Prevent or Solve Crimes with an Online Criminal Justice Degree

intense criminal justice detective

By Sarah Stevenson

Careers in criminal justice cover a wide spectrum, from jobs in the legal system—such as court reporter or paralegal—to jobs in the corrections system, like probation officer or correctional counselor. The criminal justice field also encompasses law enforcement professionals like police officers, as well as specialists who help solve crimes, such as forensic scientists. In all of these careers, an online criminal justice degree from a reputable institution can provide essential training and give job seekers a competitive edge.

The careers of legal and paralegal workers generally revolve around the courtroom or law office, but other types of criminal justice professionals work in the community, for local and federal government, for laboratories and for corrections facilities. Among other responsibilities, they help prevent and solve crimes, locate and apprehend criminals, and ensure that the guilty are appropriately punished or reformed.

Degree Programs in Law Enforcement, Forensics and Corrections

Even if your chosen career path doesn't require an advanced academic education, an online criminal justice degree can help you get ahead in your field by teaching the basics of the law, the court system and the criminal justice system. Take a look at the charts below for an overview of some popular criminal justice careers and the education you'll need to get there.

Police Officer Job Description

  • Work at local, state and federal levels to enforce the law and apprehend lawbreakers
  • Respond to calls for service, write up reports and maintain accurate incident records

    Getting There

  • Local police jobs require a GED or high school diploma and police academy training
  • State and federal agencies may require advanced training, such as an online criminal justice degree at the associate's or bachelor's level

FBI Agent Job Description

  • Investigate a variety of criminal activities on behalf of the government, such as terrorism and cybercrime
  • Conduct surveillance, examine business records and use other approved methods to investigate violations of federal law

    Getting There

  • FBI agent jobs require at least a bachelor's degree and some work experience in law enforcement
  • Newly hired agents must complete 18 weeks of training at the FBI Academy

Private Investigator/Detective Job Description

  • Conduct surveillance or search for information on behalf of individuals, attorneys or businesses
  • Comply with federal, state and local laws to conduct physical surveillance, computer searches and other types of investigation

    Getting There

  • For private investigators, an online criminal justice degree can be helpful but isn't required
  • Corporate investigators usually need at least a bachelor's degree

Forensic Scientist Job Description

  • Perform physical or chemical analyses on evidence submitted by law enforcement agencies, such as DNA and fingerprints
  • Testify in court as expert witnesses

    Getting There

  • Requires at least a bachelor's degree in forensic science or a related science field such as biology
  • Professional certification is voluntary

Forensic Psychologist Job Description

  • Assist with the understanding of psychological matters in a legal or criminal justice context
  • May perform various functions including testifying as an expert witness, helping assess offenders' ability to stand trial, or investigating child abuse

    Getting There

  • A master's or doctoral degree in clinical psychology or forensic psychology is required
  • Some forensic psychology programs offer a joint law degree, but a law degree is not a necessary prerequisite

Corrections Officer Job Description

  • Oversee individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trial, or who are convicted and serving time in a detention facility
  • Inspect facilities, maintain security and write reports and records of inmate conduct and other daily activities

    Getting There

  • A GED or high school diploma is required, as well as specialized on-the-job or residential training
  • Some federal positions require a bachelor's degree, such as an online criminal justice degree

Correctional Counselor Job Description

  • Evaluate and monitor the progress of inmates in jails or prisons
  • Develop parole plans, treatment plans and educational or training programs for inmates

    Getting There

  • Requires at least a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, social work or psychology; many treatment specialists also hold a master's degree
  • Some states require additional certification