A degree in criminal justice serves as a foundation for a variety of careers that don’t always necessitate donning a uniform with a gun and badge. The spectrum of jobs goes beyond frontline law enforcement personnel such as police officers and sheriff’s deputies.
Here are some of many career opportunities where a degree in criminal justice can lead to a lifetime of interesting, rewarding work:
Criminal profiler: Typically, criminal profilers work on cold cases — crimes that were not solved the first time around. Profilers also are sometimes involved in current investigations.
Though many profilers work for police departments or the FBI, some work independently and are hired by lawyers or families. Those who work for law enforcement agencies often collaborate with detectives and prosecutors.
A profiler works to get inside the mind of suspects and tries to reconstruct what might have happened at a crime scene, or gain insights into a suspect’s motives and thinking.
They interview people, research files, analyze evidence and photos. A profiler may be asked to reconstruct a crime. Though some work may be done in the field, much of a profiler’s time is spent in an office.
Knowledge of forensics, psychology and investigative tactics are valuable tools.
Criminologist: These professionals also analyze data, but along with determining how and why a crime was committed, criminologists attempt to predict and prevent future criminal activity. This work is applied to investigations and sometimes policymaking.
Most criminologists work with law enforcement agencies, which could be local, state or federal. Some are hired by private companies or university research departments.
Most of a criminologist’s time is spent in an office or lab, sorting, collecting and categorizing evidence and data, rather than at crime scenes.
Successful criminologists have studied psychology and sociology as well as law enforcement, criminal theory, types of crimes and the effects of crime on society.
FBI agent: Agents are sworn to safeguard the United States from foreign intelligence threats and terrorist attacks, to protect civil rights, and to stop violent crime and corruption at all levels.
Agents must demonstrate research and analytical skills as well as leadership, solid decision-making and compassion.
The FBI requires at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, but it does not direct candidates to any particular area of study because it has multiple divisions, each with a unique focus.
While some agents will need accounting and financial skills to investigate white-collar crimes, others will be skilled in computer technology to thwart hackers and terrorist threats.
Studies in criminal justice, languages, computers or the sciences may be beneficial to agent candidates, as well as any service time with law enforcement or the military.
Candidates must be U.S. citizens, pass a drug test and will be subject to a lengthy background check before being considered for training at the FBI’s academy and being assigned to one of the agency’s 56 field offices.
Private investigator: PIs, as they are often called, may operate their own agency or they can work for individuals, law firms or businesses. PIs collect information for others, usually through interviews, surveillance and public record searches.
They must know the local, state and federal laws and operate within those guidelines, so knowledge of the criminal justice system is a must. A high proficiency with computers and surveillance technology is necessary for success.
Being a private investigator is typically a solitary pursuit, and the variety of cases and travel necessary can lead to an irregular work schedule. Investigators must be skilled in interviewing and dealing with both cooperative and uncooperative people.
Probation officer: Probation officers work with people convicted of crimes but not sentenced to jail or prison.
These officers often work for the court system, from the federal to municipal level. They counsel offenders and their families to prevent further crimes and ensure those they supervise meet conditions of their probation.
Typically, employers require a probation officer to have a bachelor’s degree in areas such as criminal justice or counseling, and many candidates will need to pass a state or federal training course.
Applicants will need to show proficiency in computer skills, and demonstrate patience, confidence and conflict resolution skills.
Secret Service agent: Formed in 1865, the Secret Service initially battled the counterfeiting of U.S. currency. Today, the agency has approximately 3,200 special agents who follow dual missions: protecting national and visiting foreign leaders, and conducting criminal investigations.
A Secret Service agent must be competent with assignments in either area and be ready for assignment anywhere in the world.
Each position in the agency has its set of entry level requirements, but typically a successful candidate holds a bachelor’s degree, passes an extensive criminal background check and makes it though the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center courses in Glynco Georgia, before more specialized training near Washington, D.C.
Special agents start by spending six to eight years assigned to a field office before taking on a protective detail for three to five years. After that, many go back into the field, transfer to a headquarters or training office or overseas.
During the course of a career, an agent can go from catching counterfeiters to protecting the president to investigating financial fraud.
U.S. Marshal: Marshals serve as the enforcement arm of the federal courts. Among their primary responsibilities is to protect federal judicial officials such as judges, attorneys and jurors. But they also capture and transport federal fugitives, seize and sell the assets of federal criminals and operate the Witness Security Program.
A deputy marshal must earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college and/or have three years of qualifying work experience.
Because of the job demands, they must also keep themselves in good physical condition. Applicants who complete the qualifying process advance to the Marshals Service Basic Training Academy in Glynco, Georgia.
Marshals typically use and keep up to date with the latest security techniques and devices, and they collaborate with international law enforcement agencies to cap