What Can You do With a Criminal Justice Degree?

Are you wondering if a criminal justice degree is the right direction for you? Before you can decide, you need to know more about what job opportunities you’ll encounter after graduation. While traditional jobs like law enforcement and federal service are always hiring, you should also consider unconventional paths like non-profit work or victim advocacy. Criminal justice degree programs combine the broad skill base of a classic liberal arts education with specific training in psychology, sociology and legal studies, giving you a strong base for lifelong flexibility in employment.

Human Services

If you’re interested in criminal justice because of your interest in helping others realize their full potential in life, human services is a good career fit for you. By working in a social service agency, you’ll make a difference in your clients’ lives every day. You can work in a government position as a child protective services investigator or benefits fraud enforcer and combine your analytical skills with public service. Another possible career track is working within the legal system as a victim advocate, court-appointed special advocate for children or domestic violence program coordinator.

Law Enforcement Officer

Law enforcement agencies across the country are demanding more educational attainment from applicants. While a high school diploma or general equivalency development test would have been acceptable in earlier years, today you need at least an associate’s degree in criminal justice or a similar field to apply for a job as a police officer. To be a competitive applicant, you’ll want to complete a bachelor’s degree. These jobs are increasingly sought after due to their high rate of pay, generous benefits and sense of community service.The median pay rate for police and detectives is $60, 270 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This doesn’t include perks like a take-home car, pension, or access to lucrative moonlighting opportunities.


An undergraduate degree in criminal justice provides an excellent framework for a successful career in the law as either a prosecutor or defense attorney. You’ll learn the basis of the United States legal system and the critical thinking and research skills necessary to excel in the public practice of law. This career path is a popular choice for criminology majors: In 2016, it was the third most popular bachelor’s degree among law school applicants with almost 4,000 criminal justice majors applying for a juris doctorate.

Federal Agency Service

The FBI, CIA, ATF and the Secret Service need large numbers of well-educated staff every year. These agencies are especially hungry for college graduates with a strong interest in national service and training in law enforcement and the legal system. A criminal justice degree program covers the skills and knowledge base you’ll need to be a competitive federal agent. Whether you want to work in national security, anti-terrorism efforts or fight domestic crime, you’ll need a relevant bachelor’s degree to get your foot in the door.

If you choose to purse a degree in this field, you’ll be preparing yourself for a lifetime of career stability. A wide range of local, national and non-profit employers are looking for applicants with a degree in criminal justice.

See also: 50 Great Schools Where High School Students Can Get College Credit