Criminal Justice Majors: Career and Salary Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in criminal justice. Read on to learn more about career options along with course topics, real-world training, job duties and potential earnings.

Career Information at a Glance

With a criminal justice degree, you can pursue a career in law enforcement, or work as a victims' rights advocate or private detective. The following chart provides an introduction to these careers.

Police Officer Victims' Rights Advocate Private Detective
Key Responsibilities Patrolling a community, responding to citizens' concerns, collecting evidence, catching criminals Getting medical treatment for crime victims, making sure they have a safe place to live, helping them obtain legal aid and counseling Researching cases, conducting interviews, gathering evidence, performing surveillance
Job Growth (2012-22) 6% (slower than average) for police and sheriff's patrol officers* Data not available* 11% (as fast as average)*
Median Salary $56,810 (May 2014)* $32,358 (May 2015)** $44,570 (May 2014)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com.

What Can I Expect From a Criminal Justice Major?

A bachelor's degree in criminal justice is typically a 4-year program. You can expect to examine the role and impact of police in society, learn research methods specific to police work and learn about criminal threats in cyber space. You are required to complete courses in statistics, psychology and criminology. Criminal justice majors may require that you complete a specified course of study prior to admission, including courses in politics and introductory criminal justice classes. You may have the opportunity to complete internships for hands-on experience in this field.

What Careers Will I Be Qualified For?

Police officers serve their community to keep citizens safe, collecting evidence, catching criminals and patrolling to prevent crime. These individuals respond to calls for emergency medical assistance and may testify in court proceedings. Police officers can specialize in working with records, traffic offenses or other crime scene investigation.

A criminal justice major may also prepare you to work as a victims' rights advocate, which is someone who works with law enforcement, victims and the courts to ensure that a victims' needs are met. Advocates work with crime victims to get help from community service programs, legal assistance and counseling, when necessary. Some of these advocates do clerical work, maintaining databases and client files.

Another potential career option is becoming a private investigator or detective, performing research and surveillance and searching for and analyzing information for evidence. Detectives may specialize in preparing legal defense cases and investigating corporations and financial dealings. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), positions for private investigators and detectives are expected to increase by 3,300, or 11%, from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov).

How Much Can I Earn?

The BLS reported that police and sheriff's patrol officers earned a median salary of $56,810 in 2014. Victims' advocates earned considerably less, according to PayScale.com, which reported a median salary of $32,358 in 2015. Finally, private investigators and detectives earned a median salary of $44,570 in 2014 (www.bls.gov).

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