What Can You Do With a Criminal Justice Degree?

Is a criminal justice degree worth it? Graduates with criminal justice degrees can pursue various careers. If you are considering getting a degree in criminal justice, understanding the field and curriculum can help determine if it is right for you.

What Is a Criminal Justice Degree?

Criminal justice degrees allow students to study and explore topics relating to the various aspects of the criminal justice system. Students pursuing a degree in this field learn about law enforcement, criminal behavior, the American court system, and behavior and psychology. This degree type has several applications, and there are several majors and concentrations to choose from.

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When earning a degree in criminal justice, you’ll choose a major that will help you specify your studies and better prepare you for the workforce. Some common majors for criminal justice departments include:

  • Criminology: Students in this major will learn more about criminals, their behaviors and their motivations. Many programs might use more of a behavior and social lens to study crime and criminals. Your professors might talk about the justice system’s role in criminal behavior and proceedings, which can help increase your understanding of American society, law and policies.
  • Forensic science: For students interested in science, forensic science studies chemistry and biology in regard to the criminal justice system and procedures. You might participate in labs where you can complete experiments to learn how forensic scientists collect and analyze information from crime scenes.
  • Law enforcement: Criminal justice degrees can prepare students for working in law enforcement. Students can get a closer look into the responsibilities of employees in this field, including conducting investigations and writing reports. Students will learn the skills and processes they need to succeed as law enforcement officers.
  • Sociology: Sociology studies society, helping people understand various societal concepts and relationships. Students can explore topics like gender, family, marriage, race relations and inequality. Because these topics affect and impact crime and criminal behavior, students can apply sociological knowledge in various criminal justice careers.

When you are interested in receiving a criminal justice degree, you can choose a specific major depending on your interests.


In addition to criminal justice majors, many programs also offer concentrations to define your studies and allow you to explore more topics under the overall umbrella of criminal justice. Classes in your concentration aim to provide you with more skills and knowledge that you will need in the workforce. Some concentrations for criminal justice majors include the following:

  • Law enforcement administration
  • Corrections
  • Homeland security
  • Security management
  • Forensics
  • Juvenile crime

What Type of Degree Is Criminal Justice?

When researching criminal justice degrees, you can better prepare for your future and career by getting the right degree type for your needs and goals. You can choose your degree type by understanding how long it takes to get a criminal justice degree in Massachusetts.

Associate vs. Bachelor’s Degree

How long it takes to get a criminal justice degree depends on the type of degree you choose to earn.

Students can usually earn an associate degree in around two years. These programs are great for preparing students for entry-level positions, like police officers or paralegals. For students who want to earn some field experience or discover their interests, associate degrees provide overviews of the field and the essential skills needed to obtain jobs.

Alternatively, students can earn a bachelor’s degree in four years. Students pursuing this academic path will build on the topics and introductory information established during the associate degree program. They can declare a major and choose a concentration, helping students specify their career path and skills for better preparation for the workplace.

Bachelor of Art vs. Science

Schools often offer various types of degrees based on the instruction method. Students can receive a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in criminal justice. This option has a more liberal arts approach. Schools will require students to complete general education courses outside the criminal justice curriculum, like English and math. Students can receive a more well-rounded education that provides them with more skills they can use in the workforce. A BA will teach through lectures, discussion groups and guest speakers.

Alternatively, students can instead choose to get a Bachelor of Science (BS) in criminal justice. This degree type focuses more intently on the criminal justice field and its specific topics. You will take classes that delve deeper into the field to prepare you for the workplace. Professors might use more field and lab experience with this method.

When deciding between getting a BA or BS, you should consider what you want to do after graduation. BA degrees are excellent for individuals who are less sure about where they want to work. Because they provide a broader education, students with a BA can apply learned skills wherever life takes them. BS degrees suit students who have a better idea of what job they want because of its more defined course path.

What Jobs Can You Get With a Criminal Justice Degree in Massachusetts?

You can pursue several career paths with a criminal justice degree. If you are unsure of how you would use your criminal justice education, understanding some typical jobs can help prepare you for this field.

1. Police Officer or Detective

Criminal justice courses, degrees and certifications are great for individuals considering law enforcement. Because this career path discusses criminal behavior and the American legal and justice systems, students can graduate with the knowledge they need to succeed in this field.

After working with the police force, you can use other skills in this field to become a detective. Learning about criminal behavior and forensics can help graduates solve crimes and piece together evidence to create more comprehensive theories and reports. You can also apply these skills to private investigator work.

In Massachusetts, police patrol officers earn around $73,560 annually, while detectives make $110,610.

2. Paralegal

You can also be a paralegal with a criminal justice degree. This degree type helps prepare many individuals interested in exploring a career in law. Criminal justice degrees can give students a better understanding of the legal and justice systems, which they can apply to the law firms where they’ll work. As an entry-level position, this job makes around $66,820 annually in Massachusetts.

You can also be a lawyer with a criminal justice degree. This undergraduate education can be an excellent foundation for law school. Behavioral and motivation studies help you understand people and persuasion, building the skills you’ll need for the courtroom. The average salary of a criminal justice graduate in Massachusetts pursuing a career as a lawyer is $167,980.

3. Forensic Psychologist

If you prefer the science and academic side of criminal justice studies, you can pursue a career in forensic psychology. This field studies human and criminal behavior to understand how people act in various criminal scenarios. Forensic psychologists are responsible for publishing reports and studies that other criminal justice workers rely on to support their processes and theories. Forensic psychologists often testify in court to support lawyers’ arguments.

Forensic psychologists can earn around $84,740 in Massachusetts.

Earn Your Criminal Justice Degree With Mount Wachusett Community College

When you want to study criminal justice, The Mount offers several programs, certificates and tracks students can use to enhance their future. Studying with us can help you save money while gathering transfer credits.

If you are unsure what you want to study or what to do for a career, our free career consulting can help you discover the right field for you.