Criminal justice is best described as the system of laws, policies, and organizations that help identify criminals, bring them to justice, and help victims of crimes recover. Put more simply, criminal justice is the system in place to prevent crime, punish criminals, and protect the public.
The field of criminal justice is a noble one to go into. Every day you go to work in this field, you are doing something important for the safety of people’s lives. Not every day is a matter of life and death, but something as simple as ticketing someone for running a red light has the potential to prevent future car accidents by causing that person to think twice in the future before repeating the offence.
Going into this field is not for you if you have a weak stomach. People working in criminal justice are regularly exposed to horrific crimes, whether in person or via photos and videos used for evidence. However, if you truly think you can handle these aspects, being able to catch the bad guys is surely rewarding enough to help balance out the horrors of the job.
Careers in Criminal Justice
In the field of criminal justice, there are quite a few jobs. The field covers everything from traffic cops to lawyers to information security analysts. There is definitely a job available for people of any speciality, whether that be detective skills or working with technology. Some of the most common and desired careers in the field include lawyers, CIA officers, information security analysts, crime scene investigators, homicide detectives, forensic psychologists, and blood spatter analysts.
We all have a pretty good idea of what lawyers, CIA officers, and homicide detectives do. Lawyers defend clients in the court of law, CIA officers are spies who collect and evaluate information, and homicide detectives investigate and solve homicides. But what about some of these other careers?
Information security analysts monitor an organization’s technology and information to ensure there are no threats to the data stored. They also work to prevent any threats or harm to sensitive data. In a criminal justice aspect, information security analysts are the ones who make sure things like crime scene photos cannot be hacked and stolen.
Crime scene investigators have what sounds like a pretty straightforward job of investigating crime scenes, but there is actually more to it than that. People working in these jobs are responsible for collecting any physical evidence at crime scenes, preserving it, documenting their findings, and also testifying in court cases.
Forensic psychologists are the ones who dive deeper into crime and try to find out why a person has exhibited the behavior that led to committing crimes. These are people who are trained in psychology and are also able to work with departments to identify patterns and help predict future criminal behaviors.
Finally, blood spatter analysts are specialized members of the forensics team that can look at the blood at a crime scene and tell you what happened. They study different ways blood pools, sprays, and splatters to basically tell the story of what went down at the crime scene.
Fortunately for you, the field of criminal justice isn’t going away any time soon. As long as there are humans in civilizations, there will be crime. This is a pretty secure field to go into and the potential for a decent salary is there. On average, blood spatter analysts make $60,000 a year, while homicide detectives, crime scene investigators, and forensic psychologists make an average of $77,000 to $80,000 a year.
If you decide to go into even higher jobs, you could make around $105,000 annually as a CIA officer or even $136,260 as a lawyer. Of course, the salary will vary greatly depending on the job you choose, but these are all great salaries in a secure workforce.
Criminal Justice Degree Paths
Since the field of criminal justice is so vast and diverse, it is difficult for many people to decide what degree they need to get. Most colleges that offer criminal justice majors have an option for a specialization depending on your career goals.
However, two of the most popular and best ways to get your dream job are by double majoring or minoring in a more specialized subject. Double majoring is the process of actually earning a degree in two majors. Adding a minor to your degree can be a bit less time consuming and allows for your degree to be in one subject alone.
Common Criminal Justice Double Majors
Choosing to double major in criminal justice and another field is a great way to get a well-rounded education in both areas you hope to work in. Going the route of a double major allows you to learn more about your second chosen major without compromising the education from your criminal justice major.
Some of the most common and useful double majors are:
Criminal Justice & Social Work
Double majoring in criminal justice and social work is a great option for students who are hoping to work more with the victims of crimes than with criminals. This pairing allows for more job opportunities in programs meant to care for those who have been impacted by crimes. You could do anything from working with victims of crimes to helping children in foster care, elderly people who need assistance, and those struggling with substance addictions.
Criminal Justice & Criminology
Criminology is often mistaken as a substitute for the term criminal justice, but it is actually a different subject altogether. Criminology is the study of why crimes happen. If you decide to double major in both criminal justice and criminology, you would be able to analyze crime scenes, a criminal’s environment and background, as well as people themselves to help determine what factors contributed to a crime being committed.
Criminal Justice & Psychology
Similar to double majoring in criminal justice and criminology, choosing to double major in criminal justice and psychology is a good fit for those who want to know why people commit crimes.
The biggest difference between criminology and criminal psychology is that criminal psychology studies the psychology behind behaviors and why a person commits crimes rather than looking at every factor on a smaller scale. With this pairing of majors, you can do interesting work such as criminal profiling.
Criminal Justice & Law
Double majoring in criminal justice and law is the path anyone wanting to be a lawyer should take. By learning criminal justice and law simultaneously, you are paving your way toward a good career as a lawyer, and if you decide to pursue a master’s or doctorate, you are pretty much guaranteed a good job and salary.
Criminal Justice & Information Technology
Finally, for the people who want to work with criminal justice and technology, the double major pairing of criminal justice and information technology is the way to go. Being able to know your way around information technology is a great way to get any IT job, but in the field of criminal justice, you have a much higher chance of being hired if you also know your way around the criminal justice world too.
Common Criminal Justice Minors
If you want to customize your degree but you don’t want to put in the time it would take to double major, we hear you. It takes enough time to earn a degree as it is, let alone add another major. That’s why you should think about adding a minor to your degree.
You can minor in pretty much anything you can major in, and it typically takes way less time. The only downfall is that you won’t get as intensive of an education in a minor as you would with a major, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful.
Some of the most common and desired minors in the field of criminal justice are:
Earning a minor in psychology alongside a criminal justice degree gives you an entry point into the same jobs a psychology major does. The difference is that this would be more of a foot-in-the-door type of situation, but that may be perfect for you. You would be able to excel in jobs like crime scene investigation or homicide detective because you would have the ability to grasp how the criminals think.
Having a minor in criminology gives you a pretty solid rock to stand on once you start applying for jobs. Many schools will offer both programs with quite a few overlapping courses, meaning this is a minor you could really complete fast. Also, having the background education in criminology will provide you with a better understanding of how the criminal justice system works, especially regarding more of the fine-tuned aspects like policies and rules you would have to follow.
Anyone who knows anything about criminal justice knows that it is a very political field. Minoring in political science would give you the upper hand in navigating the politics of your future career. Political science students learn about how government politics work, which helps them better understand the criminal justice system in general.
Earning a foreign language minor complements almost every major out there. The primary reason you should consider a foreign language minor simply boils down to employability. If you are competing for a job with another person who has the exact same skill set and background as you, having a minor in any foreign language is going to give you that last push you need to get the job. Not to mention the fact that you will be able to help solve crimes happening in foreign-language communities, giving you an edge over your future coworkers.
If you want to join the fight against cybercrime, here is the best way to do it: major in criminal justice and minor in computer science. Learning about the inner workings of computers is something not easily learned on the spot, so if you plan to work in a field like this, you’ll definitely want a computer science minor on your resume to prove you know your stuff.
Online vs On-Campus Degrees
If you are debating between an online or on-campus criminal justice degree, ask yourself how you learn best. In criminal justice, having earned your degree one way or the other does not affect you like it would a medical student. This is a decision based purely on what works best for you.
Going for an online criminal justice degree is a great option for students who are able to manage their time well, teach themselves when necessary, and learn best from recorded lectures or presentation slides. It is also a good route if you plan to be working full-time during the school year, travel a lot, or have a busy schedule in general. Online degrees can be very freeing, but it is important to make sure you have the motivation and dedication to complete one.
The more traditional route is an on-campus degree. This works well for anyone who likes going to physical classes, learns well in a more hands-on and discussion-based setting, and doesn’t have a busy schedule to work around. It is a lot easier to manage your time with on-campus courses because they are always at dedicated times.
Choosing to major in criminal justice is an awesome decision to make for anyone looking for job security, a decent salary, and a way to help protect people. Whether you choose to earn your degree online or on-campus, making the choice to pursue the degree is what matters, so do what is best for you!