Should I Be a Criminal Justice Major? Everything You Need to Know to Decide

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Your favorite way to relax at the end of a long week is to settle in with a marathon of your favorite TV shows like “CSI,” “Law and Order” and “Orange Is the New Black.” As you watch your favorite characters investigate crime scenes, pace the courtroom floor and navigate life behind bars, you can’t help but wonder whether a career in the criminal justice system could be right for you.

It sounds right up your alley, but criminal justice is a big career field and you don’t even know where to start. Is becoming a criminal justice major worth it? What kinds of jobs are available for criminal justice majors—and do they earn a decent salary?

These questions can seem overwhelming as you consider earning a Criminal Justice degree. We’re giving you the answers you’re searching for so you’ll know what you can really expect as a criminal justice major. Examine this evidence to determine whether a Criminal Justice degree is the right fit for you!

Criminal justice major careers

First things first: what kind of careers can you go into as a criminal justice major? Almost anything related to the criminal justice system! The justice system spans from crime prevention to legal careers to correctional and rehabilitation careers, so there are many job opportunities to suit your interests.

Criminal justice majors can specialize in work at any stage of the corrections system. As you can imagine, this means a wide variety of job titles are open to those who hold a Criminal Justice degree!

We analyzed more than 4,000 job postings to uncover the top job titles for criminal justice majors:1

  • Security officer
  • Police officer
  • Probation officer
  • Private investigator
  • Surveillance investigator
  • Correctional officer
  • Public safety officer

Criminal justice major courses

It’s no secret that students spend plenty of time with their course materials while working toward a degree. Before putting in that time hitting the books, you need to know whether the required courses will give you the skills and knowledge you need to find work in the field—and whether you’ll enjoy your classes.

Since criminal justice is a broad field that covers everything from paralegal training to detective work, the exact courses you take will depend on which criminal justice career you’re most interested in. We rounded up a sampling of courses found in criminal justice-related majors at Rasmussen College.

Criminal Justice Associate’s degree

  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Introduction to Corrections
  • Criminology: Motives for Criminal Deviance
  • Policing in America
  • Drugs and Crime
  • Juvenile Justice: Delinquency, Dependency, and Diversion
  • Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice Capstone

Law Enforcement Associate’s degree

  • Ethics and Psychology for Law Enforcement Professionals
  • Domestic Violence
  • Policing in America
  • Firearms I: Fundamentals of Armed Police Response
  • Crime Scene Response: The Real CSI
  • Patrol Practicals: Handling Calls in Progress
  • Criminal Law and Procedures: Crime and the Courtroom

Paralegal Associate’s degree

  • Introduction to Law and the Legal System
  • Criminal Law and Procedures: Crime and the Courtroom
  • Contracts: Managing Legal Relationships
  • Law Office Technology: Cyberspace and the Paralegal Profession
  • Legal Research
  • Real Estate Law
  • Family Law

Criminal Justice major salaries and job outlook

If any of these courses and job titles sound intriguing, your next question is probably, “How much can I earn with a Criminal Justice degree?” According to the latest salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), criminal justice careers are in demand with reasonable salaries to account for the important role these men and women play in our society.

Law enforcement officers, like police and detectives, earned a median salary of $62,960 in 2017.2 Police officers also enjoy additional benefits, like the potential for early retirement options and insurance benefits that go beyond what many employees are offered. Top it all off with a projected 7 percent growth in employment, and you can see why this criminal justice career is appealing.2

You don’t have to be a police officer to enjoy the stable salary of a career in criminal justice, however. Paralegals earned a median wage of $50,410 in 2017 and are expected to see a faster-than-average 15 percent growth rate through 2026, according to the BLS.2 If a corrections career has piqued your interest, look no further than probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, whose median salary was $51,410 in 2017.2

Qualities needed to work in criminal justice

You can see why becoming a criminal justice major is an appealing career move, but salary and job security aren’t the only things that matter. You need to know whether criminal justice is the right path for you. Do you have what it takes to succeed in this important career field?

Our analysis of more than 4,000 job postings reveals some of the top skills criminal justice employers are looking for:1

Technical skills

  • Psychology
  • Public health and safety
  • Surveillance
  • Law enforcement
  • Public administration
  • CPR
  • Prevention of criminal activity

Transferable skills

  • Communication
  • Writing
  • Physical abilities
  • Research
  • Attention to detail
  • Computer literacy
  • Relationship building

As you can see, it does take a certain skill set to be successful in criminal justice careers, but you might be surprised to discover you already have many of the transferable skills that could come in handy on the job. Of course, there’s plenty to learn when it comes to technical skills and abilities, but that’s where the training from a Criminal Justice program comes in to bring you up to speed.

What’s the verdict for your future career?

You’ve examined the evidence and discovered what it’s like to be a criminal justice major. Now it’s time to deliberate, weigh your options and make a verdict about your future career.

Ready to envision your career path with a Criminal Justice degree in hand? Get the lowdown on these options in our article, “9 Careers in Criminal Justice for Degree Holders to Consider.” (analysis of 4,022 job postings for Criminal Justice majors, Dec. 01, 2017 – Nov. 30, 2018).
2Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [information accessed December 20, 2018] Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.

About the author

Ashley Brooks

Ashley is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen University. She believes in the power of words and knowledge and enjoys using both to encourage others on their learning journeys

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