Criminal Justice Administration Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a career in criminal justice administration? Get real job duties and career requirements to see if a career in criminal justice administration is right for you.
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Careers in Criminal Justice Administration

Careers in criminal justice administration span a variety of occupations, including investigations, loss prevention, security and correctional supervision. You can compare these careers by using the chart below.

Police Officer Corrections Officer Probation Officer Private Investigator
Career Overview Police officers enforce the laws of a particular jurisdiction. Corrections officers oversee incarcerated individuals in a prison or related facility. Probation officers monitor alternative sentencing for individuals. Private investigators provide investigation services for clients.
Education Requirements High school diploma and police academy training are required; employers may prefer an undergraduate degree High school diploma and corrections officer or military training; federal prisons require a bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree High school diploma required; some employers prefer a bachelor's degree
Program Length Varies by jurisdiction; approximately 10 weeks to 6 months 4 years 4 years 0 to 4 years
Experience None 3 years of full-time experience for federal prisons Work as trainee for up to 1 year Varies
Certification/Licensure Police academy certification Optional certifications available from the American Correctional Association Certification required by some states State licensure requirements vary; optional professional certifications are available
Job Outlook (2014-2024) Below-average growth (4% for all police and sheriff's patrol officers)* Below-average growth (4% for all correction officers and jailers)* Slower-than-average growth (4% for all probation officers and correctional treatment specialists)* Fast-as-average growth (5% for all private detectives and investigators)*
Mean Salary (2014) Roughly $59,560 (for all police and sheriff's patrol officers)* Roughly $44,910 (for all correction officers and jailers)* Roughly $53,360 (for all probation officers and correctional treatment specialists)* Roughly $52,880 (for all private detectives and investigators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Police Officer

Police officers respond to incidents and patrol specific areas to enforce laws. This can include conducting traffic stops, issuing tickets and making arrests. They're often asked to testify in the criminal prosecution of suspects. Police officers are employed through local, state or federal law enforcement agencies, including local police departments, county sheriff's offices, and state and federal investigations bureaus.

Requirements

Police officers are generally required to complete police academy training offered through their state or local jurisdiction. Police academy applicants must possess a high school diploma and be at least 21 years of age by the completion of their training. Training covers criminal procedure, firearms, basic life support and other aspects of police work. If you want to enter police work right after graduation from high school but prior to your 21st birthday, you might be able to work as a cadet, taking classes and learning on the job. All cadets and police recruits must complete a criminal background check and drug screen, as well as pass physical and psychological evaluations.

Here are some real job postings for police officers from November 2012:

  • A Tennessee police department sought patrol officers to perform duties including responding to citizens' needs, keeping the peace and assisting in crime prevention. Available specialized units included patrol, detective, SWAT and canine units.
  • A Minnesota police department was looking for a police officer. Candidates needed to have met state training requirements.
  • A California police department sought a police officer. Candidates needed to be a lateral applicant, a currently-employed California peace officer or an academy attendee or graduate.

Standing Out

Although a high school diploma is generally the minimum education requirement for police officers, many 2-year and 4-year colleges offer postsecondary criminal justice programs that can help you gain an advantage in your career. You also might wish to pursue training in a specialized area of police work, such as narcotics enforcement or special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team.

Corrections Officer

Corrections officers oversee incarcerated individuals in jails, prisons and reformatories. They enforce facility rules, sometimes by conducting searches, and supervise the daily activities of inmates. Correctional facilities are often plagued with physical conflicts, so corrections officers have a high rate of injury, as well as stress and anxiety. Due to declining crime rates and the increasing use of alternative sentencing for offenders, the BLS 2010-2020 projections indicate below-average growth for these professionals in the coming years.

Requirements

A high school diploma is generally a sufficient educational background for corrections officers. However, in most states, entry-level corrections officers must be at least 21 years of age. Many hiring agencies prefer candidates with military training or some criminal justice experience or education. As with a police officer career, you'll need to complete academy training designed to prepare you for work in a correctional facility. For work in federal prisons, you must complete a bachelor's degree program and 200 hours of training.

Here are some real job postings for corrections officers from November 2012:

  • A Colorado facility sought a part-time correctional officer to oversee inmates or detainees. The successful candidate needed a high school diploma or equivalent with required college coursework in behavioral science or correctional services or related professional experience.
  • A state department of public safety in Baltimore, Maryland, was looking for a correctional officer. The candidate had to be at least 21 years of age and possess a high school diploma or equivalent.
  • A North Carolina county sheriff's office sought a detention officer. The candidate had to be at least 21 years of age and a resident of the region. A high school diploma or equivalent was required; applicants who had earned an associate's or bachelor's degree would be eligible for pay increases.

Standing Out

Hiring agencies might prefer candidates with some postsecondary education. According to O*NET, in 2010, 57% of surveyed professionals held a high school diploma, while 43% possessed some college experience. Professionals also have the option to pursue certification, such as that offered by the American Correctional Association, for advancement or specialization in correctional supervision.

Probation Officer

Also known as correctional treatment specialists, probation officers oversee offenders sentenced to probation. In addition to monitoring offenders, they provide resources and evaluate offender treatment. They are often asked to testify in court, providing judges and prosecutors with sentencing recommendations. Correctional treatment specialists who oversee long-term sentencing deferment are known as parole officers.

Based on BLS 2010 data, 56% of workers in this profession were employed at the state level, while 41% were employed by local governments. Some professionals found work with private contracting firms. The recent popularity of alternative sentencing should produce about average job growth, according to BLS 2010-2020 projections.

Requirements

The vast majority of professionals possess a bachelor's degree in an academic field such as social work, criminal justice or psychology. According to O*NET, in 2011, 86% of surveyed professionals held a bachelor's degree, while 7% had a master's degree. Appropriate postsecondary education could include a bachelor's degree program in criminal justice administration with courses covering probation. You also might be required to complete a state training program that includes a certification examination.

Here are some real job postings for probation officers from November 2012:

  • A California offender services contractor sough a probation officer/case worker. The candidate needed a bachelor's degree and professional communication skills.
  • The federal judicial branch was looking for an assistant director of probation and pretrial services. The candidate needed a degree in a behavioral sciences field or commensurate experience.
  • A Montana corrections department sought a probation and parole officer with a bachelor's or master's degree in a field such as criminology, psychology, counseling or social work. Related experience could substitute for educational achievement.

Standing Out

Alternative sentencing for drug and alcohol abusers, as well as domestic violence offenders, often includes treatment services. Obtaining specialized training or certification in domestic violence treatment or alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment could provide you with a competitive advantage. You also might stand out by gaining some experience in pretrial services.

Private Investigator

Private investigators are employed by clients to conduct background checks, security analysis and surveillance. They often collect evidence and conduct interviews in preparation for criminal or civil court cases. Insurance companies employ or contract investigators to provide liability or fraud investigations. The increasing prevalence of cybercrimes and the demand for corporate security should lead to above-average job growth over the coming years, according to BLS 2010-2020 projections.

Requirements

Education levels vary for professional private investigators, but licensure is required in most states, including registration and licensure for firearm use. Voluntary certifications are available from professional organizations, such as the National Association of Legal Investigators. Corporate employment might require a bachelor's degree or specialized training in computer forensics. Private investigators must be prepared to work irregular hours while encountering dangerous situations.

Here are some real job postings for private investigators from November 2012:

  • A North Carolina investigative firm sought a licensed private investigator to perform surveillance related to insurance claims for worker's compensation and general insurance liability cases. Candidates needed valid state licenses, computer skills and some criminal justice or military experience.
  • A third-party administrator in Illinois was looking for a special investigator to conduct claims investigations and compile comprehensive reports. A bachelor's degree and three years of experience were preferred qualifications.
  • A government contractor in Atlanta, Georgia, sought a threat analyst with top-secret clearance to provide cybersecurity for a variety of information technology environments. Candidates needed to possess familiarity with a variety of network systems and demonstrated experience in monitoring and intelligence analysis.

Standing Out

While postsecondary criminal justice or cybersecurity training could be useful, obtaining specialized experience in insurance, networks, surveillance and evidence collection also could prove beneficial. Some professionals are able to obtain experience under the supervision of experienced investigators and can advance to supervisory roles or, eventually, firm ownership.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Criminal Justice
      • Master: Criminal Justice
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Criminal Justice
      • BS in Corrections
      • BSCJ: Law Enforcement
      • BSCJ: Juvenile Justice
      • BSCJ: Crime Scene Investigation
      • BSCJ: Homeland Security
    Associate's
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
      • AAS in Criminal Justice and Criminology
      • AAS in Public Safety and Security
      • Associate: Fire Science
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Law - Criminal Justice
      • M.A. in Law - Alternative Dispute Resolution
      • Master of Arts in Law - National Security
      • Master of Public Administration - Emergency Management and Homeland Security
      • M.A. in Government - National Security Studies
      • M.A. in National Security Studies - Homeland Security
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Applied Science in Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Arts in Law and National Security
      • B.S. in Cyber & Digital Forensics
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
      • Undergraduate Specialization - Criminal Forensics
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Criminal Justice, M.S.
    Bachelor's
      • Criminal Justice, B.S.
      • Psychology, B.S. - Emphasis in Criminal Justice
    Associate's
      • Criminal Justice, A.S.
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA: Criminal Justice
      • BA: Criminal Justice - Criminalistics
      • BA: Criminal Justice - Homeland Security
    Associate's
      • AA: Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
  • Online Programs Available
    7. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Generalist
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Forensic Science
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Homeland Security and Crisis Management
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Corrections and Case Management
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Criminal Justice
      • PhD in Business Admin - Criminal Justice
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Homeland Security: Leadership & Policy
      • PhD in Business Admin - Homeland Security: Leadership & Policy
    Master's
      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Criminal Justice
      • MBA - Criminal Justice
      • MBA - Homeland Security
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Utica College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Professional Studies in Cyber Policy and Risk Analysis
      • MS in Data Science: Financial Crime
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Cybercrime and Fraud Investigation
      • Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation
      • BS in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Financial Investigation
      • BS in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Fraud Prevention and Detection
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Project Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership

Featured Schools

Purdue University Global

  • Master: Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor: Criminal Justice
  • Associate: Criminal Justice

Which subject are you interested in?

Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Law - Criminal Justice
  • M.A. in Law - Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
  • BS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
  • Undergraduate Specialization - Criminal Forensics

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Christian University

  • Criminal Justice, M.S.
  • Criminal Justice, B.S.
  • Criminal Justice, A.S.

What is your highest level of education completed?

Saint Leo University

  • BA: Criminal Justice
  • BA: Criminal Justice - Criminalistics
  • AA: Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Generalist
  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Forensic Science
  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

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Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Criminal Justice
  • PhD in Business Admin - Criminal Justice
  • MS - Organizational Leadership: Criminal Justice
  • MBA - Criminal Justice

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