What Can You Do with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice?
When North Port, Florida police officers were invited to an autistic boy’s birthday party, they did what great police officers do: they sprang into action to save a member of the community. You see, young Daniel had a birthday party every year for the previous three years and his classmates never showed up. This year, however, Daniel’s mom invited local police explaining that the 8-year-old considers these brave individuals to be superheroes. In true superhero fashion, more than six police squad cars pulled up at Daniel’s party making Daniel’s birthday one he will never forget.
Police officers routinely “save” community members but as Daniel’s story shows, it isn’t always about doing so during or after a crime was committed. The most common image we have of law enforcement officers is of them investigating crimes and arresting criminals. These duties are the focus of police academy training. However, education in the criminal justice system starts in college typically through the pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. In fact, most federal law enforcement agencies require a bachelor’s degree as a minimum requirement to qualify for a job.
Although police officer is the most common career goal of those seeking a degree in criminal justice, there are other less common careers available to those with a criminal justice degree. Some jobs fall under law enforcement such as corrections officers, probation officers, security guards, private investigators, and federal agents with Homeland Security, the FBI, Department of Treasury, and the IRS. The expected job growth for law enforcement officers is 7% over the next eight years (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018). However, let’s discuss some less common careers available to those with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice that also have positive growth outlooks.
Gaming Surveillance Officer and Gaming Investigator
Gambling operations are found throughout the United States in 48 states with 32 states having some form of casino operations. Gaming security professionals’ primary responsibility includes overseeing gambling operations by observing casino employees’ behavior while on duty to determine if they are committing crimes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2018), this career is expected to experience approximately 6% growth between 2016 to 2026.
Victim advocates are typically employed by State Attorney’s offices and law enforcement agencies but are not law enforcement officers. A victim advocate’s primary job responsibility is to provide social support to crime victims by providing information on the criminal justice process during the course of the case. They also help victims access necessary counseling services, provide emotional support to victims, notify victims of upcoming court dates and case progress, arrange transportation to and from court, and assist victims with devising a safety plan. This job falls under the Bureau of Labor Statistics category of Social and Community Service Managers with a job growth outlook of 18% over the next eight years.
There are a number of career paths for those who earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and who also desire a higher level of training and education. For example, you may wish to pursue a career as a mediator in your local court system. This position generally requires at least a bachelor’s degree plus additional training and mentorship by a certified mediator to attain certification. If you have a desire to attend law school or earn a graduate degree in criminal justice, you can further your education upon earning your bachelor’s degree. With a graduate degree in criminal justice, in addition to the previously mentioned career opportunities that may be available, you may also choose a career as a college professor of criminal justice.
Regardless of the criminal justice career path that you choose, at the heart of the criminal justice professions is the desire to make a positive contribution to society. This contribution is made by working to keep your community safe, secure, and protecting the most vulnerable among us just as North Port, Florida police officers did when they supported lonely Daniel on his eighth birthday. A degree and subsequent career in a criminal justice related field empowers you to enhance the quality of life for citizens in your jurisdiction regardless of your job title.
Written by Shari Schwartz, PhD, Program Chair for both the BA Social and Criminal Justice and the MS in Criminal Justice at Ashford University.