Most Sought After Criminal Justice Degrees by Employers

The three major entities within the Criminal Justice System are the Police Departments, the Court System, and the Correctional System. The structure of the system may differ depending upon its locale, but the foundational elements on which it was built are usually the same. There are numerous employment opportunities within the Criminal Justice System, each offering its own rewarding and exciting experience. Read on for the top 10 most sought-after criminal justice degrees by employers.

As the population grows and technology advances, the Criminal Justice System will continue to evolve in terms of its technological needs, growth expansion, and personnel requirements. Many opportunities that were previously unavailable within the Criminal Justice System are now available, such as Criminal Justice Degrees with concentrations in Forensic and Homeland Security. Locating Criminal Justice employment opportunities is relatively simple if one has acquired the necessary educational degree. The Top 10 most sought Criminal Justice Degrees by Employers are:

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Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

A Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice covers Criminal Justice Laws, Theories, and the Court System. It provides knowledge into the foundation of the Criminal Justice System and offers a deeper understanding of how it operates. Many universities now offer Criminal Justice Degrees online with various concentrations, such as Corrections, Crime Scene Investigation, Homeland Security, and Juvenile Justice.

On the local level, degree holders have a variety of local law enforcement agencies in which they can apply to, such as City Police Departments and the local Inspector General’s Office. On the state level, degree holders can apply to agencies such as Probation and Parole, Child Protective Services, State Attorney’s Office, Court Administration, or Fish and Wildlife. On the Federal level, degree holders can apply to the many agencies that fall under the Department of Justice, such as the US Parole Commission, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Office for Victims of Crimes, and Drug Enforcement Agency.

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Some careers that are available to these degree holders are police officers, correctional officers, bailiffs, victim advocates, customs agents, criminologists, and private investigators. Criminal Justice is the preferred field of study for individuals to work within the law enforcement system, although it is not a prerequisite. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall outlook for the most common criminal justice jobs is slower than average. The jobs that usually require an advanced degree are the jobs with a greater outlook. The salary range for this degree depends largely on an individual’s locale and the nature of the work; however, salary can range from as little as $25,000 to $120,000 annually.

Bachelors of Science in Criminology

Although many individuals will use the words Criminal Justice and Criminology interchangeably, the two fields of study are completely different. Webster’s dictionary defines criminology as being, “the scientific study of crime as a social phenomenon, of criminals, and of penal treatment.” Criminal Justice is more about the different facets of the Criminal Justice System and how each facet operates, whereas Criminology is more concerned with the source of the criminal behavior and what methods of treatments are used by the Criminal Justice System to decrease criminal behavior.

Some educational institutions offer degrees in both Criminal Justice and Criminology. However, most employers will require a degree in either Criminal Justice or Criminology. It is rare that an employer would require a combined degree covering both fields of study. Agencies that may specifically request degrees in Criminology are those agencies that are into criminal rehabilitation or tracking statistical criminal data such as Juvenile Justice or the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Masters of Science in Criminal Justice

A Masters Degree in Criminal Justice involves an additional two years of study in addition to completing the standard four years for a Bachelors Degree. Employers view a holder of this degree as being prepared to assume an administrative or management position. Many of the advanced Criminal Justice Jobs are much easier to obtain with this degree. A Masters Degree in Criminal Justice opens the door to many more job opportunities than a Bachelors.

Most degree holders are administrators or supervisors of the courts, correctional facilities, law-enforcement organizations, or Security Organizations. Law enforcement agencies in addition to Court Administration are now requesting many of their applicants hold Masters Degrees to be considered for a managerial position. In the past, managerial positions within a law enforcement agency were appointed based on the department’s internal ranking or the employee’s length of service with the agency. However, that has now changed.

An additional benefit to having this degree is making more money. According to the US Census Bureau, U.S. workers with a Masters Degree or higher earn an average annual salary of $66,109, versus those with only a Bachelors Degree whose average annual salary is $50,096. Many law enforcement agencies even offer a different entry pay for those who hold a Masters Degree, which is typically between 3%-10% more.

Masters of Science in Criminology

A Masters of Science in Criminology provides a higher level of theoretical and empirical knowledge about the social attributes of criminal behavior. Most Criminal Justice Employers regard this degree as being equivalent to a Masters of Science in Criminal Justice, and the pay is usually the same. Many universities offer an online curriculum with specializations in an effort to make it easier for the working professional to obtain this degree.

Working as a Criminologist seems to be the profession of choice for many of these degree holders. Criminologist utilize many of the same skills as a detective, but their jobs are less hands-on and more focused on sociology and psychology rather than forensic methods. Their jobs are not about catching criminals as it is predicting criminal movements with local law enforcement in an effort to deter criminal behavior. Criminologist study factors such as where and when crimes are often committed, what decisions lead to the criminal behavior, and what types of crimes are often committed. They work closely with law enforcement to catch criminals more quickly by predicting criminal behavior, and increasing an agency’s response time to crimes.

Juris Doctor Degree

A Juris Doctor Degree is required for those individuals who wish to practice law and represent clients before the court. One would have to complete an additional three years of Law School after completing a Bachelors Degree. Attorneys have many roles within the Criminal Justice System, and each of these roles serve an integral part in the Criminal Justice Process. The most common are Assistant State Attorneys, Private Attorneys, and Public Defenders. Defendants within the system will most certainly request the assistance of an attorney. Very few defendants will request self representation. In addition, all law enforcement agencies now have their own legal department, which usually consist of highly skilled attorneys who have worked in the system for years.

Two of the most important roles an attorney can take in the Criminal Justice Process is that of an Assistant State Attorney or Defense Attorney. The State Attorneys Office is the top prosecutor for State Crimes occurring within its jurisdiction. The State Attorney’s Office participates in criminal investigations and determines whether or not criminal charges are to be filed against an individual. Assistant State Attorneys often work with Defense Attorneys to negotiate plea deals for defendants. When negotiations fail, a hearing is scheduled before a Judge or jury. They usually take victim statements, conduct witness interviews, gather factual data, and analyze forensic evidence to build a Criminal Cases. Assistant State Attorney’s make the final determination as to whether or not criminal charges are to be filed against the defendant. They represent the public’s interest in court proceedings relating to criminal prosecutions.

Criminal Defense Attorneys are not portrayed as positively as Assistant State Attorneys. However, mostly all defendants involved in a Criminal Case will request the assistance of a Defense Attorney. As an advocate for the accused, Defense Attorneys play a vital role in the Criminal Justice process. It is their job to ensure that everyone who is charged with a criminal act has the legal right to a fair trial and a fair judicial process.

Defense attorneys are there to protect the rights of the accused. They are responsible for upholding a Defendant’s Rights under the Bill of Rights set forth in the United States Constitution. Criminal Defense Attorneys are bound by law to assist defendants as they move through the Criminal Justice System. If a Criminal Attorney fails to protect his client’s rights, the attorney is at risk of losing his or her license to practice law.

Masters in Social Work

Within the last 15 to 20 years, the Criminal Justice System has taken the role of being a rehabilitative entity as oppose to a law enforcement entity. Many Criminal Justice Jobs are dealing directly with offenders and many employers are now requesting degrees in social work. Individuals who have a Bachelors or Masters in social work can acquire positions within the court system as mental health coordinators, drug court coordinators, Guardian ad litems, and Probation Officers, just to name a few. As an example of the importance that social work and how it is greatly impacting the Criminal Justice System, the Interim Secretary for the Department of Children and Family services in the State of Florida has appeared before the Senate requesting that every Child Protective Investigator have a Social Work Degree.

There are currently thousands of Social Workers presently working within the Criminal Justice System. Social Workers clients are usually those who have or may soon become incarcerated. Social Workers working within the Criminal Justice Setting are to oversee the mental health needs of their clients and to serve the interests of public safety. Prisons are often a challenging work environment for social workers. Some of the services provided by the Institutional Social Workers are: Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling, Alternative Methods to Incarceration, Oversee a Successful Reentry into Society, Counsel Clients to Promote Changes in Criminal Behavior, and Advocate on Their Client’s Behalf.

Bachelors of Science in Forensic Science

With the advancement of technology and scientific resources, solving criminal cases would be more difficult without the forensic aspect of it. To cut down on laboratory cost, many law-enforcement agencies now have their own in house forensic laboratory to process crime scene evidence, such as fingerprint analyzing and ballistic testing. This allows them to have the scientific evidence that is needed to justify an arrest. Without the scientific evidence, it would be extremely hard to capture and convict most criminals. Many have referred to this as the new face of law enforcement because criminals are becoming more sophisticated in their techniques when engaging in criminal behavior.

Forensic Science is often defined as the application of scientific methods to solve crimes. A Forensic Scientist typically looks for and examine many kinds of physical evidence that establishes a connection between the suspect and the crime scene. Popular TV shows such as CSI have made the profession a little more glamorous.

Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies

A Bachelor of Science in Paralegal offers paralegal work within the State Attorney’s Office, Court Administration, the Public Defender’s Office, and the legal department of law enforcement agencies. Paralegals are usually responsible for conducting interviews, assisting attorneys in court, and drafting legal documents. The primary task for this position is to provide assistance to attorneys. They often track files of importance and make them accessible for the attorneys. A paralegal will draft motions, pleadings, and affidavits in addition to preparing case arguments and assisting the attorney during the trial. Paralegals are usually employed by law firms, legal agencies, and federal entities.

Associate of Science Degree in Criminal Justice

An Associates Degree in Criminal Justice covers the basic components of the Criminal Justice System, including legal principles, criminal behavior, and the basic fundamentals of investigations. Some of the most common criminal justice jobs that one can obtain with an Associates Degree is police officer, campus security officer, corrections officer, evidence technician, insurance investigator, and legal assistant.

Bachelor of Science in Forensic Accounting

Forensic accountants utilize their training and skills in auditing, accounting, and detective skills to assist with criminal investigations. The industry has an overwhelming demand for forensic accountants as there is an increase in financial fraud. As the financial fraud industry increases, the demand for Forensic Accountants will most likely increase. Forensic Accountants are largely recruited in the Federal Sector by the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Internal Revenue Service. The Bureau of Labor Statistics report a job outlook of 13%, which is faster than average.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for jobs in the courts and law enforcement is expected to increase by 7 percent through 2020. An increase in the demand for Correctional Officers is expected at a rate of 5 percent. The rates are low compared to the projected increase in paralegals and crime scene technicians which are 18 to 19 percent. In 2010, the average salary for a certified law enforcement officer was $55,000 while correctional officers salaries were in the high 30’s. Paralegals average salary was $46,000 while Crime Scene Technicians salary was increasingly higher at $51,000 annually. Employees working at the federal level or within the private sector tended to have higher wages than those working for local government.

Most Common Criminal Justice Jobs

The following is a synopsis of some of the various Criminal Justice Employers and commonly filled positions within the Criminal Justice System. Degree requirements to many of these jobs can be searched online via its corresponding agency.

  • Department of Corrections: Correctional Counselor, Juvenile Justice Counselor, Correction Treatment Counselor, Probation/Parole Officer, Pre-Release Correctional Specialist, Pre-Release Employment Specialist, Probation Officer, Juvenile Probation Officer, Warden, Assistant Warden, Psychologist, Vocational Specialist, Recreational Specialist, Academic Teacher, Caseworker, Substance Abuse Specialist, Inmate Records, and Classification Specialist.
  • Court Personnel: Attorney, Judge, Bailiff, Court Administrator, Domestic Violence Counselor, Paralegal/Legal Assistant, Pretrial Services, Court Clerk, Court Reporter/Transcriptionist, Support Services Coordinator, Victim Services, Victim Advocate, Youth Counselor, and Crisis Counselor.
  • Federal Law Enforcement: Federal Bureau of Investigations, Alcohol Tobacco, and Firearms Agent, Federal Criminal Investigator, Fish and Wildlife Service Agent, Customs Import Specialist, Custom Patrol Officer, Customs Special Agent, Deputy U.S. Marshal, Drug Enforcement Agent, United States Postal Inspector, Environmental Conservation Officer, Internal Revenue Criminal Investigator, Internal Revenue Security Inspector, Immigration and Naturalization Service Inspector, Immigration and Naturalization Service Border Patrol Agent, Immigration and Naturalization Service Deportation Officer, Immigration and Naturalization Service Criminal Investigator, Inspector General Investigator, Naval Investigative Service/Criminal Investigator, United States Park Police, Secret Service Agent, Secret Service Uniformed Officer, Forensic Services, Ballistics Examiner, Fingerprint specialist, Arson Examiner, Document Examiner, and Polygraph Examiner.
  • Private Security Personnel: Retail Security, Institutional Security, Commercial Security, and Industrial Security.
  • State and local Law Enforcement Personnel: Deputy Sheriff, Police Officer (Municipal), State Police/State Trooper, Investigator (local, State, and County), Crime Prevention Specialist, and Crime Analyst.

Most Popular Criminal Justice Employment Websites

  • – 911 Hot Jobs is an excellent resource guide for exploring the fields of law enforcement, fire fighting, and EMS. The site also provides test materials and links to schooling options for each of these fields.
  • – allows you to search for job opportunities within the correctional system. This includes openings for entry-level positions in addition to intermediate and advanced-level jobs.
  • – CourtJobs allows you to find a career path by searching through many different criminal justice fields such as police officer or paralegal. The site has the traditional “what” and “where” search boxes, making it easy for users to find their desired match.
  • – IHireSeurity applies the traditional job search format to the more specific field of private security. You can narrow searches down by selecting job types that range from “social worker” to “investigator” and everything in between.
  • – JobCop allows you to find available positions within your state’s law enforcement. Man job seekers have found the site to be useful.
  • – Law Jobs allows you to find employment within the legal system by utilizing the traditional job search structure. Criminal Justice Jobs Help – This site has over 3,000 available criminal justice jobs in the United States. It has a very easy to use layout and is straightforward.
  • – Law Enforcement Jobs is ver informational in providing many resources to those interested in a career in law enforcement. You can search for job listings online, as well as subscribe to a career newsletter.
  • – LP Jobs primarily focuses on helping users find a career in the field of loss prevention. The site is beneficiation to both employers and potential employees, as well as a magazine offer that provides additional information on the security sector.
  • Martindale – Martindale’s career center offers a wealth of information for those exploring jobs in the legal sector, such as Attorneys, Paralegals, In-House Counsel and Legal Professionals.
  • – PoliceEmployment has an array of helpful information for anyone looking to pursue a career in law enforcement. In addition to job listings, the site offers academic information and the the necessary resources to learn more about each subsector of law enforcement.
  • – RealPolice provides the basics job search platform for anyone interested in law enforcement. The site is extremely easy to use, and offers limited search tailoring.
  • – The Blue Line is a police officer job listing site that show users exactly where jobs are needed by listing available police officer positions. Site users can easily find an available job near them.
  • – Discover Policing is a great online resource for those looking to explore law enforcement as a career. The site provides a wealth of information on what it is like to be a police officer, as well as a posting of open positions throughout the United States.


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