The Compelling Benefits of a Criminal Justice Degree: Prepare to Make a Difference in Law Enforcement

Published on: September 15, 2023

You are passionate about your community and determined to do your part to keep residents safe. Criminal justice gives you the chance to accomplish just that while also pursuing a unique career path that is simultaneously exciting, interesting and highly gratifying.

There are many paths to entering this career field, but few are more reliable or more confidence-boosting than earning your criminal justice degree. In this guide, we highlight why college-level criminal justice training is so important and delve into the many law enforcement benefits associated with a criminal justice degree.

What Is Criminal Justice Law Enforcement?

Criminal justice and law enforcement are closely aligned fields that emphasize public safety and the law of the land. When you think of law enforcement, criminal justice may come to mind, but these concepts are not one and the same.

Technically speaking, law enforcement is a component of criminal justice — but it’s purely dedicated to investigating crimes, making arrests and punishing or rehabilitating convicted offenders. These essential procedures are primarily carried out by police and corrections officers in conjunction with the courts.

Meanwhile, criminal justice takes a broader approach, going beyond enforcement alone to address the many societal concerns that affect criminal behavior and public safety. Deterrence tends to play a more significant role, as does support for the victims of crime.

Degrees for Law Enforcement

While it is sometimes possible to land a job in law enforcement without a degree, a solid college education provides an easier and more reliable path to getting the best jobs and moving up through the ranks.

There are many relevant degree options, but a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration is a widely respected approach for gaining the broad-based knowledge it takes to succeed in this demanding field. If you’d like to enter the field sooner, a minor or Associate of Science in Criminal Justice Administration may also be a viable option.

Benefits of Pursuing a Criminal Justice Degree

From job stability to personal satisfaction and, of course, the opportunity to support your community, there are many reasons to pursue a criminal justice career — and to get your degree. The right degree program could prepare you for a wide variety of compelling career opportunities and may even open the door to new passion projects you might otherwise never have encountered. We’ve highlighted a few of the most noteworthy benefits of criminal justice degree programs below:

Personal Benefits

The advantages of a criminal justice degree can typically be divided into one of two main categories: personal benefits and benefits to the community. Personal benefits encompass anything that promises to improve your life. This includes your career path, of course, but there’s also value in seeking a degree based on what makes you feel confident and proud — or what gets you excited to attend class or head to work each day.

Increased Salary and Job Benefits

Wages and benefits can vary considerably, but there are plenty of opportunities to earn an excellent salary. This depends on the scope of the work, the amount of training required and the level of risk incurred along the way. Geographic location also plays an important role and experience is not to be discounted, with many employers offering regular and often, generous raises.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) highlights median annual wages of $66,020 for police and detectives, $47,920 for correctional officers and $60,250 for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists as of 2021. Meanwhile, criminal investigators earn an annual $83,640 while gambling investigators employed by the state reach $75,490 in annual pay. In general, jobs with educational requirements beyond a high school diploma are the most likely to provide desirable wages and benefits.

Stand Out Against Competition

The best opportunities in law enforcement and criminal justice are typically limited to well-educated applicants. The right degree can provide a much-needed boost to your resume, allowing you to seek prestigious positions that might not otherwise be available — or that might take years of experience to acquire. Better yet, you can gain an edge by concentrating on a niche you find compelling. This will make your resume stand out and will also equip you with targeted skills that help you excel in your dream job.

Fulfill Passion for Helping Others

Some people are simply drawn to professional pursuits that allow them to serve others. There is something genuinely satisfying about ending your shift with the knowledge that your hard work has truly made a difference where it’s needed most.

The importance of helping others is evident in results from the Dolan Consulting Group’s Police Recruiting and Hiring Survey. This study reveals that nearly seven in ten police officers initially pursued criminal justice as a career path because they wanted to “help people in society.”

Advance Your Skills and Knowledge

Regardless of job prospects, there is a certain sense of satisfaction that comes with improving your skill set as you explore new and interesting topics. You will have plenty of opportunities to do just that while enrolled in a criminal justice program. Along the way, you’ll be encouraged to build a solid theoretical foundation as well as a detailed understanding of the management models and organizational structures that underscore the modern criminal justice system.

As a criminal justice student, your core curriculum will introduce you to fascinating concepts, such as theories of crime causation and even reconstruction techniques for criminal investigations. You will also have the opportunity to get deeply involved in the discourse on current events and trends relevant to the field of criminal justice.

Soft skills development is just as important. Criminal justice is a nuanced field that calls for exceptional communication, empathy and teamwork — critical skills that can be developed throughout the duration of your criminal justice degree program.

Develop a Criminal Justice Network

Don’t underestimate the power of networking in the criminal justice field. A strong network can open a wealth of opportunities. College provides the perfect opportunity to build your network, as you can build close relationships with a variety of passionate individuals. Top networking prospects include not just instructors and advisors but also fellow students who will continue to provide powerful insight and encouragement long after you’ve graduated.

Serving and Protecting the Community

There’s no denying criminal justice professionals’ passion for their communities. This plays out every day, as they build relationships with community members and go the extra mile to make a difference.

When searching for the perfect career path, the joy of serving cannot be overstated. This is where criminal justice enthusiasts from all backgrounds shine — but many find that, with the elite skill set they secure through concentrated college coursework, they are better positioned to make a discernible difference in the communities they serve.

Career and Job Benefits

As a potential-filled career path encompassing a broad range of meaningful job opportunities, criminal justice can be a great fit for ambitious employees who desire a blend of stability and excitement. We’ve highlighted a few of the field’s most compelling career benefits below:

Variety of Career Paths

When you picture the ‘typical’ criminal justice career trajectory, law enforcement or corrections almost certainly come to mind. These allow you to serve your community and develop strong career satisfaction, but they are by no means the only options available if you have an associate or bachelor’s degree.

A variety of employers value criminal justice graduates and can benefit greatly from applying your unique skill set in the workforce. Examples of potential jobs and career opportunities worth pursuing include:

  • Security manager
  • Security consultant
  • Loss prevention investigator
  • Detention facility coordinator
  • Fraud analyst
  • Federal wildlife officer
  • Residential security officer

These jobs are available within many environments, including police departments or corrections facilities, corporate locations and even schools and college campuses.
If you find a particular career path especially compelling, you can prepare by selecting a relevant concentration for your criminal justice degree. Common areas of focus include corrections, security and law enforcement.

Strong Job Security

Every municipality has a need for law enforcement and most companies require security, so there are always jobs for criminal justice graduates to be found. Once you have landed a job, however, you can also feel confident that you will remain employed for the long run.

The damage turnover does for department and community outcomes is well-documented, so employers are determined to keep quality professionals around — so long as those employees have the appropriate skills and work ethic, both of which you’ll develop as a criminal justice student.

Potential for Career Progression

A stable job is a great start, but what if you have big plans to find better-paying jobs that grant you more autonomy? You’ll find plenty of opportunities for advancement within criminal justice and adjacent career fields, which often provide ample opportunities for moving up the ranks.

In general, a bachelor’s degree provides the chance to take a significant step up and pursue higher-paying jobs with better benefits. Several prestigious jobs offer generous wages nearing six figures, as highlighted by the BLS:

Moving into leadership positions may be the best way to increase pay; these jobs frequently call for a bachelor’s as the minimum barrier to entry but may even require a graduate-level education in criminal justice. Either way, a bachelor’s provides a step forward on the path to professional advancement.

Deeper Understanding of Law

If you’re intrigued by the law but aren’t committed to entering the legal field in a professional capacity, criminal justice could be a great alternative. Criminal Law is one of this program’s most important courses, although you will also have the opportunity to explore important legal concepts such as search and seizure while completing coursework on criminal procedure or comparative criminal justice systems.

Apply Education to Real Life

Many of the concepts you cover and skills you develop as a criminal justice student will prove useful in your personal life. Parents, for example, find their criminal justice training invaluable when tackling everything from toddler tantrums to teenage struggles. Criminal justice students quickly become adept at negotiations while also developing a deep-seated sense of compassion. Work in criminal justice can even provide great inspiration for creative or artistic endeavors.

Criminal justice core classes can be helpful, but liberal arts requirements make for an even more well-rounded graduate, providing a deeper appreciation for ethics and psychology, plus the ability to apply core concepts from these classes to everyday challenges.

Your Story Starts Here

Do you envision a rewarding career in criminal justice? Then give yourself a strong start with a relevant degree. Park University provides the opportunity to earn criminal justice administration degrees at the associate and bachelor’s levels. What’s more, you can further advance your education by seeking your Graduate Certificate in Criminal Justice Administration. Reach out today to learn more about our criminal justice degree programs and other opportunities to advance your career.

Park University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Park University is a private, non-profit, institution of higher learning since 1875.