Criminal Justice Majors: Guide to Evaluating Your Career Options

When it comes to career planning, there are many compelling reasons to consider majoring in criminal justice — a fascinating, multifaceted field that features many opportunities to connect your education as a criminal justice major to your own individual interests and passions.

Here are just a few professions available for those graduating with a degree in criminal justice:

  • FBI agent
  • Crime lab analyst
  • U.S. Marshal
  • Public and private security
  • Correctional officer
  • Corporate investigator
  • Police detective
  • Asset protection specialist
  • Store detective
  • Financial intelligence investigator

If you are interested in a career in criminal justice, check out this recent blog post: 21 Top Jobs You Can Land with a Criminal Justice Degree.

Criminal Justice 101: The field of criminal justice comprises three branches:

  • Law Enforcement: The agencies, policemen and women, and detectives and investigators at the local, state and federal levels who are responsible for catching criminals and keeping people safe.
  • The Courts: The attorneys, judges, paralegals, bailiffs, administrators and support personnel who work within the legal system to ensure that everyone’s rights are upheld and that accused individuals receive their constitutional guarantee of a fair trial.
  • The Corrections System: The men and women who detain and supervise offenders, making sure that convicted individuals serve their sentence and are offered supervision and support in transitioning back into society.

Career Pathways for Criminal Justice Majors: Law Enforcement

As the saying goes, “Crime never sleeps.” This is part of the reason that law enforcement offers perhaps the greatest variety of career opportunities for criminal justice majors.

The never-ending need to catch lawbreakers and protect citizens fuels a constant demand for criminal justice professionals who possess the courage, compassion, education and training to perform this essential civic duty.

From small town police departments all the way up to federal agencies like the FBI and CIA, Homeland Security and the Secret Service, meaningful opportunities abound both on the front lines and behind the scenes — including such diverse specialties as forensic science, intelligence analysis, computer technology and criminal psychology. There is also a broad array of private-sector opportunities ranging from risk managers and fraud inspectors to corporate security specialists and private investigators.

Career Pathways for Criminal Justice Majors: The Courts

A criminal justice degree is valuable if you are interested in or aspire to such jobs as prosecutor or defense attorney, courthouse support personnel or administrator, or even serving on the bench as a judge.

Additionally, within the court system paralegals are often considered the backbone of various organizations ranging from courthouse or corporate settings to busy law offices (with specialties including criminal law, family law, financial law, personal injury or environmental law).

The responsibilities of paralegals can include research, document management and organization, witness preparation and even accompanying counsel during trials. Additional criminal justice jobs within the court system include bailiffs, court clerks and court reporters; legal assistants and victim advocates.

Career Pathways for Criminal Justice Majors: The Corrections System

People who desire to climb the career ladder in prisons and correctional institutions often specialize in corrections while gaining their criminal justice degree. Correctional manager, parole officer, probation officer, and warden are just a few of the advancement opportunities.

While most criminal justice professionals who specialize in the corrections system serve in roles like those mentioned above, there are also opportunities for researchers and scholars who pursue an advanced degree in criminal justice.

What to Look for in Colleges/Universities Offering a Criminal Justice Major

It is important to thoroughly evaluate all of your options when considering earning a bachelor’s in criminal justice. For example, you’ll want to weigh such key considerations as:

  • The quality and academic reputation of the institution
  • The criminal justice experience and expertise of the faculty members
  • The college or university’s regional and national accreditations
  • Field placement opportunities that enable you to gain practical experience while earning your degree

Fortunately, as the need for criminal justice professionals continues to expand, more colleges and universities have begun offering top-notch online degree programs that offer you the flexibility to earn your degree on your own schedule. This is an option that can make all the difference to those seeking to balance the daily demands of work and family life.

The good news is that the best online programs are just as academically rigorous as their on-campus counterparts and equal in every respect in the eyes of leading employers.

For example, the University of Cincinnati has created a widely respected School of Criminal Justice that includes state-of-the-art criminal justice research centers and institutes.

University of Cincinnati Online’s 30-plus-member criminal justice faculty draws on deep experience in all aspects of criminal justice to offer a comprehensive, career-focused educational experience that includes a variety of field placement opportunities for criminal justice majors.

Our online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program and our online Master of Science in Criminal Justice (ranked #9 in U.S. News & World Report for 2023) are ideal for anyone with a commitment to community values, a belief in the rule of law and a dedication to serving others in the exciting and challenging field of criminal justice.

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