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North Carolina Criminal Justice Programs

With the population of North Carolina growing rapidly, the state needs more criminal justice professionals to protect the public and carry out law enforcement, courts, and corrections functions. Your first step to becoming one of these professionals may be a criminal justice degree from one of the state’s 58 community colleges, 16 public universities, or numerous private schools.

Criminal Justice Careers in North Carolina

North Carolina’s criminal justice system has three branches. The first is law enforcement, which is charged with investigating and preventing crimes. The second is the court system, where suspects are tried and sentenced. The last is the corrections system, where convicted criminals serve out their sentences and, hopefully, are rehabilitated so they can re-enter mainstream society. As you’ll see, though there are careers in each branch, the job prospects and salaries vary significantly.

Law Enforcement

Law enforcement is about serving communities and protecting them from crimes. There’s a healthy appetite for Carolina law enforcement workers, among them highway patrol officers, sheriffs’ deputies, and city police. Private detectives fill in the gaps, investigating on behalf of businesses and individuals.

CareerCareer OutlookAnnual Median Salary
Police Officers+9%$46,160
Private Detectives and Investigators+14%$51,370

All data from O*Net

The Courts

The North Carolina courts system is bustling. With five types of courts in the trial division—superior courts, business courts, recovery courts, district courts, and small claims courts—there’s a need for paralegals, legal assistants, and, of course, prosecutors.

CareerCareer OutlookAnnual Median Salary
Paralegals and legal assistants+17%$43,530
Prosecutor (data includes all lawyers)+11%$99,400

All data from O*Net


Because of criminal justice reform in North Carolina, the state’s correctional system has contracted over the past decade or so. That is reflected in the career outlook statistics for correctional officers and probation officers.

CareerCareer OutlookAnnual Median Salary
Correctional Officers and Jailers-9%$36,770
Probation Officers+2%$42,810

All data from O*Net

Criminal Justice Education Resources in North Carolina

What you probably really want to know is how to find a job with your criminal justice degree. We can’t go into the mind of every employer, but we can give you resources on some of the most common types of criminal justice careers. Below you’ll find links that explain the application process and job requirements within each branch.

  • Corrections: Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice
    Contains information about what the careers entail, training and work environment, and how to apply.
    Careers include corrections officer, probation and parole officers, corrections counselor, and patrol officer
  • Police officers: North Carolina Department of Justice
    Provides steps for becoming a police officer in North Carolina.
    Careers include all types of police officers
  • Highway patrol officers: North Carolina Department of Public Safety
    Provides steps for becoming a highway patrol officer in North Carolina.
    Careers include highway patrol officer
  • Justice system: North Carolina Careers in the Courts
    Discusses how to apply for a job in the North Carolina Department of Justice and lists job vacancies.
    Careers include deputy attorney generals, criminalists, and crime analysts

Innovations in Criminal Justice in North Carolina

North Carolina has been steadily overhauling its criminal justice system since 2011. That’s when it passed the Justice Reinvestment Act, which transferred spending away from prisons and toward strategies that reduced recidivism and improved public safety. Within the span of three years, North Carolina shuttered 10 correctional facilities. In that same span, it increased funds for mental health and substance abuse treatments while its probation revocations decreased by 50%.

Given the act’s goals, it’s easy to see why the number of corrections officers is expected to shrink a further 9% between 2016 and 2026, according toO*Net. That number is offset by the projected 9% growth of police officers, who are called upon to protect public safety.

More reforms may be on the way, and they’d likely further shift the burden from corrections officers to other criminal justice professionals. A bill first floated in 2019 called the Second Chance Act would make it easier for nonviolent offenders’ records to be expunged. That would clear hurdles to applying for jobs, finding housing, and even going to school. Another bill—the First Step Act—would result in reduced prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

Other bills winding their way through North Carolina’s legislature would do away with life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders, make releases without bail payments possible, and fund studies into recidivism reduction.

Main Criminal Justice Governmental Agencies and Entities in North Carolina

  • North Carolina Department of Justice—Office of the Attorney General: The Department of Justice, headed by the attorney general, protects North Carolina consumers from scams and fraud, trains state and local law enforcement, and runs three crime labs where law enforcement personnel can send evidence for analysis. Its broad mandate to enforce the law and protect citizens means it hires investigators, trainers, and forensic specialists, to name just a few examples.
  • North Carolina Adult Correction & Juvenile Justice: This division of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety is in charge of the state’s prison system, probation and parole supervision, and counseling and other services for detained youth. It hires correctional officers, probation and parole officers, juvenile court counselors, and youth behavioral specialists.
  • North Carolina Highway Patrol: Charged with enforcing the laws across nearly 80,000 miles of road, state troopers also ensure public safety by helping people evacuate in case of hurricanes and other emergencies.
  • North Carolina Department of Public Safety—Law Enforcement: The North Carolina Department of Public Safety is in charge of several types of law enforcement, including the Highway Patrol. It also has the Alcohol Law Enforcement Division, State Capitol Police, State Bureau of Investigation based in district offices, and N.C. Center for Missing Persons, which issues AMBER alerts and maintains a database to locate citizens who have disappeared.
  • North Carolina Courts: The Tarheel State’s judicial branch extends from small claims court to the supreme court. The state has an extensive system, with special courts for offenders on court-ordered drug treatment plans. It advertises positions for public defenders, clerks, and legal assistants.

Resources for Criminal Justice Students and Professionals in North Carolina

Membership organizations that admit students can expose you to a network of working professionals who balance out your classroom learning with some practical know-how. Even organizations that don’t admit students often run scholarship programs and may be eager to train and educate younger generations.

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