Academics and Research Jobs

General Academics and Research

There are a number of opportunities in general academics and research for those with a criminal justice degree. These areas would generally require a master’s in criminal justice at a minimum and would most likely require a doctorate. Opportunities are available in universities and both with government and non-governmental organizations, think tanks, and nonprofits.

Areas of specialty could vary across the entire spectrum of criminal justice from corrections to forensic psychology to looking at systems of law and more. As an academic or researcher, professionals might write or influence laws and legislation, testify as expert witnesses or consult with law enforcement agencies as well as do research that contributes to the overall body of criminal justice knowledge. A combination of experience in the field and advanced degrees is the best background for teaching criminal justice at a university level.

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Academic Administration

A career combining academic administration and criminal justice would most likely result in a professional with a master’s or doctoral degree taking a position such as dean or department head of a university’s criminal justice department. The most effective preparation for such an experience would probably be a combination of academic and professional experience in the field of criminal justice since criminal justice is an area like law or business in which practical “real-world” experience is important.

Criminal justice professionals in academic administration would work for colleges, universities, and trade schools with faculty and students developing academic policy and programs within the school of criminal justice, managing budgets, selecting faculty, and more. Specific duties would depend on the size of the school among other factors. The median wage for academic administration professionals was around $80,000 in 2010.

Criminal Investigation

A professional who works in law enforcement to help solve crimes is commonly referred to as a criminal investigator. These types of professionals do much more than investigating crime scenes. They also help detain suspects as well as help prevent further crimes from taking place. Some professionals who go into this line of work carry out their duties covertly. These types of professionals install surveillance devices as well as wear different types of disguises so they can find out pertinent information relating to the people or organizations that they are investigating.

Almost all professionals who work in criminal investigation hold some type of degree. Many employers of criminal investigators prefer for the professionals to hold a bachelor’s degree; however, many also prefer a master’s degree. People who have previous experience in the military or with law enforcement make for excellent candidates for those people wanting to become criminal investigators.

Criminal Justice Professor

A criminal justice professor spends his or her time teaching the skills that are necessary for students to become employed within the criminal justice field. Some criminal justice instructors teach specifically on one subject, such as corrections or criminology, while others cover a range of topics.

Most times, this type of professor is in charge of more than simply teaching. He or she may also be responsible for creating curriculums, administering exams, reviewing assignments, maintaining a grade book, and much more. It is also common for these types of teachers to take students on tours of facilities, attend seminars, and even appear as guest speakers.

In order to become a criminal justice professor, a person will need to obtain at least a bachelor’s degree in education and criminal justice. Many schools and universities prefer that their criminal justice professors hold at least a master’s degree. Any type of previous experience that a person has to work in a criminal justice-related career will be extremely valuable when it comes to being a criminal justice professor.

Criminal Psychology

A criminal psychologist is a type of psychologist who examines the behavior of convicted criminals. He or she tries to determine why people commit crimes and any correlated characteristics. He or she also evaluates criminals to determine the risk of the tendency to relapse into a similar pattern of behavior or hypothesize about the actions an individual took after committing a crime. A criminal psychologist also acts as an expert witness in court proceedings.  The average salaries for criminal psychologists differ depending on employer and experience. National salaries range from about $34,000 to $103,000.

Many criminal psychologists begin by earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology and then go on to complete a master’s degree. Others earn a doctoral degree in clinical or counseling psychology. Most aspiring criminal psychologists complete supporting courses in criminal justice.


A criminologist is, simply, someone who studies crime. Criminologists generally have training in sociology or related fields, because most criminology is focused on the behavior of criminals, the effects of crime on society, and the social systems that support or discourage crime. Getting a criminal justice degree is one route to becoming a criminologist, but criminal justice and criminology are not the same things. Criminal justice focuses more specifically on the process and procedures in detecting, prosecuting, and punishing criminals. Criminology is a more academic field that looks at the social problem that is a crime and the social context of crime.

Cultural Anthropology

A cultural anthropologist studies groups of people to learn their customs. A cultural anthropologist with a criminal justice focus would study groups of people connected with criminal activity in some way whether they are prison inmates, communities that produce or are affected by a high level of criminal activity, at-risk juveniles, and more. By studying such groups, a cultural anthropologist would hope to gain insight into what causes criminal activity and what actions might be taken to reduce crime.

Cultural anthropologists working in criminal justice might teach and research in university settings or might work for think tanks, government, or nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations. Pay varies according to the work environment. While the median wage for cultural anthropologists was just under $55,000 in 2010, the median range is as great as roughly $45,000 for those in education to $70,000 for those working for the federal government.


Forensics as a specialty of criminal justice can mean a number of things including analyzing computers and accounting records, but most often, it is used to describe crime scene analysis. Forensic science technicians may work directly onsite at crime scenes or they may work in the laboratory examining the evidence collected from the scene.

On-scene forensics professionals will photograph, collect and document evidence and may also go to autopsies. Later, forensic technicians working in the laboratory examine the evidence collected in order to reconstruct how the crime was committed. Evidence may range from fibers to blood and DNA testing and more, and generally different forensic technicians will work on different pieces of evidence for the same case. Shift work and overtime are common. The median wage in 2010 was $24.79 per hour although there is the possibility to earn upwards of $80,000 per year.

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A penologist focuses on the life of inmates in prison and other types of incarceration facilities. The main goal is to study the environment, how individuals interact with others, and how a life of confinement affects inmates. Punishment and rehabilitation programs, as well as education, are closely examined as well. The penologist studies all of the information gathered examines behavior patterns of inmates and compiles helpful information to have a full understanding of how people tend to behave while incarcerated. The goal of the penologist is to provide prison staff with tools to manage behavior effectively and successfully rehabilitate residents in order to be introduced to normal life once more. The penologist goes on to work with inmates after they have been released in order to determine if efforts for rehabilitation were successful. It is important to examine educational opportunities that are intended to give inmates tools to be productive.

Political Science

The disciplines of criminal justice and political science combine to produce a field that is focused on the larger picture of criminal justice within a society. People working in criminal justice from a political science perspective would tend to research, analyze and influence public policy.

This is a multidisciplinary area, and a professional combining the two areas of expertise would most likely have a master’s or doctoral degree and work in a university setting, for a private think tank, or for the government. Salary would tend to vary depending on the professional’s focus but in 2010, political scientists had a median income of more than $100,000 per year, and in the related field of sociology, the median income was $72,360 per year. This can be a fascinating field for anyone interested in examining the intersection between larger political systems and criminology and working to make changes in those areas.

Research Administration

Research Administration requires a large amount of education, but the reward is worth all the hard work. Criminal Justice Research Administration is a rewarding field for those who have put in the time to earn an advanced degree in criminal justice but do not want to work directly in a criminal justice field. One can work in the proven field of research administration and oversee criminal justice research projects in a variety of different settings. Research Administrators earn an average salary of anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000 per year. This work generally requires a large amount of experience in either a research or criminal justice field.


Just what is sociology and how does it pertain to criminal justice? Sociology is a social science that uses various methods of observational investigation and careful analytical evaluation in the scientific study of human society and its origin, growth, social entities, and belief systems. One of the main focuses of sociology has always been deviance. Obviously, almost by definition, convicts are deviant (at least in the eyes of the law).
A degree in sociology helps in the criminal justice field because of the analytical, communication, and research skills required to obtain the degree. Another helpful trait of a sociologist is the understanding of social constraints such as poverty and their relevance to crime. A sociologist in a criminal justice setting can normally expect to earn between $40,000 and $60,000 per year.