Can I Become a Teacher with a Degree in Criminal Justice?

So you have a degree in Criminal Justice, but your true intentions are to become a teacher, or you’re just not sure and want to find out anyway. To be honest, the answer is not easy and certain factors must be taken into consideration. So, let’s get to it.

I have an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

Too early to qualify for a teaching position, but early enough to change your degree track. Continue reading below to see what I mean…

I have a Bachelor Degree in Criminal Justice

If you have a bachelor degree in Criminal Justice you cannot become a teacher, at least not in most states. There are certain classes you would have to take in order to qualify as a teacher. In addition, you would need student teaching experience in a K-12 school, on top of passing a state exam which will provide you with a license to teach.

A bachelors degree in Criminal Justice offers a lot of “open doors” in the law enforcement field, but you would need a minimum of a Masters level education to have an opportunity to teach at a college level. You still wouldn’t be able to teach grammar or high school students.

I have a Master Degree in Criminal Justice

If you have a masters degree in Criminal Justice you have an opportunity to teach in higher echelons of education. The opportunities may be limited as many colleges and universities, online and off, prefer or require a terminal degree, like:

  • PhD – Doctorate degree; for example a Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice
  • MD – Medical degree, Doctor of Medicine
  • JD – Juris Doctor, known better as a Law Degree

As mentioned before, you can’t teach Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade unless you are licensed by the state to teach.

I have a PhD in Criminal Justice

Well, you don’t really need my advice. If you got that far in your academic undertakings you must already know if you can become a teacher or not.

PhD holders have opportunities that are unmatched by all other levels of education. Yes, they can become professors and researchers at colleges and universities worldwide, but they still can’t teach high school without holding a teaching license.

Hope this cleared things up a little bit.

Article written by Radek Gadek

Radek holds a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University. He is currently doing consulting work and runs this blog to provide relevant information on criminal justice degrees, colleges and related careers.

37 comments… add one
  • Dario

    Hi again, now that I’ve read this article “Can I become a teacher with a degree in C.J.”, that u provided me with. I was worried by this statement you made, “…you have an opportunity to teach in higher echelons of education. The opportunities may be limited as many colleges and universities, online and off, prefer or require a terminal degree”.

    So if you obtain a masters degree in lets say C.J. and wish to teach it in the college(any junior college or four year college), are the job prospects real slim with only a masters?

    And do you have to minor in something like lets say education, to be able to teach in college, or still have to earn an alternative teaching certificate as you do in the lower levels of education, as you mentioned ( from texas)?

    Thanks for all your help.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Very good questions. To help ease the worry I can say that many junior colleges (a.k.a. community colleges) will gladly take in a Master level grad. Now, a four-year + school may not be as quick to do so. This doesn’t mean that you will be out of luck, but it does mean that colleges, universities, and institutes are after those who possess a Doctoral degree – their reputation is on the line.

      It is my recommendation that you do not minor in a field that’s not in proximity to your major, if a minor is available (very often Master level degree programs, online and off, do not have minors – it’s a straight-through degree in most cases).

      As for the certificate, it is my contention that one is not needed unless sanctioned by the state. You should find out about what the requirements are for teaching college level courses in your state. Again, I don’t think you have much to worry about in relation to certificates. Hope this helps.

      Good luck!

  • tamira booqua

    well i am a student at zuni high school and i am interested in the field of criminal justice and i just wanted to have a little pointers on what it takes to be in the criminal justice.

    • Radek M. Gadek


      You might want to take a look at the the careers section on this blog (top navigation) to see what it takes to be in the criminal justice field. You see, the criminal justice field is broad and encompasses many different jobs. Also, there’s a great post regarding high school and criminal justice colleges – make sure to read the comments on that one. Take care.

  • Susan

    hey i am so confused with what to do with my life. i graduated with a bachelors in criminal justice in may and literally have no clue what to do with my degree. unfortuantely in college i recieved a dwi so my intentions of doing law enforcement or probation have been thrown out the door since i live in texas. im so sad bc i feel like i cant do anything in this state with my degree. i want a stable life where im bringing in atleast 60k or up but i dont know what direction to take to even get a salary like that. i plan on pursuing my masters in another year but i dont want to be stuck again like i currently am with my b.s. in criminal justice. id like to work in a completely different field, however, i would not mind staying in the cjus field but i want to have a position thats high paying. do you have any ideas of particular work i could look into that will allow me to work in texas with a dwi and that ill be able to work my way up a ladder to obtain a comfortble income? i am either interested in victim serices or anything dealing with office management…my work experience in college primarily consisted of working with at risk children and performing clerical duties within an office. i know the county courts and state offices provide a lot of administration positions but i wouldnt know what to do a masters in in order for me to get a position in those areas where i could be in charge…any advice would be helpful. i just want to be guided in the right direction in the field of cjus and not give up bc i recieved a dwi. im going to be paying back student loans and id hate to pay them knowing that my degree turned out to be completely useless lol. thank you!!

    • Radek M. Gadek


      That’s a handful. I don’t know about laws pertaining to DUI’s and law enforcement positions in Texas. I do know that in most states felony convictions and domestic violence convictions are automatic disqualifiers. A DWI may pass in some states / counties / municipalities. I would dig a little deeper if I were you.

      As for the career options you may have with this degree, check out the CAREERS section of my site. Many positions are non-law enforcement. Making 60k and up and not in a LE (law enforcement) position is hard to do with any degree. LE professionals get about 60k plus in bigger communities and after an average of 5-10 years on the force – sooner in metropolitan PDs. Education also plays a key role with that kind of pay – a Master’s gets you to 60k sooner, but not always.

      Education may help you out immensely – that Master’s degree especially. You can consider Public Administration, Political Science, Forensic Science, as a criminal justice master degree supplement. Also you should consider an MBA – Master’s in Business Administration – that may align with your work interests. Theoretically MBA grads are more likely to earn higher incomes.

      TO SUM UP:
      1. Don’t give up on CJ and LE jobs – you may be able to get in. Would moving to a place that would take your prior DUI be an option?
      2. Get more education – if you can – more career opportunities may come out of it.
      3. The degree’s not useless – see the careers that may be available to you on this site – ask around – and do a little bit more research.
      4. Don’t give up on Criminal Justice or Law Enforcement – I have read cases of people who were trying to be police officers, or who were police officers, they got a DUI and they got in / stayed on the force.

      Sorry I can’t be of more help, but I hope this helps a tid bit. Good luck with everything – let us know how things turn out.

      Any one with the knowledge on DUI and police employment is welcome to jump in.

      • Susan

        thank you so much for all the information. i looked into public administration and i am very interested in it. im going to ask around and research some more on this degree. i really want to work in the cjus field and would not mind working in the municipal/county level or wherever a degree in p. administration can take me. im disapointed that i waited till after graduation to think about what i want to do with my degree. i know of so many people who went to school for cjus and they thought of it as a waste of time. i dont want to be that kind of person. there are a lot of things i could possibly do and id love to be the one to illustrate that a cjus degree is just as important as the next one.

        • Radek M. Gadek

          You’re welcome. Good luck!


        It does depend on a lot. There are some agencies that will allow one DUI but it had to have been over a particular amount of time(3-5 years). It is not an automatic but a discretionary disqualifier in most places-which means they may offer a chance to explain
        if alcohol and not drugs (DWI/DUI) there is a better chance
        -also depends on the actual statute that you were charged with as well as the blood alcohol level.
        Your chances after a DUI are less than someone without but that does not mean you can not qualify. but it also means you may have to relocate -get some experience then try to lateral back.
        good luck.
        § 4-244. Unlawful acts (Under 21 DUI)
        § 4-251. Spirituous liquor in motor vehicles; prohibitions; violation; classification; exceptions; definitions
        § 28-1381. Driving or actual physical control while under the influence; trial by jury; presumptions; admissible evidence; sentencing; classification
        § 28-1382. Driving or actual physical control while under the extreme influence of intoxicating liquor; trial by jury; sentencing; classification
        § 28-1383. Aggravated driving or actual physical control while under the influence; violation; classification; definition
        § 28-1386. Operating a motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft or water skis under the influence; emergency response costs; Definitions
        § 28-1387. Prior convictions; alcohol or other drug screening, education and treatment; license suspension; supervised probation; civil liability; procedures

      • Mark

        I have recently retired after 20 years in LE. I am pursuing my MS in CJ now and can tell you that DUI’s do not preclude you from a career in LE provided they have a little dust on them. If it were in college they will consider that most kids screw up once in while. My first partner in Narco got a DUI and wasn’t even suspended. I hate to say this but they are more common than not these days so give it a try!

  • Bill

    I hate to be the one to tell you , but i had a DUI about 4 yrs ago and I still can get in anywhere (NJ, NY, D.C.) and i had hooks in a few places. Trust me law enforcement agencies are not going to take an applicant with a DUI when there are thousands of other applicants with a clean record. Just not going to happen :)

  • Susan

    thanks…i dont plan on doing any law enforcement anywhere. im going to look into public administration and try to do something behind the scenes

  • T.T

    I am trying to figure out what to do with my degree to get a better career going. i was interested in becoming a teacher but wasnt sure what I would teach or if I could teach. I have a degree in business administration, is this a good degree that could lead to teaching and if so what are the steps in need to take to get started?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      It’s a good degree and can help you start in many different fields – not only those related to business. For example, the law enforcement field loves people with business degrees and not only criminal justice degrees. Diversity counts.

      To obtain a teaching position you have to pick which educational level you completed (above) and go from there. Good luck!

  • Rm

    I’m about to graduate with an associates of applied science degree in criminal justice. Can I go for my bachelors degree in a totally different subject such as bussiness or science etc? Or do I have to follow with a bachelors in CJ? As of now I’m not sure that I want to continue with criminal justice anymore.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      A lot of U.S. colleges and universities take the Associate’s as a completed degree and apply it as about 60 semester credits or 90 quarter credits towards your Bachelor’s. The best thing to do would be to speak to the admissions counselor at your new school to see what kind of program track you can hop on. However, I feel that most likely you’ll be able to take a different path than Criminal Justice. When that time comes, choose wisely. Good luck.

  • Mike

    I am trying to land an adjunct CJ teaching position at some of the local community colleges (Texas). I have a JD, and have worked in Federal Law Enforcement for 20 years. I’m being told that I still have to have 18 hours of Masters or better CJ hours to teach in Texas?! Can this be right, that I have a JD, and a career in Federal Law enforcement, but I’m not qualified to teach CJ courses at the community college level?


    • Radek M. Gadek

      That’s weird, but most colleges and universities have specific candidate guidelines. Some academic institutions are less or more strict about who they want to hire. In my opinion, a JD is an awesome degree track to teach college criminal justice courses, specifically from the legal standpoint. The 18 years of law enforcement experience is very good, too.

      Is the source that tells you that you’ll need 18 master credits in CJ a reliable / qualified source? If not, I would ask the department(s) you’re applying to directly. Often, they post one job requirement, while another can be more than useful to the cause. In all, Criminal Justice is different from Law and may be the only criterion that’s standing in your way. Most schools I know would definitely consider you as a desirable applicant. Let me know what’s the deal with this as I am interested in the outcome. Take care.

      • Mike

        Ok, Thanks. All I know is most of the advertised faculty positions say something to the effect of “…at least 18 or more hours of Masters or higher Criminal Justice credits…”, and apparently that does not include law school credits (even though you take courses like criminal procedure and criminal law in law school). According to a Criminal Justice department person I spoke to today at a local community college, that’s just the way it is, even though it doesn’t make sense. It may have something to do with accreditation. If anyone else on here knows any more please chime in! Thanks again.

  • Ellen

    I will be receiving my MS in Criminal Justice and as I read the quote’s I’m kinda skeptical about pursuing a higher degree. About 26 year ago I had run in with the law and still it hard for me to this day to get a job with law enforcement agencies, but I have taken a different angle I’m looking into teaching instead. Would this be better for me.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      That entirely depends on you, Ellen. Your run in with the Law may be something that’s a thing of the past. Perhaps you should find out in what capacity you can work within the law enforcement field even with a criminal record. Certain types of crime are treated differently by law enforcement agencies. It’s worth finding out.

      Teaching is different from working closely with law enforcement, but it carries its share of benefits. You should look into what requirements are needed to teach in your state – specifically important with teaching grammar school and high school students. For information on college teaching you should see the educational institutions which spark your interest. Good luck.

  • Gina

    I have a Associate and Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice. I did an Alternative Certification thought a Texas State certified Teacher preperation group (10 classes that were 3 hours long each), I am now a Middle School Science Teacher. I now can take my state test to teach Criminal Justice to High School Students. Just thought I would open up this idea.

    • Tawanda

      What state do you live in? I’m interested in teaching on the college level, but I would definitely take this route. I have been substituting middle school students for almost 2 years. I also have an AA and BA in criminal justice and currently taking courses towards my Masters.

    • Brian

      I also live in Texas and have a BS in Criminal Justice. I want to teach but I have not gone up to the college advisor to see what I would have to do in order to obtain the certificate. Your way seems so much easier. Do you have a website or any information about that Texas State certified Preparation group?

  • Hansel

    I have a Associate degree in criminal Justice. My question is, will I be able to be a police officer with a bad credit history. I live in Houston, TX. I have heard this from a few people. I am scared now. I am thinking about pursing higher education, Like major criminal justice with a minor in computer science. So I am not sure, my goal is to either become a police officer in the IT Department.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Bad credit can be a potential hurdle during the application process, but it is not always an automatic disqualifier. Rather, it is a factor that law enforcement agencies look at as a predictor of your responsibility, financial stability, and other pertinent info. Don’t worry too much, unless you know that the agency in question disqualifies people based on bad credit. The best way to check is to see career info on their website, call anonymously and ask a recruiter, or even stop in — I’m pretty sure they won’t hold it against a potential recruit. Good luck with everything.


      I would agree. Bad credit is not an automatic disqualifier but a discretionary. During the background phase-all questions will be asked of you. Just be honest because they already know the answers but they will ask you why it happened-they want to know if you are a candidate to take bribes or look the other way for a fee. How long ago was the last issue? how “bad” is the credit? they dont look at the credit score- just your history.
      Credit is a large hurdle when trying to become a police officer-however- if you decided to become a dispatcher-because you dont deal with the public face to face -most agencies will not run a credit report or will give a much larger chance- some will even give you the probationary year to clean up your credit-if that works- during that time you would learn the ropes from the inside while cleaning up your credit. good luck.

  • Michael Hatcher

    I have a master’s degree in Criminal Justice; Justice Administration. I interviewed for a criminal justice teaching position at a community college. It was a great experience. I have 3 years experience as a pretrial officer.

    Ultimately I was not offered the job. However, I discovered that the position wasn’t filled. The criminal justice professor there did not retire but expects to this coming year.

    I would love to teach criminal justice.

  • Meghan

    Sorry, I know this is a really old article. The article is very absolute on who can and cannot teach for grades K-12. The requirements to teach grades K-12 vary from state to state. You continue to state that just because somebody has a degree in criminal justice they can’t each K-12 EVER. All teachers have to earn certification and as long as you can pass area subject exams, you can teach whatever you want. I’ve seen people with degrees in music teach English in high school and teachers with English degrees teach Special Education. A bachelors in criminal justice does not seal your fate as far as teaching is concerned. Really anybody can become a teacher in most states, as long as you can pass the tests.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I didn’t say “EVER,” although it may have seemed like I did, but rather that a simple degree in criminal justice is not enough. As you stated yourself, many states require tests in order to get certified, and there are those that require further classes and student teaching experience. Thanks for sharing and I’ll try to reword some parts of this article as they may be a little foggy.

  • naomi

    in the state of Texas, you need a bachelors degree. doesn’t matter what subject. you just need to attend some extra schooling and enter into an approved teaching program. the website i included is not second information. it is straight from the Texas Education Agency. i encourage all to look up your own states requirements for becoming a teacher.

  • Shane Kirk

    I have a BS in CJ and I substitute every day. I was even able to work FT as an “Interventionist,” which is a fancy way of saying math tutor. I did have to take a six wk online course to obtain a teaching certificate. I would have to go back and take some addtl. classes to get a perm teaching position, which I’m still considering. Wanted a feel for the job before I spent the time/money. So far, so good.

  • Robert Bencheck

    I completed a Master of Arts in CJ, in 2011, after acquiring almost 20 years law enforcement experience in both the military and civilian sectors. I recently found a teaching opportunity for CJ at a community college but I wanted your opinion on the matter of developing a CV. I have over two decades of instructional experience teaching L.E. officers in the field, facilitating in-service classroom training, and formal FTO work but none of this experience qualifies as academic. My CV would also be lean on the typical sections such as research and published works. Should I develop a CV anyway – showcasing my field and classroom L.E. training experience in the same way someone would present an academic background? I’m trying to make myself competitive with other applicants while breaking into the field of teaching CJ as a first-time, potential instructor. I’m worried that my standard resume of job experience & accomplishments will fall short.

  • G. Sanchez

    Hi, I have a JD and I’m interested in teaching CJ at the college level. I’m looking for L.L.M. programs in CJ, but the majority of programs I find are in criminology and criminal law (I’m focusing my search in European schools for economic reasons) . I’m searching for LL.M. programs instead of a masters degree mainly because most LL.M. programs can be completed in a year. Will an LL.M. in CJ or criminology help me achieve my goal of teaching CJ, or should i pursue a masters in criminology? Any advice would be appreciated, thanks in advance.

  • This is very interesting because I will also be completing my masters degree soon in CJ. I have a BS in CJ also. I’ve been employed with the juvenile justice system since 2003 in various capacities. For about 4 years I was an instructor, therefore I’m a certified Georgia Peace Officer Instructor, whereas I’ve taught numerous hours in an adult learning setting. I’m interested in teaching grammar/high school students as well as on the collegiate level. Here in Georgia I understand that I would have to take the GACE, but I was wondering if my experience in teaching adults would suffice on the either the collegiate level or grammar level in some way.

  • Claudia V De La Fuente

    what specific test do i have to take to become teacher certified in Texas after i graduated with a masters in criminal justice? i am confused because the teacher website has a lot of things in it and i heard from one teacher you had to challenge the test or something like that i am so confused.

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