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Criminal Justice Careers for Women: 6 Great Opportunities

women in criminal justice According to the United States Department of Labor, women make up 46.8% of the US workforce. This is expected to grow to 51.2% by 2018, so it’s no surprise that more women are working in criminal justice. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that in large criminal justice agencies, women made up an average of 21% of the workforce in 2008. The misconception of criminal justice as a “man’s field” is evolving, presenting high-paying, flexible career opportunities for women. The following five opportunities are excellent places for women interested in criminal justice to start a career.

Special Agent

The FBI, CIA, and ICE are all hiring female special agents. Government special agents conduct high security investigations and enforce federal law, and there are many specialties within each agency, from counter-terrorism and drug trafficking to white collar crimes like embezzlement. To become a special agent, a bachelor’s degree is required. Applicants who have a degree related to their desired specialty paired with criminal justice training have an edge in this career, which offers great opportunities for advancement.

Forensic Accountant

Forensic accountants are tasked with piecing together financial events related to a criminal justice case. A forensic accountant supports local and federal government cases related to financial fraud, such as bribery, embezzlement, or even drug trafficking. This is different from traditional accountancy since a forensic accountant is usually tracing activities that are deliberately obscured, where some records may be missing or destroyed. After helping an agency build its case, forensic accountants are frequently called upon to testify in court about their findings. This is a great career for women who enjoy numbers and analysis. A four-year accountancy or forensic science degree and a Certified Public Account license are required for this career.

Corrections Officer

There are many different career paths that a woman correctional officer can take. Corrections officers are needed in the prison system in order to manage a prison’s population and monitor inmates. Outside of the prison system, corrections officers work as parole and probation officers, helping parolees adjust to life after their release, aiding parolees with such things as finding a place to live, a new job, and violence or substance abuse counseling. Corrections officers have an outstanding opportunity to help inmates and parolees improve their outlook and quality of life. To become a corrections officer, applicants must have at least a high school degree and usually some career experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary in this field in 2010 was $47,200 annually. Applicants who have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice will command a higher salary.


Paralegals are in high demand in all areas of the legal system, where they support attorneys trying fast-paced and complex cases in court. The US Department of Justice is one of the largest government employers of paralegals, but private legal firms depend on paralegals as well. Paralegals do many tasks traditionally done by lawyers preparing for a case. The major differences are that paralegals cannot try cases in court, set fee schedules, or accept cases on behalf of the attorneys for whom they work. This makes a career as a paralegal an appealing opportunity for women who have not completed law school but have an interest in law, since most paralegal opportunities only require an associate’s degree or a certificate in paralegal studies or criminal justice.

Court Clerk

Court clerks are responsible for carrying out the administrative needs of a court, whether it’s at the local, state, or federal level. More than administrative assistants, court clerks perform legal research, assist lawyers and judges with recommendations and past precedent, and schedule court hearings and case loads. Depending on the court and the clerk’s responsibilities, a court clerk may or may not need a degree, but to advance in this career degrees in criminal justice and law are highly recommended.

Private Investigator

Private investigators perform a variety of services, and may either work with the general public or with law enforcement agencies. Most private investigators work on a contract basis, which provides work/life flexibility. A private investigator usually has a specialty, which can be in fields as diverse as divorce law, identity theft, or personal protection. In order to succeed as a private investigator, a four-year degree in criminal justice and experience related to investigation are must-haves. Many private investigators come to the field after a career in criminal justice as a special agent or forensic scientist, so starting a private investigation firm might even be a goal after exploring one of these other great careers in criminal justice for women.

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Additional Resources:

Women in Law Enforcement, 1987–2008 Bureau of Labor Statistics