Criminal Justice Careers

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Completing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can help you prepare to enter the police academy or for other law enforcement training opportunities. However, this versatile degree can also kick-start your criminal justice career in a variety of other law enforcement-related paths.

Graduates of Maryville’s criminal justice/criminology degree program will be able to apply their knowledge of criminology, the law, and its enforcement in multiple career settings. Here are a few possibilities.

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Industries hiring criminal justice graduates

From private security firms to the government, a wide range of institutions and companies work with criminal justice graduates. The following industries and sectors commonly employ graduates with criminal justice degrees.

  • City or state law enforcement agencies
  • Private security firms
  • Federal government
  • Nonprofits or law firms

Popular criminal justice careers

Criminal justice graduates work in a variety of different capacities within the criminal justice system. The following are some of the most popular positions that criminal justice graduates often pursue. While acquiring a criminal justice degree can help an aspiring law enforcement professional begin the process of pursuing a career in criminal justice, acquiring the degree itself does not guarantee employment.

Many positions in criminal justice may call for police academy training, ample experience, and/or advanced degrees or specific certifications. This depends on the responsibilities associated with the title, but earning a criminal justice degree is a pivotal step in the process.

Police Officer, Detective, or Criminal Investigator

Police officers are responsible for protecting and serving citizens. They enforce laws and ensure the protection of both lives and property.

A police officer’s responsibilities vary tremendously on a day-to-day basis. In a single day, an officer may be responsible for responding to both non-emergency and emergency calls, patrolling particular areas, conducting traffic stops, and issuing citations.

Detectives, on the other hand, have a more specialized role. They serve as investigators, gathering facts and evidence for specific criminal cases. Most detectives start their careers as police officers. Police officers and detectives generally need to attend and graduate from their agency’s training academy before completing a period of on-the-job training.

While a high school diploma or a GED may be sufficient for some police officer positions, some departments may require an undergraduate degree in criminal justice or a similar field, along with additional training depending on state, city, or county regulations.

Additionally, some departments may have employment requirements for detectives beyond an undergraduate degree, including advanced training and ample law enforcement experience.

Median salary: $61,600 (

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Interpersonal communication
  • Ability to think under pressure
  • Empathy and listening
  • Dedicated work ethic and organization

Computer Forensics Investigator

Computer forensics investigators work with law enforcement agencies to retrieve information from computers to assist in crime solving. These investigators will have a strong working knowledge of computers — often the equipment they’re working with will be damaged in some way.

In addition to working with law enforcement, computer forensics investigators can also work privately, testing the integrity of a company’s information technology systems. While becoming a computer forensics investigator requires additional training, education, and certifications in specific subsets of information technology and cybersecurity, a criminal justice degree can help students gain some of the necessary skills needed to start down the path to becoming a computer forensics investigator. For instance, a criminal justice degree can help aspiring investigators develop an understanding of the courts system, as investigators are often called upon to testify about the evidence they retrieve from a computer.

Median salary: $68,070 (

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Critical thinking
  • Data analysis
  • Keen understanding of modern network security
  • Proficiency with a range of IT systems

Air Marshal

Air marshals are law enforcement officers who have jurisdiction when a passenger flight is in the air. They are responsible for protecting passengers against potential crimes and terrorist violence. On the ground, air marshals work with other agencies to protect against the risk of terrorism.

Becoming an air marshal requires several steps — for one, candidates are expected to have a great deal of experience in law enforcement, and they also need to complete a range of additional training programs with the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS).

Additionally, the application process is rigorous, as it includes a physical training assessment, a written application, psychological assessment, an interview, and more.

Average salary: $98,592 (

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Leadership
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Ability to serve as a moderator
  • Keen understanding of local and federal criminal laws

DEA Special Agent

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents protect the United States by identifying, investigating, and immobilizing drug traffickers. DEA agents work toward the administration’s goal of eliminating the distribution of illegal drugs by prosecuting traffickers.

A bachelor’s degree is one of the minimum requirements to become an agent; the DEA agent position is one of the most coveted in law enforcement, and candidates with robust experience, education, and qualifications may have a competitive advantage for being selected. The recruitment process also includes physical and psychological assessments, a polygraph test, background check, and panel interview.

Average salary: $135,680 (

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Advanced criminology knowledge
  • Quantitative and qualitative reasoning
  • Research
  • Detail oriented

Probation Officer

Probation officers supervise offenders that have been released into the community with conditions — usually to maintain good behavior and obey certain restrictions. Offenders report regularly to their probation officer, who provides social services to help them rehabilitate.

Probation officers typically work either with juveniles or adults, and are responsible for documenting the rehabilitative progress of the offender(s) assigned to them. A criminal justice degree can help a student start the process of becoming a probation officer; however, it is important to note that additional training and certifications are also typically required to become a probation officer.

Median salary: $50,160 (

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Interpersonal communication
  • Empathy
  • Understanding of criminal law
  • Community oriented

Corrections Officer

Corrections officers oversee inmates in correctional or rehabilitative facilities. These officers often work long hours in potentially risky environments as they are dealing directly with inmates. While some corrections officer jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree, having a criminal justice degree may improve the chances of advancing to a higher-paying position or a leadership role.

Educational requirements aside, candidates who lack the necessary experience will also have to pursue additional training or certifications, depending on their state.

Median salary: $42,820 (

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Leadership abilities
  • Project management
  • Ability to serve as a moderator
  • Understanding of the criminal justice system

Fish and Game Warden

Law enforcement meets the outdoors in a job as a fish and game warden. These wardens enforce laws related to hunting, fishing, and boating, and patrol wilderness areas where these activities take place.

Students interested in conservation, climate change, and wildlife may find this career path rewarding, as will those interested in working in a variety of environments, from wildlife refuges to popular national forests. Depending on the exact role, additional training through state departments or federal agencies will also be required to pursue this career option.

Average salary: $51,730 (

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Outdoors-related survival skills
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Quantitative and qualitative reasoning
  • Ability to act professionally in a wilderness environment

Border Protection Officer

The primary mission of a customs and border protection officer is to prevent terrorism. Working at airports, land crossings, and ports, border services officers also protect against the smuggling of illegal drugs and other items, enforce immigration and trade policies, and protect the country’s agriculture.

A four-year degree — or a combination of education and work experience — is required to apply for the position, along with additional specialized academy training.

Average salary: $39,738-$110,136 (Salary range varies depending on grade level) (

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Ability to speak multiple languages
  • Awareness of criminal laws
  • Critical thinking
  • Quick decision-making

Those who are interested in a career in law enforcement or criminal justice shoulder consider pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice/criminology. Learn more about Maryville University’s online Criminal Justice/Criminology program and start actualizing your criminal justice career goals.

Now that you have a better understanding of potential criminal justice careers, discover what criminal justice is in the modern world.

Recommended Reading

Administration of Justice Degree vs Criminal Justice Degree: What’s the Difference?

Comparing Educational Paths: Criminology vs Criminal Justice Degrees


Indeed, “Drug Enforcement Administration Salaries in the United States”, “Average Forensic Computer Analyst Salary”, “Average Salary for Federal Air Marshals Employees”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists” 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Correctional Officers and Bailiffs”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Police and Detectives”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Fish and Game Wardens”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “CBP Officers Pay and Benefits”

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, “DEA Special Agents”

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