Why Earn Your Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice?
Written by Brendon ONeill
If you are asking yourself “What can I do with a criminal justice degree?” there are many career paths you can pursue when you finish your master’s level education.
Students who already have their bachelor’s degree may choose to complete a graduate level program, so they can move up the ladder in their organization and earn a higher salary. For students who are just starting their college career and want to go into law enforcement, or a related field, criminal justice degrees can prepare you for several career outcomes.
A master’s degree can help you work in public service positions for a variety of criminal justice focused organizations. Whether you want to become a supervisor in a police department, forensic psychologist, criminologist, district attorney or other high-level role, earning your master’s is a great step in that direction.
Plus, most of these positions are hired by government agencies, which typically include good benefits for healthcare, 401K savings and pensions. However, these jobs can be high stress in some cases, since you may be dealing with situations that are the result of crime and violence.
That’s why it is a good idea to research the career path you want before choosing a degree.
Talking to schools about career outcomes should be at the top of your list when picking the right program. With the growth, necessity and credibility of online programs in today’s education landscape, you should speak with schools that offer campus and distance programs to give you more options.
Earning your master’s in criminal justice can help you develop leadership skills to manage teams and make decisions with your specialized knowledge. At the master’s level you can also choose programs that concentrate on specific areas of interest, such as cybercrime, strategic management, criminal psychology, corrections and more.
If you decide to earn a general master’s in criminal justice, you will likely take a variety of courses designed to expand your career options.
These graduate level criminal justice courses may cover:
- white-collar crime
- research methods
- digital forensics
With the innovations brought forth by technology in this field, and the rise in cybercrime as a security threat to our nation and private businesses, you can expect to learn a lot about this topic.
Of course, a major benefit to earning your master’s degree is the higher salary you can expect as you work your way up the career ladder. Here are some of the most recent salary statistics for jobs with a criminal justice degree that can be found at the website for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Forensic psychologists, which play a big role in this field, can earn a median wage of $77,030 per year, with an anticipated job growth of 14% between 2016-2026.
- Forensic science technicians, a job which may only require a bachelor’s degree, paid a median wage of $57,850 in 2017. The anticipated job growth is 17% between 2016-2026, with a note that competition for jobs will be strong.
With your master’s degree, you can be even more appealing to employers and go even further in your organization. You may even decide to teach courses in the field at some point in your career. If so, teaching criminal justice and law enforcement can earn you a median wage of $68,980, according to 2017 data.
Whether or not you should pursue a master’s in criminal justice really depends on your career aspirations. If you are interested in starting your criminal justice major or earning a graduate level degree, be sure to contact several schools to weigh your options. You may also want to seek out professionals who work in the field and talk to them about their real-world experiences before making your decision.