What can you do with a Criminal Justice Degree?

So what can you do with a Criminal Justice Degree anyway?

“The CSI effect”, it’s part of what has caused a spike in those interested and those pursuing a career in criminal justice. Shows like CSI, Law and Order, etc. have caused people to wonder if a real life career would be as exciting as fighting crime on TV looks. However, a career in Criminal Justice may not be quite what you imagine it to be. It is important to look into career options, and programs before making a well-educated decision. This page answers the question “What can you do with a Criminal Justice Degree?” by listing possible careers that a criminal justice degree major could possibly pursue, and an explanation of what the jobs entail.

Police Officer

Some police academies prefer that you have college degree before applying to them. A criminal justice degree is a coveted major for prospective police officers. In the United States a prospective officer must be at least 21 years old and have a High School Diploma. Once you are accepted in a police academy they will conduct the rest of your training. Each academy has their own requirements prior to bring able to apply. Police Officers can work in many different areas of the field. They can become detectives and special agents who investigate crimes. Keep in mind, however, that Police work can be demanding, stressful and it has one of the highest percentages of on the job deaths in the country.

Private Investigators and Private Detectives

In the private sector, you can be hired to investigate legal, financial and personal matters. Some people hire themselves out to protect the identity of celebrities, some people investigate missing persons or web crimes. Since it is hard to build a reputation as a good private investigator or detective, you will need to have some training background in order for people to trust your abilities. Check the state’s requirements of private investigators in your state to find out what kind of licensing you would need in order to pursue this career path.


A paralegal is someone who assists lawyers in legal work. This could be family, criminal or civil law. Different law offices want different training or schooling in the background of their paralegals. Most will even do on the job training. Paralegals work in different capacities depending on what their employer is comfortable with having a paralegal do. Much of the work involved filing and paperwork for particular cases their employer is working on. For a person looking to go into law school, paralegal work is a wonderful way to get a feel for the work of lawyers and to get training on how court cases are handled from beginning to end.

Probation Officer

Another job avenue that criminal justice degree majors pursue is that of a probation officer. A probation officer is in charge of working with criminal offenders who are on probation instead of serving jail time. A bachelor’s degree is required in order to become a probation officer. Many states prefer this degree be in criminal justice, social work, or psychology. In addition to a bachelor’s degree, probation officer candidates need to be at least 21, have no felony’s, and have strong writing, computer and people skills.

Forensic Science Technician

If you are truly looking for the science behind criminal investigation, forensic science may be the path for you. Forensic Science Technicians work in labs in hospitals, government agencies, police forces, and courtrooms conducting science behind analyzing evidence etc. Forensic Science Technicians look at items such as fingerprints, hair and body samples etc. in order to give investigators clues to what happened at a particular crime scene.

Security Guard

There is a higher demand for security guards these days, in schools, office buildings, apartment buildings, public places such as malls and airports, etc. Having a criminal justice degree can give you a leg up on the competition for security guard positions. Some people work in a security guard capacity while pursuing more education in related criminal justice fields. It is a great starting point for many, and many others turn it into a career.

Fraud Investigator

Another growing field in the area of criminal justice is that of fraud investigators. Many insurance companies need people with strong investigative skills to conduct a search into particular cases of possible fraud. Health insurance companies in particular are often on the lookout for strong individuals to look into fraudulent claims.

DEA Agent

Drug enforcement agents is yet another growing field in our country. If you are interested in fighting the war on drugs, this may be the ideal career path for you. It is preferred that you have a bachelor’s degree in the area of criminal justice or another related field. Once accepted by the DEA, you would have 18 weeks of basic training through the agency.

Blood Splatter Analysis

This is another scientific avenue of criminal justice. Blood Splatter Analysts look at splatter patterns to determine trajectory and impact of weapons used to kill people. They work with law enforcement to help piece together the clues left at the crime scene.

For more on possible career paths, see our post: What jobs can you get with a Criminal Justice Degree