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. Schools offering Criminal Justice degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is A Criminal Justice Major?

A criminal justice major is someone who has completed a bachelor's degree with a declared major in criminal justice. This is an ideal degree to prepare for a career in law enforcement or to pursue work as a victims' rights advocate. Criminal justice majors may also choose to become private investigators. Police officers enforce laws; those who advance to investigative roles may review crime scenes, gather evidence, analyze test results with evidence is processed, interview witnesses and make arrests. All police officers may have to testify in court regarding cases they have worked on, which can range from giving someone a speeding ticket to arresting someone suspected of committing murder. Private investigators may perform many of the same investigate tasks, but they work for private clients and report their findings to those clients. In some cases they may need to inform law enforcement officials if they have reason to believe that a crime has been committed. Victims' rights advocates assist individuals who've been the victim of a crime. They may need to help them find alternate accommodations if their home has been declared a crime scene, and in some cases they may need to help them get medical treatment if they've been the victim of an attack. They may also provide emotional support when the case goes to trial.

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 (2014-2024) 5% for police and sheriff's patrol officers* Data not available* 5%*
Median Salary $58,320 (May 2015)* $34,432 (Oct. 2016)** $45,610 (May 2015)*

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 1,800, or 5%, from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov).

How Much Can I Earn?

The BLS reported that police and sheriff's patrol officers earned a median salary of $58,320 in 2015. Victims' advocates earned considerably less, according to PayScale.com, which reported a median salary of $34,432 in 2016. Finally, private investigators and detectives earned a median salary of $45,610 in 2015 (www.bls.gov).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Correctional officers and bailiffs may not need a degree, but they do provide critical services in the criminal justice field. Corrections officers secure prisoners, while bailiffs are responsible for the security in courtrooms. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists do need a bachelor's degree, and they focus on monitoring convicted criminals once they're released from jail. They check in on their clients to ensure that they are making good choices and help them integrate into society. The work that security guards perform also has some similarities to the work that law enforcement officials do. They monitor an assigned area to ensure that unauthorized personal do not enter and make sure that the person or facility or thing they're assigned to guard remains safe.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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