Careers in Criminal Justice

So now you're a criminal justice major. Where do you go from here? Careers in criminal justice provide a variety of opportunities. It is important to be familiar with the various possibilities available before making a career decision.

To obtain information concerning careers make certain to take advantage of community resources. Many colleges and universities with criminal justice programs provide placement services for their students. Local offices of the Civil Service Commission have information about various federal agencies. Visit local criminal justice agencies and talk to individuals. Their suggestions could provide helpful information about achieving your career goals. Also, State Justice Planning Agencies can advise you of manpower needs in their states. Additionally, professional books and journals will broaden your experience with the workings of the criminal justice system and many help direct you toward a better understanding of your career objectives.

Although criminal justice is a vast field offering a variety of positions, basically there are three subsystems in the function of criminal justice. They are:

  1. Law enforcement, which is responsible for enforcing the law.
  2. Courts, which safeguard the judicial process.
  3. Corrections, which provide treatment and rehabilitation.

The following lists a small sampling of the types of careers that are available in most states in each of these areas.

Enforcement Courts Corrections
Patrolman Prosecuting Attorney Warden
Investigation Officer Defense Attorney Probation Officer
Traffic Officer Judge Parole Officer
Sheriff Court Administrator Jail/Prison Custodial Officer
Administrator Bailiff Counselor
Highway Patrolman Court Clerk Case Worker
Game Warden Court Reporter Administrator
Juvenile Officer   Recreation Specialist
Training Instructor   Psychologist
Forensic Science Specialist   Psychiatrist
Dispatcher   Vocational and Academic Teacher
Community Relations Officer    

At present, positions in the criminal justice system might be distributed along a ladder of education qualifications as illustrated. Take into consideration, however, that positions on this ladder will shift upward as higher educational requirements are adopted.

Ph.D. usually required

  • University professor
  • Criminologist
  • Criminal justice researcher
  • Criminal justice consultant
  • Psychologist in corrections

Law or Master's degree usually required

  • Criminal justice administrator
  • College professor
  • Attorney
  • Juvenile officer
  • Case worker
  • Judge
  • Counselor
  • Court administrator
  • Criminal justice planner
  • Forensic science specialist
  • Recreational specialist

Bachelor's degree usually required

  • Vocational or academic teacher in corrections
  • Probation officer
  • Parole officer
  • Law enforcement administrator

Some college usually required

  • Jail or prison custodial officer
  • Court reporter
  • Patrolman
  • Sheriff
  • Investigation officer

High School diploma usually required

  • Dispatcher
  • Game warden
  • Bailiff
  • Court clerk

Students graduating in criminal justice will find positions available in many areas of criminal and juvenile justice facilities, including police agencies, court systems and correctional institutions on local, state and federal levels. Opportunities are also available in the area of counseling, for example,treatment and casework with reintegrative efforts such as halfway houses and runaway shelters.

Students may attain positions as case and childcare workers or as youth counselors. In addition, the growing field of private security and police work is attractive to many graduates. Maintenance of court records and other various entry-level administrative positions are also job possibilities. Many criminal justice majors prepare for studies in law and enter law school upon graduation.

Those interested in pursuing graduate study are encouraged to consider pursuing a master's degree at Xavier University while employed. Masters degree students are now top-level decision makers in the field. Their positions include chief federal probation officer, FBI supervisor, and head of a state department of correction, with responsibility for the management of major correctional institutions in Ohio.