How To Choose a Criminal Justice Career That’s Best for You

Juliet D'cruz

Updated on:

Are you looking to create change while protecting the integrity of your community? Have you always had a passion to protect and help others, and looking for a career that allows you to do that? If so, then you need to learn all you can about finding a criminal justice career that suits you.

When many people hear “criminal justice”, they automatically think of police officers. However, there are a lot of different jobs and careers within the criminal justice field.

See below for an in-depth guide on how to choose a career from all the options you have when you gain a criminal justice degree.

  1. Do Some Research

Here’s the good news: you don’t have to commit to one criminal justice career today. No one is going to penalize you for not knowing what you wish to do with your life after one day.

What’s important is taking actionable steps towards obtaining a criminal justice degree (more on that in a moment). You’ll find that, as you obtain your criminal justice degree, you’ll come across many different professors, mentors, and professionals with different types of criminal justice careers. They’ll be happy to tell you anything you wish to know about their career field.

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For now, start by doing a bit of research on your own. Look into all of the different jobs that are out there in the criminal justice field. Ask yourself a few of these questions as you research different positions:

  • What level of education is required to obtain that position?
  • How much does it pay? (what is the average salary?)
  • Is that position seeing steady job growth? Is it in a decline?
  • What is the current demand for that position?
  • Where would you be employed if you chose that career field? (Police department? FBI? Detective firm? etc.)

These questions are the starting point. By just learning a few tidbits of info, you’ll have a better idea of the positions you might pursue down the line.

  1. Find a Criminal Justice Program

As we said earlier, you don’t need to commit to one particular job today. The most important thing is putting things in motion towards your criminal justice degree.

That all starts by finding and enrolling in a criminal justice program. There are many different options out there, but not all of them are for you. 

Fortunately, many different online programs allow you to gain the criminal justice program you’re looking for at your own pace. You can start anytime, pace yourself, and pay as you go. 

Be sure to perform research on any program that you’re considering. Take the time to learn about the courses that they offer, their curriculum, how you’ll be able to complete your coursework, and more. You might also look into programs that can offer you a discount of some sort.

California Coast University, for example, has a great online criminal justice course to help students get their Bachelor’s degree at their own pace. They offer 3 interest-free payment plans as well. Look here for more information. 

  1. Consider Your Skill Set and Passion

Everyone has different reasons for pursuing criminal justice careers. Some of them feel called to carry on the family tradition if they’re from a long line of law enforcement officials. Others pursued a career as a detective due to an experience they had in their past.

It’s important to take the time and consider your skillset and passion. Doing so can help you put yourself in the best position to succeed. Sure a private investigator sounds cool, but is it the best fit for your skillset? 

Start by looking inward to identify your personal skills. What do you bring to the table? How would that help you in the criminal justice career that you’re considering? What are some weaknesses you’d need to improve on before you take on that career? 

  1. Lay Out a Plan

This is where many aspiring criminal justice majors fall short. They think about the one job position that they want, rather than focusing on their entire career and where it may lead them.

For example, someone might tell themselves “I want to become a police officer.” But what do you envision yourself doing after that? How can you advance from that? Do you want to one day become a sergeant? Lieutenant? Captain? Police Chief?

Things can certainly change. Many people make a significant career shift from what they originally planned on doing. However, laying out a plan, even a rough outline like this one, can help you keep focus while you pursue a criminal justice career.

  1. Build Your Network

Building your network while you’re still in school will help you in two ways. First, it gives you reputable sources to learn about the ins and outs of the criminal justice career that you’re interested in pursuing.

Second, it gives you connections when you go to get a job of your own. That police officer that you connect with today could end up being a lieutenant that will be interested in hiring you by the time you graduate.

Make sure to build your network however you can. Reach out to your local department. Build a friendship with your professors. Attend meetings and seminars that relate to your field. It all pays off in the long run.

Build Your Criminal Justice Career Today

Now that you have seen how you can choose a criminal justice career that’s best for you, be sure to use this information to your advantage.

Take the time to browse our website for more articles on criminal justice careers, as well as many other helpful topics that you will be interested in.

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