Solving crimes and prosecuting criminals can seem like an exciting career path, but there is much more to the criminal justice system than these roles alone. Many professionals work in leadership, in the courts, and in the community to help keep people safe. For some, training beyond a bachelor's degree is helpful to launching their careers.
A master’s degree in criminal justice and relevant career experience can be the keys to several exciting career paths. From working as a supervisor in a jail to teaching within the criminal justice realm, earning your advanced degree can give you an advantage and a career advancement opportunity. If you have a passion for criminology but a degree in something else, a master’s degree program may give you the chance to add criminal justice training to your resume, although keep in mind that for many of these roles experience is a must. Here is a closer look at some of the career paths that are open to you when you have a criminal justice master’s degree.
Common Careers with a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice
If you want to move your criminal justice career forward, it helps to have a master’s degree. These are often leadership roles within the criminal justice field. The advanced training provides those who are already working within the field the knowledge they need to move into supervising and managerial roles. Here is a closer look at eight specific careers that an advanced criminal justice degree can make possible.
1. Director of Court Services
The director of court services plans and implements court programs and services in a county. This person must possess a thorough understanding of the criminal justice system, be able to manage records and keep cases flowing, and offer help with public relations. It is a job that requires good organizational skills and the ability to work with people in the daily court routine. However, this professional does not work directly with criminals or in the jail or police precinct, but rather supervises the actions within the court system.
The Director of Court Services typically works for the county court system, but the federal government also employs these professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not estimate salary ranges for this career path, but GlassDoor estimates the average annual salary to be $88,614. This is a high-paying field, and every court system in the country needs to have one of these professionals.
2. Postsecondary Teacher
If you are passionate about criminal justice and want to pass along that passion to the next generation, then working as a postsecondary teacher could help you do just that. Most colleges and universities require their professors to have a master’s degree and some experience in their career field before they can teach, and thus a criminal justice master’s degree opens that door. With the right graduate degree, you can take a role in training the next generation of police officers and detectives, so they can start their own careers in criminal justice.
In this role, you will teach students about the criminal justice system and how an understanding of criminal behavior helps them solve crimes. The BLS estimates the average salary for a post-secondary teacher to be $80,790 a year. This varies tremendously from one school to the next, and teachers with more seniority, industry experience, and secondary education earn more.
3. Fraud Investigators
Fraud investigators are a specialized type of detective that digs into cases of fraud. These detectives work with criminal justice departments to determine whether an organization or an individual is guilty of fraud. Fraud is defined as deception with the goal of realizing a financial benefit. On-the-job training and a master’s degree could give a student the right foundation to do this type of in-depth research, analyzing and researching records to find cases of fraud.
According to PayScale.com, the average salary for a fraud investigator is $62,435 a year. Experienced investigators can earn over $76,000.
4. Security Management
Security managers oversee a team of security guards within a facility. This is a more hands-on career rather than an administrative one so experience is key, but it is still a position of leadership. The security manager will be the person that connects the security professionals to the other departments within the business or organization to ensure that all people and assets are properly protected. These professionals must understand law enforcement and security matters to head their teams effectively.
According to data from Salary.com, this is a high-paying position. The median salary for security directors is $132,021 a year.
5. Forensic Examiner
Forensic examiners are detectives that work with criminal justice professionals to seize evidence and analyze it to help solve crimes. They may work in crime scenes to collect evidence, or they may work in a lab analyzing the evidence. These professionals need good analytical skills and an understanding of science to excel in their work. An undergraduate degree in science and a master's degree in criminal justice paired with career experience set a good foundation for this career field.
Forensic examiners are in high demand. The BLS estimates a 14% job growth in this field from 2019 to 2029. The average salary in 2020 was $60,590, but those in the top 10% of the field can earn over $100,000 a year.
Sociologists are experts in human behavior. They understand psychology and relationships and use that understanding to analyze the actions and reactions of people. A criminologist is a type of sociologist that specifically studies the behavior of criminals. These professionals have a thorough understanding of human psychology, as well as the criminal justice world. They will spend time interviewing suspects and witnesses, taking surveys, and analyzing the data they collect to draw conclusions about crimes and the motivations behind them.
The BLS does not list salary ranges for criminologists, but sociologists have an average annual wage of $86,110. This field is expected to grow at an average rate between 2019 and 2029.
7. Police and Detective Supervisor
Police and detectives are leaders in the community, but within the precinct, those law enforcement professionals need supervision as well. As a police and detective supervisor manages the team within a law enforcement office, they perform both administrative and leadership roles. They may work with court personnel and lawyers when a criminal is taken to court. These professionals may be called the police chief, lieutenant, sergeant, or captain, depending on where they work.
The BLS estimates the average annual wage for police and detective supervisors to be $92,970. The pay ranges significantly from just over $50,000 to over $150,000, depending on location and years of experience.
8. Correctional Officer Supervisor
Keeping a jail running smoothly requires organization and leadership. A correctional officer supervisor works with correctional officers and jailers in a leadership capacity. These professionals directly supervise the actions of those in charge of prisons and jails. They work to keep the facility in order and encourage proper discipline for inmates and staff alike. These professionals are often the first to respond to emergencies within the jail, such as escape attempts, and are also the ones in charge of directing the work of other correctional officers. When inmates have problems, the correctional officer is the one who will work to resolve those problems.
According to the BLS, the average salary for first-line supervisors of correctional officers is $60,910. The majority of these professionals work for the state government.
Get Started on a Master's Degree Program in Criminal Justice Today
If one of these career paths seems like a good fit for your skills and interests, the right degree paired with experience could catapult you to success. Studying criminology and detective work in a master’s degree program can give you the training you need for a leadership role in the field. JWU Online makes it convenient to earn this degree in a straightforward, online environment that provides flexibility without sacrificing the quality of your education.
If you’re interested in a career in criminal justice, earn your master’s degree in criminal justice online from JWU. For more information, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].