The 10 Most Popular Jobs for Criminal Justice Degree Holders

We’ve all seen the statistics. College tuition rose 42 percent between 2000 and 2011. College enrollment grew 33 percent from 2002 to 2012. Meanwhile, student loan debt as of July 2013 reached $1.1 trillion and continues to rise. All while unemployment in America continues to hover near 8 percent.

Put simply, record numbers of college students are paying rising tuition rates to compete for jobs that are becoming scarcer every day.

But don’t let those numbers keep you from going after an education. After all, recent research suggests that earning a college degree can pay off six times more than a high school diploma.

And if a criminal justice degree is in your future, research shows that your return on investment (ROI) could be much higher than that of other degrees. Specifically, criminal justice majors can expect higher salaries and lower unemployment than those who studied agriculture, education, liberal arts, social sciences, communications/journalism and some business subjects, according to a Georgetown University study published in 2013.

But all of this begs the question: So what can you do with a criminal justice degree?

Jobs for CJ degree holders

Using real-time job analysis software from, we identified more than 285,000 job openings* from the past 12 months that specifically mentioned a criminal justice degree as a qualifying factor. We highlighted the top 10 most popular job titles to illustrate the range of opportunities available to those studying criminal justice.

The chart highlights the number of available jobs for those holding a bachelor’s degree versus those with an associate degree. Its aim is to help current and potential students understand the value of those extra courses and credits.

Salaries included are taken from the jobs analysis and represent the median income for all positions listed over the past year. Data includes workers at all levels of education and experience and does not necessarily reflect stating salaries. Employment conditions may vary in your area.

If you’re looking for job opportunities closer to what you might see on CSI, Criminal Minds and Dexter, check out these articles that focus on criminal investigation careers and locations for law enforcement jobs.

Criminal justice degree jobs in detail

1. Business intelligence analyst

  • Similar positions: Business intelligence manager, commercial intelligence manager, competitive intelligence analyst 
  • Duties: Produce financial and market intelligence by querying data repositories and generating periodic reports. Identify data patterns from available information sources.
  • Why it made the list: Criminal justice students use government websites to collect crime-related data and statistics. That data can then be used to make public policy recommendations, legal arguments or crime prevention tactics.
  • Real-time salary: $77,110

2. Retail loss prevention specialist

  • Similar positions: Loss prevention manager, commercial security guard
  • Duties: Implement procedures and systems to prevent merchandise loss. Conduct audits and investigations of employee activity. May assist in developing policies, procedures, and systems for safeguarding assets.
  • Why it made the list: This is an entry-level job that introduces employees to the methods and techniques of surveillance and investigation
  • Real-time salary: $38,520

3. Mental health counselor

  • Similar positions: Therapist, counselor or correctional counselor 
  • Duties: Counsel with emphasis on prevention. Work with individuals and groups to deal with issues associated with addictions and substance abuse, stress management and self-esteem.
  • Why it made the list: This is a particularly popular – and extremely important! – job within correctional facilities.
  • Real-time salary: $46,121

4. Social worker

  • Similar positions: Health educator, marriage & family therapist or psychologist
  • Duties: There are two main types of social workers: direct-service social workers who help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives, and clinical social workers, who diagnose and treat mental, behavioral and emotional issues.
  • Why it made the list: This is a broad career category that includes mental health counselors, human services assistants and other types of social workers.
  • Real-time salary: $60,246

5. Chemist

  • Similar positions: Chemist, research chemist, toxicologist, analytical chemist or scientist 
  • Duties: Conduct qualitative and quantitative chemical analyses or experiments in laboratories to ensure quality or process control, or to develop new products or knowledge.
  • Why it made the list: With the rising popularity of crime TV shows, the forensic sciences have become very popular areas of focus for criminal justice students.
  • Real-time salary: $66,551

6. Social & human services assistant

  • Similar positions: Case worker, advocate, home-based assistant, human services program specialist or addictions counselor  
  • Duties: Help provide services in a wide variety of fields including psychology, rehabilitation, social work and family support. May assist social workers with developing, organizing, and conducting programs to prevent and resolve problems relevant to substance abuse, human relationships, rehabilitation or dependent care.
  • Why it made the list: An entry-level position that helps individuals recently released from jail/prison readjust to civilian life.    
  • Real-time salary: $40,266

7. Police patrol officer

  • Similar positions: Police officer, sheriff’s deputy, state trooper or public safety officer 
  • Duties: Patrol assigned area to enforce laws and ordinances, regulate traffic, control crowds, prevent crime and arrest violators.
  • Why it made the list: The entry-level position for those wanting to work in a police department or sheriff’s office.
  • Real-time salary: $48,268

8. Healthcare social worker

  • Similar positions: Medical social worker, clinical social worker, nephrology social worker, oncology social worker, renal social worker or psychiatric social worker 
  • Duties: Provide individuals, families and groups with the psychosocial support needed to cope with chronic, acute or terminal illness.
  • Why it made the list: Criminal justice students study human behavior, particularly with regard to how individuals and families deal with conflict, loss and grief.
  • Real-time salary: $55,823

9. Child, family & school social worker

  • Similar positions: School social worker, family service worker or foster care social worker
  • Duties: Provide social services and assistance to improve the social and psychological health of children and their families. This type of social worker focuses specifically on maximizing family well-being and academic performance of children. They may also help arrange adoptions and find foster homes for abandoned or abused children.
  • Why it made the list: This is a particularly important role for those hoping to work within the juvenile justice system.
  • Real-time salary: $43,892

10. Intelligence analyst

  • Similar positions: Crime analyst, criminal intelligence analyst, criminal research specialist or intelligence officer
  • Duties: Gather, analyze and evaluate information from a variety of sources, such as law enforcement databases, surveillance, intelligence networks or geographic information systems. Use intelligence data to anticipate and prevent criminal activity.
  • Why it made the list: This is an upper-level position that requires years of experience in computers, statistics and investigation.
  • Real-time salary: $86,71


To learn more about how a criminal justice degree can help you land your dream job, check out these 10 Facts You Didn't Know About the Rasmussen College Justice Studies Program!


External links provided on are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced.

Jeff is the Content Marketing Editor at Collegis Education. He oversees all of the blog and newsletter content for Rasmussen College. As a writer, he creates articles that educate, encourage and motivate current and future students.

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