Criminal Justice Careers

Criminal justice includes a wide range of career options. This guide explores the wide range of jobs that are available in the criminal justice field.
portrait of Bennett Leckrone
Bennett Leckrone
Read Full Bio

Reporter, Business Education

Bennett Leckrone is a news writer for BestColleges. Before joining BestColleges, Leckrone reported on state politics with the nonprofit news outlet Maryland Matters as a Report for America fellow. He previously interned for The Chronicle of Higher Ed...
Updated on April 18, 2024
Edited by
portrait of Jennifer Lee
Jennifer Lee
Read Full Bio

Editor & Writer

Jennifer is an editor with a master’s in journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor’s in history from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. She spent nearly 8 years working in South Korea, teaching students English conversation and ...
Learn more about our editorial process is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Turn Your Dreams Into Reality

Take our quiz and we'll do the homework for you! Compare your school matches and apply to your top choice today.

Whether you want to work in law enforcement, advocacy, or counseling, a criminal justice career can open doors to impactful work in a number of fields.

A degree in criminal justice can give you the flexibility to specialize in fast-growing employment areas like cybersecurity and information technology or allow you to pursue a more traditional criminal justice career path and land a job as an investigator.

As a multidisciplinary field, a criminal justice degree has plenty of opportunities for career advancement. Critical thinking and communication skills, as well as an analytical mindset, are key to excelling in the high-demand, intense field of criminal justice.

Read on to learn about some of the fastest-growing careers in criminal justice.

What Jobs Can I Get With a Criminal Justice Degree?

A criminal justice degree can lead you to more jobs than traditional routes like a police officer or detective.

Many criminal justice degree programs include training in fast-growing fields like information security, cybersecurity, data analysis, and other skill sets that are in vogue with employers across the country. A criminal justice degree can also help you land opportunities in counseling and advocacy by familiarizing students with the law and the legal system.

While not every criminal justice career requires a bachelor’s degree, the specialized training of a criminal justice degree program can lead you to jobs like information security analyst, managerial positions in the emergency management field, and even highly specialized positions in areas like forensic science and accounting.

Explore this list for a small selection of jobs available with a criminal justice degree.

Possible Jobs With a Criminal Justice Degree
Jobs Minimum Degree Required Median Salary (2022) Career Outlook (2022-2032)
Correctional Officer or Bailiff High School to Bachelor's $49,610 -7%
Substance Use Counselor Bachelor's $49,710 18%
Investigative Reporter Bachelor's $55,960 -3%
Parole or Probation Officers, Case Managers Bachelor's $59,860 3%
Court Reporters Postsecondary nondegree award $63,560 3%
Mediator Bachelor's $64,030 5%
Fire Investigator High School to Bachelor's $65,800 4%
Fish and Game Warden Bachelor's $59,500 3%
Fraud Investigator High School to Bachelor's $72,040 -3%
Forensic Accounting Bachelor's $78,000 4%
Emergency Management Director Bachelor's $79,180 3%
Criminal Justice Instructor or Professor Master's or Doctorate $80,840 8%
Information Security Analyst Bachelor's $112,000 32%
Source: BLS

Other Possible Careers

A criminal justice degree can also lead to a host of jobs at all levels of government and across the criminal justice system, from being an agent with a federal law enforcement agency to working as an advocate for crime survivors.

  • Bounty Hunter: Bounty hunters, usually hired by bail bond agents, pursue defendants out of custody on bond who don't appear in court, in exchange for a percentage of a bond amount. Bounty hunters typically receive a percentage of a defendant’s bond in exchange for returning them to the authorities.
  • Criminal Profiler: Criminal profilers use evidence to construct a profile of a suspect for serious crimes. These highly trained experts can aid law enforcement in investigations by creating a psychological profile of a suspect based on patterns in their behavior and evidence left at a crime scene. A criminal profiler working as a special agent for the FBI would likely start at the agency's GS-10 pay grade, which as of 2022 ran between $51,864 and $67,425.
  • DEA Agent: Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents investigate drug trafficking in the United States and abroad. They are typically hired at the GS-07 or GS-09 pay grade, but can progress to the GS-13 grade — which brings a top pay of $105,579 yearly.
  • FBI Agent: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents investigate a broad variety of crime, and also work across the agency in areas like fingerprinting, public affairs, and crime labs. Special agents are typically hired at the GS-10 pay grade, which as of 2022 ran between $51,864 and $67,425.
  • Homicide Detective: Homicide detectives investigate suspicious deaths, interview suspects and witnesses, process crime scenes, and make arrests. Pay is based on the location and the law enforcement agency that a homicide detective is working for. Homicide detectives have typically worked in law enforcement for some time before rising to the high-demand role of conducting murder investigations.
  • Jail Screener: Screeners can come in multiple forms in the corrections system, including checking for contraband when people are incarcerated and brought into a jail or prison, as well as conducting interviews and mental health assessments of incarcerated people.
  • Park Ranger: Rangers work for local, state, and national parks, and can take on a wide variety of roles, from greeting visitors to ensuring historical locations are protected. A park ranger with the U.S. Department of the Interior, for instance, can span from an entry-level tour guide to a senior level regional director managing multiple parks or refuges.
  • Prison Warden: A warden is tasked with supervising an entire jail or prison. That includes ensuring people incarcerated at the prison, visitors, and corrections officers themselves are safe, secure, and following rules and regulations.
  • U.S. Postal Inspector: The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service. Postal inspectors are federal law enforcement agents who collect and analyze evidence to investigate crimes related to the Postal Service, keep postal facilities safe, and respond to disasters.
  • Victim Advocate: Victim advocates provide resources and counseling to survivors of crimes. Those resources can include referral to emergency shelters, help with travel to court, information about the legal system, and mental health counseling services.

Criminal Justice Degrees for You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Criminal Justice Career Path Fields

Many criminal justice jobs fall under broad fields like corrections, law enforcement, courts, and emergency management — but the interdisciplinary field includes a span of specialized options.

Here’s an overview of some of the areas you might pursue within the larger field of criminal justice.


Corrections officers, counselors, and other people within the corrections field typically work in jails and prisons as part of rehabilitation for incarcerated people. Jobs in corrections involve working with incarcerated people in prison, both in terms of keeping prisons safe and secure and in providing services like counseling, job training, and other rehabilitative efforts. This can also include corrections officers and counselors who work with people after their release from jail or prison.

Courts and Legal

Court reporters, mediators, attorneys, and paralegals are just some of the professionals who work directly within the field of criminal and civil courts. The civil and criminal court system, and the massive apparatus of support services that surround it, provide a number of opportunities for people with a criminal justice degree and intersect with almost every aspect of the field.

Emergency Management

Whether it’s as a first responder or as a senior emergency management director, people who work in the field of emergency management form a critical lifeline for responding to both natural and man-made disasters. These jobs come at both the state, local, and federal level, and include a wide variety of agencies that come together to handle all levels of disasters and emergencies.

Forensic Science

Forensic science is a wide-ranging, interdisciplinary field. A forensic scientist might analyze evidence in a crime lab, or specialize in analyzing financial information to become a forensic accountant. Demand for these analytical, evidence-based professionals within the field of forensic science remains high as government agencies and businesses alike embrace forensic experts.

Homeland Security

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is responsible for responding for public security and responding to both domestic and international threats. The agency has a number of roles available across its numerous agencies, including law enforcement roles, emerging cybersecurity careers, and other support roles.

Law Enforcement

Whether you want to work as a police officer or climb the ranks to be a detective, or move into an even more specialized role such as a security analyst for a law enforcement agency, this field includes a number of opportunities for criminal justice majors. Law enforcement means responding to and preventing crime through community outreach, prevention efforts, and investigations.

Private Sector

A criminal justice degree can also open up jobs for you in non-governmental, private sector roles. Specializing in cybersecurity or data analytics, for instance, may open up opportunities in a rapidly growing field as businesses look to shore up their customers’ data against potential threats. A number of businesses also have use for people with analytical investigative skills, particularly in the insurance and healthcare industries.

How Do I Know Criminal Justice Is the Right Career For Me?

If you have a knack for problem-solving, an analytical mindset, and a desire to make an impact on your community, criminal justice might be the right career path for you. The broad field can mean jobs advocating for survivors of crime, working in law enforcement, providing counseling services to formerly incarcerated people, or working to make a positive impact on your community. With the emergence of cybersecurity as a focus area in degree programs, criminal justice majors can take advantage of fast-growing, high-demand areas in both the public and private sectors.

Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Justice Careers

How do I prepare for a career in criminal justice?

Chevron Down

A degree or certificate program can provide training in a number of areas within criminal justice. Many programs offer specializations in areas like law enforcement, courts and the legal system, emergency response, and more.

Why is math important in criminal justice?

Chevron Down

Math skills are needed in criminal justice to analyze and interpret data. Working with data is increasingly important across fields, including criminal justice. Using data to analyze crime, finding patterns in where and how crime is occurring, identifying crime trends, and interpreting evidence is key to criminal justice work.

Is criminology the same as criminal justice?

Chevron Down

While criminal justice focuses on addressing and responding to crime, criminology is a more social science-focused field that researches the root causes of crime and why people commit crimes.

What is the highest paying job in criminal justice?

Chevron Down

Criminal justice jobs come in all shapes and sizes, from local law enforcement officers to counselors and forensic scientists. A more specialized criminal justice professional, such as a forensic accountant, will likely have a higher pay than an entry-level correctional officer.

Is a master's in criminal justice worth it?

Chevron Down

A master’s degree isn’t required for many criminal justice jobs, but can lead to a more specialized, high-paying career in a field like forensic science. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare Your School Options

View the most relevant schools for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to finding your college home.