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Careers you could pursue with a criminal justice degree

The criminal justice system relies upon professionals from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds to function properly. This provides many opportunities for those interested in pursuing a criminal justice career. Like most fields, working in criminal justice related roles often means having the right mix of education and experience. And while the requirements will vary from role to role, the following are some of the directions you could take to forge a career in the field of criminal justice.

Correctional Treatment Specialist

Correctional treatment specialists may be called case managers or correctional counselors in some jurisdictions. Those in this role evaluate inmates and monitor their progress during incarceration. This includes examining the inmate’s behavior and history to determine the likelihood that they will commit a crime after release. Their recommendations are then offered to the parole board when an inmate is eligible for release.

Correctional treatment specialists also assist in the development of parole and release plans. They may connect the inmate with resources to help them be successful after release, including job placement, housing and substance abuse services.

Local, State and Federal Corrections Administrator

Corrections administrators are utilized at the local, state and federal level. This is an executive level position within the correctional system which involves a range of administrative duties. Those in this role may be responsible for planning budgets, ordering equipment, supervising facility maintenance and managing personnel issues.

Correction administrators may help develop and implement policies to ensure inmate and staff safety. This includes ensuring the proper treatment of inmates. Additionally, they may develop and manage recreational and educational programs for inmates.  

Local, State and Federal Law Enforcement Agency Administrator

Law enforcement agency administrators are central to the efforts of law enforcement. This is a leadership role which operates at the administrative level to help law enforcement agencies operate at peak efficiency. While their roles may vary, common responsibilities include managing records and legal filings, coordinating with other agencies, implementing office policies and planning training seminars.

Law enforcement agency administrators may also be responsible for creating budgets and ordering equipment. Often times, those in this role also interact with the public on behalf of the agency, including operating community outreach programs.

Parole Officers

Parole officers work with people after they’ve been released from custody. They play a vital role in the criminal justice system by helping offenders successfully transition back into society. By providing supervision and support, they can also help reduce the risk of repeat criminal behavior, keeping people from returning to prison.

Parole officers supervise those on parole to ensure that they are complying with the terms of their release. They may visit the parolee’s home and work, interview family and friends and oversee mandatory drug testing or electronic monitoring. They also provide assistance with resources such as job training and substance abuse treatment. In some jurisdictions parole offices also act as probation officers.

Pretrial Services Officers

Pretrial services officers work to determine if a defendant should be held in custody before their trial or if it is safe to offer them bail. They will investigate the defendant’s background and assess if they present a risk to the community. This may include interviewing the defendant, talking with those that know them and a criminal background check. Additionally they evaluate other aspects of the defendant’s life such as employment, financial status, mental health and other factors.

After completing their research, they then make recommendations to the judge, who makes the final decision. If the defendant is released on bail, the pretrial services officer will supervise them to make sure they comply with the terms of their release. Not every jurisdiction has pretrial services officers, but they are used at the municipal, state and federal level.

Probation Officers

Probation officers work with people that have been sentenced to probation instead of serving time. They are a key component of the criminal justice system and often work closely with law enforcement and the court system at the local, state or federal level. Their main goal is to help offenders comply with the conditions of their probation through supervision and support.

Probation officers also work to ensure that offenders aren’t a danger to the community. They might help them find employment, locate housing and connect them to additional resources so they can lead productive lives. Since substance abuse is a common problem, probation offices may also work with treatment facilities within the community.

It’s important to note that criminal justice is a unique field and opportunities within it often require a candidate to pass a criminal background check, drug testing and other forms of screening. Many jurisdictions have requirements to consider beyond education and experience as well. For instance, some roles may require the successful completion of a training and certification program from the agency, state or federal government.

Curious about degrees in criminal justice? Read more about our Doctor of Criminal Justice and our Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) with a Criminal Justice specialization.