What Can You Do With a Criminal Justice Degree?

A criminal justice degree allows individuals an in-depth knowledge of social science, criminal behavior, and the ability to control crime and delinquency. A criminal justice degree allows students the ability to develop a strong knowledge of crime, criminals, and the criminal justice system.

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Students pursuing a criminal justice degree combine an extensive knowledge of the law, sociology, political science, psychology, forensic science, public administration, urban studies, and philosophy. A criminal justice degree allows students the ability to identify the definitions, causes, and prevention of crime. A criminal justice degree also familiarizes students with legal processes and the treatment or rehabilitation of offenders. Students majoring in criminal justice receive an extensive educational background in legal and correctional systems within the United States. Students also learn the philosophy behind punishment and crime deterrence as well as the strict ethical code of behavior required of criminal justice agencies.

A criminal justice degree program offers students the ability to hold professional positions in various criminal justice agencies. Individuals with an associates or bachelors degree in criminal justice are able to serve the public in a multitude of careers. A criminal justice degree opens career doors within various probation departments, law enforcement agencies, correctional institutions, parole offices, federal agencies, court administration, victim advocacy services, and community treatment or service settings. A criminal justice degree also allows individuals opportunities to work as auxiliary personnel in specialized fields of communication and laboratory work, as private investigators or detectives, counselors, rehabilitation counselors, halfway houses, staff personnel in private youth agencies (like Big Brother or Big Sister programs) and in residential treatment centers.

An associates degree in criminal justice allows individuals to study legal and correctional systems within the United States as well as criminal behavior, law enforcement, and ethical codes of conduct. An associates degree in criminal justice usually takes two years to complete. A student learns fundamental criminal justice skills, technical skills, as well as core requirements in liberal arts and sciences. An associates degree often qualifies individuals for entry level law enforcement jobs for local or state law enforcement agencies. Many associates degrees in criminal justice grant the opportunity for graduates to pursue a higher level degree. Some bachelors degree programs allow for the transfer of credits earned during associates programs to further educational pursuits.

A bachelors degree in criminal justice allows students to gain entry into a realm of exciting career opportunities with a high degree of responsibility. A criminal justice degree acquaints individuals with law, public service, and crime. Specific duties within criminal justice careers depend largely upon the nature of the job though most law enforcement officials strive to protect people and property while adhering to governing laws. Often jobs within the field of criminal justice can be extremely dangerous and very stressful.

Criminal justice degrees allow individuals entry into jobs in law enforcement for city, town, county, state, and federal police departments and agencies. Some police organizations in large cities recruit high school aged students as police cadets or trainees. The cadets perform clerical duties while attending classes for 1 or 2 years until they fulfill the minimum age requirements to perform duties as a member of the regular force. Educational requirements for law enforcement includes a high school diploma and an additional one or two years of college. Law enforcement agencies also require prospective employees to pass physical fitness tests and participation in sports and physical education during high school gives candidates an added bonus in terms of competitiveness, stamina, and agility.

A bachelors degree in criminal justice, with courses in law enforcement, administration of justice, police science, or public administration with knowledge in a foreign language, is often required of upper level law enforcement. Some formal post-secondary training at a junior college is often preferred with many agencies paying for part of or all tuition related toward criminal justice, political science, administration of justice or public administration. A degree in any of the above mentioned programs allows for career advancement and higher paying salaries. Future police and law enforcement officers usually train through an agency’s police academy for 12 to 14 weeks. The training consists of classroom instruction in constitutional law, civil rights, State law, local ordinances, and accident investigation. Police academy training then progresses to supervised experience in patrol, traffic control, use of firearms, self defense, first aid, and emergency response.

A criminal justice degree also allows individuals opportunities for careers in local, state, and federal courts as a probation officer. A probation officer is often referred to as community supervision officers in some states. A probation officer supervises offenders who have been placed on probation and handles offenders’ cases within a court. A probation officer works closely with parole officers (individuals who supervise offenders who have been released from prison) and correctional treatment specialists (also known as case managers or correctional counselors.) Correctional treatment specialists counsel offenders and create rehabilitation plans, while supervising parole or probation agreements based upon an offenders release from prison. Pretrial services officers assist in pretrial investigations by conducting detailed examinations and reports to determine if suspects should be released from police custody before trial. A criminal justice degree also allows individuals to work as institutional counselor for adults or juveniles in correctional facilities. Institutional counselors with a background in criminal justice, assist in psychological screening of offenders to ascertain the security level adults or juveniles must be detained within a facility. Institutional counselors also evaluate offenders and treat offenders within group or individual settings.

A criminal justice degree also allows individuals opportunities to work for federal law enforcement agencies. Federal agencies employ individuals with a bachelors degree in criminal justice or related work experience, and sometimes a combination of college courses and job experience. Most federal agencies employ police and special agents within the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. marshals and deputy marshals, the U.S. Postal Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Law Enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security, the Forest Service, The U.S. Border Patrol, Customs Inspectors, the U.S. Immigration Inspection, Federal Air Marshals, the Secret Service, the U.S. Fish and Game Wardens, and agents for the National Park Service who have sworn arrest powers and the authority to carry firearms.

One of the most prominent federal law enforcement agencies is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Agents for the FBI investigate and conduct national security investigations through surveillance, court authorized wiretaps, examination of business records, perform undercover assignments, or investigate white collar crime and perform as the U.S. Government’s principle investigators. The FBI investigates over 200 categories of Federal Law and a wide range of criminal activities like organized crime, public corruption, financial crime, bank robbery, kidnapping, terrorism, espionage, drug trafficking, and cybercrime. Federal law enforcement agents train at Quantico, Virginia, a U.S. Marine Corps base, or in Glynco, Georgia, at the Federal law Enforcement Training Center. A criminal justice degree enables students to apply for jobs within the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Potential agents must be appointed to their positions and also must be college graduates with 3 years of related work experience or possess an advanced degree with 2 years of related work experience. Prospective FBI agents must also major in accounting, electrical engineering, information technology, or computer science as well as fluency in foreign language, a degree from an accredited law school, or three years of full time job experience. If a prospective candidate meets the educational and/or work experience requirements, he or she then participates in an eighteen week long extensive training program at the FBI training academy in Quantico, Virginia.

Criminal justice degrees also provide an excellent foundation for individuals seeking careers in public law. Many pre-law programs require prospective students to have majors in criminal law, political science, history, English, or psychology. Many individuals with masters degrees in criminal justice pursue careers in prosecution, defense, and government legal representation.

A criminal justice degree often affords individuals salaries ranging from $30,000 to $50,000 yearly depending upon field of specialization, degree/s earned, and law enforcement agency.

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