Criminal justice is such a broad field that there is no single typical career path for the graduate but rather several different paths depending on a student’s area of specialization.
Law enforcement is one of the most popular areas in criminal justice careers. Most police officers start out on patrol. From here, an officer could move up through the ranks into a position as a detective or supervisor. At state and federal levels of law enforcement, candidates might immediately start as investigators. Candidates at this level who wish to advance might eventually need to obtain a graduate degree.
Working in corrections is another possibility for someone interested in criminal justice careers. While one can begin working in some local facilities with a high school diploma following extensive training, working at the state and federal level generally requires an associate’s or bachelor’s degree as does becoming a probation officer. Those who are interested in rising to higher managerial and administrative levels can then consider returning to school for a master’s criminal justice degree. Because they may be working full time, an online criminal justice program can be a good option in this case.
Becoming an FBI agent is one of the most exciting possibilities for anyone interested in careers in criminal justice. This will take someone who is focused and dedicated on the career path. First, the candidate must obtain a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. Next, the candidate needs at least three years of work experience. Working at the state level as an investigator would be good preparation. Finally, the candidate can apply for a job as an FBI agent and begin climbing through the ranks there. The job of a secret service agent seems equally exciting and has similar requirements although it requires less experience at the entry level.
Criminal justice careers also include work in forensics and psychology. Most people who choose career tracks in these areas will need to obtain master’s or doctoral degrees in their fields. The subject requirements for forensics will vary depending on the area of specialization. Forensics can refer to traditional laboratory crime scene analysis which requires degrees in fields like biology or chemistry, or it can refer to fields such as computers or accounting.
After some time in any of these career tracks, there are two additional fields that criminal justice professionals may wish to move into. One is law, and whatever one’s specialty in criminal justice, this will require returning to school for a law degree. Experience in the field will serve one well in studying for a degree focused on criminal law, and one can decide whether to work as a defender or prosecutor and in public or private practice. Lawyers can work their way into positions as judges. The other available field is teaching. Teaching at the college level will require at least a master’s, but the combination of experience and education can make one an excellent instructor for the next generation of criminal justice professionals.