What is Criminal Justice?
Criminal justice is a field of study that can lead to many different career paths in law enforcement and other related fields. If you're interested in pursuing a career in criminal justice, there are many colleges and universities in Tennessee that offer degree programs in this area of study.
A criminal justice professional is someone who works in the field of criminal justice, which includes law enforcement, corrections, and the courts. These professionals work to keep the public safe by investigating crimes, apprehending offenders, helping to ensure that they are brought to justice, and keeping them locked away if they are deemed a danger.
Criminal justice professionals come from a variety of backgrounds, but all have one thing in common: a commitment to public safety. Some of the most common positions in this field include police officers, detectives, federal agents, probation officers, and correctional officers. Each of these professionals plays an important role in keeping our communities safe.
Police officers are the first responders to crime scenes and are responsible for investigating crimes and apprehending suspects. Detectives conduct more in-depth investigations into crimes and work to piece together evidence to solve cases. And corrections officers keep an eye on those who are sent to jail or prison.
Online Criminal Justice Education in Tennessee
Note that, though they are part of the criminal justice system, those who wish to work as lawyers or in other parts of the court system need special training above and beyond a criminal justice degree, but earning a criminal justice bachelor’s degree can be a great first step even for those careers.
Some of the most popular criminal justice degree programs in Tennessee include associate and bachelor's degrees in criminal justice, and there are also master's degrees and doctorates in related fields, such as criminology. Many of these programs are offered at both public and private colleges and universities across the state.
Criminal justice colleges and degree programs are designed to prepare students for a career in law enforcement or other criminal justice-related fields. These programs typically include coursework in topics such as constitutional law, criminology, and forensics, among others. Graduates of criminal justice programs can find work as police officers, detectives, federal agents, correctional officers, or probation officers.
If you're interested in pursuing a career in criminal justice, there are many colleges and universities in Tennessee that offer degree programs in this area of study.
Online Associate Degree in Criminal Justice (AS)
An associate degree in criminal justice is a two-year degree that can be obtained at many community colleges and some four-year universities. These degrees provide students with an introduction to the field of criminal justice and can lead to careers in law enforcement, corrections, and private security, among others.
Students who obtain an associate degree in criminal justice typically take courses in criminology, criminal law, and police procedures. They may also take courses in sociology, psychology, and communications. The degree provides students with the basic skills and knowledge necessary to pursue a career in criminal justice, or to move into another field when they go on to earn a bachelor’s.
Those who complete an associate degree in criminal justice often go on to work as police officers, sheriff’s deputies, or correctional officers. Some may also continue their education by pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the field. Indeed, completing an associate degree from an institution that has a transfer agreement with a four-year school (or at least is fully accredited) can allow you to begin your bachelor’s as a sophomore or junior, rather than starting from the beginning.
Online Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice (BS)
A bachelor's degree in criminal justice can lead to a career in law enforcement, corrections, or victim advocacy. The coursework for a criminal justice degree program typically includes classes in criminology, sociology, psychology, and forensics.
Graduates with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice can pursue careers with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as private security companies. Many entry-level positions in the field of criminal justice require at least a bachelor's degree. However, a bachelor’s degree in this field can also help you find an interim career if you have trouble breaking into the criminal justice field. With the field’s focus on human behavior and how laws work, you might find your way into the fraud department of a call center, assistant manager at a retail store, and more.
Those interested in working in corrections may find positions such as probation officer or correctional officer with a bachelor’s, or the degree can lead to a career as a victim advocate or paralegal. Read more about online programs for a BS in Criminal Justice.
Online Masters Degree in Criminal Justice (MS or MA)
A master's degree in criminal justice can lead to many different types of careers in the criminal justice field. Some of the most popular career paths for those with a master's degree in criminal justice include working as a detective, crime scene investigator, or police administrator.
Those who want to work in upper-level management positions within the criminal justice field will find that a master's degree is very beneficial to their goals. Many agencies require their employees to have a master's degree in order to be eligible for promotion to certain positions. Overall, a master's degree in criminal justice can open up many doors for those looking to enter or advance their career in the criminal justice field. Read more about online programs for a MS in Criminal Justice.
Online PhD Degree in Criminal Justice (PhD)
A PhD in criminal justice is the highest academic achievement one can earn in the field, though it is not required for any field position. A PhD program typically takes four to six years to complete, and focuses on research and writing a dissertation. The dissertation is an original piece of research that contributes new knowledge to the field of criminal justice.
A PhD in Criminal Justice best prepares graduates for careers as college professors or researchers at think tanks or government agencies. Those with a PhD in Criminal Justice often go on to teach at the undergraduate or graduate level or to conduct research on crime, criminals, and the criminal justice system.
Online Criminal Justice Certifications
There are a number of criminal justice certifications that can be obtained either in-person or online through colleges and universities. These certifications can help you obtain a job in the field of criminal justice or move up in your current career. Some of the more common certifications available are those in law enforcement, corrections, and court administration, though there are also a number of forensic certifications for those who are more focused on the scientific side of investigations.
Most criminal justice programs offer some form of certification. Many students choose to get certified in order to improve their chances of getting a job after graduation. Certification can also help one advance in their career if they already have a job in the field.
There are many benefits to having a certification in criminal justice. They can show employers that you have the skills and knowledge necessary for the job and they can also give you an edge over other applicants who do not have a certification.
Individuals who wish to pursue a career in criminal justice can obtain certification through many different organizations. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) offers certification for criminal defense lawyers. Most criminal justice certifications are earned from colleges and universities. The American Bar Association (ABA) offers certification for legal assistants and paralegals who work in the field of criminal law. And the International Association for Identification offers crime scene certifications and special certifications in things like forensic video, fingerprinting, footwear identification, crime scene certification, and more.
Become a Criminal Justice Professional in Tennessee
The criminal justice field is one of the most important in our society. It is responsible for keeping our communities safe and ensuring that justice is served. If you are interested in a career in criminal justice, there are many options available to you. Here are some tips on how to become a criminal justice professional.
Step 1: Get a degree in criminal justice
A career in criminal justice can be both challenging and rewarding. Those who work in this field help to keep our communities safe by investigating crimes and working to prevent future ones. A degree in criminal justice can give you the skills you need to pursue many careers in this field. There are many different types of criminal justice degrees available, so you can choose the one that best fits your interests and goals. A few popular options include degrees in law enforcement, corrections, and forensic science. No matter which degree you choose, you'll likely take courses in topics like constitutional law, criminology, and forensics. Earning a degree in criminal justice can open up doors to many different career paths. Some graduates go on to become police officers or detectives, while others work as probation officers or court reporters.
Step 2: Consider pursuing a higher degree
For those who have already earned a degree in criminal justice, or are already pursuing a career in the field, earning a higher degree can be a great way to advance a career. There are many different types of degrees available in the field, from associate degrees to doctorates. By pursuing a higher degree, individuals can qualify for positions that may have been out of reach before, such as supervisory jobs in law enforcement.
Step 3: Complete any required internships or field placements
If you're interested in a career in criminal justice, you'll need to complete any required internships or field placements. Many criminal justice programs offer internships and field placements as part of the curriculum. This hands-on experience can give you the chance to apply what you've learned in the classroom to real-world situations. Internships and field placements are also a great way to make connections and network with professionals in the field. These connections can be helpful when you're looking for a job after graduation.
Step 4: Pass the required exams and receive certification from a professional organization
In order to become certified by a professional organization, you must take courses and pass exams. The exam you take will vary depending on the organization you are seeking certification from and the certification you are earning. However, all exams will test your knowledge of criminal justice principles and practices. Once you have passed the exam, you will be officially certified and can add your new certification to your resume.
What Can I Do with a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice?
A bachelor's degree in criminal justice provides students with the analytical skills and knowledge needed to work in a variety of careers in the criminal justice system. Graduates can pursue careers as police officers, detectives, federal agents, probation officers, and corrections officers. They can also work as victim advocates, court administrators, or policy analysts.
In addition to positions within the criminal justice system, graduates with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice can also pursue careers in social work, human resources, or education. With further education and training, they may also become lawyers or judges.
Potential Careers for Criminal Justice Graduates
- Emergency Management Coordinator:
An emergency management coordinator is responsible for coordinating the activities of a department built to help towns or states overcome emergency situations. This includes developing and implementing emergency plans and procedures for things such as accidents, wildfires, or flooding (whatever the city or state feels they may need to deal with); training staff on emergency procedures; and responding appropriately to emergencies when they happen.
- Proven experience as an emergency management coordinator or similar role
- Knowledge of emergency management principles and practices
- Excellent communication and organizational skills
- Ability to work under pressure and handle multiple tasks simultaneously
- The median annual wage for emergency management directors in the US in 2021 was $76,730
- The mean annual wage for emergency management directors in Tennessee is $84,020
- Forensic Psychologist:
A forensic psychologist is a professional who uses their psychological training to assist in criminal investigations. They work with law enforcement, attorneys, and the courts to provide psychological insights into cases.
- A PhD or PsyD in Forensic Psychology
- A state license to practice psychology
- Several years of experience working with criminals
- The median annual wage for psychologists in the US in 2021 was $81,040
- The mean annual wage for clinical and counseling psychologists in Tennessee is $108,560
- Social Worker:
A social worker will provide support and guidance to families and individuals who are experiencing difficulties in their lives. They will work with clients to help them overcome these challenges and improve their overall wellbeing.
- A bachelor’s degree in social work or a related field
- A minimum of two years’ experience working with families and individuals in a social work setting
- Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
- Strong organizational and time management skills
- The median annual wage for social workers in the US in 2021 was $50,390
- The mean annual wage for mental health and substance abuse social workers in Tennessee is $41,190 and social workers (all other) earn $48,350
- K9 Officer:
A K9 officer is responsible for handling and training police dogs. They may also be responsible for selecting appropriate dogs for police work, as well as breeding and raising police dogs.
- Must be physically fit and able to handle large dogs
- Must have experience in handling and training dogs
- Must be able to pass a background check
- The median annual wage for police and detectives in the US in 2021 was $66,020
- The mean annual wage for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in Tennessee is $48,530
- State Trooper:
State troopers are responsible for patrolling highways and responding to emergencies. They may also investigate crimes and provide security at public events.
- Must be at least 21 years old
- Must have a high school diploma or GED
- Must have a valid driver’s license
- Must pass a physical examination
- The median annual wage for police and detectives in the US in 2021 was $66,020
- The mean annual wage for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in Tennessee is $65,360
- Substance Abuse Counselor:
A substance abuse counselor is responsible for providing counseling and support to individuals with substance abuse issues. They will work with clients to identify and address problematic behaviors, develop treatment plans, and provide referrals to resources and support services. These counselors will also collaborate with other professionals to coordinate care and ensure continuity of services.
- Master’s degree in counseling, social work, or a related field
- Licensed as a counselor in the state of practice
- Experience working with individuals with substance abuse issues
- The median annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in the US in 2021 was $48,520
- The median annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in Tennessee is $42,210
- Police Supervisor:
A police supervisor is responsible for the supervision of police officers and the day-to-day operation of the police department. They may set schedules, choose how to respond to emergencies, make decisions about hiring and firing, and choose punitive responses to rule breaking or any on-the-job issues.
- A minimum of 5 years’ experience as a police officer
- A bachelor’s degree in law enforcement or a related field
- Good communication and interpersonal skills
- The median annual wage for first-line supervisors of police and detectives in the US in 2021 was $99,330
- The mean annual wage for first-line supervisors of police and detectives in Tennessee is $65,360
- Corrections Manager:
A corrections manager is responsible for the daily operations of a corrections facility. They oversee the staff and inmates and ensure that the facility runs smoothly and efficiently. They also develop and implement policies and procedures and work with other agencies to ensure the safety of the facility.
- Bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field
- Previous experience working in a corrections facility
- Strong leadership and management skills
- The median annual wage for first-line supervisors of correctional officers in the US in 2021 was $62,220
- The mean annual wage for first-line supervisors of correctional officers in Tennessee is $65,360
- Parole Officer:
A parole officer is a professional who works with offenders who have been released from prison on parole. They are responsible for ensuring that the offender adheres to the conditions of their parole such as meeting with their probation officer, attending counseling sessions, and abiding by a curfew.
- Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field
- 1-3 years of experience working with offenders or in a related field
- Knowledge of parole and probation regulations
- Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
- The median annual wage for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists in the US in 2021 was $60,250
- The median annual wage for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists in Tennessee is $42,790