Why Get A Degree In Criminal Justice?

"I’ve been trying to figure out a practical degree that will allow me to get my hands dirty, so to speak. I don’t really know what type. I just know I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in an office. I want to do something exciting that gets me involved and helps me do something good. Someone suggested criminal justice to me. Why get a degree in criminal justice? What are the benefits, and what appeal would something like that hold based on the jobs that are out there?"

asked by Bill from Detroit, MI

There are a lot of great reasons to consider going into criminal justice. The degree field is pretty broad, so it can open up a lot of doors. You get to make a difference in society and help to protect people. Here are just a few of the exciting jobs you can do with a criminal justice degree:

Police officer and other law enforcement jobs

These jobs may involve fieldwork, which should be ideal for you since you mentioned wanting to get out of an office setting. Some other “hands on” roles include investigator, detective, and dispatcher. All of these roles are essential for keeping society safe.

Crime scene analysis

If you get a B.S. in criminal justice or you get a degree in a scientific field instead, you can go into crime scene analysis. There are many different types of crime scene analysts. Some are experts in ballistics, while others may analyze bloodstains. Still others examine forensic evidence.

Court system jobs are also worth considering if you are interested in that side of things. You could become an attorney (if you proceed to law school with your criminal justice degree serving as your pre-law degree), a clerk, a paralegal, a bailiff, or a prosecutor.

Those are just a few of the jobs you can get with a criminal justice degree. Others are highly specialized, like forensic psychologist, and may require a higher degree in a related field, such as psychology.

You may also find that new doors open to you after you first get started in the field. For example, you probably will not get an entry-level job as a detective, but you may start out as a police officer and then advance to the role of detective. Likewise, you are unlikely to land an exciting job with the FBI right out of college, but you might with experience.

A career in criminal justice sounds like something you may be well suited to, given your desire to do hands-on work (“get your hands dirty”) and participate in something meaningful. Consider talking to an advisor about your options, and maybe interviewing a local police officer or detective about his or her job. That way you can get more of a feel for whether this is something you might want to do.

Criminal justice jobs can also pay very well, especially with experience, which is just one more draw for this career field.

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