Read about careers in criminal justice and police science, including how much education you'll need to obtain a position. Find information about areas of specialization and course topics here, as well as what you might earn as a police officer or private detective.
A formal education in criminal justice or police science can lead to many different career paths, such as a position as a police officer, private investigator or crime scene investigator. College coursework in business law or computer technology may be helpful if you're interested in becoming a corporate investigator or specialist in computer forensics. Some schools may offer specializations that can lead to other opportunities in forensics and law enforcement intelligence. While most work may take place indoors, police officers on patrol or investigators examining a crime scene often work outside of an office setting.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment of police officers and detectives was expected to increase by just 5% nationwide from 2012-2022. By comparison, opportunities for private detectives and investigators were expected to grow by 11% through 2022, which is about average. In May 2013, police officers made a median annual salary of $56,130, while criminal investigators and detectives earned $76,730 a year (www.bls.gov).
Educational requirements in criminal justice and police science can vary according to the position. While some of these jobs do not have formal education requirements, obtaining a degree in a relevant field of study may open the door to more job opportunities. Some police and detective departments want applicants who have completed some postsecondary coursework or training in law enforcement. Completion of a formal training program may also help you qualify for state licensure, as required for some positions.
An associate's degree program in police science can be a good start if you're interested in pursuing an entry-level job in law enforcement or private security work. In a police science program, you can study interrogation and surveillance techniques, firearms and drug identification. Some associate's degree programs may offer concentrations in crime investigation or police administration. Specialized bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice or a related field might also help you qualify for a position with a federal agency.
Graduate programs, such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Criminal Justice, may include courses in research design and analysis, comparative criminal justice, forensic serology and DNA profiling. You might also explore the globalization of crime or receive training in counter-terrorism.
If you wish to work in criminal justice or police science, you should have strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The ability to communicate clearly with other people is also important, especially when interacting with a team of investigators or officers.