Most people think of criminal justice majors as future police officers or students who plan to attend law school. While those are rewarding career paths, criminal justice students have a wide variety of career paths open to them after graduation. From roles within the legal system to jobs within the National Park Service, a degree in criminal justice can qualify students for work in a number of fields that involve some aspect of crime or justice. Depending on your specific goals as well as personal interests, the following are some of the options available when considering careers in criminal justice.

Park Ranger

Park rangers are employed at national parks, historic sites and other natural and tourist attractions. They “serve as a specialized sort of law enforcement and first responder, but their role may require a great deal of versatility,” according to PayScale. Some park rangers work in a guest services role, in which they provide information and guidance to guests while they visit the park or attraction. One of the most important elements to a park ranger’s job is observation. They are tasked with identifying unusual activity and investigating it to be sure that visitors are following all rules and regulations. Park rangers must also be in tune with nature itself, as abnormal behavior or changes in weather can trigger wildfires and other dangerous occurrences.

It is common for park rangers to be responsible for maintaining grounds, equipment and amenities. In addition, park rangers might:

  • Participate in search and rescue operations
  • Conduct investigations into accidents, complaints and illegal activities
  • Participate in surveillance
  • Help manage public events

Competition for park ranger jobs is usually fierce, so having an undergraduate degree in criminal justice or a related field can make candidates stand out. Before beginning work, rangers may be required to complete a training academy that prepares them for the job. In general, park rangers spend the majority of the time outdoors, though there is some administrative work required. The median annual salary for park rangers is $37,382, according to PayScale.

Careers in Criminal Justice

Victim Advocacy

One of the most critical roles in the criminal justice system is victim advocate. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, victim advocates “offer victims information, emotional support, and help finding resources and filling out paperwork.” They may also appear in court with victims and help their clients access needed social services and other information. In a managerial role, victim advocates might hire teams to work crisis hotlines, along with leading support groups and providing community information sessions, PayScale says. Alternative titles for this role include victim service provider, witness coordinator and victim specialist.

These criminal justice professionals inform victims of their legal rights and protections, along with giving details about the criminal justice process. They can help their clients with safety planning, shelter and transportation. In many cases, victim advocates work in police stations, prosecutor’s offices, courts and parole departments. They might also be employed by nonprofit organizations such as domestic violence programs. Specific job responsibilities may vary by setting, and training is often provided before employment begins. The median annual salary for victim advocates is $34,561.

Criminal Justice Careers Start Right Here

Whether you want to be a park ranger, a private security guard, or a police officer, you can have a bright future serving the public. Click the button below to learn more about WVSU's fully online B.S. in Criminal Justice.

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Private Security

Another potential career for criminal justice graduates is one related to private security. Security guards “protect property against theft, vandalism, terrorism, and illegal activity,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They can work for individuals, private businesses and other organizations to ensure safety and deter criminal activity, along with taking steps to prevent security breaches. An important aspect of private security work is knowing when to take action. If a situation becomes dangerous or out of control, it is important to “use discretion to remove violators from the facility and call for backup, which may include the police department,” PayScale explains.

On a more routine basis, security guards perform safety and maintenance tasks and parking enforcement. They might also monitor alarms and closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and conduct routine security checks. When working overnight or in a remote area, it is particularly important for security guards to complete reports on their observations. “Some guards are assigned a stationary position from which they monitor alarms or surveillance cameras,” the BLS notes. “Other guards are assigned a patrol area where they conduct security checks.” Also known as security officers, these professionals earn a salary range of $18,860-$47,260 per year depending on location, setting and years of experience.

Criminal Justice Education

Undergraduate study in criminal justice is a way for students to prepare for law enforcement careers like the ones featured here. West Virginia State University offers a fully online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice degree that provides in-depth study of the modern criminal justice system. With a curriculum informed by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, this program gives students a comprehensive understanding of the causes of crime, the relationship between criminal justice and society, and more. Students graduate with theoretical and practical knowledge they can apply in many careers in criminal justice.