Many students believe that the only criminal justice career path available to them is law enforcement, but in fact, this is not the case. A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is a vast area of study that encompasses many different topics, ranging from law enforcement, corrections, the courts and juvenile justice to constitutional law, criminal investigation, computer crimes and criminology. From this extensive list of topics comes a broad array of career paths.
When I address with my students in criminal justice degree programs on what career paths they’d like to pursue after graduation, a myriad of possibilities are discussed. Of course, some students are interested in law enforcement. For them, that may include wanting to work for a police or sheriff’s department, their state department of law enforcement or state highway patrol, or federal agencies such as the FBI and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
Some are interested in working in corrections, which can include working in a jail or prison or working in a probation department. Others had the desire to earn their bachelor degree in criminal justice and then go on to law school.
Yet these are not the only available career paths in criminal justice. Some students aim to work in forensics, whether in a crime lab or as a crime scene technician. Some strive to go into the private sector and work in private investigations. Others are working toward roles in juvenile justice, either wanting to work as a juvenile probation officer, a child protection investigator, or mentor for juveniles.
I’ve also seen students whose own families were impacted by crime, inspiring them to want to go into victim advocacy, an area where individuals help and guide victims through recovery and the criminal justice system (should victims chose to report). Still others interested in how technology can be used to analyze crime trends and wanted to become crime analysts.
Law enforcement is an important career, but it’s not the only opportunity for those with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Criminal justice encompasses so much more. It is about law enforcement, the courts, and corrections. It is also about victims and offenders. It is about crime prevention, crime solving, and crime analysis. It involves public officials and those in the private sector.
That’s one reason I became involved in criminal justice myself — I liked that there were different possibilities. Even if one was not for me, I knew that I would find my fit. It took researching. It took finding out what I could and what I could not do. It took education regarding what criminal justice is, why people commit criminal behaviors, a focus on criminal law and procedures, and different investigative techniques (to name a few). In the end, I found that criminal justice was for me, and it became my passion.
If you’re studying criminal justice or thinking about pursuing a criminal justice degree, what career path do you hope to pursue? Click in the top left to tell us in the comments.