Criminal Justice is a dynamic field to study, and one that opens doors to a wide range of careers. At the heart of each of them is the ability to make a positive difference in the lives of individuals and their loved ones who have been the victims of criminal activity. Careers in Criminal Justice also offer opportunities to create broader social change by finding and eliminating criminal activity and improving the overall judicial system. Here are some of the Criminal Justice career paths that start with a bachelor’s degree.
Corrections and Parole
If you have found yourself to be a solution-oriented person, you would enjoy applying your criminal justice knowledge to the area of corrections and parole. In this setting, you will work with individuals who have recently been released from, or are preparing to be released from, jail or prison. The emotional experience of working in corrections and parole ranges from joy and pride as you watch some parolees take one small step after another towards rebuilding their lives, to devastation and disappointment when others slip off the wagon and back into detention. This career option is not for the faint of heart
There are a wide variety of roles you can play within this subfield of criminal justice, and holding a bachelor’s degree will give you a bit more choice at application and increase your chances of moving into leadership positions more quickly. If you enjoy being in the thick of the action, you might become an officer and eventually an officer supervisor. In this type of role, you will also hold parole hearings and be expected to testify in court. If you are drawn to the corrections and parole side of criminal justice but prefer to work behind the scenes, there are many administrative roles available through the federal and county governments and the individual jails and prisons.
Perhaps you like the idea of helping individuals and their families in the transition back into normal life after jail or prison, but you have a special interest in the humanistic side of things. You are probably someone who enjoys your mandatory psychology courses that your peers dread! You would also be a great fit for the social service’s roles within the Criminal Justice field.
While it takes a whole other degree to become a licensed social worker, there are plenty of positions that require nothing beyond a bachelor’s degree. You might work as an administrative assistant in custody cases and helping individuals and families access goods and services they need to acquire food, clothing, a place to live, and a job or education. You might assist with policy change and advocacy initiatives. Working in this type of role for a year or two is a great way to find out if you want to pursue a graduate degree in order to work as a criminal justice social worker.
If you are especially comfortable on the front lines and corrections and parole does not provide enough direct contact for you, you might be a good candidate for a career in law enforcement. You might be thinking that most police officers do not need a bachelor’s degree because they go through separate training academies anyways, and you would not be wrong! However, it is a valuable asset to enter into law enforcement with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice under your belt. It highlights your commitment to the field as well as a deeper level of knowledge about the field as a whole.
Holding a bachelor’s degree also opens doors to other roles within law enforcement. You have a platform from which to explore careers with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and various other departments of the United States Government. A bachelor’s degree can pave the way for careers in detective work and forensics. Based on the electives you took, you also have the ability to specialize in an area of law enforcement that interests you most, such as a specific type of crime or criminal justice within a special population.
Teaching and Training
They say that those who cannot do, teach. The truth, those who do not want to do make great teachers! Just because you have a passion for Criminal Justice does not mean you have to work on the front lines. Someone has to teach new employees about criminal justice, and that someone could be you. You might work for a police academy, a parole and probation training program, or on the training team for a private security company or larger government security organization. You might teach the classes that parolees and their families have to take in order to meet their parole and probation requirements and access certain services.
If you spend some time in one of these roles and find that you really love teaching others about Criminal Justice, you might decide you want to take it to the next level. This is a great way to determine if you want to pursue a master’s degree or even doctorate in Criminal Justice so that you can teach at the college level. If you enjoy discovering new knowledge as much as you do passing it on to others, you might also go on to conduct research with a doctorate degree.
Criminal Justice is not a one-size-fits-all field. As you can see, there are bachelor’s level positions available for every unique interest and personality style. They can each develop into lifelong careers or serve as the foundation for pursuing graduate-level degrees and careers. No matter which path you choose, your journey will lead you to contribute meaningfully to the Criminal Justice system and all those it serves.