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Career Info for a Degree in Criminal Justice & Law Enforcement

Degrees in criminal justice and law enforcement are geared towards those looking to crack down on crime. Find out about the curricula of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for criminal justice and law enforcement graduates.

Careers as a probation officer, law enforcement officer or corrections officer can be pursued with a degree in criminal justice and law enforcement. Although it may be possible to begin a career as a corrections officer or law enforcement officer with a high school diploma, those with postsecondary education may be hired for positions with higher salaries when entering these career fields.

Essential Information

Careers in criminal justice and law enforcement can be very rewarding, as they help better people's lives and their environment. Security practices, ethics and public safety are all covered in these degree programs - helping students become prepared for real-life scenarios on the street. Students looking to get a career in law enforcement and criminal justice can get their associate's, bachelor's and also certifications. Higher paying entry-level positions are available to students who get their master's and doctoral degree.

Career Probation Officer Law Enforcement Officer Corrections Officer
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Other Requirements No felony charges Must be 18 Completion of training programs
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 4% 5% 4%
Mean Salary (2015)* $54,080 annually $61,270 annually $45,320 annually

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Students looking to do their part and become part of the criminal justice and law enforcement field have many great opportunities. Below are overviews and descriptions of three career options for criminal justice and law enforcement graduates.

Probation and Parole Officers

Probation and parole officers meet with convicted criminals outside of the prison system to facilitate their reintegration into civilian life. Probation officers work with convicts who have been sentenced to probationary freedom rather than prison or jail time, while parole officers are responsible for meeting with and monitoring the progress of parolees who have served prison time and been conditionally freed before completing their full sentence. The primary responsibility of these workers is to ensure the offender does not violate the terms of his or her freedom and to assess the offender's progress in assimilating back into society. These officers assist with rehabilitation and treatment, arrange for drug screening and provide court testimony that influences sentencing.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for parole and probation services is expected increase slowly by 4% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). In May 2015, the BLS reported mean earnings of $54,080 per year for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, including parole officers.

Law Enforcement Officers

Local, state and federal governments, as well as academic institutions, employ police and law enforcement officers. Municipal police officers patrol residential and commercial areas, respond to citizen calls, apprehend suspects, give aid in emergencies and maintain general law and order. Other possibilities for employment include state highway patrols or federal agencies, such as the FBI. The BLS said most law enforcement officers must complete training at an academy prior to beginning patrol work. Non-supervisory police and sheriff's patrol officers were paid a mean annual salary of $61,270 in 2015, the BLS reported. The employment growth for these professionals is expected to grow 5% between 2014-2024.

Corrections Officers

Corrections officers work in correctional facilities such as jails, prisons, detention centers and courtrooms to maintain order and assist in transporting and processing prisoners and convicts. Corrections officers in prisons maintain discipline and order, report and punish unruly behavior, inspect for damage that might indicate escape attempts and provide superiors with reports regarding incidents. Those who work in county or municipal jails process recently arrested prisoners and oversee their treatment as they await hearings.

The BLS noted that this work can be dangerous and relatively stressful, due to the risk of personal injury from interacting with inmate or offender populations. From 2014-2024, the BLS expected a job growth of 4% for this field. The annual mean income of corrections officers was $45,320 in 2015.

Law enforcement officers investigate crimes and apprehend suspects, who, if convicted, are incarcerated in correctional centers where corrections officer are responsible for transporting and disciplining them when necessary. Probation and parole officers work with convicted criminals who have been released from jail to help them reintegrate into society and ensure they meet the terms of their parole, or those who are sentenced to probation rather than jail time. Although a degree in criminal justice and law enforcement isn't required for entry-level positions in all of these fields, postsecondary training can increase job opportunities and help individuals pursuing these careers secure positions with higher salaries.

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