21 Top Jobs You Can Land with a Criminal Justice Degree

From investigative agencies to the correctional system to public security and beyond, criminal justice is an ideal field for anyone with a commitment to community values, a belief in the rule of law and a dedication to serving others.

Key Takeaways

    • A criminal justice degree opens doors to a wide array of career opportunities—from law enforcement and corrections to legal and advocacy roles.
    • Pursuing a career in criminal justice allows you to make a positive impact on society and uphold the values of justice and peace while serving your community.

So What Does a Career in Criminal Justice Involve?

The most literal definition of a career in criminal justice refers to administering justice to those who have committed or been accused of committing crimes. However, criminal justice jobs cover a wide range of specialties and interests.

Providing for the protection and defense of others’ rights and safety involves a career path that typically includes focused education and training — a criminal justice degree will prepare you to serve your community and uphold the values of justice and peace for a lifetime.

If you earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in criminal justice, you’ll have the opportunity to make a significant impact on your country and community while making a significant difference in the lives of individuals. With salaries ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 and higher, the career outlook is particularly bright.

21 Common Criminal Justice Careers

U.S. Marshal — $55,897

When you work for the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency, your duties may include transporting prisoners, conducting fugitive manhunts, providing security to judges and jurors and participating in tactical operations, asset forfeiture and witness security.

FBI Agent — $67,860

Agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation are responsible for investigating bank robberies, terrorism, cybercrime, public corruption, espionage, organized crime, drug trafficking and much more. The FBI is also constantly on the hunt for new agents, but if you are inspired to “protect the American people and uphold the Constitution” you’ll need a four-year degree from an accredited institution followed by rigorous training.

CIA Agent — $87,091

The Central Intelligence Agency’s primary mission is to “collect, analyze, evaluate and disseminate foreign intelligence to assist the president and senior U.S. government policymakers in making decisions relating to national security.” As a special agent, you’ll be focused on operations intended to maintain the security of the United States and its citizens.

Private Detective — $57,897

This isn’t all about overnight stakeouts, as seen on TV. Working on behalf of private clients or hired to assist law enforcement agencies, private detectives are often called upon to do background checks and uncover information related to divorce cases, workers compensation claims and more. The private eye best known for inspiring the imagination about this line of work is, of course, the fictional super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes.

Corporate Investigator — $66,155

Your responsibilities in this role will vary greatly, from conducting background checks to investigating “any matter that may be a potential violation of law or company policy.” While you may or not end up involved in dramatic intrigue on the 46th floor of a skyscraper, as a corporate investigator incidents of embezzlement, corruption or blackmail may very well be on your radar screen.

Crime Laboratory Analyst — $61,930

Crime lab analysts help solve crimes by using toxicology, DNA and trace evidence, blood and hair samples, weapons involved in the crime, fingerprints and other evidence collected at the crime scene. Thanks to advancements in technology, many criminals are now brought to justice not with an arsenal of high-caliber weaponry but with microscopes and other high-tech forensic tools.

Fish and Game Warden — $60,730

Are you the type of person who would love to work outdoors in an important and meaningful position? Park rangers and fish and game wardens patrol forest preserves and waterways, national parks and other public lands to ensure that both the wildlife habitat and visitors are protected.

Police Officer — $64,610

The duty to “protect and serve” is an ideal calling if you’re looking to put your criminal justice education to work in any of a wide variety of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. This front-line criminal justice role is a time-honored way to build a career serving your community, as well as to advance into a variety of other fascinating law enforcement jobs.

Fire Investigator — $64,600

Much like a police investigator analyzes a crime scene, fire investigators are responsible for determining the cause of the fire. In cases of arson, the property becomes a crime scene and a criminal investigation is launched. As a fire investigator, you may work closely with law enforcement officials to identify, apprehend and prosecute arsonists.

Correctional Officer — $48,530

Correctional officers work primarily within jails and prisons at the local, state, and federal levels to supervise individuals who are convicted of crimes or awaiting legal proceedings. This extremely challenging, entry-level role can lead to advancement within the corrections system and can also be a foundation for exploring other aspects of the criminal justice world.

U.S. Postal Inspector — $62,787

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will prevent postal inspectors from using forensics, interviewing and other investigative techniques to solve crimes that range from theft, vandalism and fraud to identity theft — with a specific focus on crimes that involve the U.S. Postal Service.

Secret Service Agent — $52,730

Typically thought of as the men and women who safeguard the president and other top government officials, the Secret Service is also tasked with anti-counterfeiting activities and bringing justice to those who break the laws related to our nation’s financial security.

Computer Forensics Investigator — $77,786

You’ll need advanced computer science forensic skills for this line of work, which often involves tracking or recovering electronic evidence that criminals may have tried to conceal or destroy. This is a great criminal justice career for those who possess a knack for understanding the inner workings of computers.

Intelligence Analyst — $77,908

In an era when our electronic devices collect more data than ever before, specialists are needed to gather and analyze relevant data to develop intelligence that can be used to solve crimes, assess potential security threats, and more. While intelligence analysts can be found at the state and local levels, the majority work at the federal level for the FBI.

Court Administrator — $62,234

With duties that include overseeing the administrative needs of one or more courthouses (budget, facilities, case management procedures, etc.), working as a court administrator means you’ll also serve as a liaison between the court and other public or private entities.

College Professor — $84,380

Who’s going to teach the next generation of criminal justice professionals? An advanced degree in criminal justice or a related discipline is typically required to work in the classroom as a criminal justice professor, teaching courses in criminology, corrections and law enforcement operations and administration, and more — focusing on curriculum that combines cutting-edge theory with real-world applications.

Investigative Reporter — $66,437

Though the journalism industry has suffered from changing economic conditions, crime and investigative reporters are still needed at large print and electronic media organizations. As a crime reporter, you’ll use both journalistic and investigative skills to report on (or even break news about) criminal activities and how people are affected.

Victim Advocate — $41,410

People who work as victim advocates are trained to provide information, emotional support, access to services and a wide range of assistance to the victims of crimes, sometimes accompanying them to court proceedings. Though this is not traditionally a high-paying field, victim advocates are typically more motivated by deep reservoirs of compassion and empathy, and a desire to help others.

Probation Officer — $61,800

This is another option if you’re interested in making a one-on-one difference in the lives of others. Probation officers work with people released from the corrections system to ensure that they comply with the terms of their probation and to help them adjust to everyday life.

Forensic Psychologist — $78,934

If you’re looking to combine a specialization in psychology with a career in criminal justice, the role of forensic psychologist offers a chance to utilize deep understanding of human behavior to develop criminal profiles that law enforcement agencies can use to identify suspects and solve crimes.

Chief of Police — $88,249

Promotion to chief of police is a common goal if you’re looking to rise through the ranks in a law enforcement career. The chief provides overall leadership and serves as the public face of their department, while also handling budgetary, policy, and community relations activities. In larger departments, the top law enforcement official often answers to the title of commissioner.

How Will You Make an Impact?

The criminal justice field offers a wide range of career opportunities for individuals who are passionate about serving their community and upholding the law. From law enforcement and corrections to legal and advocacy roles, there are various paths that one can take within this field. Pursuing a career in criminal justice can be challenging and demanding, but it can also be highly rewarding.

With the right education, skills, and experience, you can make a positive impact on society and advance in your chosen career. Whether you are just starting out or looking to switch careers, the criminal justice field offers numerous possibilities for growth and professional development.

To learn more about the online criminal justice bachelor’s and master’s degree programs at the University of Cincinnati, contact us today to start a conversation.


*Salary information is sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Payscale, and current as of May 2024.

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