Why Earn a Graduate Degree in Criminal Justice?

Criminal justice is a growing industry where most positions are expecting to see at least an 11 percent increase in job opportunities by 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As the country grows to become more security and safety conscious in the wake of scares due to the increase in globalization and terrorism, the demand for occupations dealing with border control and national security has dramatically increased. In addition, the exponentially growing population has further heightened the need for law enforcement officials on the local level. As of 2008, there are more than 300 million people living in the United States, growing eight percent since 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That number is expected to rise even more in the coming years, and most of that growth will take place in the already densely populated cities of the country.

Yet, while job opportunities will increase alongside the growing population, competition for the positions will increase as well, especially on the State and Federal level as more qualified applicants are vying for openings in the law enforcement industry. Although those looking to become a uniformed police officer only need a high school diploma, more and more employers are looking for applicants with a college degree in criminal justice as well. Furthermore, those with a graduate degree in criminal justice are typically paid more and are in a better position to advance through the ranks. Those looking to work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) must fulfill more rigorous criteria before they can be considered for employment. Applicants must have either a Bachelor’s degree and at least three years of working experience in his or her field of specialty, or an advanced degree, such as a Master’s or Doctorate, and two years of professional experience.

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists are also seeing a change in the minimum educational requirements for employment. Traditionally, applicants must have at least a Bachelor’s degree in either criminal justice, social work, psychology, or another related field to work as a probation officer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but many employers are now beginning to raise the standards of employment, requiring applicants to possess at least a Master’s degree instead. Other sectors of the criminal justice industry are increasing their standards as well to match the expectations of the public and to increase the quality of their employees. Some agencies are even willing to pay for their employees to take courses towards earning a higher education.

Though earning a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is an important step already and a great way to boost a resume, earning a Master’s degree will further increase an applicant’s marketability. At a time when competition is building for the justice industry, going above and beyond a Bachelor’s degree will put the applicant far ahead of any others.

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