Other Specialties in Criminal Justice

A criminal justice degree can certainly get you started on a successful career in law enforcement, but what about fields outside of law enforcement? Fortunately, there are nearly as many challenging and rewarding criminal justice careers outside of the field of law enforcement as there are within it. Many of these fields are centered around in-depth investigation and study, requiring intellectual rather than physical dexterity.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA): The dark and shadowy CIA is renowned by TV and movie fans as the country’s base for spy activity and covert operations. The reality of the CIA is not far from this, though it is a little more complicated. CIA agents pursue a mission to gather foreign intelligence in order to provide the president with the insight necessary to make decisions regarding national security and foreign relations. Much of what the CIA investigates has to do with the threat of nuclear and chemical weapons and the drug trade. A degree is not necessary to hold clerical positions in this organization, though intelligence analysts and overseas agents often have an advanced degree.

Crime Scene Investigation (CSI): As its corresponding TV show suggests, crime scene investigators do the complex evidence gathering and analysis at crime scenes ranging from home invasions and burglaries to sexual assaults and homicides. Working with law enforcement to complete investigations, crime scene investigators are responsible for finding, packaging and sending physical evidence to the lab for analysis, completing reports concerning their findings and if necessary, testifying in court. An expertise in anatomy, physics or another science is helpful in this field, along with knowledge of laws and general police practices.

Private Investigator: These professionals may be called upon by a variety of clients for a variety of reasons. Private investigators are often hired to gather information about a specific person, ranging from a simple background check to undercover surveillance or monitoring. PI’s use access to public records along with their own evidence gathered through photographs, video, visual surveillance and other means to track or investigate a person in cases involving infidelity, child support, fraud or other civil violations. Investigators are also hired by lawyers to uncover the details of a case, to help interview witnesses, and occasionally to help present the case in court.

Paralegal: Lawyers rely on these legal assistants to manage information for them, including preparing and drafting documents, interviewing clients, organizing notebooks for trial, assisting with research and writing legal briefs. Working closely with their lawyers, paralegals rely on intellect, listening skills and reasoning abilities to accurately and efficiently carry out the work required of them, as well as interpersonal skills to effectively interview clients.

Criminologist: The study of crime and criminals is the domain of these professionals, as they study and analyze criminal behavior and laws, ultimately endeavoring to explain the criminal mindset. Their field is general and broad, though it provides keen insight into the motivations behind criminals, the circumstances that produce crime and the effect of laws on crime. Many criminologists conduct their own research as they teach at a college or university, and others are employed by federal and state agencies as policy advisors. Most criminologists have either a master’s degree or a PhD.