Best Colleges for Criminal Justice
One of the most popular college majors available to today’s students is criminal justice. According to statistics from DataUSA, nearly 112,000 criminal justice degrees were awarded to American college students in 2021. Criminal justice colleges can be both community colleges and four-year universities. The best colleges for criminal justice typically offer four-year programs. However, there are many great programs for students who want to earn their criminal justice degree online.
Students with criminal justice degrees can use their education to get into a wide variety of fields. We will talk about some of the best criminal justice jobs later on in this article, but there is more flexibility in this area than some may think. The best criminal justice jobs are also well-paying, with students earning salaries ranging from $50,000 to $130,000 per year in some professions. Even entry level criminal justice jobs, such as police officers or security guards, pay a good salary. Higher-level positions, like police detective and private security consultant, put a high criminal justice degree salary within your reach.
The appeals of the criminal justice major
Students may also be drawn to a criminal justice major in college out of a desire to help others. Criminal justice colleges help prepare students for careers in law enforcement and the legal system, two fields responsible for public safety. In addition, lawyers and court officials, many of whom attended top criminal justice colleges, uphold the fundamental right to a fair trial. These professions are critical for a functioning society, and criminal justice colleges help arm students with the tools to fill them.
In this article, we will explore the different facets of the criminal justice major at several top criminal justice colleges. We will discuss how the best colleges for criminal justice prepare students for their future careers. Finally, we’ll look at how to choose between the top criminal justice colleges and find your pathway to fulfilling your academic and career goals. So, if you’re thinking about pursuing a criminal justice degree online or in person, this information is for you!
What is a criminal justice major?
Before we look at specific criminal justice colleges, let’s take a step back and define the criminal justice major in college. According to U.S. News, criminal justice college majors learn about the court system, law enforcement, and corrections. Many top criminal justice colleges offer specialties tailored toward some of the best criminal justice jobs, including cybersecurity, juvenile justice, and criminology.
The types of courses offered at top criminal justice colleges, like the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, vary widely. Students can take a generalized criminal justice curriculum, a common option for those pursuing their criminal justice degree online. Additionally, students who are still figuring out their intended specialty or career path often follow the general curriculum. Others can tailor their courses at these top criminal justice colleges to focus on law, corrections, or policing. While top criminal justice colleges often offer unique courses, nearly all criminal justice colleges share some common curricula.
A truly transdisciplinary major
You can think of criminal justice as a more specific arm of psychology, sociology, communications, and other liberal arts. Criminal justice majors use the skills of those other college majors but in the contexts of law enforcement and legal proceedings. Many criminal justice programs are part of larger Colleges of Arts and Sciences. However, others, like New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, are entire schools unto themselves.
Completing a criminal justice major in college allows graduates to pursue a wide variety of criminal justice jobs. The entry level criminal justice jobs with the lowest criminal justice degree salary often require only a two-year degree in criminal justice. Some states only require a high school diploma or GED for entry level criminal justice jobs, like corrections officers or security guards. Those who want access to a higher criminal justice salary might pursue a four-year criminal justice degree. Entry level criminal justice jobs are concrete stepping stones to more advanced positions, like analysts and detectives.
Criminal justice vs. criminology
Many people confuse the criminal justice major in college with the field of criminology. While these two disciplines are related, they are not exactly the same. Criminal justice is the umbrella term used at criminal justice degree schools to describe the major that includes many different specific specialties. These include forensic science, law enforcement, and—at some of the best colleges for criminal justice—criminology. Therefore, criminology is not a separate discipline from criminal justice. Rather, criminology is one of many specialties that the best colleges for criminal justice offer to students.
The field of criminology deals with the behavior of criminals and how society responds to different types of crime. Criminology incorporates elements of psychology and sociology by looking at behavior patterns and the reasons why people commit crimes. The goal of criminology is to understand criminal behavior and learn how to both reduce incidents of crime and respond to crimes that do occur. Criminology degrees are very flexible: graduates can enter fields from social work to investigation and forensics.
Is criminal justice a popular major?
According to data from Niche, in 2023, criminal justice ranked #9 in popularity out of 40 undergraduate college majors. Specifically, around 63,961 four-year degrees were awarded in the past year from top criminal justice colleges. These statistics do not include students who earned their criminal justice degree online or students who earned a 2-year degree in criminal justice. Clearly, criminal justice is a popular major in colleges across America right now.
The popularity of criminal justice majors at the best colleges for criminal justice could relate to rising criminal justice degree salary figures. According to DataUSA, the average annual salary earned by degree holders from top criminal justice colleges was $71,318. Although those numbers exclude entry level criminal justice jobs, there’s opportunity for advancement to a higher criminal justice degree salary. For example, a police officer only earns an average salary of $47,507. However, a police detective can earn an average of $84,012 per year without needing additional academic degrees. Promotions open the door to the best criminal justice jobs and a better criminal justice degree salary.
In addition to being a gateway for the best criminal justice jobs, a criminal justice major can make a difference. Graduates can work to effect change in their community and address systemic issues that they see. Students at the best colleges for criminal justice can fight for justice reform by advocating for new laws and policies. A degree from one of the top criminal justice colleges can kick off a career that does real good for people in need.
What are the best colleges for criminal justice?
Because so many colleges offer criminal justice college majors or programs, it is important to research top criminal justice schools. One metric that you can look at is the national rankings of the best criminal justice schools in the country.
However, when assembling a college list, rankings shouldn’t be the only factor in your decision. Some students may look for a criminal justice degree online. Others may check if criminal justice degree schools on their list have a particular specialty.
The following criminal justice degree schools have been ranked the best criminal justice schools in the country, by U.S. News. However, this does not necessarily mean they will be the best colleges for criminal justice for you specifically. Therefore, it is important to conduct your own research and look at other options besides the very top criminal justice colleges. After all, even they may not offer exactly what you are looking for.
Rutgers University-New Brunswick
Located in New Jersey, Rutgers University-New Brunswick leads the pack of the top criminal justice colleges in the country. Rutgers has three different campuses and offers a criminal justice degree online, making its programs flexible as well. The criminal justice program is one of 120 Rutgers majors students can pursue. It is part of their College of Arts and Sciences and includes both general education courses and courses in subjects like research methods.
One of the best colleges for criminal justice in New England, Boston University has an urban campus in the heart of downtown Boston. Their Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice is designed to prepare students for a variety of career fields. Boston University majors in criminal justice can take electives in subjects like psychology, urban affairs, and juvenile crime. Like with other Boston University majors, students can select the courses within the criminal justice program that best align with their interests.
University of Georgia
Rounding out our list of the top three criminal justice colleges is the University of Georgia, located in Athens. Students must apply to enter the criminal justice program during their sophomore year as the program is one of the most competitive UGA majors. Students are also eligible for a study abroad program at the University of Liverpool, which is not available to other UGA majors.
Top Ten Criminal Justice Colleges
In addition to the top 3 best colleges for criminal justice listed above, there are several other great criminal justice degree schools we want to highlight. As mentioned before, the U.S. News top ten list represents some of the best colleges for criminal justice. Let’s take a closer look at these criminal justice degree schools.
Top 10 Criminal Justice Colleges
We have already discussed the incredible flexibility that Rutgers majors in criminal justice have in completing their program. In addition to this flexibility, Rutgers majors in criminal justice have access to peer advisors throughout their progression through the major. Rutgers also offers course descriptions for students to preview. Looking at specific courses you’ll be required to or have the option to take can be incredibly helpful when comparing different criminal justice programs.
In addition to its extensive series of elective courses in Criminal Justice, Boston University also offers Master’s degrees and graduate certificates in fields like Cybersecurity and Crime Scene Analysis. These programs allow students who have completed their Boston University majors in criminal justice to earn a more advanced criminal justice degree online. These certificates can lead to a higher criminal justice degree salary and give applicants for specialized positions an advantage over others.
Students attending the University of Georgia for Criminal Justice have access to extensive career mentoring and preparation for jobs in a wide range of fields. Criminal justice UGA majors are required to complete an internship in their fourth year of study. Not only do students get hands-on experience; but they are also prepared to earn a higher criminal justice degree salary after they graduate.
Located in East Lansing, Michigan State University is one of the top 5 best colleges for criminal justice. It also ranks at #60 among all national universities, according to U.S. News. As a top research university, Michigan State provides access to research opportunities not always available outside the best colleges for criminal justice. Students studying criminal justice at MSU also have access to tailored academic advising and career development help. This includes guidance for those looking to increase their criminal justice degree salary by entering law school.
Penn State is also one of the best criminal justice degree schools in the country. Several campuses at Penn State offer criminal justice. Students can even earn their criminal justice degree online through the Penn State World Campus. Many Penn State graduates go on to careers in places like the FBI, U.S. Marshal’s office, and courts around the country.
Located in Washington, D.C., George Washington is the sixth school on our list of the best criminal justice schools. At GW, students can combine their criminal justice major with a major in criminology or public administration. Situated in the nation’s capital, GW is also surrounded by internship opportunities. Indeed, it is one of the best colleges for Criminal Justice majors looking to enter a career in politics or policymaking.
Located in Villanova, Pennsylvania, Catholic-affiliated Villanova University is another one of the best criminal justice colleges in the country. Unlike some other criminal justice colleges, Villanova offers a major exclusively in criminology. This makes it one of the best colleges for criminal justice students who want to work to improve the justice system for vulnerable populations.
Located in Bloomington, Indiana, IU is the state’s biggest public university and one of the best criminal justice colleges in the entire country. As a large state university, IU Bloomington is one of the top criminal justice colleges at the undergraduate and graduate levels. IU also offers an accelerated master’s degree program. Graduates are prepared for positions with a higher criminal justice degree salary, including higher-level law enforcement or government jobs.
A satellite of the New Brunswick campus, Rutgers University-Newark is also on our list of best criminal justice colleges. Rutgers Newark is on this list of top criminal justice colleges because it has a dedicated college of criminal justice on campus. Students can also join Alpha Phi Sigma, a criminal justice Honors Society that has chapters at many of the best colleges for criminal justice.
The final school on our list of the best colleges for criminal justice in the U.S. is the University of Illinois-Chicago. This is one of the Midwest’s best criminal justice colleges because it combines training in criminal justice topics with a broader liberal arts education. Like many other UIC majors, their Criminology, Law, and Justice major has writing and general education requirements baked into their curriculum.
Attending the best colleges for Criminal Justice
Each of the best colleges for criminal justice listed above will give you a high-quality education. However, it is important when researching schools to consider which criminal justice jobs you might want to pursue. There are many factors that determine which of the best colleges for Criminal Justice will be the best fit for you. Some common factors include size, location, campus environment, and financing options! Some students also evaluate whether they can earn a criminal justice degree online or at a public university, like CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Therefore, it is important to do your own research into the best criminal justice colleges. Most college websites allow you to look at course listings so you can see exactly what their criminal justice department offers. If you have a specific specialty in mind, like forensic science or race/gender studies, you can check for those courses during your research. There is no universal criminal justice degree; schools all have unique requirements and offerings.
Requirements can also look vastly different when considering in-person, hybrid, and online programs. If you’re interested in potentially earning your criminal justice degree online, be sure to check how online courses and requirements differ from in-person courses and requirements.
You can also look at graduate outcomes to get a sense of your potential criminal justice degree salary post-graduation. Certainly, the best colleges for criminal justice have reputations to match. The more prominent the school, the better your chances are of getting good internships and good jobs down the road.
For example, colleges in major cities like George Washington, Penn State, and Boston University are near some of the highest courts in the country. Criminal justice majors at these schools, therefore, may have easier access to top internships. Other schools like Rutgers and UGA offer accelerated pathways for criminal justice majors to enter their top law schools. This can help them get advanced criminal justice degrees faster.
Since we’re discussing location, let’s take a look at the best colleges for criminal justice in Texas, California, and New York.
Criminal Justice Colleges in Texas
First, let’s learn more about some of the best colleges for criminal justice in Texas. The following Texas criminal justice colleges have been ranked on the 2024 Best Colleges in Texas list by U.S. News:
- Abilene Christian University
- Angelo State University
- Concordia University Texas
These are some of the best criminal justice colleges available to those interested in attending top criminal justice colleges in Texas. Some even offer a criminal justice degree online, making them a good option for students looking for flexibility.
Texan Criminal Justice Colleges
Abilene Christian University
One of the top criminal justice colleges in Texas is Abilene Christian University. ACU was founded in 1906 in Abilene, Texas, and is home to just under 4,000 undergraduate students. This private university is considered one of the best colleges for criminal justice thanks to the breadth of their program’s curriculum. Courses include topics such as Ethics & Professionalism in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Leadership.
Criminal Justice college majors at ACU have the opportunity to pursue either a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science. ACU prepares students for a wide range of entry level criminal justice jobs in federal, state, and local law enforcement as well as probation and parole services. Students can even pursue experiential learning opportunities, including internships at all governmental levels.
Angelo State University
Ranked #38 in Top Public Schools by U.S. News, Angelo State University prepares students for careers in law enforcement, the court system, and beyond. If you aren’t able to attend classes at ASU’s campus in San Angelo, don’t worry. ASU allows students to pursue their criminal justice degree online as well as in a hybrid format.
As such, ASU is one of the top criminal justice colleges for students looking to earn their criminal justice degree online. And, it’s a great option for those interested in attending a school with a military-friendly reputation. Like other great criminal justice degree schools, Angelo State University supports their students’ career development through internship opportunities and networking events.
Concordia University Texas
If you’re looking for more top criminal justice colleges that offer a criminal justice degree online, consider Concordia University Texas. Or, you can enjoy in-person classes on Concordia’s beautiful campus (247 acres of protected nature preserve) in Austin, Texas. Fast-forward from its founding in 1926, this private university was recently ranked #79 on the U.S. News Best Regional Universities in the West list.
As a liberal arts college following a Lutheran tradition, Concordia is one of the best colleges for criminal justice for those interested in combining their academic and religious passions. Concordia offers their students an opportunity to explore the intersection of criminal justice and faith while studying at a SACSCOC-accredited university.
These are just a few of the best colleges for criminal justice in Texas. Any one of these schools is a great option for students looking to serve locally after graduation. (Concordia University Texas even provides interested students with what to expect from a criminal justice degree salary after graduation here).
Criminal Justice Colleges in California
Now, let’s discuss some of the best colleges for criminal justice in California:
- Cal State Long Beach
- San Diego State University
- Cal State Fullerton
Criminal justice is just one of many great college majors offered at these prestigious schools. So not only are these considered top criminal justice colleges in California. They’re also considered some of the best colleges in the state, as ranked by U.S. News.
Californian Criminal Justice Colleges
Cal State Long Beach
The first of our California criminal justice colleges is located in Long Beach, CA. Founded in 1949 and ranked #51 in Top Public Schools in the country, California State University–Long Beach offers students the opportunity to pursue a BS in Criminology & Criminal Justice.
This degree is offered through the School of Criminology, Criminal Justice and Emergency Management (CCJEM). Their courses equip students with the communication, leadership, sociocultural competency, and critical thinking skills needed to ethically and effectively serve their communities. After graduation, students go on to pursue a variety of entry level criminal justice jobs in the court system, correctional institutions, and disaster recovery services.
San Diego State University
Tied with Cal State Long Beach in Top Public Schools and founded over 50 years earlier is San Diego State University. SDSU offers their students a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice. Graduates of their program have gone on to work at the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and Child Advocates of Silicon Valley.
One aspect that sets SDSU apart from other criminal justice colleges is their program’s dedication to teaching through a social justice policy lens. Going above and beyond the general curriculum, students will also learn about how the criminal justice system impacts individuals, groups, and larger organizations. In line with this inclusive perspective, SDSU offers numerous exchange programs in top criminal justice colleges around the world, allowing students to pursue their studies in places like Madrid, Edinburg, and Berlin.
Cal State Fullerton
Another great CSU campus where students can study criminal justice is California State University–Fullerton, located in Fullerton, CA. This public university, founded in 1957, is one of the best colleges for criminal justice in California. Ranked #70 in Top Public Schools, CSU’s Fullerton campus offers a B.A. in criminal justice, with a curriculum drawing from philosophy, psychology, public administration, sociology, political science, and law.
Students can choose to engage in unique courses, such as White Collar Crime or Animals, Law, & Society. Beyond simply offering criminal justice college majors, CSU Fullerton offers countless student opportunities to enhance their educational experience through student associations and internships.
At this point, we’ve covered the best colleges for criminal justice in Texas and California. Now, let’s turn our attention to the East Coast and look at some of the top criminal justice colleges in New York.
Criminal Justice Colleges in New York
Lastly, here are some of the best colleges in New York for criminal justice:
- Rochester Institute of Technology
- University of Albany–SUNY
- Adelphi University
These criminal justice colleges offer plenty of opportunities to pursue a BA or BS in criminal justice. Keep reading to learn more about these three criminal justice colleges (and stay tuned to hear about an additional great school located on the west side of Manhattan, right in the heart of New York City).
New York Criminal Justice Colleges
Rochester Institute of Technology
Ranked #98 in National Universities and #42 in Best Value Schools is Rochester Institute of Technology. Located in Rochester, NY, Rochester Institute of Technology offers a BS in criminal justice which explores issues of law, justice, policies, and decision-making through classroom instruction, career-oriented internships, and opportunities for cooperative education.
Those already interested in pursuing a more advanced degree can pursue a combined accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s degree in criminal justice. This option allows students to delve more heavily into research and earn both their BA/MS in just five years.
University of Albany–SUNY
Located in Albany, NY, the University at Albany–SUNY is a high-powered, research-focused public institution (ranked #70 in Top Public Schools). A BA in criminal justice here qualifies students to pursue careers in law enforcement, government, research, non-profit agencies, graduate or law school.
Criminal justice students at the University at Albany–SUNY can engage in hands-on learning opportunities. For example, students can pursue internships with local, state, and federal law enforcement, government agencies, and non-profit organizations that intersect with criminal justice. Students can also look to complete an accelerated undergraduate/graduate degree while studying at the University of Albany–SUNY.
Just an hour outside New York City is Adelphi University. This university, ranked #67 in Best Value Schools, offers students the opportunity to earn a BS in criminal justice at their campus in Garden City, NY. This major is interdisciplinary, meaning students will take courses in several different departments, including psychology, social work, anthropology, political science, and sociology.
Students can take elective courses in juvenile delinquency, organized crime, and forensic dentistry. Besides their in-depth curriculum, students have exceptional hands-on learning opportunities with organizations like BronxConnect, an alternative to detention, the Nassau County Police Department, and the NYCPD.
These are just a few of the top criminal justice colleges in New York. As a bonus, we want to highlight another great criminal justice college, this one in New York City.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Unlike other criminal justice colleges, where criminal justice is one of many diverse college majors offered by the school, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice was established with a specific focus on criminal justice. The John Jay College of Criminal Justice offers 31 unique undergraduate majors, including Criminology, Criminal Justice Management, Criminal Justice: Crime Control & Prevention, and Criminal Justice: Institutional Theory & Practice.
No matter what you are looking for, there are countless fantastic criminal justice colleges all over the country. Now, let’s take a closer look at what it takes to earn a criminal justice degree.
How long does it take to get a criminal justice degree?
Like other undergraduate college majors, a criminal justice degree typically takes four years to complete. This degree can be attained through in-person programs at criminal justice colleges, hybrid programs, or through criminal justice degree online programs. No matter which of the best colleges for criminal justice you choose, coursework will cover topics relating to the legal system, law enforcement, and the broader criminal justice system. The criminal justice major in college prepares students for entry level criminal justice jobs in law enforcement, corrections, legal analysis, and policy development.
However, many criminal justice degree schools offer programs at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels. Each degree level represents a stepping stone. The higher the degree, the more in-depth the curriculum, and the more opportunities to further develop skills and progress careers beyond entry level criminal justice jobs.
The decision on which type of criminal justice major in college you pursue depends on your individual career goals, timeframe, and desired level of expertise. Let’s discuss each of the criminal justice degree options, including which kinds you can complete through criminal justice degree online programs.
An associate degree in criminal justice typically requires two to three years of full-time study at community criminal justice colleges. The curriculum incorporates general studies and topics like law enforcement, criminal law, and community relations. This degree opens the door to entry level criminal justice jobs such as a police officer or paralegal. Generally, those with an associate degree in criminology can gain some experience in the field and apply their credits to a bachelor’s degree at the best colleges for criminal justice later if desired.
If you are interested in earning your Associate Degree online, check out this article on getting an Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree by U.S. News. You’ll find more information on required courses and things to keep in mind when researching online programs.
Next, we have a Bachelor’s degree. A Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice requires four years of full-time study at criminal justice colleges. With this degree, you gain a more diverse and in-depth understanding of crime, criminal behavior, and the criminal justice system. Some criminal justice colleges also allow you to specialize in areas like corrections, forensics, or juvenile crime. A bachelor’s degree from criminal justice colleges prepares students for entry level jobs in criminal justice and beyond in various areas like law enforcement, detective work, and probation.
If you need more flexibility to complete a Bachelor’s program, you can find schools that offer part-time programs. (This is an option for Boston University majors in criminal justice!) However, not all top criminal justice colleges have an online Bachelor’s program. For example, you won’t find online UGA majors in criminal justice or online Rutgers majors in criminal justice. For schools that do offer a criminal justice degree online, it is sometimes only at the Master’s level.
Finally, we have a Master’s degree. A Master’s in criminal justice requires two to three more years of education following a bachelor’s degree at the best colleges for criminal justice. This advanced degree is for those looking to develop their education and skills even further and can help you get the best criminal justice jobs in specialized fields and boost your career.
Some of the best colleges for criminal justice (undergrad) offer a graduate criminal justice degree online. For example, you’ll find many Boston University majors have online Master’s programs, including criminal justice. If completing courses online better suits your lifestyle, check out some of the criminal justice degree online programs we have mentioned.
What can you do with a degree in criminology?
Like most college majors, there is no one set career path for students who choose to earn a degree in criminal justice. However, before you dive headfirst into pursuing a degree at the best colleges for criminal justice, you want to be sure your chosen major in college aligns with your future career goals.
So, of all the Boston University majors, Rutgers majors, and UGA majors (just to name a few), why pick a degree in criminal justice? To help answer that question, let’s explore some of the best criminal justice jobs available for criminal justice majors.
Common Jobs for Criminal Justice Majors
Earning a criminal justice major in college provides plenty of varied career opportunities. A criminal justice degree from the best colleges for criminal justice can open doors to help you achieve your career goals. This is true whether you want to serve on the front lines of law enforcement or develop a career in law. Some of the entry level criminal justice jobs and more advanced jobs available to those who attain a criminal justice degree include:
- Law enforcement officers
- Corrections officers
These are just a few examples of jobs that are part of the criminal justice field. A criminal justice degree offers a variety of opportunities that cater to different interests and skill sets. For example, UGA majors in criminal justice go on to a variety of criminal justice-related positions, ranging from Victim’s Advocates to Juvenile Probation Officers to Court Clerks.
Before you select which criminal justice degree schools you may be interested in, you should first do thorough research on the field. While your mind may immediately go to careers in traditional law enforcement roles, a career in criminal justice extends to other industry sectors. This includes government intelligence agencies, private firms that deal with cybersecurity, non-profits, forensic specializations, and more.
These are just a few of the many opportunities available to criminal justice majors. Ultimately, it is up to you to figure out what aligns best with your passions and interests so you can determine the best criminal justice jobs for you.
Entry level criminal justice jobs
Studying at the best criminal justice degree schools opens doors to various entry level criminal justice jobs in the field. Entry level criminal justice jobs provide an opportunity for hands-on experience and are often the starting point for successful careers. However, don’t feel like these are the only options available to you. For instance, Rutgers majors in criminal justice can also find opportunities at the managerial level in criminal justice agencies at the country, state, and federal levels.
For now, let’s discuss three common, and highly attainable, entry level criminal justice jobs.
Entry level Criminal Justice Jobs
Police officers are responsible for patrolling neighborhoods, controlling traffic, responding to emergency calls, and enforcing laws. Requirements for this career may differ by state, but overall, candidates with some college experience are preferred, making an associate degree in criminal justice a great option.
Corrections officers work in jails or prisons to maintain security, oversee inmate activities and privileges, and enforce rules. Just as the police officer prerequisites, corrections officer’s requirements may differ upon facility. Most correctional facilities require their officers to have a high school diploma. However, some facilities, such as federal prisons, require officers to have at least an associate or bachelor’s degree.
If your criminal justice degree offers some background and focuses on the law, you could also look to become a paralegal. A paralegal assists lawyers by drafting and filing paperwork, researching case laws, and interviewing witnesses and defendants. While degree requirements will vary, this job can typically be done with an associate degree.
As can be seen, there is a wide variety of entry level criminal justice jobs for those looking to build a career in criminal justice. With time and experience in the field, you’ll be sure to advance towards your long-term goals. So, consider your interests and career aspirations when selecting specific entry level criminal justice jobs and plan how you wish to advance!
How much do criminal justice majors make?
A criminal justice major in college makes you eligible for a wide variety of entry level criminal justice jobs. When planning ahead, it’s important to consider the potential criminal justice degree salary of the job you desire.
In the table below, you’ll find some of the best criminal justice jobs and their national average criminal justice degree salary, according to Indeed. Please note that the following jobs and their respective criminal justice degree salary are not all considered entry level criminal justice jobs.
Criminal Justice Degree Salary–National Averages
|National average criminal justice degree salary
|Law enforcement officer
The average criminal justice degree salary in 2021 was $71,318. However, it’s important to remember that no matter the job, your criminal justice degree salary can vary significantly based on location. According to Data USA, the highest-paying locations for criminal justice and corrections jobs are cities in Georgia, New York, and Florida. For a more in-depth analysis of geographic and industry variations in criminal justice degree salary ranges, check out this map.
Is criminal justice the right major for you?
If you’re considering applying to criminal justice degree schools, you will want to consider how a criminal justice degree aligns with your abilities and interests.
On a broad scale, the criminal justice field is a compilation of studies like psychology, sociology, law, and public administration. There’s a reason why many of the best criminal justice jobs look for students with a college degree. These jobs require a thorough understanding of the legal system, a desire to promote justice, and an interest in exploring the complexities of criminal behavior. If this sounds like what you are interested in, a degree from the best colleges for criminal justice might be right for you!
Some of the skills and aptitudes a student wanting to attend criminal justice degree schools should possess are:
- Strong critical thinking and communication skills
- The ability to analyze information objectively
- Demonstration of good judgment and a sound moral compass
- A desire to help others
If this sounds like you, take the time to research the criminal justice field, along with the best colleges for criminal justice, further.
Best Colleges for Criminal Justice: Final Thoughts
We hope this article has taught you more about the best colleges for criminal justice and the entry level criminal justice jobs available to you once you’ve earned your degree! Just like all degrees, you must do plenty of research on the criminal justice degree and compare the top criminal justice colleges you’re considering. You may also want to consider your desired criminal justice degree salary when doing your research.
Take time to explore the specific curriculum of the best colleges for criminal justice, the values of the top criminal justice colleges, available concentrations, and opportunities like internships and student associations. For instance, consider if you would prefer pursuing your criminal justice degree online at a program like Springfield College, or if you would prefer the traditional in-person track. While you may come across lists of top criminal justice colleges, the best one for you will be the one that aligns with your interests and needs.
Balancing your application
When trying to get into the best colleges for criminal justice, make sure to submit polished and impressive applications. Our advice for getting into any top university on your college list is to maintain a solid academic record, participate in extracurricular activities related to criminal justice, and write a glowing personal statement that highlights your passion for the field.
As always, CollegeAdvisor is here to help you prepare for your college application cycle, submit the best applications possible, and earn acceptance to the best colleges for criminal justice. Don’t hesitate to reach out for one-on-one guidance in researching and applying to top criminal justice schools–good luck!
This essay guide was written by senior advisors Alex Baggott-Rowe and Bailey Bennett. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.