The Top Criminal Justice Career Profiles

Top Careers in Criminal Justice

The world of criminal justice represents diverse opportunities for employment. No matter whether you’re interested in crime scene analysis, law enforcement, court administration or criminal psychology, a vast array of career options await when you earn a master’s in criminal justice online.

Not sure where to start? Here’s a sampling of the many career opportunities available to master’s in criminal justice graduates.

Criminal justice management

A variety of roles fall under the umbrella of criminal justice management. Someone who works in this capacity might serve as a police chief or oversee a criminology program. Both of these jobs involve leadership or supervisory duties. Some of the most common jobs in this field include correctional administration, emergency planning and management, federal law enforcement, police administration, risk compliance and security management.

Job requirements: Anyone looking to work in criminal justice management must have an intimate understanding of policing measures, security protocols and emergency procedures for a variety of scenarios and the criminal justice system as a whole. Aspiring criminal justice managers must also possess proven management and leadership skills.
Projected job growth: Because criminal justice management is such a broad category, it’s difficult to determine the exact projected job growth for these roles. Roles that are currently on the rise revolve around law enforcement, corrections, telecommunications and social work.

Criminal Justice Careers: Criminal Justice Management

DEA agent

A DEA agent works for the Drug Enforcement Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice. DEA agents are charged with researching the criminal drug industry and prosecuting perpetrators, especially those involved in drug trafficking. This may entail anything from tracking drug-related activity to managing task forces, working undercover, collecting evidence, drafting reports, arresting criminals, testifying in court and more.

Job requirements: Becoming a DEA agent involves a lengthy and rigorous vetting process that may take more than a full year to complete. This process involves a qualifications review, written assessment, drug test, medical examination, physical task assessment, polygraph test, psychological assessment and in-depth background investigation.
Projected job growth: expects demand for criminal investigation jobs to increase by approximately 2.29 percent each year over the next several years. The average salary for a first-year DEA agent typically ranges from $47,000 to $57,000, with opportunities for significant salary increases over time.

Criminal Justice Careers: DEA Agent

Director of court services

A director of court services oversees a variety of administrative functions within a court system. For example, they may be in charge of developing court system procedures and ensuring these procedures are compliant with regulations. They may also manage projects such as conducting financial audits, drafting reports, onboarding new staff and overseeing court functions, including jury systems and child support enforcement.

Job requirements: Different court systems have slightly different requirements for this role, but in general an aspiring director of court services should possess an advanced degree. Hiring managers also look for substantial administrative, management and supervisory experience.
Projected job growth: Between 2014 and 2024, the BLS estimated roles in court administration will grow by eight percent. (The BLS does not collect data for the director of services role specifically.) Different sources report different median salaries for this role; these numbers range from approximately $56,000 to $92,000.

Criminal Justice Careers: Director of Court Services

FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) agent

You’re no doubt familiar with the vision of jacket-clad FBI field agents, frequently depicted on TV. But FBI agents do more than break down doors with guns blazing. They’re responsible for investigating high-profile criminal justice cases involving incidents from terrorism to extortion, drug trafficking, organized crime and white-collar crime. To fulfill their duties, FBI agents may collect evidence, obtain warrants, and testify in court.

Job requirements: At a minimum, aspiring FBI agents must possess a bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 or above. Special consideration is likely given to applicants who possess an advanced degree and/or schooling in a field such as accounting, computer science, criminal justice, engineering, law, political science and so on. The ability to speak multiple languages is a plus, and passing an extensive background check is required.
Projected job growth: The BLS does not provide specific data regarding the projected job growth for FBI agents. More generally, jobs for law enforcement officers are expected to increase by four percent between 2014 and 2024. The starting annual salary for an FBI agent typically ranges from $60,000 to $80,000, with significant opportunities for raises and promotions.

Criminal Justice Careers: FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) Agent

Federal air marshal

Federal air marshals are employed by the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) but often work closely with other local and federal law enforcement agencies. They’re primarily charged with protecting passengers and crew on commercial flights. For the most part, air marshals perform their work undercover. They ride along on commercial flights (and the occasional passenger train or other mass transit system) while posing as a regular passenger, but they’re equipped to monitor and address potential threats at a moment’s notice.

Job requirements: The minimum qualifications for a federal air marshal include a bachelor’s degree and relevant work experience, but a master’s degree is typically favored. Air marshals undergo a thorough background investigation and polygraph exam to obtain a security clearance. They also need to pass a physical abilities test. Once hired, air marshals undertake in-depth training regarding everything from federal law enforcement to firearms proficiency.
Projected job growth: Because the number of active air marshals is kept secret, it’s difficult to estimate specific job growth statistics. That being said, demand for armed security on aircrafts is growing, and this trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Air marshals typically earn anywhere from $40,000 to $70,000 per year.

Criminal Justice Careers: Federal Air Marshal

Federal probation officer

When a person is released on parole from federal incarceration or placed on probation instead of serving jail time, a federal probation officer is assigned to their case. This officer works to ensure people on parole or probation abide by the appropriate rules and regulations. They also serve as a liaison between parolees and court officials. For the most part, probation officers are employed by government agencies.

Job requirements: It’s possible to obtain a role as a federal probation officer with a bachelor’s degree, but most employers prioritize candidates with a master’s degree in criminal justice, psychology, social work or a related field. Candidates must possess strong communication and decision-making skills and a general knowledge of self-defense; they’ll also need to pass a medical examination and demonstrate work experience in the field. Many employers mandate a training period prior to permanent placement.
Projected job growth: expects demand for criminal investigation jobs to increase by approximately 2.29 percent each year over the next several years. The average salary for a first-year DEA agent typically ranges from $47,000 to $57,000, with opportunities for significant salary increases over time.

Criminal Justice Careers: Federal Probation Officer

Forensic psychologist

Forensic psychologists are concerned with the psychology of criminals. First, they assess the psychological state of suspected or convicted criminals. Second, they administer psychological treatment services for criminals, crime victims and witnesses. And third, they use their knowledge of human behavior to play a role in solving legal disputes around issues such as insurance and custody.

Job requirements: It’s possible to enter the field of forensic psychology with a master’s degree, although many employers prioritize candidates with doctoral degrees that focus on psychology, criminology, or forensics. Aspiring forensic psychologists must also possess strong communication skills.
Projected job growth: While the BLS does not collect job growth data specifically related to forensic psychology, it does project that employment of psychologists as a whole will grow by 14 percent through 2026. The median annual salary for psychologists is $75,230; exact salaries may vary greatly by experience and region.

Criminal Justice Careers: Forensic Psychologist

These seven roles represent some of the most common career trajectories for master’s degree holders looking to pursue a career in criminal justice, but they’re only the tip of the iceberg. While many of these roles revolve around law enforcement, there are plenty of other roles that focus on mediation, counseling and rehabilitation. It’s up to you to determine how you want to make your mark in the world of criminal justice.

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