Career Information for a Degree in Criminal Justice or Safety Studies

Degrees in criminal justice and safety studies typically cover criminal law, corrections and ethics. Find out about the requirements of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for criminal justice and safety studies graduates.

A degree in criminal justice or safety studies provides a solid foundation for individuals who want to enter law enforcement or corrections. Job options include working as a police officer or probation officer. Police patrol assigned areas, apprehend suspects and are tasked with keeping the public safe, while probation officers help convicted criminals who have been released from prison adjust to their return to everyday life with the goal of preventing them from reoffending.

Essential Information

Degree programs in criminal justice or safety studies prepare students for careers in law enforcement and corrections. Students take courses in criminal law, corrections, criminal justice theory and ethics. A high school diploma may be enough for some police officer positions, but many agencies prefer that applicants have some college courses or a degree. A probation officer must hold at least a bachelor's degree. After being hired, police officers must complete a training program at a police academy, while probation officers usually get additional training through state or federal programs. On-the-job training is required as well.

Career Police Officer Probation Officer
Education Requirements High school diploma or GED certificate at minimum; bachelor's degree in criminal justice or safety studies is recommended Bachelor's degree in criminal justice or safety studies
Other Requirements Police academy and on-the-job training State or federal training program and on-the-job training
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 5% for police and sheriff's patrol officers 4% for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists
Mean Salary (2015)* $61,270 for police and sheriff's patrol officers $54,080 for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career Options

Graduates of criminal justice or safety studies programs may go on to work as police officers or probation officers.

Police Officers

Police officers work for city and county police departments, patrolling beats, apprehending suspected criminals and maintaining public safety. They might specialize in a certain aspect of police work, such as community patrol or narcotics. Other responsibilities include directing traffic and enforcing traffic regulations, providing first aid to accident victims and maintaining order at large public functions, such as parades. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all police officers must complete academy training, in which they learn about firearm usage, arrest procedures and legal codes.

Salary and Outlook Information

In May 2015, there were about 653,740 individuals working as police and sheriff's patrol officers, and most earned between $33,430 and $96,110, according to the BLS. Job opportunities for police officers and sheriff's patrol officers were projected to increase 5 percent from 2014-2024. Positions with local police departments or in urban communities may be the easiest to obtain, though they may offer lower salaries.

Probation Officers

Probation officers help their clients, convicted criminals who are sentenced to terms of supervised release rather than prison, return to everyday life and avoid repeat arrest. Probation officers help their clients set goals to improve their lives and develop plans to meet those goals. They meet regularly with offenders and offenders' family members in order to assess clients' progress in adhering to expectations of work, good behavior and, often, drug testing. After obtaining employment, probation officers are often required to complete training programs administered by the federal or state government.

Salary and Outlook Information

The BLS notes that, in May 2015, there were around 87,950 probation officers or correctional treatment specialists employed in the nation. Most of these professionals earned between $32,900 and $86,140 annually. Employment for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was expected to increase by 4 percent from 2014-2024.

A degree in criminal justice or safety studies will include training in criminal law, corrections, criminal justice theory and ethics. This education helps prepare individuals for careers in law enforcement or corrections. Additional training may be required before entering the field as a police officer or probation officer.


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