What comes to mind when you hear someone's working toward a degree in criminal justice? Many of us might be quick to assume they’re interested in a career in law enforcement, but that’s not always the case. In fact, there are plenty of exciting career paths available with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
Especially for those less inclined toward confrontation, a degree in criminal justice doesn't even necessarily guarantee you'll ever touch a pair of handcuffs! Here are a few options to choose from when seeking a career path in the criminal justice field.
Public Safety or Correctional Officer
Perhaps you desire a larger sense of responsibility — uniform and all. There are certainly options for that as either a public safety officer or a correctional officer. You would have the advantage of working at local, state, and federal levels, all while maintaining safety and protection.
Public safety officers are responsible for patrolling assigned areas and keeping them safe. They often perform medical treatment in emergency situations and can make arrests when absolutely necessary. Correctional officers do the same, though typically within prisons, jails, or other correctional institutions, watching over and protecting incarcerated individuals.
Forensic Science Technician
For people with a passion for science, a criminal justice degree could be the perfect career path! Work environments for forensic science technicians — also known as crime scene investigators or forensic investigators — range from inside the lab to assisting at an active crime scene.
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Not only do forensic science technicians conduct crime scene investigations while gathering evidence and information, but they also analyze evidence, images, and other elements pertinent to the investigation. They then perform comprehensive scientific and technical analyses in order to obtain results and answers. The added responsibility and technical skills may also lead to a greater potential salary, so if you're interested in using science to discover the truth, you may want to further investigate this career option.
You've seen and read about them in popular crime dramas, but there’s a reason private investigators have one of the most satisfying jobs out there. If you're the type of person who loves solving mysteries and problems, conducting interviews, and looking into unsolved cases, this might be the job for you.
A private investigator works hand in hand with authorities, and sometimes, if necessary, obtains evidence that can be used in court. This is the criminal case side of the job. On the other hand, private investigators also often work in the personal and financial sector, monitoring a specific individual or group and keeping tabs on their activity.
Probation or Parole Officer
Though probation and parole officers both work with convicted offenders, there are distinct differences between these two roles. Probation officers serve specific individuals during their probation, helping with their rehabilitation and preparing them for life after completing their probation. A parole officer's duties are quite similar, however, they work with former inmates.
Both require strong interpersonal and communicative skills to help those transitioning from incarceration continue to further their education, gain fulfilling employment, and achieve successful rehabilitation.
Forensic psychologists work directly with clients by holding multiple one-on-one sessions to research and assess any psychological information that could help diagnose an individual or further explain a particular crime's causation.
As a forensic psychologist, you would not only gather and present information, but even go as far as evaluating, diagnosing, and serving patients with mental illness.
In the world of law, a paralegal often serves as the hands and feet of their firm. The majority of responsibilities consist of supporting and collaborating with the attorneys in charge by gathering and analyzing evidence, tracking court filings, and managing and building high-volume cases — just to name a few.
It's a popular field that requires high levels of organization, extreme attention to detail, and adept research skills. Not only are paralegals in high demand, but the median pay has steadily increased year after year. Still, it doesn't cap there. You can further your education to become an attorney, judge, or political figure.
Is a Criminal Justice Degree Right For You?
There’s such a wide variety of paths one can take when looking into a criminal justice degree. You can work in the field responding to active crimes or gathering evidence. You could pursue your passion for science, working in crime scenes and labs to analyze important evidence. Or you could choose to work in an office where you counsel and help others transitioning from criminal backgrounds.