Is Criminal Justice a Good Major? [2021 Guide]

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Is criminal justice a good major? If you’re interested in law and order, it may be a degree worth considering.

Criminal Justice Major

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In addition to teaching you everything from crime scene analysis to legal and ethical decision making, it may also help prepare you for a variety of jobs within the criminal justice field.

Is Criminal Justice a Good Major?

police detectives interviewing someone

Yes, criminal justice is a good major for many undergraduate students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 3% job growth in protective service occupations over the next 10 years.

Common criminal justice careers in this field include bailiff, police officer, forensic technician, crime scene analyst, and community service manager. There are several paths that you may take after majoring in criminal justice. If you want to find or guard criminals, you may pursue a career as a police officer, correctional officer, private detective, or even a federal agent.

If you prefer to work with criminology data behind the scenes, you may want to become an intelligence analyst or administrator. If you don’t mind blood, you might enjoy the science of forensics.

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If you want to help prevent crime from occurring in the first place, you may work in a health or social services field as a parole officer, case worker, or mediator. Once you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree, you may also use it as a foundation for further study, enrolling in a master’s or even a doctorate program in criminal justice.

A graduate degree may qualify you for even higher-paying jobs, such as detective, marshal, or state agent.

Criminal Justice Major Curriculum

police officers in meeting

The specifics of your criminal justice degree program will depend on your school. You’ll generally be required to take core classes about law and criminal procedure.

You may be encouraged to take electives in related fields, such as psychology, sociology, and human services. You might also be offered the chance to specialize in areas like cybersecurity, juvenile behavior, or data and crime statistics.

Here are a few courses that you might see in a criminal justice degree program:

  • Foundations of the Criminal Justice System
  • Research Methods in Criminology
  • Constitutional and Criminal Law
  • Policing and Police Work
  • Victimology
  • Race, Diversity, and Social Issues in Criminal Justice
  • Introduction to Forensics
  • Probation and Parole
  • Organized Crime
  • Psychological Perspectives on Criminal Behavior

Many online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice programs can be completed without any face-to-face requirements. Some specializations, though, might require in-person aspects, like supervised law enforcement training, so you may want to double-check with your school before you enroll.

5 Things You Can Do with a Degree in Criminal Justice

A bachelors degree may open a lot of doors in the criminal justice industry. While some jobs only require a high school diploma or a special kind of institutional training, others may ask for a bachelor’s degree at the minimum.

Here are just a few criminal justice careers in which a bachelors degree may come in handy.

1. Law Enforcement

law enforcers at work

Criminal justice majors may want to pursue various law enforcement jobs, such as beat cops, high-level detectives, sergeants, and police chiefs.

When it comes to being a law enforcement officer, it can help to have a strong spirit as well as good technical skills. Officers may be called on to perform a wide range of duties, including making arrests, interviewing witnesses, and “bagging and tagging” evidence at crime scenes.

Other law enforcement jobs include evidence technician and crime scene analyst. These positions are employed by the same offices and agencies, but they fulfill different roles during criminal investigations.

2. Paralegal or Legal Assistant

Legal Assistants in meeting

Many criminal justice majors go into law. If you’re interested in the legal side of criminal justice, you may consider a career as a paralegal or legal assistant.

These positions don’t require as much schooling as becoming a lawyer, but you might be in the middle of the action all the same.

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As a paralegal, you may provide the administrative support that keeps a firm going. You might need to take notes, write briefs, research case studies, and arrange meetings with clients. You might also need to function as a courtroom assistant when cases go to trial.

3. Forensic Technician

Forensic Technician investigating

Potential forensic careers include toxicologists, ballistics experts, polygraph specialists, and crime scene examiners and analysts.

You may study fingerprints and blood spatters. You may analyze hair fibers, bodily fluids, DNA samples, and genetic phenotypes. There are even forensic technicians who specialize in areas such as plants and insects.

If you like science and would enjoy a career where you unravel the secrets of crime scenes, then forensics might be a path for you to consider.

4. Private Detective

Private Detectives investigating

These professionals, also called private investigators, work outside of the bounds of traditional law enforcement, but they can still provide valuable services to the legal system.

Most private detectives are self-employed. They may do a lot of the same work as criminal investigators, but they only answer to themselves. If you like following the beat of your own drum, you might consider pursuing this type of career.

5. Community Service Worker

Community Service Worker visiting an elderly man

If you want to help people avoid the criminal justice system in the first place, you might consider becoming a community service worker. Rehabilitation is just as important as capture and punishment in regards to preventing crime.

Potential community service jobs include case worker, child advocate, mediator, arbitrator, and addiction counselor.

You may be the parole officer who keeps people from re-offending. You may be the courtroom liaison who helps them understand their rights in front of a judge. You may be the benefits coordinator who ensures that they have access to resources for better living.

For some jobs, including those involving social work, you might need additional certificates or licenses to practice.

Criminal Justice Careers

Criminal Justice Careers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for protective service occupations is $43,710 per year. Wages may reach much higher, though, especially in proportion with higher levels of education.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Social and Community Service Managers $69,600
Police and Detectives $67,290
Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators $66,130
Court Reporters and Simultaneous Captioners $61,660
Forensic Science Technicians $60,590
Private Detectives and Investigators $53,320
Paralegals and Legal Assistants $52,920
Correctional Officers and Bailiffs $47,440
Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatchers $43,290
Security Guards and Gambling Surveillance Officers $31,080

The growth rate of protective service occupations is steady at 3%, so it’s predicted that around 95,200 new jobs will be added in the industry through 2029 (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

How to Know If a Degree in Criminal Justice Is Right for You

police officers at work

Here are a few questions that you may want to ask yourself before enrolling in a criminal justice program:

  • Do you have a good attention to detail for policies and legal procedures?
  • Can you handle seeing the worst of humanity on a regular basis?
  • Do you understand the minimal requirements for your chosen career path?

This last question may be especially relevant if you’re hoping to enroll in a training academy for law enforcement or a federal agency. In addition to a degree, there may be physical assessments, written exams, and work experience requirements that you may have to meet as well.

What Is Criminal Justice?

Criminal justice is the study of crime, corrections, and everything in between. This field usually includes topics like forensics, victimology, criminal procedure, and the infrastructure of the corrections system.

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There may also be crossover related to laws, ethics, psychology, and even data analytics. Criminal justice majors may apply their degrees to many different fields, so it can be a broad area of study with many possibilities for the future.

What Can You Do with a Criminal Justice Degree?

police officer investigating

Criminal justice is often regarded as a generalist degree since it may lead to many different career paths.

If you want to join the ranks of law enforcement, for example, a criminal justice degree may help qualify you for jobs like bailiff, police officer, and parole officer. If you like working with data, you may want to become an administrator, paralegal, or technical analyst.

If you’re a science enthusiast, you may study topics like pathology and toxicology in forensics. You may also help with rehabilitation and crime prevention through social and health service positions, such as counselor, case worker, and community outreach specialist.

Is Criminal Justice an Easy Major?

police officer on street

Unless you’re going into a specialty like forensics, criminal justice is not science or math intensive.

This major still requires a sharp mind, though, as it often requires a fair share of reading, writing, researching, and even debating.

What Is a Good Minor for a Criminal Justice Major?

There are several ways to diversify your criminal justice education. You may specialize in an approved track for your major, or you may minor in a related field.

Common minors for criminal justice majors include pre-law, psychology, sociology, gender studies, forensic science, and social work. Your career goals may help you decide which specialization track or minor is best for you.

Is Criminal Justice a Hard Major?

police officer working

The difficulty of a criminal justice degree program often depends on what you’re studying. Some concentrations may be harder than others. Some more complex subjects may include law, forensics, cybersecurity, and public policy.

Some colleges may also have more rigorous programs than others. For some, self-paced classes in an online school can often be less demanding than traditional, on-campus learning and training. Others, meanwhile, may learn better in an in-person environment.

What Jobs Can You Get with a Criminal Justice Major?

Criminal justice degrees may lead to various work opportunities, depending on your specialization or minor.

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The most common jobs are in law enforcement. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for police officers and detectives is $67,290 per year. Other high-paying careers include community service managers ($69,600), court reporters ($61,660), and forensic science technicians ($60,590).

Also, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that job opportunities often increase as you attain more education. For example, you may have more job opportunities with a masters in criminal justice.

Is a Criminal Justice Degree Worth It?

Are criminal justice associate degrees worth it? Yes, a criminal justice degree is worth it for many students. Jobs in the protective service field are projected to grow at a rate of 3% in the next 10 years (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Common criminal justice careers in this field include police officer, corrections worker, forensic technician, court reporter, paralegal, and crime scene analyst.

Getting Your Bachelors in Criminal Justice Online

Criminal Justice Online

A major in criminal justice may be beneficial for future lawyers, criminologists, police officers, corrections workers, and social services administrators.

A criminal justice degree may help you acquire necessary skills for this field and may even help you stand out from other job applicants. Thanks to the rise of online colleges, you may also have options for a flexible schedule and at-home classes.

If you’re interested in majoring in the exciting field of criminal justice, it may be worth looking into various accredited online programs, such as an online criminal justice, criminology, or even an online criminal psychology degree, to find the one that best fits your personal career goals.

In addition to bachelors programs, many universities offer an associates degree in criminal justice online.

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Jordan Meeks
WRITTEN BY
Jordan Meeks
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.