Is Graduate School Required to be Successful in the Criminal Justice Field?

When deciding if graduate school is right for you, consider your overall career goals, the time commitment you are able to make, and the financial resources that you are willing to allocate toward your education. Consider the long-term picture when choosing whether or not to get your advanced degree. According to Dr. Alexis J. Miller, Ph.D., writing for the website Straighterline, criminal justice is an extremely competitive field that is no longer dominated by blue-collar workers.

Becoming a Patrol Officer

This career, according to Dr. Miller, requires at least a bachelor’s degree in addition to completing the police academy. As a beat officer, you’ll need, at a minimum, a basic understand of statistics, writing skills sufficient to complete police reports and some understanding of criminal psychology to work with suspects, all of which are covered in bachelor’s degree.

Career Advancement

As you advance in your career, especially if you aspire to a leadership position, a graduate degree becomes increasingly important. An advanced degree typically offers students the opportunity to specialize in one or two areas of criminal justice, such as sex crimes, juvenile justice or corrections and case management.

Police Chief

If, for example, you want to become a chief of police, consider the major duties of this job. Because the chief’s job requires leadership and management skills, many municipalities, especially in urban areas, look for candidates with a graduate degree in criminal justice. All other factors being considered equal, the candidate with a master’s degree will hold the advantage at decision time.

College Professor

To teach criminal justice at a college level, you’ll need a graduate degree, according to the website, Criminal Justice Career Hub. Because a major component of a college professor’s job is research, you’ll need to be well-versed on advanced statistical methods and research design, which is a major focus of a graduate degree.

Jobs Involving Public Policy

If your dream for a career in corrections involves writing, public interaction or advocacy, a graduate degree is a must. Graduate students learn how to conduct research, form persuasive arguments and present these arguments in a well-written yet understandable format.

Working for the FBI

Criminal profiling requires advanced knowledge of psychological principles, which are taught in a graduate program. Forensic scientists, who present profiling data in court, must be experts in their field and, as such, typically have a doctorate.

Making the Final Decision

Many individuals who have initially earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice work in the field for several years before deciding to return to school to earn their graduate degrees. Returning students find that studying advanced topics in criminal justice gives them the confidence and skills to become better at what they currently do, apply for advanced positions, and educate their peers or write about their experiences for the general public.