Inspiring Criminal Justice Careers: The Best Jobs and Schools

criminal justice jobs
Photo by Tori Rector

Have you chosen to investigate careers in criminal justice or do you already have a criminal justice degree and don’t know where to go now? You may be interested in where your degree can take you and what sort of criminal justice jobs you could pursue.

Studies in criminal justice will give you a good foundational knowledge of a variety of subjects ranging from research methods and investigations to criminal law and corrections. You will find out how the criminal justice system works, learn about the different law enforcement agencies and what they do, gain general knowledge of the court system and how it works, and learn about corrections and the institutions that house and rehabilitate criminals. Sometimes a degree in criminal justice will allow you the opportunity to specialize in a certain field, like policing or crime scene investigation. This can be a great advantage to you if you know going in which area you want to work in.

Here you will find out about some of the varied careers available to a criminal justice major and information about some of the best schools to get your degree. Use this information to plan ahead and ensure that you end up in a career that is right for you.


The 5 Most Common Criminal Justice Jobs

Here are 5 of the most common jobs you can find in the criminal justice system:

  1. Crime Scene Investigator – will collect and catalog physical evidence from a crime scene, and analyse the evidence to determine who committed the crime.
  2. Forensic DNA Analyst – will analyse DNA evidence that has been collected at a crime scene and report on any findings to assist in criminal investigations.
  3. Police Officer – will serve and protect the public, maintain order and enforce criminal and motor vehicle laws.
  4. Paralegal – will assist a lawyer who defends those accused of a crime, doing a variety of tasks that include conducting research, drafting documents, and filing court documents.
  5. Blood Spatter Analyst – studies blood spatter patterns at crime scenes and uses the patterns to determine the manner in which a victim was killed.


Other Jobs in Criminal Justice

Take a look at the criminal justice system and you can find a great career for yourself at any point in the system. When a crime happens it is reported and investigated. You could be the 911 call operator who takes the emergency call or the police officer who is first on scene. You could be the homicide detective or crime scene investigator called to investigate the crime. You could be an expert blood spatter analyst or forensic DNA analyst who looks over the evidence collected from the crime scene.

When someone is charged with a crime they enter the legal system where they will need a lawyer to represent them. You can be the paralegal law secretary who assists the lawyer, a courtroom deputy who protects and secures the courtroom or a court reporter who relays information to the public about the proceedings.

When a person is convicted of a crime they enter the correctional system where there are countless career opportunities. You can be a correctional officer in a prison who protects the criminals and their rights, a correctional caseworker who advocates for the inmate and protects their rights or a parole officer who is charged with making sure their reintroduction back into society goes smoothly.

Jobs with a criminal justice degree can be found mostly with government agencies at local, state and federal levels. There are also some jobs available in the private sector with companies and corporations who have their own internal investigative unit.


What Can You Do With a Criminal Justice Course

A criminal justice program will prepare you for a number of careers within the criminal justice system and provides you with a good foundation of knowledge giving you an advantage when looking for your chosen career. What you can do in criminal justice will be dependant on your education level and your chosen area of specialization.

A certificate in criminal justice will help you with an entry level job in law enforcement, court systems and corrections. Positions available to you can include:

  • Bailiff
  • Probation Officer
  • Police Officer
  • Legal Secretary
  • Jury Consultant
  • Crime Analyst
  • Loss Prevention Manager
  • Detective & Investigator

An associate or bachelor of criminal justice can lead to higher level jobs or more specialized fields with positions like:

  • Forensic DNA Analyst
  • Computer Forensic Specialist
  • Blood Spatter Analyst
  • Arson Investigator
  • Ballistics Analyst

A master’s degree is likely to lead to much better career prospects again in a specialized area of expertise like:

  • Forensic Psychologist
  • Criminal Profiler
  • Administrative management in law enforcement
  • Teaching at a college level

A doctoral degree is usually required for career advancement to positions of leadership, academia, policy making or governmental research.

A criminal justice course will provide you with a comprehensive education encompassing all aspects of law enforcement and the criminal justice system, and it will give you a great foundational education for a career in criminal justice.


Criminal Justice Salary

The potential income you can earn throughout your career is an important factor to consider when choosing your path. Criminal justice careers and salaries will vary due to the variety of choices available to you with your degree. Here are just a few career opportunities and their average salaries.

Law Enforcement Careers

OccupationMean hourly wageMean annual wageLowest 10% earn less than:Top 10% earn more than:
Fish and Game Wardens$24.27$50,470$33,080$71,510
Transit and Railroad Police$27.98$58,200$33,140$87,670
Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers$28.23$58,720$32,670$90,700
Detectives and Criminal Investigators$38.00$79,030$40,110$125,320
First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives$39.76$82,710$47,390$126,320

Forensic Science Careers

OccupationMean hourly wageMean annual wageLowest 10% earn less than:Top 10% earn more than:
Forensic Science Technicians$27.57$57,340$32,570$88,880
Criminal Investigators$38.00$79,030$40,110$125,320
Forensic Psychologists$42.50$88,400$42,550$117,090

Legal Careers

OccupationMean hourly wageMean annual wageLowest 10% earn less than:Top 10% earn more than:
Paralegals and Legal Assistants$24.60$51,170$29,740$76,960
Legal Secretaries$21.65$45,030$26,450$69,360
Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators$36.94$76,840$35,110$136,670
Judges and Magistrates$50.66$105,380$31,960$171,180

Corrections Careers

OccupationMean hourly wageMean annual wageLowest 10% earn less than:Top 10% earn more than:
Correctional Officers and Jailers$21.32$44,350$26,740$71,720
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists$25.44$52,910$32,010$84,160
Case and Social Workers$26.95$56,060$31,690$81,770

*This data was compiled from


The Best Colleges for Criminal Justice

The best criminal justice colleges will offer you a degree that gives you the foundation you need to gain employment in your chosen field. They will provide you with knowledge covering a broad range of topics on criminal justice while also allowing you to specialize in the field of your choice. Consider these top criminal justice schools for your degree.

  1. criminal justice degree university of marylandUniversity of Maryland in College Park has both undergraduate and graduate degrees in their Criminology and Criminal Justice department.
  2. University at Albany SUNY School of Criminal Justice offers an undergraduate program, a Master’s degree and a doctorate in Criminal Justice.
  3. University of Cincinnati School of Criminal Justice has several certificate, bachelor and master’s degrees on offer in both criminal justice and paralegal studies.
  4. Saint Francis University Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice offers bachelor programs in criminal justice.
  5. Pennsylvania State University Department of Sociology and Criminology offers both undergraduate and graduate programs in the criminal justice field.

If you cannot attend a school on campus or have limited time with which to obtain your education you have the option of getting your degree online instead. Here are the top 5 schools that offer online criminal justice programs.

  1. criminal justice programs at Kaplan UniversityKaplan University offers a range of online criminal justice programs at all levels. They have a Crime Scene Technician Certificate, an Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice, a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice that has an emphasis area in Crime Scene Investigation, and a Master’s of Science in Criminal Justice with specializations in the fields of Corrections, Law and Criminal Justice
  2. Capella University offer an online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice program that will provide you with a foundation in criminal justice processes and procedures.
  3. DeVry University has a Bachelor’s Degree in Technical Management with a Criminal Justice specialization. This will qualify you for jobs as a police officer, FBI agent, criminal investigator, private investigator, or border patrol professional. DeVry also has a Bachelor in Justice Administration degree with specializations in corrections, digital forensics, emergency management, homeland security studies and policing.
  4. Walden University offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice that is designed to help you gain the skills and knowledge you need for your career in the justice system.
  5. Pennsylvania State University offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice that is certified by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.




As you can see, careers in criminal justice are numerous and varied. If you research each career path you can be sure to find the perfect fit for your skills and personality. Choosing the appropriate degree and the right school for your education will start you on the road to a fulfilling criminal justice career.