Pros and Cons of Criminal Justice Degree Careers
As with all jobs, there are pros and cons of criminal justice careers you may want to consider. No job is perfect; it’s all about finding a career that makes you feel like the good outweighs the bad. No one can decide what career is right for you except for you. Often, the best way to determine if you’d like a job is to shadow someone in the position. However, it doesn't hurt to do your research beforehand, so read on for some of the pros and cons associated with careers in criminal justice.
Pro: Good Pay
While some may argue that pay may not reflect the element of danger present in many criminal justice degree careers, the point remains that the pay and benefits are quite good relative to the amount of education required. Most entry-level positions in criminal justice require only a high school diploma or equivalent, and it is possible to rise high in rank with just a bachelor’s degree.
The median salaries for several careers in criminal justice are as follows:
- Police officer: $55,000
- Deputy U.S. Marshall: $49,000
- Correctional officer: $40,000
- Fish and Game Warden: $48,000
- Probation officer: $47,000
- FBI Agent: $61,000
- Security guard: $24,380
- Customs officer: $43,000
Pro: Honor and Duty
Those who work in criminal justice serve and protect their countrymen. It is a noble and admiral position that commands respect. Police officers, special agents and others in criminal justice can take pride in their work because they know they are helping others. Whether it be by preventing crime, helping with the rehabilitation of criminals or even protecting wildlife and the environment, criminal justice careers are full of opportunities to do good.
Correctional officer duties, for example, help in rehabilitating inmates which is a side to law enforcement that is quite honorable although it isn't one that is widely discussed or thought of.
Pro: Early Retirement
Due to the nature of criminal justice work, the retirement age for these professionals is typically earlier than in other professions. With early retirement often come generous pension packages and other benefits. However, many criminal justice employees choose to continue working in another field after retirement. Some may enter academia as professors of criminal justice or pursue part-time employment in a hobby or interest.
Pro: High Demand
Criminal justice careers stay steadily in demand year after year. As the population grows, society needs more security officers, investigators and police to ensure public safety. Students of criminal justice typically see high job placement rates in all regions.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), probation officer careers and security guard positions are expected to be in highest demand. As the nation focuses more on preventative and rehabilitative, as opposed to punitive, methods of handling crime, this trend is expected to continue.
Pro: Opportunities for Advancement
There are many ways to advance in the criminal justice field, especially within law enforcement. Criminal justice professionals may choose to climb the ranks within a single organization or advance by moving to a larger organization or region. Crime is a multifaceted foe, and motivated criminal justice officers will find opportunities to join larger detail operations and take on more responsibility.
The FBI, for example, has many positions that an agent can advance into. The FBI education requirements are more stringent, however.
Con: Potentially Dangerous
Working in criminal justice isn’t all honor and saving the day; it can be very dangerous. Corrections officers, police, detectives and special agents all encounter vulnerable or desperate people in their day-to-day. In some instances, they may encounter persons who are inebriated or mentally ill and exhibit unpredictable behavior. Loss of life is not uncommon among criminal justice professionals.
Criminal justice jobs can be stressful. They often come with high expectations from superiors, swing shifts, cramped working conditions prolonged periods of travel and other stressors. Criminal justice professionals may face stress in their home lives, as they are frequently away from home for long periods of time and spouses often worry about the dangers implicit in the job.
Con: Exposure to Heinous Acts
Criminal justice professionals see things many people are not prepared to deal with. Police officers are among the first to arrive at a crime scene. Corrections officers see inmates at their worst, coping with withdrawl from drugs or alcohol, lonely, depressed or angry. They may also be witnesses to violent acts within the facility, especially those who work at the federal level.
Con: Long Hours
Those who work in criminal justice sometimes work long hours. This is especially true for corrections officers, police officers, deputies and special agents. These professionals typically work rotating, 12-hour shifts. That doesn’t include the time necessary to compile reports of incidents that happened throughout the work day.
The fact of the matter is that a career in criminal justice can be equal parts rewarding and difficult. Make sure you consider all the angles before starting this or any career. Best of luck in your search for the job that’s right for you!