10 Criminal Justice Majors and Jobs You Can Pursue

Updated July 6, 2023

If you're interested in pursuing a career in criminal justice, there are a variety of academic programs that can prepare you for a role in this field. As a criminal justice major, you may encounter a diverse range of industry topics like psychology, sociology, law and public administration. Understanding your degree options and the positions you can pursue in this field can help you determine which academic program is right for you.

In this article, we list common criminal justice majors and jobs in this field so you can plan your educational and career path effectively.

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10 criminal justice majors

You can pursue a criminal justice degree on an associate, bachelor's or postgraduate level. Here are some options you might want to consider:

1. Corrections major

As corrections majors, students study prison life and prepare for roles in prison and jail facilities. They may study topics like crisis intervention, prisoner's rights and justice systems. While most majors graduate and start careers in prison facilities, others choose to take a scholarly role in research within this industry.

Related: Corrections Officer vs. Police Officer: What's the Difference?

2. Criminology major

As a criminology major, students focus on the nature and causes of crime, criminal behavior and the criminal justice system. Majoring in criminology can also prepare you for analyzing case studies and understanding crime theory, criminal law and policy. Many students in this area learn to apply research methods and understand the roles of psychology and sociology roles within criminal justice.

Related: 9 Online Criminology Degree Schools (and What You'll Study)

3. Forensic science major

Forensic science encompasses a variety of skills that prepare students for work in crime scene investigation. Students in this field take courses on topics like computer forensics investigations, cybersecurity and forensic analysis and research. They tend to develop skills such as attention to detail, critical thinking and problem-solving.

Related: 25 Popular Forensic Science Careers To Investigate

4. Police science major

Students of police science learn about the roles and duties of police officers. They build skills in investigating crimes, developing interpersonal communication and following protocols for responding to intense situations. Some police science majors lead to an associate degree or higher, such as police and border patrol majors, while others lead to bachelor's degrees or more advanced subjects, like private detective coursework.

5. Pre-law and legal major

Majoring in pre-law and legal studies usually leads to a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. This often entails a focus on skills relevant to paralegal and attorney job roles. As a student in a pre-law program, you can learn about theories behind laws, study the justice system and examine how law enforcement agencies and the judicial system operate.

6. Criminal justice major

Criminal justice degrees encompass a wide array of majors. Both certificate programs for law enforcement and corrections and bachelor's programs for paralegals and private detectives count as criminal justice areas. Overall, a criminal justice degree can provide a broad foundation for further and more specific studies within the industry.

7. Sociology major

Sociology is the study of society and social structures. These sociology students who focus on criminal justice typically start with an associate program in criminal justice, followed by a bachelor's program focusing on sociology. This major can offer opportunities for career development within fields such as human services, rehabilitation services and public relations.

8. Criminal psychology major

Criminal psychology is the study of the background and motives of a criminal. This major often requires work within a bachelor's program, where students focus on theories of human behavior, analyzing and interpreting criminal behavior and activity. A bachelor's program for criminal psychology majors can lead to graduate degrees in criminal psychology.

9. Law enforcement administration major

Law enforcement administration majors usually have previous law enforcement experience. They can pursue this path to learn the skills necessary to manage police and security officers as supervisors and directors. Majoring in law enforcement administration typically requires a bachelor's degree or prior experience or certification in law enforcement.

10. Rehabilitation services major

A rehabilitation major includes studying aspects of sociology. It can also make you eligible for career opportunities in substance abuse programs, therapy and counseling services in corrections facilities. Consider studying psychology and sociology, along with your rehabilitation major, to ensure you learn the required skills for working in this field.

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16 jobs for criminal justice majors

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, visit indeed.com/salaries.

A criminal justice degree makes you eligible for a wide variety of roles:

1. Correctional officer

National average salary: $41,147 per year

Primary duties: A correctional officer serves in prison security roles. Responsibilities within these roles include overseeing inmate activities and privileges, maintaining order and enforcing rules within jails and prisons. They also report on the conduct of inmates.

Related: What Does a Correctional Officer Do? Definition and Job Requirements

2. Law enforcement officer

National average salary: $47,507 per year

Primary duties: A law enforcement officer is responsible for protecting communities and property. Other responsibilities include patrolling neighborhoods, controlling traffic and responding to emergency calls. They may write citations, arrest offenders and submit incident reports.

3. Private investigator

National average salary: $49,659 per year

Primary duties: A private investigator examines a person or entity for a client and can work for state or private agencies. They're responsible for adhering to all laws and regulations regarding private investigations. They gather evidence and explain their findings in a clear way.

Related: How to Become a Licensed Private Investigator

4. Intelligence analyst

National average salary: $51,873 per year

Primary duties: An intelligence analyst collects and assesses data. Their goal is to identify and evaluate patterns in criminal activity. Those in this role do this to aid law enforcement agencies in preventing and reducing crime.

Related: What Does an Intelligence Analyst Do? (With Salary)

5. Paralegal

National average salary: $57,434 per year

Primary duties: A paralegal assists lawyers in various capacities, depending on their certification level and state regulations that specify what a paralegal can and can't do. Their duties typically encompass drafting and filing paperwork, researching case laws and interviewing witnesses and defendants. They also work on building cases for defendants or against other individuals or groups.

Read more: Learn About Being a Paralegal

6. Security officer

National average salary: $58,814 per year

Primary duties: A security officer patrols a building, grounds or facilities to protect people and assets. Their job is to watch for suspicious activities or warnings of crime. They then follow specific procedures to raise alarms and alert authorities.

Related: What Does a Security Officer Do? (Plus Salary and Skills)

7. Social worker

National average salary: $60,186 per year

Primary duties: A social worker helps people cope with life experiences. Those who work in criminal justice might collaborate with local law enforcement agencies, behavior specialists and rehabilitation specialists to prevent criminal activity. They may also assist families and victims of abuse, diagnose behavioral and mental disorders and offer counseling for substance abuse.

Read more: Learn About Being a Social Worker

8. Legal secretary

National average salary: $60,022 per year

Primary duties: A legal secretary is an administrative assistant with expertise in law. Those in this role use their skills to improve efficiency at a law firm. They also assist lawyers and other legal experts by preparing documents, setting meetings and typing court minutes.

Read more: Learn About Being a Legal Secretary

9. Forensic scientist

National average salary: $62,717 per year

Primary duties: A forensic scientist collects and analyzes the physical evidence of committed crimes. Their work supports detectives and officers in solving a crime. Often, forensic scientists operate with mobile tools and equipment.

Related: 14 Reasons To Become a Forensic Scientist (And What They Do)

10. Forensic accountant

National average salary: $79,845 per year

Primary duties: A forensic accountant interprets and summarizes financial and business documents to find evidence of a crime. Their investigations aid authorities in identifying financial misconduct. For example, they may examine alleged instances of fraud.

Read more: Learn About Being a Forensic Accountant

11. Judge

National average salary: $74,135 per year

Primary duties: A judge has an obligation to uphold the law. Their job is to ensure lawyers and other people in the legal profession are abiding by the law. They also preside over court cases where they make motion decisions, give rulings and instruct juries.

Related: Guide To Become a Judge (With 9 Steps and FAQs)

12. Policy analyst

National average salary: $77,392 per year

Primary duties: A policy analyst evaluates public policies to determine the efficacy of governmental interventions. They investigate public issues to determine the best policy solutions for communities. They then express their insights to the public, civil servants, activities and elected officials.

Related: How To Become Policy Analyst in 5 Steps (Plus Job Duties)

13. Detective

National average salary: $84,012 per year

Primary duties: A detective investigates complex crimes. They typically collaborate with police officers and interview witnesses and suspects to gain more information about an incident. They may also work undercover and make arrests.

Read more: Learn About Being a Detective

14. Attorney

National average salary: $99,107 per year

Primary duties: An attorney, specifically a defense attorney, specializes in defendant case management, arraignment, pretrial hearings and settlement conferences. They attend court trials and hearings on behalf of their clients. Defense attorneys can work for various organizations at the local, state or federal level or for private law firms.

Related: What Does an Attorney Do? (Plus How To Become One)

15. Psychologist

National average salary: $101,720 per year

Primary duties: A criminal psychologist conducts criminal profiling. This is the process of identifying likely suspects of a crime. Other responsibilities include aiding law enforcement in analyzing and solving crimes, assessing criminal behavior and providing expert testimony in court cases.

Read more: Learn About Being a Psychologist

16. Behavioral specialist

National average salary: $138,272 per year

Primary duties: A behavioral specialist within criminal justice may work with youth at risk of criminal activity or other negative behavior. They work with schools, community leaders, families and social workers to monitor and implement behavior strategies to help at-risk youth. Their goal is to support communities and reduce crime rates in an area.

Related: What Does a Behavioral Scientist Do? Role and Job Duties

Frequently asked questions

What are the advantages of a criminal justice degree?

Criminal justice degree programs provide students with a wide skill set upon completion. You can gain new competencies and develop experience within a combination of fields, ultimately developing your knowledge base. These fields may include sociology, psychology, information technology and social work.

How can I tell if a criminal justice career is right for me?

If you're considering pursuing a criminal justice degree to begin your career in this field, it's important to consider your interests, availability and skills. For example, this can be a great field if you're interested in giving back to your community since a majority of roles in criminal justice involve preventing crime and protecting citizens.

How can I improve my candidacy for a criminal justice job?

Earning a criminal justice degree is a great way to improve your candidacy for a job in this field. If you know what role you want to pursue, consider researching the position's academic requirements. For example, some roles may only require an associate degree, while others prefer candidates who have graduate degrees. This can help you better prepare for the position you want and make yourself a good fit for the job.

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