As a criminal justice major, you might image a future where you spend all your free time hunting down bad guys, arresting them and bringing them to justice. Though many students who study criminal justice do work as police officers and for sheriff departments, you may want to spend more time at a desk, working with potential clients and setting your own schedule. Some of the jobs available to you require additional education or experience, but there are other jobs you can start right out of college.
A large number of students enter a criminal justice program because they want to work in law enforcement. Most cities require that police officers go through a long application process and attend and graduate from an affiliated police training academy. Though you may not need a degree to attend the academy, your degree may help you when it comes to working your way up the job ladder and to promotions later. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for police officers and detectives is $56,980 a year and that cities across the country will add an additional 41,400 new job by 2022.
Prosecutor or Defense Attorney
Students interested in studying law and attending law school often think that they need to graduate from a pre-law program, but law schools often look for students who are well rounded and have experience in multiple fields. Some of the more popular majors for law school students include history, political science and criminal justice. Studying criminal justice lets you learn why criminals act the way they do, how the justice system in American operates and the roles of lawyers and judges in that system. After graduating law school and passing the bar in your state, you might work as a prosecutor or a defense attorney.
Do you prefer working on your own without anyone telling you what to do or when to work? Working as a private investigator might appeal to you. Also known as a PI, a private investigator is someone who performs background checks, tracks people for clients and gathers evidence. You need experience using new computers, cameras and recorders, and you must have a PI license. The requirements for obtaining a license vary between states, but you often need to show that you have a college degree and successfully pass a criminal background check.
Becoming a criminal justice major can also prepare you for working as a probation officer or a parole office. A probation officer workers with those convicted of crimes who received probation in lieu of jail time, and parole officers work with criminals who judges granted parole to after they served a period of time in jail. These officers are responsible for ensuring that criminals live at the addresses they registered with the court, that they have jobs and that they meet any other requirements. Judges may require that convicts attend counseling sessions or complete a drug treatment program as part of their release.
Criminal justice programs give you a unique understanding of the criminal justice system and the roles that different people play in that system. As a criminal justice major, you may leave school and work as a probation or parole office or a private investigator, or you may gain more education and work as a police officer or lawyer.