Criminal Justice & Legal Overview – Degrees and Career Paths

A criminal justice degree can be applied in almost every area of the criminal justice and legal system. Earning a criminal justice degree can open new doors for a variety of careers in police squads, court systems, investigative units, and corrections facilities. Working adults with a demanding schedule can even pursue a criminal justice degree online to obtain necessary skills to prepare for a career in criminal justice in their specialized area of choice. Some vital topics covered in pursuing a criminal justice degree include an understanding of: criminal behavior, criminal law, legal and public safety process, corrections and judicial systems, and criminal procedure and evidence. Getting started with your degree in criminal justice is just a few clicks away!

 

STATISTICS:

With a growth rate of 15%, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that over a 10 year period, from 2008-2018, employment in legal occupations is projected to grow faster than the average of all occupations. With the increased demand for law enforcement to support the growing US population, the BLS indicates a 12% growth over the 10 year period. The BLS also indicates that legal establishments will begin to expand the role of paralegals and legal assistants, allowing the occupation to grow by 28% over the 10 year period.

 

SPECIALIZATIONS:

  • Corrections

  • Crime Scene Investigation

  • Forensic Science

  • Law Enforcement

  • Paralegal

  • Private Investigation

 

What are the program, career, and income details?

 With a completed degree in criminal justice, not only can you expect a countless number of opportunities, your criminal justice degree can also help you obtain higher starting salaries. Salary and career opportunities in criminal justice will vary depending on your chosen area of study within the criminal justice system and the degree level you choose to pursue.

 

CERTIFICATE & DIPLOMA

Certificate and diploma programs are designed for students wishing to gain necessary skills to prepare for a career in the workforce as soon as possible. These programs usually will not include general education courses required for an undergraduate degree in criminal justice. A certificate in criminal justice or a diploma in criminal justice can generally be completed in 9-12 months and credits earned can often be transferred later toward an undergraduate degree in criminal justice.

 

JOBS & NATIONAL AVERAGE ANNUAL SALARY:

  • $26,860      File Clerk

  • $30,940      Security Guard

  • $35,120      Court Clerk 

 

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2008

 




ASSOCIATE’S DEGREE

 

Associate’s degree programs are generally two-year programs offered by many colleges and universities as well as technical and vocational institutes. Many online schools will offer associate degree programs which can be completed in as little as 1 and a half years. A graduate of an associate’s degree in criminal justice will be equipped with general education in the criminal justice system and will be prepared to work in a wide variety of positions within law enforcement, court systems, investigative units, and corrections facilities.

 

JOBS & MEDIAN SALARY:

  • $38,930      Dispatcher

  • $41,640      Legal Secretary

  • $46,810      Law Clerk

 

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2008

 

BACHELOR’S DEGREE

 

Undergraduate bachelor’s degree programs at a traditional brick-and-mortar college, with a traditional semester schedule, are typically four years in length. By offering year-round learning, many online colleges allow you to earn a bachelor’s degree in roughly three years. Earning a Bachelors in criminal justice can prepare graduates for careers in a wide variety of fields. Many bachelor’s in criminal justice degree graduates can be found in positions including crime scene investigator, forensic scientist, laboratory technician, paralegal or legal assistant, and private investigator.

 

JOBS & MEDIAN SALARY:

  • $47,150      Paralegal and Legal Assistant

  • $51,960      Court Reporter

  • $52,540      Social Worker

  • $55,330      Forensic Science Technician

  • $66,000      Private Investigator

 

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2008

 

MASTER’S DEGREE

 

Master’s degree programs are typically offered as two year graduate degree programs. Many online schools offering year-round learning, however, will offer a masters degree program which can be completed in about a year and a half. Graduate students pursuing a master’s in criminal justice can usually find themselves with the competitive edge in the job market. Master’s in criminal justice graduates with work experience prove to be highly valuable team-members in any area within law enforcement, court systems, investigative units, and corrections facilities. Earning a general master’s in criminal justice will focus on high-level criminal justice system issues and processes. At this level, many graduate degree-seeking students will choose a specialty within their masters in criminal justice degree program such as Corrections, Crime Scene Investigation, Cyber Crime, Forensic Science, Law Enforcement, or Public Safety.

 

JOBS & MEDIAN SALARY:

  • $55,330      Forensic Science Technician

  • $66,000      Private Investigator

  • $123,210    Lawyer (Juris Doctor)

  • Varying       Professional Legal Consultant

 

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2008

 

DOCTORATE DEGREE

 

A doctoral level degree program can vary in length and will depend on the school’s structure of the doctorate degree plan. Students wishing to practice law will take the Juris Doctor track in order to prepare for their state bar exam. A PhD in Criminal Justice will often include a residency which varies in length and frequency, applied dissertation projects, a thesis, and/or a capstone course. A doctor of criminology or criminal justice is often designed to encourage lifelong doctoral degree level research design and application.

 

JOBS & MEDIAN SALARY:

  • Varying        Lawyer (Juris Doctor)

  • Varying        Professional Legal Consultant

  • Varying        Business Consultant

 

*Source Reference: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. http://www.bls.gov