Do you want to engage in social services, protect people, and serve the community? If you seek a job with a meaningful impact, criminal justice occupations are suitable for you. The truth is, you don’t need a degree to pursue a career in criminal justice. This article will walk you through the criminal justice jobs without a degree.
Working as a criminal justice professional is one of the most important pursuits in the country. Government agencies and companies within the private sector don’t just offer job training to criminal justice majors, but also to those without a degree. Some consider applicants with at least a GED and proven skills, job training, and any other applicable experience in law enforcement.
Find Your Bootcamp Match
- Career Karma matches you with top tech bootcamps
- Access exclusive scholarships and prep courses
What Is Criminal Justice?
Criminal justice refers to the process of investigating criminal activity and providing justice to those who have been victims of unlawful acts and violent crimes. This branch of work comprises different agencies that aim to reduce and control crimes, respond to crime scenes, and impose criminal emergency procedures, including the penalties for committing crimes.
There are many possible employment opportunities as a criminal justice expert, whether at the state or federal level. Federal law enforcement agencies hire corrections officers and special agents to ensure the community’s security through strict rules and legal practices. Criminal justice protects people’s lives, provides justice for all, and implements national security.
What Do Criminal Justice Jobs Pay?
Ziprecruiter reports that the median salary for criminal justice experts is around $60,687, which is equivalent to $29 an hour. This specific wage depends on the specific position, location, qualifications, experience, and educational background.
Corrections officers earn an average annual wage of $35,724, while a crime scene investigator earns an annual average wage of $51,372. Aside from the competitive salary it offers, criminal justice also gives generous benefits. Workers are paid during holidays, receive excellent retirement benefits, and many of them are provided with life insurance.
What Skills Do You Need to Land a Criminal Justice Job?
Knowledge of Laws
Criminal justice professionals must be knowledgeable about the law. They must understand the current local and national laws to perform their duties effectively. The foundation of criminal justice is the law, so better knowledge of legal proceedings will give you a better understanding of criminal justice.
Criminal justice professionals must know how to differentiate between right and wrong. They must uphold and maintain ethics in society while investigating illegal activities. Their perception of right and wrong lies in their knowledge of the law, and they must uphold those standards when investigating any suspicious activity within the community.
Writing and composing reports about incidents and disseminating information are very important in criminal justice procedures. Strong listening skills are needed as they gather information through testimonies or interviews with witnesses. The ability to write accurately and speak clearly are must-have skills of criminal justice professionals.
Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills
Most of the time, law enforcement professionals respond to unexpected events and could be in a life-or-death incident. Quick decision-making and the ability to properly handle intense situations are some of the important skills they should possess. They should know how to stay calm, focused, and act accordingly to resolve the incident.
Adept Research Skills
Criminal justice also involves accessing files such as criminal data. You must be able to interpret data representations accurately, know how to execute case studies, and be knowledgeable about creating a hypothesis. These skills are essential in criminal investigations.
What Education Do You Need to Get a Criminal Justice Job?
Criminal justice jobs may require at least an associate degree, but some still consider a high-school diploma or a GED. You also need to enter a training academy. One of the most important qualifications in a criminal justice career is completing the training programs required for the position you want to pursue.
Some careers in this field that require a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice are lawyer, police detective, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent, drug enforcement administration officer, and forensic scientist. Meanwhile, several job opportunities that don’t require a degree are detention officer, police dispatcher, border patrol agent, and police officer.
Why College Is Not for Everyone
Most students struggle with finances in college, which shouldn’t hinder those who want to pursue criminal justice careers. A college degree is not an essential requirement in this field. Completing academy training, gaining related experiences, and having the necessary skills are the most desirable qualifications in criminal justice.
A high number of students are worried they cannot afford tuition fees in college. However, there are many alternatives you can choose from to learn necessary skills aside from getting a college degree, such as vocational schools and training programs.
How to Get a Criminal Justice Job With a GED
Look for Credited Training Academy
Employers look for fully equipped and qualified applicants to do the job. Training helps you get experience and learn standards and best practices in criminal justice. Search for a credited facility that offers a training program for the criminal justice field.
Enroll and Finish a Training Program
Once you choose the best training academy, you can now apply for and enroll in its program. Police officers receive their starting salary while joining the police academy. The training can last up to 19 weeks, but it varies depending on the agency.
Join a Local Network
Grow your network and connect with criminal justice professionals. These can be your classmates, your fellow trainees, or mentors. One of the most common ways to establish your network is through LinkedIn. Search and join a community to connect with these professionals and expand your network.
Build Your Resume
Create a strong resume that lists all your achievements, such as training you attended, certifications, awards, educational background, and criminal justice experience. Recruiters impose a strict hiring process, and those with higher educational attainment will most likely stand out. However, if you have the skills and knowledge they are looking for, you can be qualified for the position.
Look for Entry-level Criminal Justice Job
Apply for an entry-level position and gain experience in criminal justice. Gaining this experience will boost your resume and qualifications so you can advance to a higher position. You can find lots of entry-level jobs on many job sites, and you can also visit an organization’s official website that hires criminal justice professionals.
High-Paying Criminal Justice Jobs Without a College Degree
|Border Patrol Agent||$69,245||7%|
|Loss Prevention Officer||$35,000||15%|
Best Criminal Justice Jobs that Don’t Require a Degree: A Closer Look
Border Patrol Agents
The primary responsibility of border patrol agents is to monitor land and coastal borders to ensure security. They track any suspicious activities and illegal border crossing. Applicants must hold US citizenship, must pass a strict background check, and previous law enforcement experience is often required. You should also be physically fit and pass the medical exam.
Police officers are the law enforcement officers who enforce the law to protect people’s lives. They respond to emergencies, arrest criminals, and investigate crimes. Police officers must be knowledgeable about the law, know how to use firearms properly, possess a strong work ethic, and be physically fit. To qualify, you need to complete training at a police academy.
Police dispatchers receive emergency or non-emergency calls and dispatch law enforcement officers to respond to the situation. To succeed in this position, you must have excellent communication skills, active listening skills, adept judgment skills, strong focus, and the ability to control emotions. You must have at least a high-school diploma to become a police dispatcher.
Correctional officers are law enforcement officials that supervise and monitor the daily tasks of inmates. They maintain peace and order within the prison and ensure that all inmates follow the rules. Correctional officers must have self-control, self-discipline, good communication skills, and analytical skills. A GED is the minimum requirement for this position.
The primary role of criminal investigators is to investigate crime scenes. They collect and analyze evidence at crime scenes, interview witnesses and victims of crimes, and create investigative reports. Criminal investigators should have critical thinking skills, listening skills, problem-solving skills, and the ability to make sound judgments.
Security guards ensure the security of private or public premises. They inspect and patrol the buildings, respond to emergency cases, regularly monitor property entrance and exit, and ensure the orderliness of the entire area. Security guards must have completed first aid and self-defense training. They should also possess good observation and problem-solving skills.
"Career Karma entered my life when I needed it most and quickly helped me match with a bootcamp. Two months after graduating, I found my dream job that aligned with my values and goals in life!"
Venus, Software Engineer at Rockbot
Legal assistants assist lawyers in several tasks to prepare for trials. They should have excellent writing skills, good organizational skills, be knowledgeable in legal terms, and be detail-oriented people. To increase your chance of getting a job even without a degree, you must complete an entry-level undergraduate paralegal certificate program.
Legal secretaries provide administrative support to lawyers, such as typing and organizing legal documents, answering calls, performing research, attending court hearings, and setting appointments. To be a legal secretary, you must have strong communication and administrative skills. You must also be detail-oriented and have at least a high-school diploma or GED.
The primary duty of bailiffs is to ensure security in the courtroom and maintain safety for all professionals within the space. They monitor the courtroom entrance, confiscate any unauthorized weapons, maintain order during the whole trial, and escort the prisoners. While many organizations don’t require a college degree, bailiffs must have at least a GED. To qualify, you should pass the screening test, such as a drug test and physical fitness test.
Loss Prevention Officers
Loss prevention officers prevent theft at a store by monitoring customers’ activities. They keep an eye on the surveillance monitor or just walk around a store and monitor shoppers. They also help in investigations and create detailed reports about incidents. Most employers do not have specific educational requirements for this position but may require a high-school diploma or GED.
Companies that Offer Entry-Level Criminal Justice Jobs
- Drug Enforcement Administration. It is one of the federal investigative agencies that hire criminal justice professionals. To qualify, you must pass the DEA drug test, be a US citizen, and comply with the drug use policy.
- Homeland Security Investigations. HSI hires entry-level criminal investigators. This position will only consider applicants that have passed the applicable phase 1 and phase 2 assessments.
- National Investigative Training Academy. This private investigative academy hires entry-level private investigators, surveillance investigators, and police officers.
- Federal Bureau of Prisons. You will find entry-level criminal justice jobs at the Federal Bureau of Prison, such as correctional officer and police officer.
- National Park Services. This agency manages and protects national parks, historical and monumental properties in the US. They hire law enforcement park rangers.
Where to Find Criminal Justice Jobs that Don’t Require a Degree
Indeed is a job site that posts a wide range of jobs across different industries, including the criminal justice field. You will find entry-level and senior-level positions open on their website. You can also see reviews from current and previous employees of companies that can help you assess the company when you apply for a job.
USAJOBS is the official job website of the federal government. It posts job hirings and national employment opportunities in the United States. To apply, create your account on this website, search for a job, and send the application to the agency. The organization will review your application, and then the agency will schedule the interview and help select the best candidates for the position.
Criminal Justice Profiles
This website helps you find the most suitable criminal justice career for your preferences, such as private detective, forensic science technician, and probation officer. It also offers different criminal justice programs in forensics, juvenile justice, law enforcement, psychology, and more.
Consider a Criminal Justice Degree Later in Your Career
Criminal justice careers offer competitive salaries and benefits. While organizations raised their standards in hiring applicants, many still consider candidates with an associate degree or a high-school diploma. The most crucial qualifications you should have includes criminal justice skills, experience, and completed training programs.
You can still consider a degree in criminal justice, criminology, or any related field later in your career. This will help you gain advanced knowledge and training experience. Applicants with a higher educational background will most likely stand out in the hiring process. Getting your degree later in life is also a great way to grow your professional experience and development.
Online degree programs suit the flexible needs and schedules of students. You can choose a degree from different online criminal justice courses that match your preferences. This will help you study while still working and support your school finances.
Criminal Justice Jobs Without a Degree FAQ
Can I get a job in criminal justice without a degree?
Yes, you can still qualify for a criminal justice job even without a degree. One of the critical requirements is compliance with the training. You also need to possess the required skills and experiences.
Is it hard to get a job in criminal justice?
Yes, it requires passion and commitment. You must be invested and determined to complete the training. You also need to be physically fit to be qualified for a career in criminal justice.
How much do criminal justice professionals earn?
Criminal justice professionals earn an annual salary of $60,687 or $29 per hour. This varies based on several factors, such as the job position, organization, location, and credentials.
Is criminal justice a good career?
Criminal justice is a rewarding career. It is more than earning a high salary and generous benefits. It is best for those passionate about helping and protecting their community. A career in criminal justice calls for service focused on the community at large, rather than just yourself.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.