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What is Criminal Justice?

The state of Texas, just like California, possesses one of the largest economies worldwide. Based on Gross Domestic Product, this state’s economy stands higher than Russia, Spain, Mexico, and Australia. Forty-five Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in Texas including American Airlines, ExxonMobil, Sysco, and AT&T. That’s not bad for one of the largest states in the US.

The top industries in Texas includes manufacturing, with revenue of $237.7 billion; professional and business services ($212.4 billion); real estate, rental, and leasing ($175.3 billion); mining, quarrying, oil, and gas extraction ($161.7 billion).

Criminal justice professionals aren’t limited to police work. Depending on their goals, they may choose to work in either private or public sectors, wherever they feel that they will be best able to use their talents and knowledge.

Criminal justice jobs range from law enforcement, court roles, corrections, and various other options, such as park rangers, that have fewer openings but might appeal to those looking to get into a criminal justice role. Each area must work well with the others so that defendants convicted of their crimes are punished, victims helped, and communities kept safe.

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Online Criminal Justice Education in Texas

While criminal justice isn’t one of the top industries in the state, there were nearly 5,200 probation officers and treatment specialists employed in a recent year, earning an average of around $50,000/year. And there were around 298,000 employed in all protective services including corrections officers, bailiffs, detectives, fish and game wardens, police, security guards, and more. Overall crime in Texas fell by almost 3% in 2019, though murders grew by 37%.

Crime numbers are periodically released. Law enforcement agencies pay special attention to numbers which affect their community and state. In San Antonio, auto thefts, home burglaries, and rape fell the most in 2020. Corporations may look closely at a state or community’s crime numbers if they are considering relocating or opening an office there. High crime numbers may make them less likely to do so. This is part of what makes law enforcement and criminal justice professionals in general so important to every state, including the Lone Star State.

However, the range of available roles makes it difficult to tell you what you might be doing day-to-day in your new job unless you’ve already decided the exact position you want. Students interested in criminal justice as a career field may choose to work as police officers, where they will likely spend time protecting a specific area before being able to move into a detective or trainer position. Those who wish to work in law may find a position as a paralegal, helping a lawyer to file paperwork and do research, before moving into a higher position in law. Those who are interested in protecting our natural assets might work as park rangers or fish and game wardens and spend most of their time driving through beautiful surroundings, keeping an eye out for people who need help, and even dealing with troublesome wildlife.

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Those who wish to deal with police work or white-collar crime often complete an associate or bachelor’s degree program. You might also need to finish a state-approved training program for police or highway patrol officer roles. Whereas paralegals must complete specialized education, and lawyers must earn graduate degrees to practice law. As you can see, the role you wish to hold will have a huge effect on the requirements you must meet, so you should have your eye on the role you want pretty early in your education.

Online Associate Degree in Criminal Justice (AS)

Students who are looking to earn a criminal justice degree in Texas can choose from an AA or AS in the field. These degrees can be offered as an on-campus or online program, the online route making it more convenient for students who have either work or family commitments. If you are considering earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, you’ll want to ensure that you attend a fully accredited program or one with a transfer agreement with a four-year institution. This way, the credits you earn will easily transfer, allowing you to earn your bachelor’s degree in just two years instead of four.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice (BS)

Those who graduate from an associate degree program in criminal justice may choose to transfer their credits to a bachelor’s completion degree. These are available in criminology, criminal justice, and other options. This is the best way to make use of credit hours you’ve already earned, but those who have not completed an associate degree can start with a bachelor’s from a huge number of schools around the state.

Depending on the campus you choose, you can earn a bachelor of criminology and criminal justice, a Bachelor of Science, a Bachelor of Arts, and even choose to focus on forensic science, law, paralegal studies, or anything else that will help you find your way into your chosen criminal justice role. A bachelor’s degree is the most commonly earned degree and, though it may not be necessary if you wish to work as a police officer, it will help you gain promotions, move into a career as a detective, and more.

Each program teaches crime causation, issues in criminal justice, law enforcement, juvenile justice, about the court system, corrections, and more.

Online Master's Degree in Criminal Justice (MS or MA)

For students interested in graduate school, where you could earn a Master of Criminal Justice, Master of Science in Criminology, and more, these programs are often found in both online and on-campus formats. Students are usually required to complete around 40 credit hours to graduate, though you may need slightly more or less depending on the school and program you choose.

An online degree program in Texas at this level offers graduate students preparation for career advancement in criminal justice, the chance to shift into a similar career through new educational achievements, or the chance to earn a criminal justice doctorate degree. These degree programs usually cover subjects such as criminology, leadership, victimology, homeland security, ethics, and race and ethnicity.

Criminal justice professionals can also choose to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Criminal Justice, which can also be taken online or in person. Here, students may gain a more general business education and combine it with criminal justice knowledge and experience with business operations. Graduates may qualify for management roles in private or public sector organizations.

Online PhD Degree in Criminal Justice (PhD)

Doctorate programs can focus on border security and homeland security issues, along with quantitative research methods, statistics, and criminal justice theory courses. Or they can focus on education. After all, doctoral programs usually focus on preparing graduates to teach at the graduate level or to be a part of important research in their field. Often, they learn to do both.

By the time scholars graduate, they should possess theoretical knowledge, marketable skills, and practical experience from prior positions so that they are ready to fill leadership positions at a high level. These roles may be found in government, academia, or the private sector.

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Become a Criminal Justice Professional in Texas

If you’re looking to become a police officer in Texas, you’ll need to apply, take tests and assessments, interview, complete academy training, pass a licensing exam, and complete field training. However, if you want to work as a border patrol agent, you’ll need to meet certain eligibility requirements, apply online, take the entrance exam, pass a background check and medical and qualifications review, fitness tests, and more. Those who wish to work in forensics will need to earn science-heavy degrees and possibly gain licensure.

As you can see, the requirements for those who wish to work in criminal justice depend heavily upon what exact position you are looking for. However, nearly everyone in criminal justice can benefit from earning certifications or outside credentials that support your chosen role. Those working in forensics might gain an extra skill in their field and the credential to back it up. Like other professionals, criminal justice professionals can earn and hold certifications that are specific to their area of expertise.

These recognitions are vital for both credibility and successful job searches. Professionals in the criminal justice profession should be able to find certifications specific to police, sheriff’s deputies, paralegal, corrections, probation, parole, and more.

  • Certified Law Enforcement Analyst

    Professionals who analyze crime scenes gain foundational skills and knowledge from this certification. These help them to achieve success in carrying out their job duties. Offered by the International Association of Crime Analyst (IACA) this study program teaches professionals the different methods they are able to use in their work. Their work experience, knowledge, skills, and contributions to advancement in this field are all considered.

    Requirements for this certification are:

    • A minimum of three years of full-time experience as an analyst in corrections, law enforcement, intelligence, or related fields
    • Becoming an IACA member
    • Earning at least 100 points for a combination of educational and work experience
  • Certified Crime Scene Investigator

    As long as this professional meets the minimum requirements, they are able to earn this certification.

    These include:

    • Completing at least 100 hours of Crime Scene Certification Board-approved instruction in related courses, earned within the past five years
    • Having a minimum of one year working in activities related to crime scene investigation
  • American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP)

    Paralegals who plan to earn this certification are required to be members of the American Alliance of Paralegals Inc (AAPI). They must also have the required experience and educational criteria to receive certification. No exam is required.


    • 5 years of paralegal experience
    • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution or an Associate degree or certificate from a program recognized by the American Bar Association (ABA)

Careers for Criminal Justice Graduates

  • Psychometrists
    This mental health professional carries out psychological testing. They may obtain data by observing the subject’s practical skills, self-reporting, or reports from related sources. To be successful, psychometrists offer the best testing conditions to ensure their client’s scores are as accurate as possible.
  • Emergency Management Coordinator
    This coordinator develops and readies plans and documents so that their office, law enforcement, and other agencies are able to respond to emergencies such as natural disasters, active shooters, or other things which threaten their community. This professional is responsible for leading the response both before and after the emergency and will work closely with elected officials, government agencies, and public safety officials.

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  • Forensic Accountant
    This accounting professional uses all of their skills as they investigate organizations or individuals accused of financial misconduct. These skills include analysis, accounting, and auditing. They investigate financial crime, write and present reports about what they find, and testify as expert witnesses.
  • Paralegal
    A paralegal assists the lawyers with whom they work but do not provide legal advice. They may interview clients or witnesses, conduct investigations and legal research, and write legal documents, filings, pleadings, and correspondence.
  • Social Work
    A social worker helps groups, families, and individuals who are trying to cope with or prevent problems. A clinical social worker evaluates, diagnoses, and treats clients who suffer from behavioral, mental, and emotional problems. They can help clients adjust to changes and challenges such as divorce, unemployment, or illness. They may research community resources and advocate for clients to receive needed services.
  • Conservation Officer
    Also called fish and game wardens, these officers patrol the land and water of their state. They enforce game and fish law, teach the public about wildlife management and wildlife, carry out wildlife surveys, trap problematic animals, investigate damage caused by wildlife to property and crops, assist in relocating wildlife, and work with other professionals to develop new regulations.
  • Homeland Security Professional
    A homeland security professional is a federal law enforcement officer. A major part of their work is counterterrorism & homeland security. They help different departments by boosting security to keep the US borders and waterways safe. They analyze security intelligence, helping to identify potential terror threats, and write reports about those threats and efforts to mitigate them.
  • Police Supervisor
    This manager directs police officers in carrying out law enforcement responsibilities in a just manner. They are aware of how demanding police work is and they aim to help their officers to do their jobs safely.
  • Crime Scene Investigator
    Crime scene investigators process crime scenes. This requires a high level of attention to detail so that the investigator misses nothing. They may specialize in fingerprint identification, forensic imaging, or other forensic specialties.

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