What Can I Do with a Degree in Criminal Justice?

Learn more about what you can do with a degree in criminal justice. Find information on criminal justice careers, job outlook, salary, and recommended schools. View popular schools that prepare students for careers in criminal justice.


Criminal justice is a broad field that encompasses a number of different professionals working toward similar goals: protecting the public from harm and ensuring that justice is upheld. Police officers, sheriff’s deputies, detectives and federal agents such as those employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are all employed in the field of criminal justice. Through their collective work, criminal justice professionals investigate crime, arrest criminals and work to protect the public from dangerous individuals.

While the criminal justice field includes professionals that are responsible for capturing criminals, the field also includes professionals that are responsible for prosecuting and punishing those guilty of crimes. As such, individuals in careers including law (e.g., paralegals and lawyers) and corrections (e.g., corrections officers, probation officers and corrections counselors) are also integral to criminal justice. Judges that oversee criminal cases also provide support for the criminal justice system. In these positions, judges are responsible for reviewing the evidence to determine the guilt or innocence of a suspect. If the individual is found guilty, the judge is also responsible for determining an appropriate punishment (e.g., sentence) for the offender. Each of these jobs in the criminal justice system attempts to ensure that the rights of all individuals are protected and justice is served.


The careers available to professionals seeking to enter into the criminal justice field are numerous. Individuals that are interested in this profession first need to consider the specific area in which they wish to seek employment. Individuals interested in investigating and capturing criminals will be best suited to seek positions in law enforcement. Positions for law enforcement personnel are available at the local, state and federal government level. Individuals interested in investigating crimes may also consider positions as detectives or forensic experts. Forensic professionals will be responsible for collecting and analyzing physical data.

Professionals that are interested in prosecuting or punishing offenders should seek careers in law or corrections. In these positions, professionals will be responsible for overseeing the offender after he or she is captured. Prosecution and punishment require professionals with unique skills to ensure that justice is served. Positions for professionals in this area of criminal justice are also available at the local, state and federal levels.


The salaries for criminal justice professionals are based on the specific position held in the field. Individuals in law enforcement including police and federal agents (e.g., FBI, CIA, DEA, etc.) have median annual incomes that range between $38,115 and $48,890. Individuals in these positions can advance into supervisory roles, enabling them to command salaries between $61,251 and $76,560. In general, professionals working in law enforcement positions for the federal government will command higher salaries than those working at the state or local level.

Individuals that pursue careers in law and adjudication will also command generous salaries. Professionals working in la firms including paralegals and legal secretaries have median annual incomes of $42,510. Lawyers and judges that have advanced degrees in their profession can command average annual salaries of $130.170. Professionals working in corrections (e.g., jail security) typically have lower salaries than those working in law or law enforcement. Average annual salaries for corrections officers range between $21,950 and $28,960.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for professionals working in criminal justice is contingent upon the specific area of specialization for the professional. Law enforcement careers are expected to grow at an average pace through 2018. Even though more law enforcement professionals will be needed to meet community needs for crime control, budget problems at the local, state and federal level will limit the number of professionals entering into the field. Professionals with advanced education in criminal justice will have access to the most job opportunities in law enforcement. Job growth in corrections is also expected to be average over the next several years. Changes in the criminal justice system to reduce prison populations will reduce the number of individuals needed. However demand in the field will increase due to a high level of turnover in corrections positions. Demand for paralegals is expected to increase as will demand for lawyers and judges. However, job growth in these fields will be limited by the large number of qualified individuals seeking jobs in these careers.

Recommended Schools

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A liberal arts institution with 16 colleges and schools, Liberty offers programs in fields such as medicine, religion, law, aviation, cinematic arts, psychology, business, and more. Part of the Big South Conference, Liberty fields 20 NCAA Division I athletic teams and 32 Club Sports teams, offering fans an unparalleled college sports experience.


  • BS in Criminal Justice
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  • Bachelor of Science: Criminal Justice
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