While it is impossible to say with certainty that a criminal justice degree would ensure a job at the state and federal levels, it would definitely give an edge when applying for relevant positions at both the local, state, and federal levels. “Relevant positions” is the key word. Often, the criminal justice degree helps individuals advance, but only in certain career tracks. While many local, state, and federal law enforcement positions such as police officers do not require a college degree, a degree in criminal justice generally allows one to rise higher in a given career track, and receive a higher salary, than one who does not have a similar degree. And since the job market is a competitive arena, specialized degrees will give an advantage to those seeking employment in a certain area.
The Many Specializations of Law-Related Careers
At many schools, the general criminal justice degree has proliferated into a number of specializations, such as law enforcement specialist, criminal justice corrections, and criminal justice “generalist.” Each specialization would study a different area of criminal justice to give the applicant knowledge and skills – and a competitive edge – in that area. There are many sub-fields in law, at the local, state, and federal levels.
The vast number and types of positions available at the state and federal levels can be overwhelming. Getting a criminal justice degree does not necessarily make you eligible for any type of job in law, but it does give a competitive edge if you are seeking a law enforcement position. Most job listings for agents and enforcement officers that require a bachelor’s degree do not explicitly state that it must be a criminal justice degree. However, criminal justice degrees tend to be more common and better rewarded than unrelated degrees.
Define Your Degree by Your Proposed Career
It is important to have your proposed career track defined before obtaining a degree. A crime scene investigator, forensic scientist, crime lab analyst, or a cyber crime investigator would not be able to get a job with a criminal justice degree by itself, though it may help. Specialized fields of study exist just for disciplines such as forensic science and cyber crime.
If your proposed career track is to rise through the ranks as a law enforcement professional and eventually become a manager or higher level administrative officer, then a degree in criminal justice would definitely benefit you. The higher the position you seek, the more hands-on experience is required. To become a detective, for instance, a criminal justice degree is more helpful than any other degree, but a great deal of job experience and on-the-job training is also required for investigative agents. This holds especially true for state and federal investigators, which are more competitive than local law enforcement.
In the end, a degree in criminal justice can only be helpful. As long as it applies to your proposed career track, obtaining a degree can help you get a better position, a higher salary, and a competitive edge in the workplace.