Is Criminal Justice a Good Major? The Value of the Degree

A very common question among prospective and current students is whether a degree in criminal justice is a good choice. Is it worthwhile to devote yourself to this course of study?

The answer, of course, isn’t a simple yes or no. Everyone has a different personal situation and an important factor is what you would like to do with the degree after graduation. This article, however, will outline a few key points when considering whether criminal justice is a good or bad major to select.

In some cases, people asking this question are interested in working a career of law enforcement.

In order to become a police officer, however, you very rarely need any particular degree. Some departments might require an associate’s or bachelor’s, while others might only need a high school diploma. Of course, there are more important qualifications than just education, such as passing a rigorous training program. That said, there may be some advantages to having studied criminal justice in your college education. Check out our article Is Criminology a Requirement to Become a Police Officer for a more detailed look at this particular situation.

Another common specific scenario for students wondering about majoring in criminal justice is those who intend to go into law school. Some may think that studying criminal justice might give them the upper hand when applying for schools, but in most cases this won’t actually give you much of an advantage. On the other hand, your GPA and score in the LSAT will be weighed much more heavily, and in some cases admissions committees might actually prefer to see a different subject than criminal justice to show you have a broad background that might make you a better lawyer. A major that is especially heavy on critical thinking or analytical reasoning is a good bet.

In addition to these two scenarios, there are of course many other students who are weighing the pros and cons of a major in criminal justice.

In most of these cases, it is a good idea to consider the type of employment you will seek after receiving your degree. Criminal justice is an especially good major for those who intend to work in corrections, as a parole officer, or in related fields. Other opportunities include gaming surveillance officers and private security. In addition, if you decide to go for an advanced (master’s or PhD) degree, there are additional opportunities such as crime analysts and other research-intensive positions.

If one of these career paths seems right for you, remember that criminal justice isn’t always the best option. Many times an employer will want to see diversity of experiences, and another degree might give you additional opportunities in addition to jobs in criminal justice. You might want to look into sociology, psychology or political science as potential majors. These are all highly relevant to most criminal justice jobs and also allow you to pursue other opportunities should your plans change.

Finally, remember to look closely at the actual programs at the universities you might apply to. The quality can vary tremendously and you should investigate the faculty, courses offered and any resources the university might have to help you with starting your career.