What Can I Do With a Criminal Justice Degree in New Jersey?

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What is Criminal Justice?


Are you considering enrolling in a criminal justice degree program in New Jersey? Those who are interested in pursuing employment in law enforcement and legal advocacy will find this major most helpful. The knowledge and skills gained, however, may also prove useful when seeking jobs in other related fields. Graduates are generally prepared to work in a wide variety of settings, but will do particularly well in those involving individual and group safety efforts.

Some of the most notable career paths in the field include:

  • Criminology
  • Cyber Security
  • Emergency Management
  • Fire Science
  • Forensic Science
  • Homeland Security

The most successful criminal justice professionals are highly perceptive and frequently possess good judgement. They also tend to enjoy solving problems and are capable of addressing issues quickly and efficiently. While jobs related to criminal justice can be personally fulfilling, they are often physically demanding and potentially dangerous.


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Online Criminal Justice Education in New Jersey


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in protective service occupations is expected to increase by 8% from 2020 to 2030. This is about as fast as the average for all other professions and will result in about 286,400 new criminal justice jobs throughout the nation. It’s important to realize that some professions are expected to see higher rises in employment than others. For example, fire inspectors, security guards, and private detectives are projected to see gains ranging between 11% and 15%.

Criminal justice and law are not considered top industries in New Jersey, but the state will undoubtedly continue to employ large quantities of these professionals as they are essential for maintaining society safety and success. Also, many of the state’s leading sectors rely on, or at least benefit from, professionals in the criminal justice field.

As of May 2021, protective service occupations accounted for 103,960 jobs in New Jersey. The state’s annual mean wage for these professionals was $43,680. This is quite a bit lower than the annual mean wage for all occupations in New Jersey, however, which was $67,120. It’s also lower than the national median annual wage of $46,590 for these occupations. Those in legal professions are likely to fare better. In May 2021, the state employed 33,600 individuals in legal occupations. The annual mean wage for these professionals was $127,840.

There are colleges and universities throughout the nation that offer criminal justice degree programs. While online learning allows students to complete graduation requirements from nearly anywhere in the world where internet access is available, those who intend to find employment in New Jersey should give preference to institutions in the state. Local schools not only offer a more regionally relevant education, but they are also more familiar with requirements and expectations of criminal justice professionals in the area. They can be particularly important for those seeking professions that require state licenses and certifications. Additionally, it is common for colleges and universities to have established relationships with nearby companies and organizations, which may make securing internships and jobs easier.

There are many different kinds of criminal justice professionals in New Jersey, allowing individuals to choose related careers that suit their personal interests and skills best. While there are many opportunities to consider, most jobs deal with creating and upholding societal regulations and laws. It’s also common for those in this field to perform tasks that facilitate holding others accountable for their actions. Some prominent examples include law enforcement, the court system, politics, advocacy, and corrections.

It is important to realize that every state has and maintains its own criminal justice system. This can have a significant impact on the type of jobs available and the amount of education required to apply, as well as the overall processes for submitting applications. Those interested in the field will need to become familiar with their local regulations.

Colleges and universities typically design their criminal justice programs strategically to ensure graduates are properly equipped for successful careers in the state. Classroom instruction and coursework is meant to help students develop skills in communication, empathy, and leadership, all of which are essential to careers in this field. These skills are also often transferrable, making it easier to find employment in other industries.

While not all criminal justice professionals in New Jersey require higher education, those interested in the field will likely benefit from earning degrees. Not only do these individuals qualify for more employment opportunities, but they are more likely to earn promotions and make higher wages.

Prospective students in New Jersey can choose from criminal justice degree programs at every level: associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate. Some colleges and universities also offer relevant graduate certificates. It’s good practice to research intended professions prior to enrolling in academic programs, as this ensures the most applicable degree is achieved.

Online Associate Degree in Criminal Justice (AS)

Associate degrees in criminal justice generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework, which takes full-time students approximately two years to complete. Accelerated programs do exist, however, and these can take as few as 18 months to finish. Specifics vary, but most curriculums are comprised of both general education and major-specific content. Topics commonly covered include American government, law enforcement, judicial processes, and critical thinking.

This type of degree is ideal for individuals seeking a general introduction to the field. Graduates generally qualify for entry-level employment opportunities in the field such as police officer, correctional officer, and more. While degrees may not be necessary to obtain all of these professions in every state, higher education does make candidates more competitive and may qualify professionals for higher pay.

Rather than seeking employment right away, some graduates opt to continue their education by enrolling in bachelor’s degree programs. Those with associate degrees can generally transfer credits earned to other accredited four-year institutions. Many gaining schools will accept between 60 and 90 transfer hours, which means students can enter as juniors instead of freshmen.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice (BS)

Bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice generally consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately four years to complete. As with associate degrees, these programs are typically comprised of both general education and major-specific classes. Core courses relate to topics that are most relevant to the field such as criminology, judicial administration, and legal traditions. Students can also expect to receive extensive instruction in research and writing.

This type of degree is required by some top criminal justice employers, such as the FBI and CIA. It is not, however, necessary for all entry-level professions in the field. Still, many professionals choose to pursue them anyway. Hiring managers often give preference to candidates who possess more education. Graduates are often qualified to work as guidance counselors, child safety advocates, social workers, crime scene investigators, and homeland security specialists.

Alternatively, graduates may opt to continue their education even further by enrolling in master’s degree programs. Prospective graduate students should plan to meet minimum admittance grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) score guidelines.

Online Master's Degree in Criminal Justice (MS)

Master’s degrees in criminal justice generally consist of between 30 and 60 credit hours of coursework, which full-time students can complete within two years. Unlike undergraduate programs, these typically focus solely on major content. Instruction often covers topics in management, data analytics, organizational strategies, and decision-making. It’s also common for students to participate in internships and/or and research projects.

This type of degree is ideal for aspiring and current professionals who intend to apply for leadership roles in the field. Graduates tend to qualify for top management jobs with supervisory components. As these are more prominent roles, salaries tend to be higher.

Online PhD Degree in Criminal Justice (PhD)

Doctorate degrees in criminal justice generally consist of between 50 and 75 credit hours and take full-time students about five years to complete. Programs vary, but most begin with standard classroom instruction before transitioning to more independent study. Students are typically given time to research and write dissertations, which they must defend prior to graduating.

However, this type of degree is not often necessary for employment in the field. It is most appropriate for those interested in research professions related to criminal justice. Alternatively, graduates can choose to seek employment as postsecondary educators at the collegiate level. Research and academia can both be lucrative professions. Other employment prospects include social service director, information systems manager, forensic scientist, and police chief.

Become a Criminal Justice Professional in New Jersey


The first step to becoming a criminal justice professional in New Jersey is identifying your ideal profession. Most jobs in the field require some level of higher education. The amount needed, however, will vary based on the job. With so many careers to choose from, narrowing down your interests can make it significantly easier to select an appropriate degree program. This also ensures you obtain the necessary knowledge, skills, training, and experience to be successful.

You should also realize that many colleges and universities offer opportunities to select academic concentrations or sub-field specializations. Designating a concentration can help you differentiate your knowledge and skills from others.

Some of the most common specialties available in criminal justice are:

  • Crime Scene Investigation
  • Homeland Security
  • Legal Studies
  • Cyber Security

Institutions may facilitate internships with nearby companies and organizations. Participating in an internship program can be very beneficial. While the majority of these opportunities are unpaid, you will gain extensive hands-on experience in the field that may be applicable to employment in the future. The experience also looks good on resumes and, in some cases, leads directly to full-time occupations.

After completing all of the necessary academic requirements, you may also want to obtain certifications and/or licenses. These credentials may be offered by the state government, state boards, professional associations, and third-party organizations. Offerings will vary depending on your intended profession and areas of interest. Earning additional credentials can improve competitiveness in the job market and increase wage potential.

A common employer for criminal justice majors in the state is the New Jersey State Police. Those interested in becoming state police officers will need either bachelor’s degree from accredited institutions or associate degrees with at least 24 months of satisfactory employment and/or military experience by the application cut-off date. Alternatively, candidates may qualify if they possess 30 college credits and at least 24 months of active duty military service. Applicants must also be United States citizens, at least 21 years old, and possess a current, valid driver’s license. Those who have been convicted of an indictable office, possess two or more DUIs, or were dishonorably discharged from any branch of military service will be automatically disqualified.

Ultimately, academic and experiential requirements vary based on your intended profession. You should always review state rules and regulations carefully to ensure you obtain the correct education, training, and credentials prior to applying.

Careers for Criminal Justice Graduates


Obtaining a criminal justice degree can lead to a number of career options in New Jersey. The amount of higher education required will vary, as will the required duties and resulting salaries. Some of the most common relevant job options in the state include the following.

  • Crime Scene Investigator (CSI)
    Crime scene investigators secure and examine crime scenes. They spend most of their time determining which scenes require further investigation, searching for evidence, and monitoring work performed by forensic investigators. These professionals are also responsible for determining which pieces of evidence should be examined further. According to PayScale, crime scene investigators make an average base salary of $48,300 per year.
  • Paralegal
    Paralegals assist lawyers, often by performing research on assigned cases and offering various legal support services. They frequently meet with clients, file paperwork, and appear in court. These professionals also conduct interviews, edit pleadings, and help review relevant legal documents. According to PayScale, paralegals make an average base salary of $49,100 per year.
  • Private Investigator or Detective
    Private investigators are contracted to find and/or analyze information and/or people for others. They can be hired to complete a wide variety of tasks, including investigating financial dealings and discovering personal details about others. Depending on the job, these professionals may conduct surveillance, research possible criminal activities, conduct background checks, and organize important documentation. According to PayScale, private detectives and investigators make an average hourly wage of $23.71, which equates to an average of $58,500 per year.
  • Probation Officer
    Probation officers assist and support criminal offenders after being released from prison. They often work to ensure individuals do not commit additional crimes and try to keep truly dangerous criminals from reentering society. These professionals may work with local law enforcement, the courts, and sentencing judges to identify the safest and fairest outcomes for convicts. According to PayScale, probation officers make an average base salary of $44,450 per year.
  • Social Worker
    Social workers provide assistance to patients and their families working through emotional and/or social problems. They are responsible for providing the needed resources and tools for patients to productively address their issues. Depending on the circumstances, these professionals may make referrals to appropriate specialists and/or serve as advocates in order to facilitate education and support-related programs. According to PayScale, social workers make an average base salary of $48,900 per year.
  • State Trooper
    State troopers are similar to police officers, performing many of the same tasks. They often patrol assigned areas, obtain information about alleged crimes, and complete related paperwork. These professionals are also authorized to perform property searches and make formal arrests. According to PayScale, state troopers make an average base salary of $56,150 per year.
  • Substance Abuse Counselor
    Substance abuse counselors diagnose and treat people who are struggling with drug and/or alcohol addiction. They often develop and track individualized treatment plans, as well as providing one-on-one and/or group counseling. These professionals also work with patients to identify and eliminate possible substance abuse triggers. According to PayScale, substance abuse counselors make an average base hourly rate of $17.72, or $40,250 per year.
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