When people think of careers in criminal justice, the first image that comes to mind might be a police officer or a crime scene investigator.
In fact, the field of criminal justice includes a whole network of specialties working together to fight crime, enforce the law, and keep U.S. citizens safe.
With such a large variety of careers available within the field, individuals interested in criminal justice are likely to find a role that is a good fit for their unique interests, skills, and salary expectations.
Crime Scene Investigator
Crime scene investigators piece evidence together and solve complex crimes. They collect and analyze forensic evidence to help solve criminal investigations.
Typically, individuals are required to have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or forensic science and some additional forensic training in order to fit this role.
- Collect, preserve, and transport physical evidence at crime scenes.
- Analyze evidence in a laboratory.
- Document crime scenes with written notes, photographs, or sketches.
FBI agents often travel, work in teams, and handle serious, high-profile crime cases. They conduct sensitive national security investigations into various crimes such as terrorism, interstate criminal activity, foreign counterintelligence, drug trafficking, and more.
FBI Special Agent candidates must hold a U.S. accredited bachelor’s degree, meet a variety of other eligibility requirements, and go through a lengthy application process.
- Investigate different categories of violations of national security and federal law.
- May be required to follow a specific individual or group of people and observe their activities for a period of time.
- Perform a variety of other duties, including research, investigation, and report writing.
Probation officers work with offenders convicted of crimes and help transform lives. They work with and monitor probationers to ensure a successful probation period.
In order to fill this role, probation officers usually need a bachelor’s degree, often in a criminal justice-related field, as well as passing oral, written, and psychological exams.
- Conduct interviews to determine the appropriate punishment for individuals convicted of a crime.
- Supervise individuals who have been sentenced to probation or paroled from prison.
- Handle administrative duties involving probation payments, community service reports, and drug test reports.
Private detectives help find missing people, locate hidden information, and solve crimes. Individuals in this role may conduct surveillance, background investigations on individuals, study crime scenes, or testify in court.
There is no formal education requirement to become a private investigator, but a degree in criminal justice is often beneficial. Individuals must also obtain a mandatory private investigator license in most states.
- Search for information about legal, financial, and personal matters.
- Investigate people’s backgrounds and corporate statements.
- Find missing persons.
Crime analysts research crime in a jurisdiction, analyze data, and report on current crime trends. They review police reports, crime statistics, and any other helpful data that their crime department can use to improve crime fighting.
This role often requires a bachelor’s degree, typically in a criminal justice field, and additional certification, such as Certified Law Enforcement Analyst (CLEA).
- Review current and past crimes within a jurisdiction.
- Brief staff on current criminal behavior and patterns.
- Proficiently use computers to analyze, track, and store criminal data.
Border Patrol Agents
The U.S. Border Patrol is tasked with monitoring national borders to prevent the illegal trafficking of foreigners or weapons from entering the country. Patrol agents monitor both the physical land borders between the U.S. and Canada or Mexico, as well as the coastal water borders on the oceans and gulf coasts.
In order to qualify for the entry-level Border Patrol Agent position, individuals are typically required to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited or pre-accredited college or university or a combination of undergraduate level education and general experience.
- Monitor traffic checkpoints on major highways leading to and from the national borders.
- Monitor the coastal waterways that border the country in marine crafts, checking other vessels for illegal immigrants or contraband.
- Line-watch to prevent illegal entrance into national borders, and signcut to detect disturbances in the natural terrain that would imply illegal presence.
Police officers make a difference in the lives of others and work alongside the community patrolling the area and keeping citizens safe.
The minimal level of education accepted by most police departments is a high school diploma or GED. However, many applicants for entry-level police jobs have taken some college classes, and a significant number are college graduates.* Earning a degree is an option for staying competitive.
- Check for pedestrian or motorist law violations, write citations, direct traffic, and escort convoys.
- Respond to radio calls; investigate complaints, disturbances, or collisions; administer first aid in emergencies.
- Learn to stop crimes in progress and monitor suspicious activity.
*SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics
**A Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice is not designed to prepare graduates for employment as law enforcement or peace officers. The qualifications to become law enforcement or peace officers vary; learners should check their state’s certification process and requirements.
An Advanced Degree to Further Your Career
Professionals with a bachelor’s in criminal justice can also take their experience a step further by pursuing a master’s degree in criminal justice. Although not always required for a career in this field, an advanced degree can help prepare you for leadership roles in police and corrections departments.
Learn more about Capella University’s Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program.