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Criminal Justice Careers With a Master’s Degree

Across the United States, there is an increased focus on law enforcement, public safety, racial justice, crime prevention, immigration and terrorism, creating continuous demand for well-educated criminal justice professionals. Certain criminal justice specialties like forensic science are growing substantially faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Career opportunities, particularly for executive-level leaders who have completed a Master of Science (M.S.) in Criminal Justice, are varied and available in a wide range of professional settings.

Earning your online master’s degree in criminal justice can be a stepping stone for you to advance your career, boost your salary or even transition into a new profession. Upon completion of your master’s in criminal justice, you may want to pursue popular positions such as police and detective supervisor, criminologist, FBI agent, police chief, corrections supervisor, criminal investigator, U.S. customs agent, court administrator, security manager or lawyer.

The multitude of criminal justice career options, many of which are specialized, means that you can find the type of work that best fits your interests, skills and goals. Almost all careers have branches or different industries you may work for. Salaries vary depending on the position, your prior experience, your education and where you live.

Career Opportunities at a Glance

Completing a master’s in criminal justice opens the doors to a selection of opportunities in both the public and private sectors. Below are a few job descriptions of careers that you can prepare for with a master’s degree in criminal justice:

  • Supervisor of Police and Detectives — A seasoned law enforcement professional who wants to move into a senior supervisory role must have the necessary educational credentials. Police and detective supervisors manage and oversee activities of subordinate law enforcement professionals. They also evaluate, schedule, arrange for and provide continuing training and education for the officers and detectives for whom they are responsible. Supervisors of police and detectives may also manage other support personnel. Additionally, supervisors may spend time in the field assisting in investigations. According to BLS, first-line supervisors of police and detectives made a median annual salary of $99,330 in 2021.
  • Criminologist — Criminologists study crime and its causes in order to make recommendations about how to better address a given problem or issue. They analyze a range of factors that contribute to crime statistics, including demographics, social behavior, criminal behavior, psychology and statistics. Typical duties include interviewing witnesses and suspects, writing and studying reports on crime, visiting crime scenes and testifying in court. Criminologists gather detailed data to be used by lawyers and law enforcement officials in crime control, prevention and prosecution. Criminologists may work in many different organizations, including law enforcement agencies, government agencies, colleges and universities. ZipRecruiter reports the average annual salary of criminology professionals as $54,189 as of January 2023.
  • Forensic Scientist — As a member of the law enforcement investigation team, a forensic scientist gathers and analyzes evidence from a crime scene to help catch and convict people who have committed crimes. This evidence may include fingerprints, blood, hair or bullets. A forensic scientist — also called a crime scene investigator, criminalist or a forensic science technician — provides court testimony about this evidence. A forensic scientist may specialize as a forensic anthropologist, pathologist, toxicologist, computer specialist or psychologist/psychiatrist. According to BLS, these professionals made a median salary of $61,930 per year in 2021. BLS further reports that forensic science jobs are expected to increase by an impressive 11% between 2021 and 2031.

A master’s degree in criminal justice can be extremely beneficial if you want to acquire a top-level job. With your master’s degree, you may explore a greater variety of criminal justice careers, potentially getting more promotion opportunities and earning a higher salary than those who only hold undergraduate degrees.

Learn more about the Lamar University online M.S. in Criminal Justice program.

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