careers with a criminal justice degree

What Can You Do with a Criminal Justice Degree?

A criminal justice degree can position you for a rewarding, successful career where you can make a difference. Learn about your career options in this guide.

We often hear children say, “When I grow up, I want to be a police officer.” And for many who are just starting to consider a career in criminal justice, police officer is the first job title that comes to mind. It is no wonder why. Police officers are important liaisons in our communities. These are the professionals we call in the face of an emergency or threat. They protect the streets, safeguard citizens, and work to keep their community a secure and comfortable place.

While it’s true that police officers make up a great fraction of today’s law enforcement professionals, they are not the only career within the criminal justice system. There are countless job options available – on the frontlines of the field, and behind the (crime) scenes – to those with a criminal justice degree.

Where Can You Work with a Criminal Justice Degree?

From FBI to DEA agents, forensic scientists to paralegals, the possibilities for criminal justice graduates are abundant. There are positions at local, state, and federal agencies, as well as private and non-profit organizations, and law firms.
With the great range of roles available, you should have no problem choosing a job that fits your unique interests, skills, and talents. Which criminal justice career is right for you?

10 Criminal Justice Career Paths to Consider After Graduation

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular criminal justice careers today.

1. Law Enforcement Officer

A law enforcement officer is a professional who works to keep their community safe by enforcing laws and regulations. Law enforcement officers may also respond to emergencies and detain criminals. There are different types of law enforcement officers, including police officers, state troopers, deputy sheriffs, detectives, and fish and game wardens. While career requirements can vary by employer and job title, a criminal justice degree can prepare you with the skills and knowledge needed for this line of work. Law enforcement officers should have a strong understanding of the criminal justice system, law and ethics, as well as empathy and conflict resolution skills.

2. DEA Agent

DEA agents work for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Their job is designed to protect our nation against illicit drug abuse, drug trafficking, and drug manufacturing or sales. Now—amidst an opioid epidemic in our country—DEA agents are more important than ever.

DEA agents investigate, track, and infiltrate covert drug operations and major drug trafficking organizations. If you choose to become a DEA agent, your chief goal will be to stop dangerous drug traffic in its tracks, before it reaches potential users. This helps in the larger scheme to prevent the fatal drug overdoses and the devastation of drug addiction across the United States.

3. Forensic Scientists

If you have an analytical and curious mind, a forensic science career may be for you. Forensic scientists are laboratory technicians who work directly with evidence from crime scenes. They collect and process any information that can be used as evidence in court, such as fingerprints, polygraphs, and hair samples. Their goal is to connect the evidence with persons of interest as well as crime happenings.

Also called forensic science technicians, these professionals must have a strong attention-to-detail, observation, and analysis skills. Further, they should have experience and prior coursework in forensic science, forensic photography, and computer crime forensics, too. An associate degree in criminal justice is recommended for this role.

If you choose a career path as a forensic science technician, you will have many options surrounding your specialty. You may specialize in drugs, homicide, sexual offenses, arson investigations, child abuse, ballistics, cybercrime investigation, and more.

4. Immigration or Customs Agent

Homeland security is an important field in securing the United States and keeping civilians safe. Within this field, there are also many career options. With a criminal justice degree in hand, you can become a border agent, immigration inspector, immigration agent, or a U.S. customs inspector. Within any of these roles, you will be responsible for protecting more than 8,000 miles of our nation’s borders from illegal contraband or entry. You may investigate, arrest, and deport individuals who do not have permission to be in the United States. You may also prevent the smuggling of illegal goods past our borders. As a customs agent, you will inspect any cargo entering the country to ensure border safety.

5. Corrections Officer

Working in the prisons system is another great career option for those studying criminal justice, and one possibility is a corrections officer. Corrections officers are responsible for monitoring prison inmates and maintaining order among inmates in their facility. They supervise activities, enforce rules, inspect facilities and prison cells, escort and transport inmates, and report any contraband or poor conduct. These officers play a key role in keeping inmates safe and secure while they are incarcerated. They have the option to work at the local, state, or federal level.

6. Private Investigator

Private investigators are privately hired detectives who help uncover information for their clients. Their main role is to collect evidence around personal, legal, and financial matters. For example, private investigators may be hired to conduct surveillance in a business, in the investigation of a potential theft issue. They may also be hired to help locate a missing person, investigate potential infidelity in a divorce case, or perform a background check of an employee before hiring. They may also conduct surveillance of alleged suspects or of suspicious activity at a given location. Private investigators differ from detectives in that they are not employed by law enforcement agencies, but rather by individual clients.

7. Victim’s Advocate

Criminal justice careers go beyond arresting and investigating criminals. What about the ones who were acted against? This is where victims’ advocates come into play. Victims’ advocates play an important role in supporting victims of a crime. They accompany victims and their family members through court proceedings, and offer emotional support and information whenever needed. They also help victims find resources and ensure victims of their rights throughout the entire legal process. Victims carry out meaningful work, and typically can be found in social service agencies, crisis centers, and law enforcement agencies.

8. Fire and Arson Investigator

Fire investigators are also important members of the criminal justice field, as they help to understand the cause of arson in communities. Fire investigators specifically work to examine the scene of a fire and collect evidence that supports a potential cause. For example, they may collect evidence related to fire accelerants and tampered utilities, as well as uncover burn patterns. They also analyze the evidence, to determine if a fire was accidental or deliberate and of criminal nature.

9. Cybercrime Investigator

While detectives often work to solve physical crimes such as homicide and property theft, cybercrime investigators take on a whole different world of criminality: cyber, or computer, crime. Cybercrimes are complicated, internet-based offenses that often involve identity theft, data breaches, phishing, hacking, malware, and fraud. These crimes are common across the world wide web, and require a specialized set of investigation skills in order to solve and mitigate. Cybercrime investigators collect evidence, using specialized digital systems and tactics, in order to prosecute hackers and cyber criminals.

10. TSA Agent

If you’ve ever traveled long distances or taken a flight, you’ve likely encountered the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) before. The TSA is a government organization responsible for ensuring the security of transportation systems – such as trains and airplanes – to, from, and within the United States. TSA agents, therefore, are special agents who work to protect travelers and systems from crime. They prevent dangerous materials and goods (such as weapons and drugs) from entering transportation hubs, and help to ensure that passengers arrive at their destinations safely. Learn more here.

What Will You Do with a Criminal Justice Degree?

Criminal justice is an attractive career choice for natural protectors, so it can be a competitive field. To advance above the competition and achieve the criminal justice career of your dreams, you will have to take the right steps to get there. Earning a degree, plus gaining hands-on training and experience through a criminal justice internship, will give you the skills you need to impress potential employers and progress in the field.

Interested in Goodwin University’s Criminal Justice School in Connecticut? Contact us at 800-889-3282 or visit!