5 Careers for a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice Graduate

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Updated August 4, 2020

Five Careers for Graduates of Criminal Justice Ph.D. Programs

  • Crime Analyst
  • Chief of Police
  • CIA Special Agent
  • FBI Special Agent
  • Senior Researcher

A college degree often translates into higher pay than when someone only possesses a high school diploma, and a bachelor's degree offers quite a few career paths for the dedicated student. Seeking a master's degree or Ph.D. in the field of law enforcement or the justice system may open even more doors with jobs available in the upper echelons of police departments, government agencies, and research firms.

1. Crime Analyst

A crime analyst performs research for police departments in a variety of ways and is one of the most important problem-solvers in law enforcement. A crime analyst will look at the information and statistics associated with a crime or series of crimes and attempt to detect patterns and trends, as well as figure out future locations where crimes may occur. Not only do crime analysts look at current crimes and assist law enforcement officers in solving them, but they also look at long-term trends to determine solutions. Nationwide budget cutbacks mean crime analysts must often work with significant restrictions on money and resources while delivering essential information to law enforcement.

2. Chief of Police

The chief of police is the head of the police department and manages all operations within it. Duties of the chief of police may vary significantly depending on the size of the department and its location in a large metropolitan area or a suburban community. The chief will coordinate and direct the department via assistants who interact directly with the city's police departments to ensure efficient patrols, investigations, and law enforcement activities. Communication with the community and various administrative services also fall under the chief of police's purview. Before ascending to the job of chief of police, a candidate may need direct experience within the police departments he or she would manage as chief.

3. CIA Special Agent/Investigator

The minimum requirements for becoming a CIA Special Agent or Investigator include a bachelor's degree and at least three years of investigative experience, according to the job description published by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Additionally, the candidate must complete the Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP) before applying for the position or after receiving an offer of employment. A doctorate in criminal justice may help an applicant to the CIA secure a position with excellent pay and significant responsibilities. The CIA actually recommends that anyone who applies for a job as a Special Agent exercises discretion and only discloses his or her intention to apply for work with the CIA when absolutely necessary.

4. FBI Special Agent

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has many requirements for becoming an FBI Special Agent, and they share that it's "so much more than a job" on the official FBI career website. The agency describes its application process as quite challenging where successful candidates must be willing to report for assignments around the world that may feature temporary or long-term duties. Sometimes FBI Special Agents will be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Applicants with a graduate degree or better may be able to qualify for a career with the FBI with a reduction in the number of required years of relevant work experience.

5. Senior Researcher

Conducting research on criminal matters, law enforcement, and the justice system is a task for which a Ph.D. holder is well suited. Ideal candidates for the role of Senior Researcher will have a Ph.D., as well as significant experience in criminal and/or juvenile justice matters. Candidates for the role must demonstrate the ability to manage and lead teams for the purposes of conducting, writing, and performing research. Senior Researchers must also understand grant writing, fundraising, and how to make presentations, as well as other ancillary responsibilities. Degree holders may work as Senior Researchers include government, private industry, and non-profit groups.

Resource: 30 Most Affordable Master's in K-12 Education Online From Public Universities 2018

Doctoral candidates often enter college programs to qualify to work as a university faculty member on a tenure track. However, an advanced college degree in the area of law enforcement, justice, or the correctional system may lead to teaching jobs just as often as it will jobs outside education. For Ph.D. holders of criminal justice degrees, earning a terminal degree is one of the best ways to maximize future earnings and work at the highest levels of law enforcement and the justice system.

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