What Can You Do With a Criminal Justice Degree?
Suppose you could have a career where you could serve as a role model, solve problems, navigate chaos, promote safety — and make a difference?
Sounds idealistic? Not really. A bachelor’s in criminal justice can lead to a career that will allow you to do all that and empower you to make change for the better. How far and where you take that knowledge it is up to you — from your own neighborhood block or to the federal government.
We asked criminal justice professional Crystal Sanchez, “What can you do with a criminal justice degree?” Her answer? The degree is more than just a stepping stone to a job.
“When we think of criminal justice, we see probation officers, law enforcement officers, attorneys, and court systems. We see someone with a uniform, badge, and authority,” she says. “But it’s not just all about that. If you want to make a difference in our communities, I think this is where it starts.”
The “this” Sanchez refers to is an education in criminal justice. She would know. For the last 10 years, Sanchez has been studying criminal justice while immersed full time in crisis management helping victims of domestic violence. She’s currently a Case Manager II at a prominent rehab center in Los Angeles and also a professor at California State where she teaches a class in domestic violence.
What Kinds of Criminal Justice Jobs Are There?
You can use a bachelor’s in criminal justice from National University as a path to serve the public in a variety of local, state or federal government employment opportunities. A bachelor’s in criminal justice gives you a solid foundation and the problem-solving skills necessary for a law enforcement career as a police officer or FBI agent, for instance. You can apply your skills gained in criminal justice studies as a corrections officer, crime scene investigator or TSA inspector.
A bachelor’s in criminal justice also gives you the opportunity to work in public service like Sanchez, or as a social worker, mental health counselor, or guidance counselor. The degree provides you with an important knowledge base, says Sanchez. “A degree in criminal justice gives you the ability to understand the root of problems in society. If we don’t understand, we’re just giving out uniforms and badges to people without this type of critical education. It’s so important to not only have the authority but the education that comes behind that.”
The future is wide open for careers in criminal justice. One popular choice is law enforcement, where the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment of police and detectives will grow seven percent. According to the BLS, in 2017 the average salary for detectives in the United States was $83,320, while detectives in California earned $103,810. If you have an interest in the biological sciences and a love of the outdoors, with a criminal justice degree you can consider a career as a fish and game warden. Other opportunities include a career as a probations officer or correctional treatment specialist or jobs in the protective services as a private detective or investigator. Whether you wear a uniform or not, a criminal justice degree equips you with a wide perspective on hot-button issues in justice and law enforcement today.
Online Degrees Perfect for the Working Professional
The entire time Sanchez was studying for her master’s in criminal justice at National University, she interned at the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office, worked full time as a crisis responder at the Los Angeles Police Department, and raised her two children as a single parent. The format of National University’s online criminal justice degree made it possible for her to succeed on all fronts. With monthly start classes, flexible hours, and a curriculum that is always accessible, National’s online degrees are designed for busy working professionals like Sanchez.
At a time when many colleges and universities are trying to incorporate a criminal justice program into their curricula, National University offers an established and exceptional program led by professors who have real-life experience. The Lead faculty for the National University undergraduate criminal justice degree, Dr. James Guffey, served as a police officer for over a decade and ranked as a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army Reserve. Sanchez was a student in his class, Ethics and the Criminal Justice System, where she learned critical thinking and ethical decision-making skills from the best.
“When we talk about criminal justice, we’re also talking about ethics. I think ethics is very important. Not everyone has it. Not everyone can do this. Can you be taught ethics? I think you can.”
For Sanchez, her online degree experience was a “surprisingly interactive and intense experience,” she adds.
“It was very cool. In an online environment, you worry that you won’t have that much interaction, but Dr. Guffey made it very easy. He was very accommodating in the way he interacted with us. He cared, he guided me. Even after, when I was going through my doctorate program, I reached out to him because he knows so much. He really helped me.”
What Can You Do With a Criminal Justice Degree? (Plenty!)
For many students like Sanchez, a bachelor’s in criminal justice is just the first step in their educational journey. National offers a variety of transition programs, available online, that combine coursework for the bachelor’s degree along with requirements for a master’s degree in criminal justice, forensic science, public administration or juvenile justice. Advanced degrees in criminal justice can lead to investigative lab work, law investigation, government management at federal, state and local levels and emergency management among many options.
Whatever criminal justice focus you decide to pursue, a degree in criminal justice gives you the strong stepping stone you need to launch or advance your career. For more information on the National University Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration or the transition bachelor’s/master’s options, please visit the program page on our website.