Updated February 17, 2022
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Earning a master’s in criminal justice degree can open doors to career advancement and wider employment opportunities in the criminal justice field. In addition to leadership roles in police and corrections departments, a master’s in criminal justice degree can help you prepare for exciting roles in criminal investigation, forensics, security, and emergency management. The wide scope of the positions available in the field of criminal justice means that you can find the right fit for your interests, skills, and salary goals. On this page you will find job descriptions for 10 careers that you can prepare for with a master’s degree in criminal justice.
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Correctional officer supervisors supervise corrections officers. They commonly work in institutions where corrections officers oversee incarcerated offenders or in parole departments where corrections officers oversee the probation or parole of former offenders. Correctional officer supervisors assign tasks and caseloads to their reports with a particular focus on maintaining the safety and welfare of officers and offenders, as well as the that of the general public.1 Correctional officer supervisors working in smaller corrections departments may be responsible for a larger proportion of corrections functions, as compared to the supervisor working in a larger department who may be more focused on the management of correctional officers.1 Correctional officer supervisors make an average yearly wage of $62,500 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, although employment in this field is expected to decline through 2026 due to declining rates of incarceration overall.
Police and detective supervisors are first-line managers for the officers and detectives in their charge. Police and detective supervisors schedule, evaluate, and arrange for and provide continuing training for direct reports.2 Supervisors of police and detectives also work to ensure that officers and detectives are motivated and that the department has strong morale.2 In some departments, police and detective supervisors may also manage support personnel such as clerks or technicians.2 In all cases, these supervisors will ensure that departmental policies are followed not only in the field but in areas such as equipment issuance and maintenance.2 Police and detective supervisors also spend considerable time in the field supervising reports and assisting in investigations.2 Nationally, the annual average annual salary for supervisors of police and detectives is $87,910, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a job growth rate for these professionals of 7% from 2016 to 2026, reflecting an anticipated 6,900 jobs added to the workforce.
Forensic psychologists are differentiated from criminal profilers, as forensic psychologists do not typically do profiling work.3 Instead, forensic psychologists work within the legal system, performing assessments of suspected or convicted criminals and understanding and promoting mental health for criminals through treatment services.3 Forensic psychologists may make the determination on whether an accused person is fit to stand trial or evaluate insanity; perform and make sentencing or post-incarceration recommendations based on risk assessments; and a broad array of other tasks related to ensuring mental health and public safety.4 Forensic psychologists may also be called upon to testify in a trial setting either as an examining psychologist or as an expert witness.4 Psychologists make an average annual salary of $77,030. However, the expected salary for a psychologist can vary widely based on factors including the industry in which he or she works; psychologists working for government agencies make the highest average wage, at $94,910 per year. Between 2016 and 2026 job growth for psychologists is expected to reach 14% overall, which is faster than the average rate of growth for all occupations.
Criminal profilers work in the field of forensic science, looking at the available evidence to determine the profile of a person who would commit a given crime based on the theory that behavior holds key insights into a person’s personality.5 By analyzing the evidence at or from a crime scene using scientific methods, reasoning, and logic, criminal profilers can hypothesize a great deal of information about a criminal offender, from age and education to appearance and likelihood of re-offense.5 This information can help investigators focus on the most likely suspects and determine methods of apprehending an offender.5 Criminal profilers can also help other investigators identify whether or not a crime scene has been staged or tampered with as well as reconstruct crimes after the fact.6 In addition, profilers provide important insight into possible motivations for a crime before the suspect is identified.6 While specific salary information for criminal profilers is not available, they are often classified as criminal investigators, who make an average salary of $83,220 per year.
Criminologists study crime and its causes; as differentiated from criminal investigators, criminologists generally study crime in order to make recommendations to law enforcement and for public policy.7 Such recommendations may either center on the nature and causes of crime or on the response to crime.7 Thus, criminology is becoming a distinct field within the social sciences, though criminologists also use insights and theories from other disciplines such as psychology, sociology, or even environmental science.7 In doing so, criminologists focus not on individual criminals or sectors of crime, but crime in the context of society as a whole. Criminologists may work in the field or in more traditional research settings gathering information, compiling interviews, and creating statistical reports in order to further understand a given aspect of crime and develop the most effective means of addressing it.8 Criminologists can, therefore, work for a variety of different types of organizations, from law enforcement to academia.
District attorney and attorney general investigators work directly for county, state, or federal district attorney and attorney general offices.9 The work that these investigators do is highly varied and involves not only investigation of various crimes in a given jurisdiction but also undercover work and giving testimony in both civil and criminal court.9 District attorney and attorney general investigators may also serve warrants and collaborate with other law enforcement agencies on investigations and cases.9 At the federal level, attorney general investigators may work for a department such as the US Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General, in which investigators are classified as special agents who may work on a variety of special projects related to tax and government fraud.10 The average annual salary for attorneys in all industries was $119,250 as of 2018.
Supervisory criminal investigators are management-level professionals who supervise criminal investigators and may also take on or assist in high-level investigations.11 Supervisors in this field assign cases to investigators and detectives and assist in developing and implementing departmental policies. Criminal investigator supervisors are additionally responsible for ensuring that patrol officers and investigators have satisfactorily collected all possible evidence and completed their investigations according to departmental policy by reviewing shift and investigative reports.11 Review of criminal investigators’ reports for accuracy and thoroughness by trained and effective supervisors is oftentimes critical as it is the report upon which a prosecutor’s case is made.12 It is also up to field supervisors to determine when evidence technicians and other support personnel should be called to a crime scene.11 Job growth in the field of criminal investigation, as a subset of the forensic science field, is projected at 17% through 2026 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Forensic examiners may work as general examiners or specialists in a forensic field such as pathology, media, biological evidence, engineering, or one of many other specialty areas.13 The primary work of a forensic examiner is analyzing evidence left at or related to the scene of a crime in order to provide evidence to law enforcement and/or reconstruct a series of events. Forensic examiners may work in the laboratory, as consultants in the courtroom, or even a mix of these and other settings.13 It is relatively rare for forensic examiners to work in the field, which is usually the purview of criminal or crime scene investigators.13 However, forensic examiners do undertake numerous other tasks important to supporting a legal case in cooperation with law enforcement agencies at all levels.13 Increasingly, forensic examiners may also work in the private sector, particularly on civil litigation or insurance issues or as expert witnesses.13 Due to the level of knowledge and specialized training required, a master’s or professional degree is helpful for entry and advancement in this field. Opportunities for forensics professionals are expected to grow through 2026 by 17%.
Emergency management directors are responsible for developing emergency management plans for local, state, and federal law enforcement and public protection agencies. When an emergency arises, emergency management directors are often on the front line coordinating an emergency response between these multiple agencies. Emergency management directors also assist private businesses and organizations in developing and participating in emergency and disaster preparation and response.14 The types of emergencies that may require preparation and response include not only natural disasters but also broad scale incidents and terrorist attacks.15 In addition, in some areas emergency management directors may work on community outreach and preparation initiatives. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, directors in emergency management services make an average annual salary of $81,140, though salaries tend to be higher in major metropolitan areas. Job growth of 8% for emergency management directors is predicted between 2016 and 2026.
Although many of the positions available in the criminal justice field are in public organizations, criminal justice opportunities for those with advanced degrees can also be found in the private sector. Private security management firms can provide such opportunities. Security management firms may protect the nation’s public utilities and nuclear power plants; secure buildings and important information, such as data servers and other high-tech infrastructure; or work in tandem with public law enforcement in securing social events and sharing information.16 The focus in a security management position is therefore typically preventing, rather than responding to, crime. However, individuals working in security management may work directly for an organization or on a consultancy basis, and can be responsible for anything from securing persons and property to investigating sophisticated criminal activity.16 According to O*NET OnLine, security managers earn an average annual salary of $105,610 per year and can anticipate jobs growth between 5% and 9% through 2026.
References:1. Gladwin, Bridget and Charles R. McConnell. The Effective Corrections Manager: Correctional Supervision for the Future2. Garner, Gerald W. Common Sense Police Supervision: Practical Tips for the First-line Leader. 4th ed. Springfield: Charles C. Thomas Publisher, Ltd., 2008. Print.3. Kuther, Tara L. and Robert D. Morgan. Careers in Psychology: Opportunities in a Changing World. 4th ed. Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2013. Print.4. Huss, Matthew T. Forensic Psychology: Research, Clinical Practice, and Applications. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. Print.5. Levy, Janey. Careers in Criminal Profiling. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Incl, 2008. Print.6. Turvey, Brent E. Criminal Profiling: An Introduction to Behavioral Evidence Analysis. 3rd ed. San Diego: Elsevier, Inc., 2008. Print.7. Vito, Gennaro and Jeffrey Maahs. Criminology: Theory, Research, and Public Policy. 3rd ed. Sudbury: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2012. Print.8. Miller, J. Mitchell, editor. 21st Century Criminology: A Reference Handbook. Vol. 1. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc. 2009. Print.9. Hutton, Donald B. and Anna Mydlarz. Guide to Law Enforcement Careers. 2nd ed. Hauppauge: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 2001. Print.10. US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General Office of Investigations. Office of Investigations Recruiting Brochure. OIG. N.d. PDF File.11. Brown, Michael F. Criminal Investigation: Law and Practice. 2nd ed. Woburn: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2001. Print.12. Hess, Karen M. and Christine Hess Orthmann. Criminal Investigation. 9th ed. Clifton Park: Delmar Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.13. Echaore-McDavid, Susan and Richard A. McDavid. Career Opportunities in Forensic Science. New York: Ferguson, 2008. Print.14. Harr, J. Scott and Karen M. Hess. Careers in Criminal Justice and Related Fields: From Internship to Promotion. 6th ed. Belmont: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.15. Bumgarner, Jeffrey B. Emergency Management: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2008. Print.16. Allen, Jennifer M. and Rajeev Sawhney. Administration and Management in Criminal Justice: A Service Quality Approach. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2010. Print.
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