What Types of Jobs are Available with a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice?

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Updated August 4, 2020

Earning a Ph.D. is a long and challenging process. The career options available with this prestigious degree make it worth the work. Especially in a field as dynamic as Criminal Justice, holding a doctorate degree opens up a wider variety of jobs with greater freedom of professional interest.


Those who pursue Ph.D.s usually do so because they are interested in participating in the expansion of knowledge in their field. This is accomplished through research. While there are ample opportunities to be a research assistant on someone else's project, lead researcher positions are reserved for those with doctorate degrees. Being the lead researcher means having the control over the topics and the design of the studies. Research positions exist in academic settings, private research institutions, and government agencies. For an example, explore information about research currently being conducted through the United States Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs.


Ph.D.s who choose to research through an academic institution typically enjoying teaching, as well. One must hold a doctorate degree to make full-time, tenure track faculty status at universities and even some community colleges. Teaching at this level provides intellectual freedom and the ability to shape young minds and guide students along their own journeys through the field. Being an instructor means becoming an expert in the entire field. It means becoming well versed in the history of the field, as well as maintaining both breadth and depth in knowledge of current information. Holding a doctorate also opens doors for higher education administrative positions, which are perfect for those who wish to influence the education system.

Policy Writing and Lobbying

Those who wish to actively participate in effecting social change might consider writing or lobbying policies. These are both opportunities to advocate for legislation, programs, and funding that will benefit large amounts of people. It is a great career path for those who are passionate, outgoing, and determined to raise awareness. The National Criminal Justice Association offers a great deal of information on what policy writers and lobbyists do, as well as the current areas of interest and progress.


Those who prefer a more hands on role might consider pursuing careers in investigation. Background investigator, criminal investigation specialist, and crime scene investigator are a few common pathways. While none require a Ph.D. to get started, it is an asset for achieving more authoritative positions and higher salaries. The IRS explains some of the various arenas of criminal investigation. Freelance investigators can specialize in areas of interest and work with wide varieties of clients.

Forensic Scientist

Those who enjoyed the more scientific courses in their academic journeys might thrive as a forensic scientist. This career path is perfect for those who would describe themselves as highly analytical and interested in the physical application of knowledge. There are opportunities to work in a wide variety of settings, essentially any place with a need for assimilating physical clues in order to uncover the full picture of a crime.

Criminal justice is an exciting field that prepares individuals for a complex variety of jobs. The higher the degree, the more plentiful and complex the career opportunities available. Consider pursing a Ph.D. if any of the aforementioned jobs are particularly intriguing.

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