted offender, then you should consider a career as a probation officer. While this, and many others, criminal justice system careers are not for the weak-spirited, its challenges are only matched by its rewards. Those seeking to start a career as a probation officer, must gain a solid understanding of its education and training pathways.

Educational Requirements for Probation Officers

While each state determines the final requirements for those seeking to start a career as a probation officer, most require aspiring officers to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Those seeking a “leg up” from their competition should major in criminal justice with an emphasis in corrections or law enforcement. Along with a bachelor’s degree, some states require aspiring probation officers to successfully obtain a federal or state government sponsored certificate program. These certificate programs typically take less than one year to complete. Contact your state board of licensing to determine whether or not this certificate is required, and how to begin the process.

Although most choose a general criminal justice degree program, there are several specialized criminal justice degree programs available to those seeking enhanced advancement and employment opportunities. Perhaps the most common specialized probation officer programs include: adult criminal probation, juvenile probation processes and substance abuse probation specializations.

Of course, those who wish to enter this field in a position for advancement should consider obtaining a master’s degree in criminal justice with an emphasis in corrections or criminal psychology. Upon completing these degree pathways, you’re set up to enter the workforce in a Mangagement-level position.


Because of the nature of this profession, many probation officers are required to undergo specific examinations before entering the workforce. Aspiring probation officers may be required to undergo extensive psychological and physical exams to ensure they are mentally and physically fit for the requirements of this position. Depending on the state, in order to begin working they may be required to undergo certification examinations, which cover topics related to probation. Topics covered within these examinations typically include: reading comprehension, investigative issues, probation concepts, probation theories and relationship techniques between officers and probationers.

In order to gain state-specific information, contact your state board of licensing. You may also find this information by navigating your Web browser to the State Department of Law Enforcement. This department typically oversees certification and training requirements for probation officers – along with other careers within the law enforcement industry.

The Difference Between Criminal Justice and Criminology

If you’re interested in beginning a career within the criminal justice system, then you’ve likely come across advertisements and college brochure’s proclaiming the wonders of their criminal justice program. However, there’s a mass amount of confusion among those wishing to enter this field; what’s the difference between criminal justice and criminology degrees? While on its surface, it may seem these two training programs are identical; however, as you delve deeper, you’ll soon realize these are two completely separate training programs. If you’re interested in starting a career in this industry, then it’s essential to understand which of these two degrees you should pursue.

Differences Between Criminal Justice and Criminology

In public forums, the terms “criminology” and “criminal justice” are often used interchangeably. This is unfortunate, as it causes a vast amount of confusion among those wishing to embark in this rewarding educational system. In order to understand the differences between these two educational pathways, you must understand what each program covers.

Criminal justice is the study of established justice systems, and it’s directly related to the processes involved in law enforcement, such as criminal prosecution and handling criminals within the court system. Criminology, on the other hand, delves into the anatomy of crimes. While criminal justice also accomplishes this task, criminology delves far deeper into crime anatomy – specially detailing its causes.

In other words, criminology is the official study of crime in the sociological level. These professionals analyze, study, advice and research all aspects of human behavior and how this behavior led to a crime.

Essentially, criminology and criminal justice go hand-in-hand, as criminal justice is the theoretical and practical application of criminology. While criminology studies crime, criminal justice responds to crimes and its offenders and victims. There are three primary components of criminal justice: law enforcement, crime investigation and criminal punishment/rehabilitation.

Because criminal justice cannot operate without criminology, and vice-versa, it’s no surprise those seeking to enter this field of study become confused. However, with this better understanding, you’re able to decide which viewpoint you’d wish to approach this industry. Perhaps the most effective way to determine which educational pathway is best for you is to fully research the course offerings found within criminal justice or criminology degree programs. Contact your local college or university, or visit any number of websites that provide information on security guard license programs to uncover specific online criminal justice courses. It’s with this understanding you’ll be able to fully understand which is best for your career goals and desires.

The Importance of Applied Crime Mapping in Criminal Justice

Much like any other degree, in order to truly understand if a criminal justice degree is appropriate for you, you must learn what courses are required. The required coursework for a criminal justice degree program varies based upon several factors. The first of these is the level of degree you wish to earn (associate’s, bachelor’s, etc.), and the second factor being the teaching institution. Regardless of degree level, applied crime mapping is an essential coursework. Typically found in the core curriculum section of your degree, applied crime mapping is utilized by professionals throughout the criminal justice system. If you wish to work for federal agencies, such as the FBI or CIA, then you must gain a full understanding of crime mapping and its various methodologies. Consider taking advanced-level courses or an applied mapping certificate program upon graduation to further enhance your career opportunities and advancements.

Purpose of Applied Crime Mapping

The primary purpose of crime mapping is to gain a better understanding of how crime is affecting specific portions of a community. In a more advanced setting, theories and concepts learned throughout this course are used to create a “predictive crime mapping,” which is used by law enforcement agencies to forecase future crime based upon general and narrowed crime statistics. The level of importance of this course depends on the career path you wish to take. For example, criminologists and forensic psychologists utilize applied crime mapping more than lower-level law enforcement professionals. Regardless, a basic understanding of this topic is essential to move forward and progress your own career as well as the criminal justice industry as a whole.

Topics Within the Applied Crime Mapping Course

The exact topics covered within this course can slightly vary; however, the majority of applied crime mapping courses cover universal theories and concepts. Students are given access to resources that assist in enhancing their analytical and technical crime mapping skills. After covering theoretical topics, students are given access to various resources, such as GIS maps, to help examine crime data within specific parameters.

Throughout the course, students will learn the necessary techniques and skills to cultivate maps that convey specific data and relationships between data sets, which include criminal demographics and geographic location. This information is used by law enforcement agencies to help cultivate effective patrolling and intervention techniques. The majority of criminal behavior follows specific patterns. These patterns are then used to help intervene with the primary goal of reducing preventable crime.