Is a Criminal Justice Degree Worth the Money?

A common, and perhaps unusual, question today is the real worth of a college degree. With tuition costs ever on the rise, many potential students are opting to forgo a degree entirely, either because they can’t afford it, or because they believe experience in the job force is now more important. It is true that the days of a degree automatically equaling a lucrative job in your chosen field are gone, but degrees are still a very important part of anyone’s resume. Many professional jobs require various licenses, and many of those licenses require a degree to get. This is true of the criminal justice field. The good news about this particular degree is that it opens up a great variety of options in the criminal justice field.

What Does a Criminal Justice Degree Teach?

A degree in criminal justice or criminology will give students a background of how law enforcement works, how crime and criminals are analyzed, how law enforcement is organized, and how criminals are dealt with. As discussed in this article, there are many options available for those with a criminal justice background, and the skills of those fields are varied. Often, students need a good idea of exactly where they want to fit in the field. Do they desire to be a police officer, a corrections officer, someone who works with juveniles, someone who works with or rehabilitates criminals, someone who analyzes crime scenes, or someone who’s ultimate goal is to become a lawyer. This decision can alter the kinds of courses needed for the degree. Someone who analyzes crime scenes and evidence, for example, will need a strong science background in addition to the law enforcement aspect. Police and corrections officers, along with FBI agents and other government agents, will also need to pass additional rigorous training courses in policing, weapons proficiency and physical training.

The Differing Paths of Criminal Justice

It is easy to see how a criminal justice background opens up many different career options. As discussed in this online article, there are two main branches of criminal justice that most positions fall into. Students can either focus on law enforcement careers or legal careers. The knowledge of criminology is vital to both aspects, but the majority of entry level jobs are in the law enforcement line.

The legal aspect of criminal justice usually has an extra step, and it is a big one. With simply a criminal justice degree, graduates may be paralegals and get excellent legal experience. In order to become a full attorney, students must graduate from law school. This is essentially a graduate degree like a master’s. Any bachelor’s degree is sufficient for a law school application, and a criminal justice degree isn’t the only option, but it does have the advantage of opening up relevant experience opportunities while graduates are waiting to attend law school.

All of the positions that come with a criminal justice degree are in demand and high-paying. They are also very challenging and can be personally rewarding. These careers can never be outsourced and are a vital part of our society, so they aren’t likely to go away anytime soon.