Job Types within the
Criminal Justice Field

by Thomas Dworak, Sgt. (Ret.), Virtus Group

The field of criminal justice is more than just a narrow band of police, corrections and court officers. There are many opportunities to serve and make a difference within the community. Many of these careers require a criminal justice degree.

For those currently employed in the criminal justice field, completing your criminal justice degree online makes sense. You can work from the comfort of your own home and it is flexible to your schedule and shift work. Your classes are available when you are.

Learn more about our criminal justice programsAdvances in the criminal justice field will lead to jobs within the next five to ten years that do not exist today. One example of emerging technology is body cameras for police officers. A police chief told me his biggest fear is not what will be captured on them, but that he will have to create additional positions within the department just to manage the data and comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Whether you are currently employed in an area of criminal justice or are considering a career in the field, here are some career options available and their educational requirements.

Law Enforcement: For local, county or state agencies, the educational requirement for 97% of the agencies is a high school diploma or equivalent. Achieving employment in federal law enforcement requires a college degree and a minimum of three years of law enforcement experience.

Obtaining a criminal justice degree will set you apart at the beginning of the application process.

Regardless of your choice, the process is highly competitive. Obtaining a criminal justice degree will set you apart at the beginning of the application process. Pursuing a degree demonstrates you are serious about your career choice. Completion of a degree shows your determination to finish what you start.

Support Services: With the recent economic downturn many jobs that were once performed by officers were civilianized. These duties are specialized and require additional education or professional training. Positions could include crime scene technician, accident re-constructionist or property/evidence manager.

Requirements vary but a strong background in statistics, science and management are necessary.

Social Services: Social service choices in the field of criminal justice include social work, juvenile justice and alcohol and drug counseling, among others. Many require a minimum of a college degree, internship and professional licensing.

Many agencies employ a full-time social worker. They manage many family relational issues and serve as a source of information for their department, accessing services that many would not consider a police responsibility.

Courts: Many quality career choices exist within the judicial system in several areas. While the local sheriff's department may handle security for court locations, there are other related criminal justice jobs. They include clerks, records personnel, transcriptionists, prosecuting and defense attorneys and judges.

There are many individuals in the law enforcement community who use their criminal justice degree as a stepping stone to becoming an attorney. An attorney requires a Juris Doctorate or J.D. degree.

I worked with three officers who earned their J.D. while they were police officers.  Each had their primary degree in criminal justice and each went on to become a supervisor.

There are many career choices available in the criminal justice field. Each has its own personal reward in giving back service to the community.  Many require additional education beyond high school. Obtaining an online criminal justice degree will provide you with the ability to set your own schedule, work in the comfort of your own home and gain additional knowledge and professional development in your chosen field of study. Set yourself apart and show your ability to finish what you start. Education is the gift no one can ever take away from you. Get started on your criminal justice degree.


Sgt. Thomas Dworak served the Wilmette, Il. Police Department for 31 years in a wide variety of assignments. Now retired, Sgt. Dworak is a consultant for The Virtus Group