Have you ever wondered what happens when someone breaks the law? Or what if they never committed that crime? How do we maintain their safety and serve justice? That’s Criminal Justice for you. 

Criminal justice is a broad field that comprises the systems through which Criminals are – charged, detained, convicted, and punished or freed according to the law. 

In this article, we will dive into the fascinating world of criminal justice, exploring the criminal justice system, and excitingly rewarding career paths, while discussing why this field is worth considering. 

Let’s embark on this thrilling journey of discovery together! 

what is criminal justice

What is Criminal Justice?

Criminal Justice is an umbrella term comprising the systems through which Criminals are – charged, detained, convicted, and punished or freed.

It is a broad term that includes the rights of suspects, convicted individuals, and crime victims. It also involves the procedures the state follows to prosecute and punish criminal behavior under established laws.

In short, Criminal Justice – 

  • prescribes the fate of the criminal
  • provides remuneration to the victim under the rule of law
  • aims to prevent future crimes by sentencing appropriate penalties for criminal conduct
  • delivers justice ensuring that the punishment fits the crime
  • rehabilitate criminals through imprisonment

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What is Criminal Justice System? 

The criminal justice system is a network of institutions and processes that work together to enforce laws and serve justice. In simple words, when someone commits a crime or breaks the law, the criminal justice system steps in to investigate the crime, catch the culprit, and make sure that justice is served.  

It includes three main components: 

  • Law enforcement – like police officers, catch criminals and gather evidence
  • The courts – where judges and lawyers work, determine if someone is guilty or innocent
  • Corrections – such as prisons, focus on rehabilitating offenders and helping them become law-abiding citizens

Apart from the branches, there are several subfields, such as – 

  • Homeland security
  • Cybersecurity 
  • Forensic psychology 
  • Law 
  • Social services 
  • Public administration

Why choose a career in criminal justice?

A career in criminal justice can be incredibly rewarding. It requires dedication, integrity, and a genuine passion for serving others and upholding the principles of justice.

Read -> Criminal Justice Degree

A few compelling reasons to choose this career path –

  • Opportunity to make a positive impact on society 
  • Responsibility for maintaining the law-and-order situation 
  • Ensuring fairness 
  • Protecting the rights of individuals   
  • Helping the needy 
  • Working towards building a safer world
  • Varied career options 
  • Competitive salary 
  • Job stability and satisfaction

According to the BLS, the job outlook for individuals interested in criminal justice will grow by 5% in the coming decade. There are many current officers nearing retirement, and to fill these positions, they will require well-qualified professionals.

This presents an excellent opportunity for you to pursue a rewarding and in-demand career in the field of criminal justice. 

Education Required to Enroll in Criminal Justice Degree

Completion of High School or GED with a strong GPA. 

Know about Criminal Justice Degree Options: 

-> Criminal Justice Associate Degree

-> Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degree

-> Criminal Justice Master’s Degree

Skills required

Here are some of the most important skills that you have or need to gain to make the most out of this career. 

  • Analytical skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Observation
  • Problem-solving
  • Researching ability 

Careers in Criminal Justice

So, by now, you know about criminal justice and the components of the criminal justice system. Why we call it a lucrative career field because it offers many possibilities and varied options. Allow us to mention the career opportunities or job roles per the components of the criminal justice system.

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Career opportunities in Law enforcement 

In law enforcement, officers are like the guardians of our communities. They keep a watchful eye and take action when they spot any criminal activity. Their job involves capturing people who break the law, conducting thorough investigations to gather evidence, and sharing their findings in court by providing testimony. 

  • Police officers
  • Sheriffs
  • Patrol officers
  • Police investigators
  • Police detectives
  • Federal agents

Career opportunities in the courts 

You know what happens in the court, right? Great! In the courts, you may work as a lawyer, a judge, or a paralegal. Let’s first talk about the lawyers; they are:

  • City attorneys
  • District attorneys
  • Attorneys general
  • United States attorneys
  • County public defenders
  • Alternate public defenders
  • Federal defenders

Apart from lawyers, there are various other professionals who play important roles within the courts to uphold the criminal justice system. These individuals take on leadership positions and provide valuable support during legal proceedings. They are: 

  • Judges
  • Paralegals
  • Court clerks
  • Court reporters
  • Court officers
  • Process servers
  • Victim advocates
  • Witness coordinators

Career Opportunities in Corrections 

A correction is the network of agencies overseeing the imprisoned and those in rehab, parole, or probation. This includes the following positions: 

  • Corrections officers
  • Probation officers
  • Parole officers
  • Rehabilitation specialists
  • Corrections counselors
  • Wardens 

Other Career Options

Besides the careers in the components of the criminal justice system, a degree in criminal justice can open doors to various related careers, which are again sub-fields, as mentioned earlier. You can explore fields like – 

  • Homeland security
  • Cybersecurity
  • Forensic psychology
  • Law
  • Social services
  • Public administration  

The possibilities are vast, and you can find a career that aligns with your unique interests and skills. 

More On Jobs:

-> What Jobs Can You Get With a Criminal Justice Degree?

-> What Can You Do With a Criminal Justice Degree Besides Being a Cop?

Top 10 high-paying careers in Criminal Justice 

Top 10 high-paying careers in Criminal Justice 

Criminal justice careers can be both challenging and rewarding. When we say rewarding, it’s time to reveal the top 10 highest-paying careers in criminal justice. But, to become eligible for such high pay, you need experience and other factors depending on the city or the office you work in. 

Let’s start: 

Chief of Police

The Chief of Police is responsible for overseeing the department’s operations, setting policies, and ensuring public safety. As the name suggests, this is the highest position in the police department. 

Average annual salary: around $105,000 

FBI Special Agent

They investigate federal crimes, gather evidence, conduct surveillance, and work closely with other law enforcement agencies. 

Average annual salary: around $85,000 

Federal Judge

They preside over legal proceedings in federal courts and make decisions on matters such as criminal cases, civil disputes, and constitutional issues.

Average annual salary: around $200,000 

Forensic Psychologist

They assess the mental state of suspects, provide expert testimony in court, and contribute to the understanding of criminal behavior. During criminal investigations, if required, they are called upon to apply psychological principles and techniques.  

Average annual salary: around $75,000 


They study crime patterns, analyze data, and develop theories to understand the causes and consequences of criminal behavior.

Average annual salary: around $72,000 

DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) Agent

They enforce federal drug laws, investigate drug trafficking organizations, and seize illegal drugs.

Average annual salary: around $90,000 

Intelligence Analyst

They work for various law enforcement agencies and organizations to gather, analyze, and interpret intelligence information related to criminal activities, terrorism, and national security threats. 

Average annual salary: around $76,000 

Legal Analyst

They analyze legal documents, conduct research, and provide support to attorneys and judges. 

Average annual salary: around $60,000 

Secret Service Agent

They protect the President, Vice President, and other high-ranking government officials. 

Average annual salary: around $85,000

Homeland Security Officer

They work to prevent and respond to potential security breaches and safeguard critical infrastructure.

Average annual salary: around $70,000 

In conclusion  

The world of criminal justice is full of excitement, challenges, and risk. But it offers you plenty of opportunities to make a difference in society. 

So, if you’re passionate about justice, and want to play a crucial role in making this world a better place, then a career in criminal justice is a perfect fit for you. Embrace this thrilling journey, and remember, justice needs heroes like you! 

Read More:

-> How long is Criminal Justice Degree?

-> Online Criminal Justice Degree

-> What Can You Do with A Masters in Criminal Justice? 

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About the Author
Grant founded OnlineDegree.com with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.