Criminal Justice Careers
As a criminal justice major, you can work as a probation officer, evidence technician, private investigator, or paralegal. Though the criminal justice field does include police and detective positions, it expands far beyond criminal arrests. In fact, while police officer positions are projected for slow growth over the next few years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), other criminal justice jobs are growing at a rapid rate. In particular, probation officer positions are expected to grow by 18% by 2020, according to the BLS. Private detective positions are expanding at an even faster rate, with growth projected at 21% by 2020, according to the BLS. For criminal justice majors interested in working in a law firm and/or courtroom, the BLS also reports that paralegal positions earn a comparable salary and are projected to grow 18% by 2020.
The demand for the kinds of jobs that criminal justice majors may get can be attributed to the increasing population. A population increase leads to a greater likelihood of crime and thus, a greater demand for criminal justice workers to work on cases, protect residents, and rehabilitate offenders. For this reason, the best opportunities for employment in the field will be located in the most populous cities. Although salary figures and job prospects will vary according to experience and location, getting an education in a criminal justice field can open up a variety of job opportunities, which can help students launch their careers after graduation.
Criminal justice students and professionals have access to countless high-quality resources; resources that offer information, teach skills, and provide support. Using the resources provided in this guide can help you learn more about criminal justice, save money, get better grades and reduce your stress level. Criminal justice students may find the educational resources particularly helpful; these resources may complement their existing coursework, acting as an alternative instructional method that is both innovative and flexible.
Fastest Growing Criminal Justice Jobs
Career Projected Job Growth by 2020 Average Annual Salary Correctional Officer 5% $43,550 Court Reporter 14% $53,010 Crime Scene Examiner 19% $55,730 Judge and Magistrate 9% $102,470 Lawyer 10% $130,880 Legal Secretary 4% $44,380 Paralegal and Legal Assistant 18% $50,220 Police Officer and Detective 8% $57,770 Private Investigator 21% $50,780 Probation Officer 18% $52,380
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, OES, May 2012
Open Access Journals
Open access journals provide immediate, free access to peer-reviewed, scholarly research articles. Typically, OAJs are accessed through publishers’ websites. Open access (OA) means that there is unrestricted access to the resource via the Internet. The need for free access to educational content, like scholarly journal articles, was one of the primary factors in the development of OAJs.
For criminal justice students, OAJs are a powerful source of information. OAJs are widely used by students searching for scholarly, peer-reviewed articles for their assigned research papers. OAJs provide these articles, and even provide assistance with citing sources.
Some of the best basic databases for finding great Open Access Journals include:
- Directory of Open Access Journals
- Oxford Open
- Wiley Open Access
- OMICS Group
- Open Science Directory
- Open Access Journals Search Engine
Here are some excellent OAJs for criminal justice students and professionals:
- The Journal of Criminal Justice – An internationally focused publication, this journal is directed at both academics and people practicing in the field. It emphasizes the ways that the individual elements of the criminal justice system and crimes themselves interact and function together. It tends to favor articles that feature more recent methodology and technology, although it doesn’t exclude those that discuss more traditional concepts.
- Crime and Delinquency – This is a policy-oriented journal for both academics and people practicing in the field. It focuses on sociological issues including the social, political and economic contexts of criminal justice. It also features articles about victims, criminals, courts and sanctions.
- Criminal Justice and Behavior – This journal is especially geared toward those working in corrections. It focuses on scholarly evaluations of assessment, classification, prevention, intervention and treatment programs with the aim of promoting the development of “successful programs based on sound and informative theoretical and research foundations.”
- Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment – The only publication with this focus, this journal is a forum for the latest research on both clinical and theoretical aspects of sexual abuse. It features articles investigating the etiology, consequences, prevention, and treatment of, as well as management strategies for, sexual abuse.
- The British Journal of Criminology – Widely considered to be one of the world’s top international criminology journals for all areas of criminology.
- Punishment and Society – This international journal publishes interdisciplinary work on punishment, penal institutions and penal control. It features “informed commentary and criticism regarding the penal policies and practices of our time.”
- Journal of Interpersonal Violence – This journal is directed toward both academics and practitioners working in domestic violence, child sexual abuse, rape and sexual assault, physical child abuse and violent crime. It is focused on the study and treatment of victims and perpetrators of interpersonal violence, “addressing the causes, effects, treatment, and prevention of all types of violence.”
- Applied Psychology in Criminal Justice (APCJ) – This is an interdisciplinary journal that focuses on the ways that applied and social psychology intersect with criminal justice.
- International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences (IJCJS) – This journal focuses on contemporary issues in criminology, criminal justice and victimology, and features book reviews in addition to scholarly articles.
- Journal of International Criminal Justice – This journal is dedicated to solving new problems facing international law. It focuses on major problems of justice “from the angle of law, jurisprudence, criminology, penal philosophy, and the history of international judicial institutions.”
Find Books on Criminal Justice at Your Local Library
The WorldCat database is the world’s largest collective library database. It itemizes the collections of more than 10,000 libraries that participate in the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC). The OCLC is dedicated to providing online, searchable access to information and is collectively built and maintained by participating libraries.
Here are some of the most useful WorldCat search results for criminal justice students:
Online Magazines and Industry News
If you aren’t in the habit of reading online magazines and websites, you may be missing out on important information and up-to-date news. Online magazines and websites provide you with the quickest and most up-to-date information on criminal justice. You’ll also find visually intriguing and text-rich information that is anything but “boring.” Finally, the ability to take part in the online commentary that is typically associated with websites and online magazines is a unique opportunity to hone your communication skills, meet contacts, and gain more knowledge.
Here are ten of the best online industry magazines and news websites to investigate:
- Law Officer: This magazine has long been a source for tactics, technology and training for law enforcement professionals. Focus is most for trainers, supervisors, middle managers, important decision-makers and purchasing influencers.
- National Criminal Justice Reference Service: This is a federally-funded resource offering justice and drug-related information to support research, policy and program development worldwide. These services and resources are available to anyone interested in crime, victim assistance and public safety.
- The Crime Report: This is the only comprehensive criminal justice news service in the U.S. It is published daily by the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, and includes “analysis, blogs, and commentary by leading criminologists, practitioners, law enforcement/corrections professionals, and legal experts; reports on new and cutting-edge research; and daily summaries of the most important criminal justice news, issues and developments covered by the national and international press.”
- Criminal Justice Matters: This is the quarterly publication of the UK’s Centre for Crime and Justice Studies. It prioritizes commentary and discussion of policy developments over research heavy articles.
- Officer.com: This is a national source for law enforcement news, training opportunities, jobs and active online forums. It is directed at, and used by local, county, state and federal law enforcement professionals.
- Forensic Magazine: This magazine provides news and feature articles from a range of forensic disciplines and focuses on related technologies, products and industry trends.
- Criminal Justice News via The Justice Policy Institute: Here you can find news stories about important issues in justice reform and articles calling for positive improvements to the criminal and juvenile justice systems.
- PoliceLink: This news feed source provides access to training leads, resources and entertainment. It further serves as a very useful social and career network for current, former, and future law enforcement officers; civilian employees of law enforcement and criminal justice organizations; and family, friends, and civilian supporters of law enforcement.
- United States Department of Justice (USDOJ): USDOJ provides access to blogs and news from the Office of the Attorney General, the Antitrust Division and the Criminal Division, as well as a wide variety of information from the FBI including podcasts, stories, breaking news and a host of other resources.
- FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin: This official FBI publication features news stories, press releases, podcasts, e-scam warnings, field office updates, crime statistics, the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin and other information.
Professional organizations provide countless opportunities to receive valuable training, networking and mentorship opportunities. These organizations also allow members to connect socially with others in their field, and to bond with people who have similar interests and goals. The criminal justice field is highly rewarding, but it also presents unique challenges and potentially high stress levels; interacting with others in your line of study and work is crucial to not only your professional success, but also your personal well-being.
Some of the most notable professional membership organizations for criminal justice include:
- National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO): This is a coalition of police units and associations from across the United States. NAPO supports law enforcement in legislative and administrative matters.
- American Criminal Justice Association: This is a national group consisting of local chapters whose members are either criminal justice professionals or students. Its purpose is to improve criminal justice education, to foster professionalism in law enforcement, to promote awareness of criminal justice issues, to better criminal justice training and education, to speak for those in the field and to promote high ethics within the field.
- National Criminal Justice Association: This group represents state, tribal and local governments on crime prevention and crime control issues. Its members include law enforcement, corrections, prosecution, defense, courts, victim-witness services, students, academics and elected officials.
- American Correctional Association: This is the oldest and largest international correctional association in the world. The group provides networking, professional development, certification, research, conferences, accreditation and other services.
- Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences: This is an international association designed to foster professional development and academic endeavors in the field of criminal justice. The association promotes education, research and policy analysis, and members share ideas, knowledge and current trends in criminal justice. Student members can pursue their studies in various subfields.
- American Probation and Parole Association (APPA): This international association is made up of members who are actively involved with pre-trial, probation, parole and community-based corrections, in both criminal and juvenile justice arenas. The group speaks for thousands of professionals including line staff, supervisors and administrators from both the public and private sectors. APPA also provides training and technical assistance including a journal, monographs and guidebooks, research, information clearinghouse services and advocacy for its members.
- American Academy of Forensic Sciences: This is a multidisciplinary professional organization that provides leadership to advance science and its application to the legal system. The objectives of the Academy are to promote professionalism, integrity, competency, education, and to foster research, improve practice and encourage collaboration in the forensic sciences.
- The Justice Research and Statistics Association: This is a national nonprofit organization of state Statistical Analysis Center (SAC) directors and other researchers and practitioners throughout government, academia and the justice community, who are dedicated to the use of research and analysis to make informed policy and program decisions. It conducts and publishes multi-state, policy-relevant research on justice issues; provides training and technical assistance to build research and evaluation capacity and knowledge of evidence-based practices at the state and local levels; and maintains information on state criminal and juvenile justice research and programs.
- Association of Prosecuting Attorneys: This group, a national “think tank,” represents prosecutors and provides resources, such as training and technical assistance, in an effort to develop proactive, innovative prosecutorial practices that prevent crime, ensure equal justice and make communities safer.
- National Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL): NACDL’s mission is to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crimes; to foster the integrity, independence and expertise of the criminal defense profession; and to promote the proper and fair administration of criminal justice. It provides training and networking opportunities for criminal defense attorneys, law students and paraprofessionals.
- American Bar Association: The purpose of this association is to serve both attorneys and the public by monitoring the legal profession and providing training and professional development.
State Level Law and Criminal Justice Sites
Each of the 50 states has its own bar examination for lawyers who wish to enter the practice. Each state also has its own primary law enforcement agency. The main websites for each U.S. state are as follows:
You might think of blogs as a purely personal form of communication, but that’s not so. Many industry professionals maintain blogs, and through them provide industry insight and tips on how to be successful in your career. Some excellent blogs from criminal justice and legal professionals that you might be interested in include:
- Defending People: This award-winning, content-heavy blog is created by a criminal defense attorney and features not only his posts, but also numerous comments and discussions.
- Criminal Convictions: This is the official blog of the National Museum of Crime and Punishment, and although it isn’t a specific practitioner’s blog, it is a fantastic mix of current events, critical viewpoints and history that earns it a place on this list. It focuses on law enforcement, crime and forensic science.
- Cops Alive: This blog, also an award winner, is specifically written in support of law enforcement professionals. It provides excellent tips and research on the real world problems those in criminal justice careers so often face including substance abuse, depression, stress, physical illness and trauma, and relationship problems.
- Cop in the Hood: This is the blog of Professor Peter C. Moskos, teacher at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and renowned author. His writing takes a sociological approach to crime and police culture.
- Michael Brown Today: This blog is authored by former Undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA General Counsel, Michael Brown. His focus is on his experiences in national security, and he is not afraid to put his opinions into his work.
- Schneier on Security: If you start following this blog you’ll join approximately a quarter of a million people who read what Bruce Schneier has to say about security technology within the larger context of national security. He is the chief security technology officer at Co3 Systems, as well as a Fellow connected to several very prestigious organizations. He has authored best-selling books, op-ed pieces and has testified on security issues before the U.S. Congress.
- Second City Cop: This unusual blog is penned by an anonymous Chicago police officer who shares his honest, informed ideas about a wide range of topics from gun control to trends in criminal justice.
- Excessive Bail: This sarcastic and sometimes silly blog is the work of a team of criminal defense attorneys who seem to direct most of their ire toward others in their profession. While they do enjoy taking the occasional pot shot, they are very well-informed and back up their work with research. You will come away with excellent new information after reading this blog.
- The Charles Smith Blog: This is a superior source of expert explanations of forensic pathology and discussions of cases in which bad science led to poor outcomes. The multiple contributors promote accountability and thorough understanding of the issues here.
- The Crime Analyst’s Blog: In this blog, an experienced crime analyst provides insight into police techniques, forensic science, and law enforcement efficiency. The blogger goes into far more depth than do mainstream media sources, and he deals with specific laws and crimes in an almost case study fashion.
- Connected Cops: This practical tool focuses on the role of the Internet and social media on law enforcement and policing. Both law enforcement professionals and social media experts contribute.
Utilizing quality resources is one habit that sets successful students and professionals apart. They are better informed on important criminal justice news, stay up-to-date on the latest trends and techniques of the industry, and gain access to the support they need for a variety of work related issues.
- A series of YouTube videos from a Utah police department about various aspects of the criminal justice field
- Crime Scene Training Blog
- Office of Justice Programs
- Federal Justice Statistics Resource Center
- Federal Bureau of Prisons
- The American Society of Criminology
- International Association for Identification
- Best Online Criminology Career Job Search Sites