What Can I Do with a Criminal Justice Degree?

February 4, 2021

Two detectives review their investigation in a sensitive case. Their criminal justice career started with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Marian University.

The criminal justice system is undergoing one of the biggest transformations in its history. Calls for change by millions across the country are spurring local and national politicians to propose reforms to the system. These reforms impact criminal justice careers.

Most of that impact revolves around more training and education for jobs in criminal justice. Earning a traditional Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice or an online BS in Criminal Justice is more important than ever for those aspiring to leadership positions in criminal justice fields.

In California, lawmakers propose changes to becoming a police officer. The state may require officers to earn a bachelor’s degree. In cities and states across the nation, the focus intensifies on ensuring that criminal justice professionals have the critical reasoning and problem-solving skills required for taking on complex criminal justice issues.

Alan Johnson, Assistant Professor and Director of Criminal Justice and Homeland Security programs at Marian University, said that with a criminal justice degree “students will be able to make a difference and stand out from the crowd in the application process.”

Johnson noted that this is especially true in law enforcement and corrections, where an aging workforce leads to more openings. Consequently, agencies struggle to find qualified applicants who can fill those vacancies.

Marian University Prepares Criminal Justice Graduates for Success

Marian University offers a traditional BS in Criminal Justice degree program on its Fond du Lac campus. For adult learners and working professionals, the school also has created an online version of the program.

The university designed both programs to go beyond teaching the material in books. The curriculum combines theoretical knowledge with practical application to real-world situations. Students also develop expertise in the critical thinking and communication skills that are important for success in the field.

Faculty at the school have experience in various criminal justice fields, including law enforcement, corrections, probation, parole, and the court system. Students have the opportunity to experience internships and experiential learning in their careers of interest.

Johnson said earning a criminal justice bachelor’s degree from Marian will qualify graduates to work in almost any criminal justice job. In addition, the program helps students prepare themselves for leadership positions.

“You will be able to get ahead of the curve as changes occur and can be a positive influence with your employer and the community,” Johnson said. “The learning environment at Marian will help you as we focus on core values of community, learning, social justice, service, and spiritual traditions distinctly prepares you for your future.”

Many Options for Careers in Criminal Justice

Criminal justice jobs rank among some of the fastest-growing in the country. In addition to the expansion of criminal justice as the population grows, the nation also faces a crisis in that many Baby Boomers are hitting retirement age.

That’s left some agencies searching for those who have the skills and knowledge needed to fill critical positions. Increasingly, they want job applicants who have earned at least an undergraduate degree. According to a report from the Police Executive Research Forum, agencies across the country are experiencing low recruitment numbers.

The report stated: “Fewer people are applying to become police officers, and more people are leaving the profession. These trends are occurring even as many police and sheriffs’ offices are already short-staffed and facing challenges in developing a diverse workforce.”

This leads to an extraordinary amount of opportunity for those who earn degrees in criminal justice. Three of the most popular criminal justice degree careers fall into the following areas.

Police and Detectives

This area of criminal justice includes police officers, sheriff’s deputies, detectives, criminal investigators, fish and game wardens, special agents with federal agencies such as the FBI, CIA, ATF, border patrol, and ICE. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs in these fields will increase 5% by 2029, with more than 854,000 people working in these criminal justice careers. The average pay for some of the most popular jobs in this area includes the following.

  • Detectives and criminal investigators – $86,030
  • Police and sheriff’s patrol officers – $67,600
  • Transit and railroad police – $71,120
  • Fish and game wardens – $57,690

Federal agents get paid according to the GL schedule for federal law enforcement officers. FBI Agents start at GL-10 step 1 while in training, which currently pays $50,748. Salary increases over time, with GL-10 step 10 pay currently about $66,000.

Private Detectives and Investigators

Those who work as a private detective or investigator have careers outside the government agencies most associate with law enforcement. For example, they can work for businesses, doing background checks on potential employees. Also, detectives and investigators can work for law firms representing defendants in criminal trials. They may also work in their own agency, specializing in proving infidelity in a divorce case or finding a missing person.

It’s a growing area in criminal justice, with BLS data indicating an expected 8% increase in the number of private detectives and investigators by 2029. Most states require private detectives to have a license. Annual pay in the field is $57,000.

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

In this criminal justice career, officers and specialists work with convicted criminals serving their sentence in prison and as they adjust to life after their release. Correctional treatment specialists work with those in prison, providing counseling and assistance in developing a plan for life after release. If needed, probation officers regularly meet with them after their release. These meetings may include connecting them with job training and substance abuse counseling. A bachelor’s degree is required for almost all jobs in these areas of criminal justice. The BLS projects 4% growth in this field by 2029. The average pay is $59,910.

Earning a criminal justice degree gives graduates many options for the path they want to follow in the field. And with both demand and the need for expertise growing, there’s never been a better time to enter the field by earning a bachelor’s degree.