A criminal justice degree opens many doors to exciting and important careers. As a nation, we rely on those who work in criminal justice to keep the public safe and bring perpetrators to justice. Jobs in criminal justice take many forms, but all are equally important. From officers who assist in filing paperwork and categorizing evidence, to agents who risk their lives in the field, each professional plays a vital role. Criminal justice professionals commit their lives to protect and serve by keeping citizens safe from crime, mitigating the ill effects of crime on victims and rehabilitating those who have stepped outside the law.
Read on for more information on jobs you can get with a criminal justice degree.
Correctional officers work in local, state or federal correctional facilities. Primary duties include enforcing rules and keeping order within the jail or prison, supervising inmates, rehabilitating and counseling offenders, inspecting building conditions, searching and seizing contraband as well as reporting inmate conduct.
In many local facilities, a high school education or equivalent is sufficient to obtain employment as a correctional officer. However, a bachelor’s degree and three years of work experience in a related field is required to work in a federal prison. As of May 2010, federal correctional workers earned a median salary of $54,310 while state and local government correctional officers earned a median salary closer to $39,000.
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Police officers serve in local and state police departments. Their main duties involve protecting lives and property by deterring crime and brining offenders to justice. Day-to-day duties depend largely on the type and size of the agency in which they are employed.
Police officers must be mentally, physically and emotionally fit to exceed in the career. Officers must be vigilant and observant. Because a large portion of the job involves writing detailed reports and testifying in court, police officers should also have adequate written and oral communication skills. Officers must meet physical requirements since the job may involve foot chases and overpowering suspects. Police officers must also be able to emotionally cope with the stressors of the job, as they may be subject to disturbing events at crime scenes.
Usually, police officer applicants must have a minimum of a high school degree or GED. Many agencies require some college or a degree. Candidates must be U.S. citizens who are 21 years old and have a valid driver’s license. Applicants may have to pass vision, hearing, strength and agility tests, as well as competitive written exams. Police officers typically complete recruit training before being accepted to the force. Training includes classroom instruction as well as supervised field experience. As of May 2010, the median salary for transit and railroad police was $54,330; salary for police and sheriff’s patrol officers was $53,540.
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Police detectives investigate crime. They are plainclothes officers who interview suspects, witnesses, victims and their acquaintances to gather facts and collect evidence. Detectives also turn to resources such as public records, surveillance and wire taps when investigating a crime. Most detectives work in a particular field of criminal investigation, such as homicide, fraud or special victims. Typically, detectives are assigned cases on a rotating basis and will work a case until it is solved or dropped.
Most police detectives start their careers as police officers and work up through the ranks. As with most careers, the more education and training an individual has, the easier it is to achieve upward mobility. According to the most recent figures from May 2010, the median salary for police detectives is $68,820. Paid overtime is common in this position. Junior detectives frequently work weekends, holidays and nights, while senior police work more desirable hours.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents aren’t just federal cops; they specialize in intelligence and law enforcement. FBI agents work to protect the U.S. from the most serious of threats, including terrorism, drug and human trafficking, cybercrime, humanitarian crises and organized crime.
The cream of the crop become FBI agents. Typically, FBI agents have a military or law enforcement history. Employment requirements for FBI agents are similar to that of local and state law enforcement, but are much stricter. FBI agents must hold a college degree and must have accumulated a minimum of three years of field experience. Federal agents also undergo extensive training prior to joining the agency. Most federal agent positions have an age maximum for applicants.
According to fbijobs.gov, special agents enter the pay scale as GS 10 and can advance through GS 13 for non-supervisory positions. Salary is determined by the GS level and step. See the below table excerpt for more information on the pay scale classes.