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What is Criminal Justice
Criminal Justice is the field of study and practice that deals with the methods and means to combat criminal behavior. This is accomplished through employment in one of the three sectors of the criminal justice system: Law enforcement, the judicial system, and corrections. Individuals will work in one of these three fields, providing services relevant to that area of criminal justice. Criminal justice requires an understanding of how the three sectors operate together, ensuring that law enforcement abide by laws necessary to perform proper prosecutions, to have the judicial system review and understand the criminal behavior displayed and make judgments in accordance with those crimes, and to have the correction department utilize methods of rehabilitation directed at reintroducing convicts to civil society.
A criminal justice degree prepares individuals for a career in the justice system. Criminal justice is a growing field, and as such has seen a surge in educational opportunities for individuals. One can obtain certification in a specific area of criminal justice or can pursue a postgraduate degree; the decision of which will be based on the career path chosen by the individual.
An individual seeking a criminal justice degree will learn how these three parts function independently and together, and will eventually choose which path he or she will focus on for his career. Coursework will include general education courses alongside major requirements.
Classes that may be part of a criminal justice curriculum include:
- Criminal Law and Procedure
- Abnormal Psychology
- Deviant Behavior
- Judicial Process
A criminal justice degree can also provide a solid foundation for aspiring law students, as it provides a solid background in the legal process as well as the various aspects of how justice is implemented and observed, providing a less abstract foundation on how laws affect society and individuals.
Individuals pursuing a career in criminal justice will often enter into law enforcement, with higher level degrees allowing greater access to law enforcement opportunities, typically at the state and federal level. Additionally, work in a courtroom, law firm, and in corrections, allows flexibility in one's specialization and variety in one's employment opportunities. Based on one's preference, education and goals, a career in criminal justice can be extensive and rewarding.
The jobs available to a criminal justice degree holder include:
- Police Officer
- Federal Law Enforcement Agent
- Court Paralegal
- Corrections Officer
- Community Social Worker
- Private Security
It is also important to note that more and more law enforcement agencies are requiring some college level education to be considered for a position. A degree in criminal justice also provides a solid foundation for related postgraduate degrees, such as forensic psychology, which can in turn be used to augment one's knowledge and increasing his or her effectiveness as a specialist in the criminal justice field.
Salary, Job Growth and Related Fields
The average salary for a criminal justice degree holder can vary from $30,000 per year to $120,000 per year, depending on profession, education and experience. This variance is a result of the broad number of jobs that fall under the criminal justice category and reflects the training and risk of a given job.
The market for jobs in criminal justice is expanding and is expected to continue to do so in the future. This expansion in jobs is due to the growth of the criminal justice system in the United States. Areas with higher population will also have a larger number of work opportunities and the wide variety of jobs available makes criminal justice an appealing career choice.
If you are interested in obtaining a criminal justice degree, you may also wish to consider forensic science degree, law enforcement administration degree, criminology, or a criminal science degree. For additional information, check out our Criminal Justice Career Resource Guide on our blog.