Career Specialties & Majors in Criminal Justice

Career Specialties & Majors in Criminal Justice

Opportunities in criminal justice range from standard-issue police work to crime scene investigation, forensic science, and more. Most criminal justice careers involve working for state, local, or federal governments or government-run facilities.

Correctional Officer

Correctional officers watch over prisoners, are accountable for inmates, and work to prevent disturbances and escapes.

Correctional officers in local jails admit and process about 12 million people a year, with about 700,000 offenders in jail at any given time. Correctional officers in state and federal prisons oversee the approximately 1.5 million offenders who are incarcerated there at any given time. Though they maintain order and discipline within prisons and jails, correctional officers have no law enforcement responsiblities outside the facility where they work.

Correctional Treatment Specialist

Correctional treatment specialists counsel prison inmates, advocate for inmate rights, and help inmates prepare for life after prison.

Also known as case managers, correctional treatment specialists work in prisons to create rehabilitation plans for inmates to follow when they are no longer in prison or on parole. They may evaluate inmates using questionnaires and psychological tests, and work with inmates, probation officers, and other agencies to develop parole and release plans. Their case reports, which discuss the inmate's history and likelihood of committing another crime, are provided to the appropriate parole board when their clients are eligible for release.

A bachelor's degree in criminal justice, psychology or social work is usually required. A master's degree is helpful for advancement.

Crime Scene Technician / Forensic Scientist

Criminal Justice and Law Enforcment Teachers

Criminal justice and law enforcement teachers teach courses at the collegiate level in criminal justice, corrections, and law enforcement administration. Many also conduct research in criminal justice practices and history.

A master's or doctorate in criminal justice is generally required to teach at the postsecondary level, and many teachers have experience in the legal or law enforcement profession.


Information Security

Information security personnel monitor computer use and work to prevent internet crime including harassment, fraud, cyberterrorism, and identity theft.

Information security officers in corporations or organizations develop security standards and systems. Leadership roles in information security often report to the chief information officer, or even the chief executive officer, dean, or other organizational leaders.

Law enforcement assigned to information security are responsible for investigating sources of cybercrimes and enforcing current law, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984, and the Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act of 2008.

Parole/Probation Officer

Police Officer

Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs

Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs enforce law at the county level. Unlike police chiefs, sheriffs are elected (or sometimes appointed), but their duties, depending on the location, can be similar to those of a local or county police chief. Deputy sheriffs are sworn officers who report to sheriffs and can perform the same duties.

Sheriff's offices tend to be smaller -- employing fewer than 50 officers. Sheriffs may work in tandem with county police, though in some rural areas, sheriffs are the only police presence. Generally speaking, sheriffs focus their law enforcement actitivies on unincorporated areas of the county and on county property such as courthouses.

Their duties vary greatly from state to state. For example, sheriffs in Colorado maintain the correctional facilities within the city and county of Denver, but leave patrol duties to Denver police. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department employs over 16,000 and serves as the equivalent of the police in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

Security Guard

Security guards protect property and people in stores, schools, hospitals, and other private businesses against theft, vandalism, fire, terrorism, or other illegal activity. When necessary, they use radio or telephone communications to get assistance from police, fire, or emergency medical teams.

Security guards may patrol grounds to deter crime, or they may be "static" and stay at one location for a specified period of time. They also write comprehensive reports detailing their observations during their shift. They might also interview witnesses or victims, prepare case reports, and testify in court.

Substance Abuse Social Workers

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