Criminal justice is the application or study of laws regarding criminal behavior. Those who study criminal justice include the police, those working in a judiciary capacity, and lawyers who either defend or prosecute those accused of a crime. It is important that the criminal justice system includes the word justice, since laws applied to those accused of a crime should be fair. Justice also refers not only to the fair trial accorded to the citizens of most countries, but also to the just retribution for victims of a crime, as for example, seeing an offender jailed.
As a field of study, most who will work with parts of the law that involve behavior defined as criminal, will study criminal justice. Training and certification for police officers often is merely called criminal justice. Lawyers with a special interest in either the prosecution or defense of suspected criminals may also choose to major in criminal justice in a four-year degree program. Knowledge of the laws, rights and privileges of victims and suspects is essential to aiming for justice in both the court and law enforcement systems.
The Police Officers learn how to legally administer criminal justice in their capacity as law enforcement. Most hoping to work in law enforcement first study criminal justice and then attend special academies to receive further training.
Criminal justice degree holders can choose from one of several career paths; you can decide to specialize in criminal justice research, consulting. Or, if you prefer, you can pursue a degree that will qualify you for a position which has more hands-on involvement with criminal perpetrators and with the public, such as a law enforcement official. Salaries for criminal justice jobs vary widely, depending upon your area of expertise and the region of the country in which you live. With a criminal justice degree, you'll be qualified to pursue a number of career paths:
- Probation officer
- Private investigator
- Corrections system administrator
- Legal secretary
- Forensic scientist (or criminalist)
Educational requirements for criminal justice degrees vary widely, depending upon your ultimate career goals. For example, making sure each course you take has been accredited by the American Bar Association is one of the primary requirements to become a paralegal. Students who wish to work as legal aides or within the court system will find that a Bachelor's degree is critical, while those who are more interested in forensic investigations will need to obtain a Doctorate to be able to qualify for most jobs.