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Criminal Justice Career Path:
What Can I Do with a Degree?

Begin a new, rewarding career path

The field of criminal justice comprises a wide variety of potential jobs. There are many potential starting points and advancement opportunities. There will always be demand for passionate, reliable, and trustworthy law enforcement who strive to pursue justice and keep our country safe.

Earning an associate or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is the first step you can take towards building a rewarding career that makes a real difference in the lives of people who really need help.

We commend your desire to contribute to something bigger than yourself! Here’s a list of some good jobs you can pursue in the field of criminal justice after earning an undergraduate degree.1

What Can I Do with a Criminal Justice Degree?

1. Crime Scene Investigator (CSI)

  • Recommended degree pathway: Bachelor’s degree
  • 2019 average salary (BLS): $63,170 per year ($30.37 per hour)2

Job description

CSIs collect and analyze evidence from crime scenes to aid criminal investigations. CSIs analyze crime scenes to determine how to collect evidence, take photographs, make sketches, record observations, collect evidence and much more.

General CSIs, sometimes called “criminalists” may perform duties in both criminal investigation and laboratory analysis. Some CSIs can specialize based on their strengths after earning more professional experience. CSIs work closely police officers, detectives, lawyers and additional law enforcement officials, responsible for writing reports and testifying in court.

Education requirements

CSIs are typically required to hold a bachelor’s degree. Depending on the job, a major in a natural science such as chemistry or biology can be beneficial. However, a criminal justice bachelor’s degree curriculum can prepare you very well for these types of positions, especially those more specialized in crime scene investigation versus laboratory analysis. Our curriculum includes coursework in evidence forensics, criminal investigation and criminalistics.

Alternative job titles

Here is a list of potential positions you can seek in crime scene investigation:

  • Forensic Science Technician
  • Crime Laboratory Analyst
  • Crime Scene Analyst
  • Crime Scene Technician
  • Forensic Science Examiner
  • Forensic Scientist

2. Detective / Criminal Profiler

  • Recommended degree pathway: Associate or bachelor’s degree
  • 2019 average salary (BLS): $86,030 ($41.36 per hour)2

Job description

Detectives are professional information gatherers, responsible for investigating legal, financial and personal matters. Investigators are crime solvers, conducting interviews, verifying statements, collecting evidence, surveilling persons of interest, and much more to reveal clues and draw conclusions about a case. Skilled criminal profilers develop psychological profiles based on collected evidence to connect the dots and close the case.

Detectives and criminal profilers typically work for local, state or federal government. The BLS estimates the need for detectives and criminal investigators will increase 8% from 2019-2029, faster than the average across all U.S. occupations.

Education requirements

Educational prerequisites will vary by employer, with some requiring only a high school diploma, and others requiring a 2 or 4-year degree in a related discipline, such as criminal justice. It’s possible to find an entry-level position with no prior experience and learn on the job, but you’ll likely be in a better position to compete for higher paying jobs with an undergraduate degree.

Alternative job titles

Job titles can vary depending on the type of cases you will investigate, such as homicide, fraud, missing persons or property crimes. Here is a list of potential positions you might find in criminal investigation:

  • Criminal Profiler
  • Criminal Investigator
  • Private Investigator (PI)
  • Detective Sergeant
  • FBI Agent
  • Narcotics Detective
  • Special Agent

3. Private Security

  • Recommended degree pathway: Associate degree
  • 2019 average salary (BLS): $33,030 per year ($15.88 per hour)2

Job description

Security guards and other private security officers are responsible for protecting private property against theft, vandalism or other illegal activity. Potential job duties including patrolling property, enforcing private rules and regulations, monitoring alarms and surveillance systems, controlling building access, conducting security checks, and much more.

In a private security role, you are a watchdog, working wherever people and property need to be protected. Most security guards are employed by investigation, guard, and armored car services, though they may also work in education, healthcare, food services, or government.

Education requirements

An associate degree in criminal justice can help you become highly qualified for entry-level positions in private security. Employers may not always require a degree, but a strong background in criminal justice can help your resume stand out from the rest.

Alternative job titles

  • Security Guard
  • Campus Security Officer
  • Hotel Security Officer
  • Loss Prevention Officer
  • Security Agent

4. Police Officer

  • Recommended degree pathway: Associate or bachelor’s degree
  • 2019 average salary (BLS): $67,600 per year ($32.50 per hour)2

Job description

Police officers are primary first responders responsible for protecting lives and property. Officers respond to emergency calls, conduct traffic stops, observe suspicious activity, obtain warrants and arrest suspects, collect and secure evidence, and much more. After earning experience in the field, patrol officers may transition into a special unit, such as special weapons and tactics (SWAT)—or move into criminal investigation or detective work.

The employment of police and sheriff’s patrol officers specifically is expected to increase faster than average: 6% from 2019-2029.

Education requirements

Federal agencies and some law enforcement departments may require college courses or a college degree. Candidates for jobs will usually need to attend a training academy before becoming an officer.

Alternative job titles

  • Deputy
  • Deputy Sheriff
  • Patrol Officer
  • State Trooper
  • Law Enforcement Officer

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5. Probation / Parole Officer

  • Recommended degree pathway: Bachelor’s degree
  • 2019 average salary (BLS): $59,910 per year ($28.80 per hour)2

Job description

Human beings are imperfect, and many make mistakes indebting them to their community. For many, there is a path back to becoming a trustworthy, productive member of society. Probation officers supervise people placed on probation rather than those send to prison; parole officers assist in the rehabilitation of offenders in custody.

These professionals regularly conduct interviews, evaluate progress, recommend action and help arrange post-release services such as employment, housing, education and social activities. Probation and parole officers help people learn from their mistakes, become better people and pick themselves up after falling.

Education requirements

Employers typically require a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, social work, behavioral science or a related field. Prerequisites vary by jurisdiction.

Alternative job titles

  • Correctional Counselor
  • Deputy Probation Officer (DPO)
  • Juvenile Probation Officer
  • Parole Agent
  • Parole Officer (PO)
  • Probation and Parole Officer

6. Border Patrol Agent

  • Recommended degree pathway: Associate or bachelor’s degree
  • 2019 median salary (O*NET): $63,150 per year ($30.36 per hour)2

Job description

Border patrol agents are special agents responsible for maintaining security on US borders. They investigate persons, merchandise, and common carriers going to or from the US or between states. Border patrol agents enforce immigration or customs laws and regulations.

Knowledge of laws, legal codes, government regulation, public safety procedures and more learned in a criminal justice degree program can set you up for success in a career as a border patrol agent.

Education requirements

While it’s possible to find an entry-level job without first earning a degree, some employers may require an associate degree, and more than a quarter of border protection officers hold a bachelor’s degree.

Alternative job titles

  • Customs Officer
  • Customs Inspector
  • Import Specialist

7. Correctional Officer

  • Recommended degree pathway: Associate or bachelor’s degree
  • 2019 average salary (BLS): $50,130 per year ($24.10 per hour)2

Job description

Correctional officers, or jailers, guard inmates in prisons or rehabilitative institutions. These officers keep the peace in penal institutions, responsible for monitoring prisoner behavior, guard facility entrances, settling disputes between inmates, transporting inmates, and much more.

Education requirements

Typically a high school diploma is required, along with a training academy and on-the-job training. Some federal agencies may require some college education, so earning an associate degree can help you qualify for a good job and position you well for career advancement.

Federal prisons require entry-level correctional officers to have at least a bachelor’s degree or 1-3 years of full-time experience in a field related to individual counseling or supervision.

Alternative job titles

  • Correctional Sergeant
  • Corrections Officer (CO)
  • Deputy Jailer
  • Jailer
  • Detention Deputy
  • Detention Officer

8. Bailiff

  • Recommended degree pathway:  Associate degree
  • 2019 average salary (BLS): $51,840 per year ($24.92 per hour)2

Job description

Bailiffs keep order in the courtroom. Their specific duties can vary by court, but their typical roles and responsibilities include escorting judges, jurors, witnesses and prisoners, handling court documents and evidence, following court procedures and enforcing courtroom rules. The integrity of the legal process is paramount, and it’s a bailiff’s responsibility to ensure all proper procedures are followed.

Education requirements

Bailiffs must hold at least a high school diploma—but an associate degree in criminal justice can help you better qualify for higher level positions. Prerequisites will vary by state, and some federal agencies may require some college education.

Alternative job titles

  • Court Bailiff
  • Court Deputy
  • Court Security Officer
  • Deputy Bailiff
  • Security Officer

9. Fish and Game Warden

  • Recommended degree pathway: Bachelor’s degree
  • 2019 average salary (BLS): $57,690 per year ($27.73 per hour)2

Job description

Fish and game wardens are responsible for enforcing fishing, boating and hunting laws. Game wardens patrol public areas for fishing and hunting, perform search and rescue operations, investigate accidents and incidents, and education communities about laws regarding the outdoors. Your job is to enforce laws designed to protect and preserve native wildlife, plants and ecosystems.

Education requirements

Fish and game wardens typically need a bachelor’s degree. According to O*NET, 79% of fish and game wardens respondents held a bachelor’s degree.

Alternative job titles

  • Fisheries Enforcement Officer
  • Natural Resource Officer
  • State Game Warden
  • State Wildlife Officer
  • Wildlife Conservation Officer

10. First-Line Supervisors of Protective Service Workers

  • Recommended degree pathway: Associate or bachelor’s degree
  • 2019 average salary (BLS): $53,210 per year ($25.58 per hour)2

Job description

These professionals work in a supervisory role for many different types of protective service workers, including bailiffs, detectives, firefighters, game wardens, private security, lifeguards, and much more.

A job as a first-line supervisor is more managerial in nature with day-to-day responsibilities including staff support and administrative tasks like managing budgets. A background in criminal justice can prepare you well to immerse yourself in the protective service world and become a key contributor behind the scenes.

Education requirements

Both an associate or bachelor’s degree can help you develop the skills necessary to thrive in a supervisory role (you may consider a criminal justice degree concentrating in management and leadership). Employment prerequisites for education and experience will vary.

Related career options

A degree in criminal justice alone may not fully qualify you, but could be a key part of your educational journey on your way to pursuing these careers:

  • Cybersecurity Analyst. As more and more of the world’s information is kept online, the security of online information has become paramount. A background in cybersecurity/technology and criminal justice can be a great foundation to succeed as an information security analyst. Learn more about our cybersecurity bachelor’s degree program.
  • Homeland Security. There is overlap between criminal justice and homeland security—but homeland security emphasizes jobs helping to prevent and defend against foreign and domestic attacks. As an alternative, You may consider our homeland security degree program or homeland security and counterterrorism concentration.
  • Lawyer. While earning a bachelor’s in criminal justice does not by itself make you a lawyer, earning a high GPA in a criminal justice bachelor’s degree program can help you qualify for law school. Criminal justice is a great choice for major, but you may also be interested in our online legal studies program.
  • Paralegal. Criminal justice is highly relevant in the context of the paralegal profession, but if you’re looking to pursue this career we’d recommend enrolling in a paralegal/legal assisting program.
Cybersecurity Related Criminal Justice Jobs

Walk your career path with Herzing

Criminal justice paints a broad stroke across many different types of unique jobs. In many cases there is required on-the-job or academy training required, but the common thread underpinning every position is a passion for criminal justice and a strong understanding of the purpose of the legal system you work to uphold.

Earning a degree in criminal justice positions you very well for not only your first entry-level job, but for advancing a long career helping keep people safe, making the world a better place for everyone. We exist to help you find your way on this crucial, rewarding career path.

Learn more about the Herzing University Criminal Justice program


1. Please note that for all jobs listed, additional education requirements will vary by position—and employers may require a background check prior to employment.

2. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography and degree field, affect career outcomes. Herzing does not guarantee a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salary.

Classes Start April 5th

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