As a criminal justice professional, you will work with uniformed and non-uniformed employees of city, county, state, and federal enforcement agencies, prosecuting and defense attorneys, judges, corrections and probation officers, and court reporters and paralegals. Depending on your interests, you can choose a career in justice administration, juvenile justice, or law enforcement.
Often, criminal justice professionals work in all three of these areas at some point in their careers. For instance, a police officer might want to advance to a supervisor or detective's position. In addition to putting in the necessary time for advancement, a degree in justice administration might aid that police officer in his quest for advancement.
Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs and Training
To become a police officer, sheriff, or detective, you will need to pass the police academy, be a U.S. citizen, be at least 20 years old, and meet physical and personal qualifications. While a college degree is not always necessary to become a police officer, some departments require a college degree or at least one to two years successful completion of college. Police departments often encourage recent high school graduates who are interested in law enforcement to enroll in law and criminal justice programs.
For those already in the police force, many law agencies pay all or part of the tuition for officers to take courses toward degrees in criminal justice or justice administration, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS further states that those who earn degrees often are paid higher salaries than those who do not. Earning a degree might help a police officer become promoted to detective or to specialize in a particular field, such as juvenile justice. To become an FBI agent, you will need to have a bachelor's degree and three years of police experience, or have a master's degree and two years of police experience. Many other federal employees are expected to have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Degrees in criminal justice include associate's, bachelor's, master's, and PhDs, or you could earn a certificate. A certificate can often be completed in a year; an associate's usually takes two years; a bachelor's degree usually requires four years; and a master's and PhD can require between two and five years to complete. Degree programs are available in juvenile justice, justice administration, and general criminal justice. Whichever program you pursue, your courses should focus on crime, justice, and the legal system.
Online criminal justice courses can allow you to remain in your current job while you are earning your certificate or degree. In addition to offering greater time flexibility, online courses should help improve your computer skills, which can help you in your career.
Criminal Justice Salaries
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008 the median salaries for these criminal justice professionals were as follows:
- Police officers: $51,410
- Probation and Corrections officers: $45,910
- Police supervisor: $75,490
- Detective/criminal investigator: $60,910
The BLS forecasts job growth, of 10 to 18 percent, in all of these fields of criminal justice between 2008 and 2018.