How Are Criminal Justice Majors Faring?

by JRO on November 7, 2013

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Criminal justice is a popular field of study for many college students. This may stem from the excitement this major offers or could simply come from a person’s desire to uphold the law. Whatever their motivation, criminal justice majors often have their pick of several interesting career paths.

The Jobs of Criminal Justice

By definition, criminal justice is a system of law enforcement — comprising the legal system, the judiciary, corrections, and probation — involved with apprehending, prosecuting, jailing, and supervising those who have been accused of, charged with, or convicted of a crime. Just as the name insinuates, criminal justice aims to bring criminals to justice.

Per CNN, this area is one of the most coveted majors by college students and — once a degree is obtained — it offers several job opportunities. Some of these jobs include detective and police officer, private investigator, paralegal, probation officer, jailer, crime scene investigator, court administrator, and forensic scientist.

Criminal justice majors are often employed at state or federal police agencies, courthouses, law firms, and government agencies, such as the FBI, the CIA, or the Department of Homeland Security.

Criminal Justice Unemployment Rates

According to a 2013 report released by Georgetown University, criminal justice majors have one of the lowest unemployment rates at 4.6 percent (for those who are experienced college graduates). To put this into perspective, business management and administration majors have an unemployment rate of 5.6 percent and computer engineering majors have an unemployment rate of 5.3 percent.

Criminal Justice Salaries

The variety of jobs available for criminal justice degree holders leads to a wide spectrum of prospective salaries. Per the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, two of the most popular career choices, police officer and detective, had a median annual wage of $55,010 in 2010.

Today, jailers earn a median salary of around $39,000, private investigators have a median salary near $43,000, and criminal investigators makes roughly $70,000 annually.

Many factors determine a criminal justice major’s salary. These include the level a person works (those working for the federal government tend to make more money than those working for state or local governments) and what their exact degree is. Other factors, such as college minors, may also play a role.

According to US News, future jobs will likely demand criminal justice majors who are computer savvy: while the rate of violent crimes such as rape, assault, and murder and the rate of property crimes decline each year, the rates of cyber-crimes are on the rise, and with more people having access to better technology, they will likely continue to increase. This means that criminal justice majors who minor in or have experience with computer science and information technologies have an edge against their competition.

Other Things Worth Noting

Oftentimes, when a person thinks about the qualifications needed for a certain job, they only consider educational merits and employment background. Criminal justice, however, is a little different. To work at the federal level, for instance, applicants must have no felonies or drug convictions on their record. Even defaulting on a federal student loan could potentially disqualify an applicant from being offered a job.


Myron Fairbanks is a freelance writer specializing in complex legal issues such as DUI, Personal Injury, Criminal Defense, Patent Law, Music Piracy and others as well.

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