A criminal justice, or criminology, the degree is often associated with police work, but it is a surprisingly versatile degree. Whether you want to work on preventing crime at the ground level, reform criminals, or prevent conditions that lead to criminal behavior, there is a job in criminal justice for you. But before you decide on a career, you have to make sure that it fits your personality and set of skills. Let’s take a look at the many career paths a criminology degree opens up. We’ll discuss what the job entails, the necessary level of education and the pros and cons of the job.
Social work is one of the most common jobs for those with a criminal justice degree. And social workers with a background in criminal justice will be able to work with a wider variety of groups, which will open up many more opportunities. Social work positions include:
- Child welfare caseworker
- Group home worker
- Human resources specialist
- Humanitarian aid worker
As a social worker, you will be asked to work with communities in need, families, people dealing with substance abuse and mental illness, and ex-convicts working through rehabilitation. You’ll be able to use the psychological and sociological aspects of your degree, which will enable you to build empathy and a greater understanding of different populations.
Social work is one of the careers where people report the highest satisfaction rate. As a matter of fact, one survey found that around 80% of social workers were highly satisfied with their jobs. This is a great career choice if you want to make a real difference, and is also in great demand at the moment.
The job of an intelligence analyst is to gather, compile, and analyze data to find patterns in criminal activity. There are many ways that data can be used in law enforcement. You could help track the activity of a criminal gang. Or you could work for the federal government in anti-terrorism.
An intelligence analyst may work with city or provincial police to identify factors to be addressed to reduce crime rates or deal with organized crime-related offenses that can’t be solved by a few arrests.
This job requires at least a bachelor’s degree in criminology and a detail-oriented mindset. This is a great career path if you are looking for a desk job and want to be able to deal with many problems at a systemic level. Here are some of the skills that could be beneficial if you’re looking for a career as an intelligence analyst:
- Ability to speak many languages
- Knowledge of different cultures and regions
- Great communication skills
- IT skills
- Critical thinking
Know that you’ll need to pass a background check for most intelligence analyst positions. So, make sure that you have a spotless record if you ever intend to work not only as an intelligence analyst but in any criminology related position.
The probation officer is a popular position in corrections among criminology majors. As a probation officer, your job will not only be to keep tabs on offenders but to also rehabilitate them to prevent further crimes and allow them to reintegrate into society.
Probation officers may interview offenders, their friends, and their families to evaluate potential problems and take steps to reduce the risk of re-offense. They will connect offenders with resources to improve their lives, such as educational programs, drug rehab, and job training programs. This is why so many probation officers feel satisfaction in their jobs.
While probation officers often get a bad rap, it’s because their role is largely misunderstood by the public. Probation officers play a very important role in society. Helping offenders become active and productive members of society helps both offenders and communities. You’ll work as a motivator, counselor, and coach all at the same time, and help offenders set and reach goals for themselves.
“We get to watch individuals make a conscious decision to turn their lives around,” says retired probation officer David Sutter. “It’s really rewarding,” he added. But he also warned against some of the difficult aspects of the job. “You can and should be as friendly as you can, but don’t expect it to always go both ways.” He also stated that probation officers have to be able to use their communication skills and critical thinking to defuse volatile situations.
If you want to work as a probation officer, you’ll need to at least have a criminology degree, but it would help if it also had a policing element. Wilfrid Laurier University, for instance, has a great BA in criminology and policing that will give you the perfect formation for the role. The best thing about Wilfrid Laurier University’s program is that it can be taken completely online. This is a great option if you want to work not only as a probation officer but in any type of corrections work.
Investigators work in a wide range of jobs, and these jobs are not limited to the public sector. You might work as a crime scene investigator or detective. You might gain additional training and work in the computer lab, tracking down the perpetrators of cyber fraud or pulling relevant files from a criminal’s computer. Or you might work for large businesses investigating fraud, running background checks, or ensuring their compliance with myriad regulations.
Compliance investigators, for example, ensure that an organization’s policies and procedures are in compliance with local, provincial and federal law. Private investigators, on the other hand, can work on many cases, including helping a family find a missing relative or determining if a spouse is cheating. This field is the most versatile, and it isn’t physically demanding. If you’re going to work as a compliance officer, you’ll need to keep up with the relevant rules and regulations.
After years of experience and, ideally, an advanced degree, you could work as a consultant in criminology. You might be asked to serve as an expert witness, you could provide security planning and crime prevention consulting to various businesses, or you may help develop public policy related to crime and public safety. The challenge is building up a steady stream of clients.
A background in criminology can help you land a position in court management. In this career, you would oversee court services and court programs. These tasks range from hiring and training bailiffs and administrative support staff to overseeing facility operations, including holding cells. You may also provide information to the public regarding court procedures and issue legal documents under the supervision of a judge.
Here are some examples of court administration jobs:
- Court clerk
- Court reporter
- Legal researcher
- Pretrial services officer
- Victim’s advocate
These jobs may not pay as much as a lawyer, but some are actually very close. For instance, provincial bailiffs can stand to make as much as $125,000 per year. You can get all these jobs with a criminology degree, and they’re an excellent choice for those who want to do something less strenuous and/or don’t want to go to law school.
Corrections officers are not only in charge of controlling the inmate populations, but they also need to look after inmates’ well being and rehabilitative needs. This is a great position if you want to work at the ground level, and have the proper temperament to deal with dangerous situations.
A degree in criminology will prepare you to deal with inmates and will give you insight into criminal psychology. It will also give you the tools needed to communicate effectively with inmates and minimize the use of force. As a correctional officer, you need to be able to always stay alert and react to unexpected situations, work as a team, communicate with people from all walks of life, age groups, cultures, and backgrounds, and stay calm under pressure.
A criminal justice degree could lead to teaching criminology at college. You might train the next generation of counselors for rape survivors or forensic investigators. Demand for this career is expected to grow ten to fifteen percent over the next few years. Teaching either requires years of experience or an advanced degree and often both.
Forensic Science Technician
A forensic science technician works in a lab analyzing evidence. This ranges from the DNA testing of blood and other bodily fluids to collecting evidence at the crime scene. As a forensic science technician, you will be asked to:
- Take crime scene photographs
- Analyze crime scenes
- Make crime scene sketches
- Record findings and observations, such as the position and location of evidence
- Preserve and catalog evidence
- Perform physical, biological, and chemical analysis of evidence
This role often requires a criminology degree followed by additional training in forensic science, though you can earn a joint forensic science and criminal justice degree.
A degree in criminology or criminal justice offers more than detecting crimes and arresting the guilty. You can work in any aspect of criminal justice, public safety or public policy. So, make sure that you consider all the options that are open to you, and pick the one that attracts you the most and fits your personality and career profile the best.