In this article, we will examine some the different areas of law enforcement where a degree in criminal justice is suitable. Law enforcement is a vast field covering areas as city patrol officers, state troopers, corrections officers, border patrol, probation officers, and federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The requirements differs from a high school diploma to a master’s degree (preferably).

Reasons for a Degree

If you tell someone you are going into law enforcement, it is like saying you are going into medicine. Both are broad areas with different degrees depending on your specialty. Some law enforcement jobs mandate a degree, while others will accept a high school diploma. Starting your career with a high school diploma will definitely save you time and money. Starting your career as a police officer with a degree may save your life.

2014 study at Michigan State University of police officers concluded that those with a college degree had fewer assaults, less likely to use force, fewer work-related injuries, and demonstrated greater levels of creativity and problem-solving skills. You may be safer and make more money. For example, Dallas PD automatically gives officers with a bachelor’s degree an additional $300 per month, and offers a bonus pay of $110 to $150 per month for knowing specific foreign languages. Sound reasons to consider a degree. What better degree than criminal justice to fight crime.

Police Officer

You can apply to a police academy with a high school diploma. The qualifications exclusive of your education can be the most difficult to meet. You must have a valid driver’s license, be a U.S. citizen, no DWI convictions in the prior five years, no domestic violence convictions, and no felonies. Some do require at least 60 credits from an accredited college. Applicants with at least three years of military service are exempt from the college requirements.

Therefore, for most city police forces, you do not require a degree. Your evaluation consists on decision-making, judgment and reasoning, problem analysis, problem solving, interpersonal skills, public relations skill, community service orientation, and oral communication. In addition, each applicant undergoes a complete background investigation into his/her general personal reputation, education, driving record, arrest record, drug usage, employment history, special qualifications, and skills.

Border Patrol

Border patrol agents should have a degree. Briefly, there are different levels to being a Patrol Agent. To qualify for the lowest rank, you must have at least three years of work experience that demonstrates your decision-making and ability to maintain composure in potentially dangerous situations. A four-year degree is a substitute for the lack of work experience. Although there is not a requirement that your degree be in a particular field, a bachelor degree in criminal justice may be best for this profession.

State Trooper

The non-educational requirements for state troopers mirror those of city police departments. You need a high school diploma or a GED program. Most states will require that an individual have at least an associate’s degree before entering the academy. The degree does not necessarily have to be in a specific field, but some states prefer that their officers have a background in criminal justice. Some states have more stringent education demands. New Jersey State Police requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Alternatively, an applicant can have an associate’s degree or 60 college credits from an accredited college or university plus at least 24 months of satisfactory employment or military experience.


The mission of the FBI is to protect the American people. They operate internationally. Attaining any position with the FBI requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and three years of work experience or a graduate degree and two years of experience. Your degree selection depends on what role you would like to fill in the agency. FBI Police Officers must possess specialized work experience, a bachelor’s degree in Political Science or a comparable degree program, or a combination of the two. Computer Forensics is another viable degree as forensic examiners have helped apprehend and convict thousands of child pornographers, financial criminals, corporate spies, corrupt public officials, and identity thieves.


According to DrugEnforcementEdu.Org, the DEA are among the federal government’s most highly qualified and comprehensively trained law enforcement professionals. The most eligible candidates have professional skills in linguistics, information technology, law enforcement, or criminal investigations. Special agent candidates who have served honorably in the military or other law enforcement agencies also often receive special consideration.

The minimum requirement for applicants to the DEA is a bachelor’s degree with a 2.95 average. Another criterion is that you have a bachelor’s degree (no minimum GPA requirement) and at least 3 years of specialized experience in any one of the following: engineering, telecommunications, accounting and auditing, piloting aircraft, captaining a sea vessel, or speaking a foreign language. A law or master’s degree will also suffice for applicants. One of the degrees the DEA stipulates is criminal justice. Other preferred degrees are in economics, engineering, sociology, computer science, and finance.

Corrections states that state correctional institutions require only a high school diploma. However, federal prisons require correctional officers to have a four-year degree. Individuals without a bachelor’s degree may also qualify for these jobs if they have at least 3 years of full-time general experience in one or more of the stipulated areas.

Within the prison system, there is a job called a Correctional Treatment Specialist. They work in an advisory capacity and, through counseling, gauge the needs of inmates and develop a plan that the inmates follow while incarcerated and throughout their probation, parole or release. The most common course of study for these specialists is a bachelor’s degree in one of the social or behavioral sciences, such as sociology, social work, psychology, criminal justice, or criminology.