Top Five Criminal Justice Careers

Criminal justice careers appeal to nearly every person who watches crime shows: Law & Order, CSI, even movies such as the Bone Collector.  These movies and TV shows romanticize criminal justice careers and almost belittle the amount of work which actually goes into this type of job.  However, criminal justice degrees remain a popular major in undergraduate institutions solely because they offer students the flexibility to choose within a wide array of future careers.  Some are more popular than others, but the top careers are listed below. 

Police Officer
One of the more prominent positions in the criminal justice field is that of a law enforcement officer.  While it is not pertinent to get a criminal justice degree in order to become a police officer, it helps you better understand the law and the reasoning behind it.  Larger cities typically require a criminal justice degree, while small towns only require a high school diploma.  Criminal justice degrees are also attractive on resumes when you are enlisted into the police academy.  Criminal justice classes additionally help focus students’ skills on judgment, decision-making, and a background in weaponry.  There will always be a need of law enforcement in any civilized society, which means this career will be stable for years to come although not for the faint of heart.

Detectives are next on the tier of law enforcement although they typically require a more advanced degree than most police officers.  Detective work is more analytical and therefore a background in criminal justice or related fields helps many students hone in on this special qualification.  Detective work has also been romanticized by the many movies and characters that have pervaded through history (Sherlock Holmes); however, many detectives will tell you that real life is far from cinematic and typically requires following many leads with little to show for it. Detective work is not for everyone, but contributes to the upholding of the law and sometimes can prove to help solve a crime that threatens the well-being of society.

Criminal Investigator
Criminal investigators are also in the realm of law enforcement, although they go a step further and present evidence to the prosecution and help prepare pre-trial paperwork.  In this sense, criminal investigators seem more closely related to the judicial process than to law enforcement, but it becomes obvious that the two realms intermingle on many occasions.  Criminal justice degrees help promote this type of connection and introduce students to the many forms law enforcement can take.

Specialists (fingerprinting, arson, etc.)
The many forms of specialists that exist within the criminal justice system are vital to solving crimes and preventing future felonies.  Fingerprint specialists focus their sole career on finding remnants of fingerprints on the crime scene and applying them to the national database.  While this may be disappointing work on many occasions, this has proven to be an important part of the criminal justice system.  Additionally, arson specialists help determine what the true cause of a fire is, either releasing innocent people from jail or exonerating the guilty. 

Legal Assistant
Finally, criminal justice degrees have been found to lead to careers within the legal industry, such as legal assistants and other clerkship positions.  Legal assistants are the right hand person to many prestigious attorneys and therefore require a basic understanding of the law.  Criminal justice degrees prepare students specifically for this type of broad spectrum of careers and therefore introduce students to knowledge they need for this type of job.