Is A Criminal Justice Degree Useless? Complete Fact Sheet

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Is A Criminal Justice Degree Useless? Complete Fact Sheet

Career is something we all are curious about, and when it comes to choosing a degree for a career, one becomes more careful and conscious. Many people across the United States have queries like, Is criminal justice degree useless? Should I get a criminal justice degree? or is criminal justice a good career?

If you are one of those, you have landed at the right place. This article will guide you about the worth of a degree in the criminal justice system and the Job prospects that you will have with a criminal justice degree. Be it an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in criminal justice, we will discuss each of them so that you can have the right information about the career prospects that they have for you.

I’m sure you will be curious about the money that you can make with criminal justice? If so, Continue reading the article, and you will get the answer to your question.

Is criminal justice degree useless

Over time many college students have developed this feeling that their degrees are useless because they are unable to get employed. Even those who get hired are yelling that they could have found these entry-level positions with a high school diploma. There is no point of spending two to four years for getting higher education in criminal justice.

But there is a reason behind you spending four years getting a degree in criminal justice. These degrees ensure that you reach hands-on the right theoretical concepts during the course work, which will help you perform better whenever you are employed. Although some graduates have just got employed at the entry-level positions, there are high chances that they will get promoted to more top ranks as soon as they get experienced. These promotions would not have been possible without a degree in criminal justice.

If you are about to decide the degree for your bachelor’s and have met one of these disappointed college graduates, you need not listen to those disappointed souls and understand that there is a ray of light at the end of every tunnel. 

Sit back and relax! Take a deep breath and explore the opportunities you will have with a criminal justice degree in your hand.

Do you need a criminal justice degree to serve as a law enforcer? How far will this kind of education take you? People often equate “criminal justice” (CJ) with being a cop. Law enforcement is just one of its components. The other two are the courts and correctional systems. Moreover, while not a prerequisite for most jobs in this field, you do get a better sense of the course with a criminal justice degree.

In many forums, one favourite topic for discussion is the value of completing this course. While some believe that criminal justice degrees do not necessarily spell success in this career, you become a more effective professional with this as part of your preparation.

If you are seriously considering a job or career in law enforcement at the state or federal levels, a criminal justice degree will help you get one foot in the door. Your options with this degree are certainly not limited to being a police officer. You can work as a court reporter, a probation officer, a border patrol agent, a paralegal, a criminal investigator or even security personnel. In the end, your level of commitment and the desire to serve in whatever capacity for the public good are the ultimate keys to fruitful work life.

Bachelor or associate degree?

A college degree is a big decision. Whether you decide on an associate or bachelor degree, you will spend time and money. Furthermore, there are apprehensions as to the value of a criminal justice degree. Two years or four years will cost and even get you in debt. However, those who know better will always say go for it if this is something you genuinely want to do.

Whatever career in criminal justice, you end up pursuing, any previous college courses, especially science, English and math, will come in handy even if you end up doing something entirely different.

In the case of CJ, the question often asked is: should I take up an associate or bachelor degree?

In the first place, why are you taking up a criminal justice degree? Are you seeking entry-level jobs in law enforcement, the courts or correctional system? Is it a requirement for the position you are eyeing?

The two-year program is usually an introduction to the three main elements of CJ — law enforcement, courts and the legal system and the correctional system. Schedules vary with each criminal justice college, but generally, the curriculum includes an overview of the fundamentals of CJ, technical aspects of law enforcement, societal causes of crime, the court and correctional systems, juvenile justice, security and criminal procedures.

You can choose to focus your studies on one particular aspect by taking more courses about them or pursue this later on for advancement.

On the other hand, the four-year bachelor program includes more subjects involving issues about CJ. Terrorism, global security, technological security, criminal law and ethics as well as CJ administration are introduced at this level.

One criminal justice degree student relates he was hired even before graduation because he was pursuing a CJ bachelor degree. He said taking up the bachelors program demonstrated a level of commitment to the field, and this weighed in the decision to get him for the job.

Ultimately, it is your decision, based on what you want to achieve that will dictate what kind of program to enroll in. Acceptance for criminal justice degree jobs does not necessarily rest on your education but rather on your capacity as a worker.

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How will a criminal justice degree help my career as a police officer?

No, a criminal justice degree is not a prerequisite to becoming a member of the police force. Any college degree, as long as you have ample preparation in science, math and English, is acceptable. Aside from a high school diploma or GED, you need to pass a written exam and background checks. Besides, it is during police academy training where recruits are evaluated if they are cut to become police officers.

Is it advisable to take up CJ before applying with a law enforcement agency? If you see yourself pursuing this career, yes. Otherwise, you can probably do this once you are employed and when eyeing promotions. Criminal justice degree graduates caution some eventually discover they are not cut for the profession and realize there are college credits not transferable when they decide to study for something else.

You already get ample preparation at the police academy to be a cop. It is more advantageous to pursue a criminal justice degree once you have experience on the streets to enhance your knowledge about law, criminality and the dispensation of justice.

Promotions usually require further education and a criminal justice degree, in general, or with some specialization, will help meet that requirement.

How much do criminal justice degree jobs pay?

Depending on the specific area you work in, the salary for criminal justice degree jobs can be as low as $29,000 to a high of $119,000 annually. The comprehensive range factors in the level of education and training, the nature of the work and experience as well as expertise of each position.

You can be working for a loss prevention agency, either as an agent or investigator. The median salary for the former is $28,900, while an investigator makes $37,800.

Security is also an area of expertise that can make use of a CJ degree graduate. A regular security officer makes $31,900, an armed one, $34,000, while a supervisor earns $42,800. With experience, you can work to become a security manager and receive $66,500. A security director makes even more at $78,700.

Federal law enforcement officers are paid higher with salaries ranging from $46,000 (probation officer) to $80,000 (police detective or investigator). The FBI agents make $119,000 a year because of the more stringent requirements they must comply with.

What are work opportunities available for CJ graduate?

There are also private employment opportunities for a criminal justice degree holder who is not keen to work for government agencies.

paralegal or legal secretary will benefit from an associate degree in CJ, or even by taking up individual courses in conjunction with specific training for the work they want to engage in.

Fraud investigation is also among the criminal justice degree jobs that you can explore. Many companies hire investigators and a strong background in the elements of CJ will be beneficial.

Security is big business and continuously in need of professionals. Alternatively, you can become a private investigator, which can be as exciting as being a police detective but minus the protocols and restrictions.

While there may be other college degrees acceptable in these fields, you cannot go wrong even with a two-year criminal justice degree tucked under your belt.

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Stressful situations that you have to overcome

Everyone has his/her circumstances and background experiences. Life doesn’t deal with everyone with the same stick; some might have enjoyed a pleasant life, while others might have faced difficulties. The same is the case in a criminal justice degree; the opportunities that you have might not be available to everyone else.

Getting benefits from your criminal justice degree will be difficult if you are in one of the following situations. Please read them carefully and avoid getting into any of these situations to have a chance of achieving a bright career in the criminal justice system.

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Criminal History

The criminal justice degree will help you get employment in one of the criminal justice organizations. Be it a police department, a correctional facility, or the immigration department, all of them have a standard of checking the background of every candidate they hire.

The candidates who have a transparent background of any criminal record have higher chances of getting employment in the criminal justice system. Your degree will not help you much if you have a previous criminal record.

A piece of advice from our side is that since you are at the beginning of your career, avoid getting into any situations that might create a criminal record.

Shift In Career

Everyone needs to understand that the knowledge taught in a criminal justice degree is not applicable in any other career. Think of a computer graduate who can work in different departments of any organization because he has been taught to use the computer for different purposes; therefore he is lucky enough to be able to shift his career anytime he wants to, but with a criminal justice degree that won’t be possible. Once you have joined a criminal justice college, you will end working in the criminal justice system. If you switch your career, you are going to struggle.

Therefore, we advise you to make a firm decision about your career choice and purse your degree accordingly.

Pursuing a job that doesn’t require a college degree

There are many positions in the criminal justice system that do not require you to have a college degree, and you can get employed with just a high school diploma. If you have to join those positions, the criminal justice college degree won’t help you a lot.

For example, many police departments require you to have a high school diploma for landing into the training academy, so if you intend to join those departments, there’s no point in pursuing a college degree.

With a college degree, however, your chances of being promoted to the higher positions are much bright.

First-hand experience of Criminal Justice degree Students

Although the degree seems too perfect to be pursued, there are specific ramifications attached to it. In this section of the article, we have brought a real-life story for you that will help you understand these ramifications and insights of pursing criminal justice degree.

So, there was a student who enrolled in the criminal justice system which had always dreamed of becoming a military or police officer so. He chose to pursue a degree in criminal justice to fulfill his dreams. Right after the admission, he became depressed as he heard from his seniors about the lack of career opportunities in the field.

He was carrying the depression inside until a day when he started to use illegal substances to avoid reality. During the depression, he consumed hash for more than ten times and Magic mushrooms due to which he has become ineligible to apply for any of the positions which he thought he would after getting the degree.

The student was always dreaming of becoming a military or police officer. Therefore, he had not thought of any other plan, and after consuming these illegal substances, his chances of getting into one of these positions are very rare. 

So, the question is, what ruined the career of this infant? The advice of his senior, which led him to depression in which he consumed illegal substances. 

So, a piece of advice from our side is to work on yourself rather than listening to what others say about your degree. Focus on learning the theoretical concepts as well as practical knowledge through on-campus or online classes and internship opportunities.

Another story of a student who pursued his degree in criminal justice is that one day, while going home, he was caught drunk, which resulted in his criminal record. If you do not already know, having a criminal record is a straight disqualification for any of the criminal justice positions.

So the student-managed to go to another country after completing his education and got employed as a probation officer but after serving for about five years, he wasn’t satisfied with the job and left it for pursuing an IT diploma.

After completing the diploma, he got hired into an IT related company and started working. As we speak, that individual is the vice president of a bank owned by that company and holds a significant chunk of the company as well as the bank.

So what are the takeaways from this story? Even after you are not eligible to get into the criminal system or you get into it, but you are not satisfied with the position, you can choose to switch your career by getting a diploma or a short course.

Criminal justice career might be the dream of many, but you don’t need to end up being a cop if you have pursued a criminal justice degree. A man who is 32 years old now wanted to become a police officer at a young age. He pursued a criminal justice degree with good scores, applied at four different positions and got rejected. The man gave up on his childhood dream and started working in a private firm where he enjoys a good salary and other travelling benefits.

According to him, he is in a much better position as compared to those who had become cops at that time because he has the money, leverage to spend time with his family and travel around the world.

So what are lessons that could be learned from this story? Life doesn’t end either does it stops if you have failed to get employed in the criminal justice system, there are several other options that you can pursue but if you are passionate about the criminal justice system you need to endure patience in your personality because getting employed at criminal justice organizations might take up to 10 attempts to get employed.

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Why is your criminal Justice degree valuable

It gives you insights into the field

Generally speaking, college degrees are the best way to get detailed information about any particular subject. For example, in high schools, the students are given knowledge about every field based on which they decide their future degrees.

Once they decide to pursue a degree in any specific field, they will learn about that particular field. The degree gives you an insight into what the subject looks like, the concepts that will be used when you are employed, and many more.

An Associate’s degree is two years during which you gain practical information about a particular subject. In case you are pursuing an associate’s degree in forensic sciences, you will learn about the working procedures of forensic laboratories and the methods of tests performed in the lab.

You might also have this question in your mind, is a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice worth it? If you pursue a bachelor’s degree, you will learn about the theoretical concepts that apply to the job. For example, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice will help you learn about the criminal mindset and psychology, which you will be using during your engagements with the criminals if you are employed as a police officer.

On the other hand, the master’s degree in criminal justice worth it because it gives you a firm grip over the theoretical concepts of the field and research methodology. Once you are done with a master’s degree in criminal justice, you will research the area. During your research, you will come up with new findings and emerging phenomena to help criminal justice organizations.

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The University Networking

During your degree, you will spend a couple of years who have come up from different backgrounds and are going to land in different positions. The networking which you will have during your university is going to stay with you forever.

You might have 20 to 30 class fellows in your class, which you will be connected with for the rest of your life. Each of them will go to a different position when the degree finishes so. You will have approximately 30 contact points at 30 various organizations, which can be an excellent opportunity for you to get employed.

Secondly, being alumni of the university, the Public relations departments will always extend its support towards you for connecting you with the employers. They will surely recommend you if you had a good reputation at the university.

You will meet the employers’ requirements.

In the criminal justice system, many positions require a candidate to have a bachelor’s degree. Think of a situation in which an employer requires the aspiring candidates to at least have a bachelor’s degree. If you have a complete CJ degree, you will be in a better position to get the job compared to someone who is applying with a high school diploma.

Therefore, a degree from a reputable college or university opens the new doors of employment for you.

Higher positions require higher education.

Many people aspire to join the criminal justice system. Many people wish to become lawyers, prosecutors, and judges. These higher positions of the criminal justice system require you to have higher education, such as a master’s or Ph.D.

For example, a lawyer will become much more proficient with the legal system as he acquires more academic knowledge. Without a bachelor’s degree, it would be almost impossible for him to acquire higher education.

Therefore, the first college degrees are necessary if you want to land at higher positions in the criminal justice system.

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How much can I earn with a degree in criminal justice

The salaries of individuals working in the criminal justice system vary depending upon the position you are employed and the State in which you are employed. The table below shows some employment opportunities in the criminal justice system and their salaries and projected growth.

CareerAverage Annual salaryProjected Growth
Lawyers$120,9106 %
Judges and hearing officers$117,1906%
Police and detectives$63,3805%
Paralegals$ 50,94012%
Private detective and investigators$50,0908%

Is Criminal Justice a good career

Based on the facts that we have discussed above, we can clearly say that there is nothing wrong with the criminal justice degree, but having the mindset that my degree is not worth it is undoubtedly problematic. If you develop this mindset, you will avoid applying to the announced positions even though you are eligible. This attitude will take you nowhere; instead, it will make you a prisoner on your thoughts.

If you have already acquired a degree in criminal justice, you need to develop the mindset that my degree has worth, and at some point in my life, I was interested in pursuing it as a profession. 

On the other hand, if you are at a stage where you have to make a decision, you surely need to ask yourself if you want honestly want to pursue a career in criminal justice? If the answer is Yes, go ahead, put your best efforts, and see the results yourself.

Here is some critical advice from our side that you must follow while you are in your college, and if you do so, you will undoubtedly get employed in your desired position.

  • Maintain a minimum of 3 CGPA. Set a target for every semester from the very start of your degree and try to achieve it. If you fail to do so, retake the classes and try to improve it as much as you.
  • Apply for every internship opportunity. The employers look for the students who have gained experience alongside their educational work
  • Try to build your resume from the very start of your degree, attend the seminar, internship programs, and workshops. Take part in every activity that could add weight age to your resume.
  •  Work on your verbal and written communications. Oral communication will help you pass through the interviews conducted by employers. The written communication will assist you in producing quality papers that can add weight age to your resume. 


Last words

So, one thing is for sure, Criminal justice the degree is not useless, and it is worth doing it. However, if you are pursuing a degree in criminal justice, you must keep in your mind that this field is very competitive as most of the students want to join the field. So in order to stand ahead of them, you need to have strong knowledge of the concepts of the field, clear background history, and you must be in sound physical health.

Some of the federal agencies will prefer the candidates who have non- conventional degrees or certificates such as accounting, economics, and computer sciences. So to have the edge over the other candidates, you must think of acquiring short diplomas on these subjects.

All these credentials of yours combined with your luck will pave the way for a bright career for you within the criminal justice system.

Any justice system needs several highly educated specialists and reading a criminal justice degree is a sound starting point for a legal career. Wherever you live in the world, there will be some form of judicial administration, and whatever nature, it will still require its quota of professionally educated elite and administrators.

While there are numerous disciplines within the overall framework of the law that can be attacked by direct entry, others require some form of legal education before you can enter upon its career path. A criminal justice degree does not only teach its students the rudiments of the administration of criminal justice, but it also teaches them to think, arguably even more important than the former! So you will want to find universities that offer legal degrees.

Within the faculty, there will be areas in which it is possible to specialize. Typically there will be subjects common to all students and a balance of topics that arise from personal choice. It will depend upon individual career plans what subjects are chosen to fit the student better for the years ahead.

In the 21st century, the types of crime are growing continuously. Physical crimes against the person are now supplemented by cybercrimes, identity theft, and even thought crimes. Law is a minefield where the obvious is no longer a yardstick, but lawyers are sucked into trying to interpret what is going on in the head of a defendant to determine whether a crime has been committed against the welfare of another. The widespread taking of faux offense, actively encouraged by the ‘holier than thou’ media, has opened up a gravy train for lawyers! It is worth having a criminal justice degree as this will qualify a student to jump on that train in due course.

In essence, there are two ends to the application of the law. At the front end are the day to day law enforcers – the police, the marshals, and the sheriffs. At the other end are those who apply the law to its detractors and miscreants – the judges and magistrates, the court system, and the prison and probation services. Laterally there are many associated professions, skills, and employment groups that feed into the process, ensuring citizens can live in peace in a generally law-abiding environment. The reader must assume that the desire to take a criminal justice degree is the main focus of inquiry and decide just where he or she wants to fit into this process. You can see more about legal jobs and careers on other pages on this site.

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