14 entry-level criminal justice degree jobs

Last updated: July 23, 2024
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14 entry-level criminal justice degree jobs
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Are you considering going into criminal justice for college? Getting a degree in this field can open up a wide variety of career options for new graduates.

Unsure of what your career prospects will look like after college? Keep reading to discover 14 well-paying criminal justice degree jobs you can land as an entry-level graduate.

What is a criminal justice degree?

A criminal justice degree is an undergraduate program in college. Students typically take four years to complete this type of degree.

When you graduate in criminal justice, you can get a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS), depending on which program and college you enroll in. A BA in criminal justice follows a more general program of study while the BS is more technical.

As a student in criminal justice, you’ll learn about all the moving parts of the criminal justice system in the US. Once you graduate, you’ll have the option to start your career or pursue further education.

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Some examples of topics you’ll learn about during your degree include:

  • Corrections

  • Law enforcement

  • Courts

  • Criminal behavior and motivation

Keep in mind that criminal justice and criminology aren’t the same degrees. While several career paths overlap between both degrees, criminology has a stronger focus on criminal acts and their causes and impacts. On the other hand, criminal justice is heavily focused on law enforcement.

Criminal justice degree jobs you can get after graduation

What career does criminal justice lead to? Here are some examples of the jobs you can get with a criminal justice degree as an entry-level graduate.

1. Victim advocate

Victims of crime who seek support can turn to victim advocates for help. If you are concerned about victims’ rights, consider this career.

These professionals provide emotional assistance and advice to help victims heal and regain a normal life after experiencing a crime.

Victim advocates must have strong communication skills and empathy. They must also show patience and tact.

The salary for a victim advocate is $17.06 per hour on average. You need a high school diploma at a minimum, but employers prefer you have a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, you don’t need a license. Most victim advocates get their first experience via on-the-job training or internships.

2. Probation officer

As a probation officer, you’ll work closely with people who were recently released from jail. You’ll help not only rehabilitate them but also support them on their journey through probation.

Some of the tasks you’ll perform in this job include:

  • Issuing drug tests to offenders on probation

  • Performing check-ins with the people assigned to you

  • Speak to friends and family of someone on probation to help them obtain a reliable support system

  • Interviewing people on probation

  • Help released felons find work and get housing

Because of these tasks, a probation officer is another job that requires strong communication skills and empathy. The ability to multitask and deal with stressful situations is also key.

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The average salary for a probation officer is $28.97 per hour on average. You must complete your Bachelor’s in criminal justice to be eligible for this role.

3. Police officer and/or detective

If you want to work in the police force, a criminal justice degree is a perfect choice.

As a police officer, you’ll work in your assigned community to:

  • Patrol the area

  • Respond to emergencies

  • Regulate traffic

  • Build community relationships

  • Arrest offenders

You can also expect similar duties if you plan to work as a state trooper although state troopers have their jurisdiction limited to the roadway.

A police officer’s salary is $31.74 per hour on average and varies by location. However, keep in mind this average combines both police officers and detectives.

You’ll need at least a high school diploma and police officer training to join the police force. Your criminal justice degree is optional, but having this degree may help you move up the ladder as a detective if that’s something you want to do.

4. Substance abuse counselor

You can work with people who are struggling with addiction or who’re in substance abuse recovery as a substance abuse counselor.

Some patients will work with a substance abuse counselor on their own terms. However, you’ll also work with patients who are legally required to complete their counseling sessions due to committing a crime.

Substance abuse counselors work in several settings, such as:

  • Hospitals

  • Private practices

  • Rehabilitation centers

  • In-patient and out-patient settings

The average salary for a substance abuse counselor is $23.33 per hour. You need a bachelor’s degree — either in criminal justice or psychology. Some states require further certifications as well. Patience and empathy are also important for this profession.

5. Parole officer

Parole officers are similar to probation officers. The core of your job is to make sure people who’ve been released from prison don’t violate the terms of their parole.

But here’s the difference:

  • Probation: An alternative sentence to prison that can also be coupled with another sentence, such as jail time

  • Parole: A type of conditional prison release after someone serves a portion of their sentence

As a parole officer, you make sure your parolees respect the terms of their parole. To do so, you’ll regularly visit them to see how they’re doing with their:

The salary for a parole officer is the same as a probation officer at $28.97 per hour on average. You must have a criminal justice degree or similar to land this job.

6. Private investigator

Private investigators aren’t like other careers on this list. Unlike the other criminal justice degree positions, private investigators are self-employed.

They work with clients to solve cases they need help with. For example, someone or a company could hire you to investigate:

  • Insurance fraud

  • Missing persons

  • Cheating spouses

  • Surveillance purposes

Private investigators will make $22.70 per hour on average. However, requirements to land this job vary.

At a minimum, you need a high school diploma, but you’ll also need to gain the trust of your clients to get hired. That’s why a criminal justice degree is recommended.

Other private investigators begin their careers after spending some time in the police force.

No matter your background, you need to have strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills. You’ll also need to have an eye for detail so you can investigate with accuracy.

7. Paralegal

Paralegals work closely with lawyers, attorneys, and other law professionals to offer them support.

Lawyers are responsible for a ton of legal work. Because their own work is so overwhelming, they sometimes delegate some of these tasks to a paralegal. Some examples of these tasks include:

  • Drafting legal documents

  • Performing research

  • Organizing files

  • Keeping information up to date

  • Getting formal statements from the right people

Paralegals will also join lawyers during trials or hearings to provide support as needed.

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Ultimately, lawyers are responsible for a paralegal’s work, which is why you don’t need to go through law school to become a paralegal. But you still need a strong affinity for the law.

As a paralegal, you can make $27.03 per hour on average. You can get this job with a criminal justice degree or an Associates Degree (AA) in paralegal studies, but you can also look into legal studies or something similar.

8. Forensic science technician

As a forensic science technician, you’ll work directly on crime scenes to collect evidence. You’re responsible for the safe collection of the evidence, which means you need to collaborate with other law officers to protect the scene.

After collecting evidence, you’ll work with a team to evaluate the evidence to understand what happened and who’s responsible. To do this, you’ll do some of the following:

  • Analyze DNA from collected blood or other fluids

  • Run chemical tests

  • Verify ballistics

  • Observe photos of the scene to find linked evidence

The salary of a forensic science technician is $29.78 per hour on average. A bachelor’s degree in forensic science or criminal justice both work for this career. You need a careful eye for detail, and you also need to work meticulously.

9. DEA agent

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are federal government workers. As a DEA agent, you’ll work to prevent the distribution of illegal drugs in the US.

This career can look similar to that of a police officer, but it’s specialized in the control of drugs and other illegal substances.

To become a DEA agent, you’ll first need to complete your criminal justice degree (or something similar). You’ll then undergo about four to six months of training, after which you can choose your specialty.

The salary for this position is $21.27 on average. You’ll need strong interpersonal and decision-making skills to make it as a DEA agent.

10. Homeland security professional

Homeland security professionals work for services such as the FBI, Border Patrol, the CIA, and more. This career encompasses a wide umbrella of jobs and roles.

For example, you can work as an agent for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in airports. But you can also get a job as an:

  • Information security agent in the CIA

  • Cybercrimes agent in the FBI

  • Agent for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

  • Surveillance agent in the FBI

  • Intelligence analyst for the NSA

In short, you’ll find various fulfilling career options in homeland security.

For all of these positions, there’s an average salary of $38.94 per hour. But compensation varies greatly among the different positions. Past employment experience can also impact your starting salary. You either need a criminal justice degree or a degree in homeland security.

11. Park ranger

Do you love spending time in the woods and wish you could make a career out of it? If so, consider spending your days protecting and managing state and national parks as a park ranger.

Park rangers are similar to police officers for protected areas.. Instead of patrolling a community, you’ll patrol state and national parks of the US to enforce their rules and regulations and to investigate suspicious activity.

Your main goal is to protect and conserve the natural state of the parks from damage and pollution. But your duties can also include giving tours or assisting visitors to ensure a safe park visit.

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A park ranger makes $ 16.40 per hour on average. A bachelor’s in environmental studies is best to become a park ranger, but a degree in criminal justice works as well.

12. K9 officer

A K9 is a specially trained police dog that assists law enforcement. K9 officers are those who work directly with these police dogs.

Some of the tasks you’ll perform with your assigned K9 can include the following:

  • Patrolling controlled areas

  • Finding narcotics or explosives

  • Locating missing persons or cadavers

The salary of a K9 officer is $54,000 a year on average. You’ll need at least a high school diploma, although a criminal justice degree is recommended to stand out against other applicants.

In addition to these requirements, you’ll need to be comfortable working with animals.

13. Corrections officer

A corrections officer supervises people who’ve been arrested or those serving time in prison. This includes bailiffs as well as officers who work in the prison facility.

As a corrections officer, you can make an average of $23.04 per hour. Corrections officers need a high school diploma before they can join the training academy, but a criminal justice degree is recommended for better career advancement opportunities.

14. Bounty hunter

When someone skips bail or their court hearings, bounty hunters can go after them in exchange for a sum of money.

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The salary and requirements to become a bounty hunter are similar to a private investigator. However, you also need speed and physical stamina to perform this job well.

Keep in mind that most bounty hunter positions aren’t official jobs. Instead, you work independently to bring fugitives in. That’s why you need strong problem-solving and critical-thinking skills to succeed in this job.

You get paid by bail bond agencies or local law enforcement agencies who issued the bounty.

Find your ideal career with a criminal justice degree

Studying criminal justice gives you endless possibilities for fulfilling careers to pursue, but the best way to learn about this field is to connect with others!

Create a free Jobcase account today to tap into the knowledge of other criminal justice degree graduates with some real-world experience.

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