10 Criminal Justice Careers Without Carrying a Gun

Q: I’m genuinely interested in criminal justice and criminology; nevertheless, i really do not like guns. I wouldn’t feel comfortable in a line of business where a weapon is required. It seems like every occupation in criminal justice calls for a gun (at least in United States). Is this true? Are there any career positions that i could possibly work in with a degree in Criminal Justice, Criminology, or a similar program without having to carry a gun? I am not interested in the legal field (i don’t want to be a lawyer or a paralegal).

A: There is a number of careers in Criminal Justice, Criminology, and similar fields that don’t require you to carry a gun:

  1. teach – high school with a Bachelor’s degree (plus state certification)
  2. teach community college and university level with a Master’s degree (a PhD is preferable)
  3. work in private security as a consultant, loss prevention officer, or private eye (PI)
  4. work as a researcher at a private firm, university, or a government agency
  5. work in forensic sciences and crime scene investigation – I would recommend a degree in Criminal Justice with a Forensics concentration, or a degree specifically in Forensic Science
  6. work as a correction officer – usually no gun is “required”, but gun training may be imposed
  7. work as a youth counselor – this position is in high demand
  8. work as a substance abuse counselor
  9. work as a probation officer
  10. work in local, county, state, and federal government – or – work in academia or for yourself

Consequently, the question to ask yourself is:

is the Criminal Justice, Criminology, or a similar degree the right fit for me? It may not be, as the criterion — not to carry a gun — may diminish the pool of careers available to you.

Consider the following options while keeping Criminal Justice or Criminology in mind:

  • Political Science – there are concentrations like National Security and Transnational Crime which may be of interest to you.
  • Forensic Sciences –  more science based courses – any background in biology, chemistry, and physics may help.

Note: There are more opportunities for civilian jobs (no gun required) to those who possess a Master’s degree or better.

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.

21 comments… add one
  • Jim

    One of the few criminal justice careers that doesn’t require the use of firearms is that of Loss Prevention which is one of the fastest growing sub-fields in the field of criminal justice. In essence your mind is the only weapon you will need to carry.

  • yazmin

    Im just starting to look at what I want to study.
    I know i wanna do something in the criminal justice area( forensic psychologist, crime investigator, etc..) and maybe a lawyer.
    can you give me few options of what i can do?
    I’m a social person,I’m not exactly good at biology, and i dont wanna have to handle a gun either.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      check out the careers section – on top. You’ll see that there are more career options.

      Maybe you can also consider the field of academics – teacher, professor, researcher. All the other ones you’ve mentioned are great options, but with no science based courses and no guns you have to understand that your role in the criminal justice system would have to be more specialized – one that’s not the norm.

      If you speak a foreign language, you can be a translator or an analyst for one of the organizations under the Department of Homeland Security.

  • badvegan

    Wow. I normally like the articles here. I am so surprised that loss prevention (paul blartin) and PI (cheesy mustache not included) made this list. Why on earth would someone with a baccalaureate degree work in loss prevention or as a PI considering that most of these positions start out at 25 or 50 cents over minimum wage. This is like telling someone to go major in physics and work in fast food….. you know so that you have a great idea of how fries cook.

    And as to the “learn to speak foreign languages you can get a job as a fed or in homeland security” rumor. I have been hearing this for a long time and have never seen it happen. My parents gardener speaks 3 languages and i doubt he makes much money. If you want people who speak other languages, all you have to do is go to the slums of big cities and you can find tons of people that will work for real cheap. Its basic economics: low barrier of entry to a field means low wages and little job security.

    • Vickie

      There are not a lot of high paying jobs in criminal justice. However, some other careers to consider would be those in the National Drug Court Professionals Association. They hire drug court coordinators and treatment liaisons. You can also go to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, Coalition against Domestic Violence in your state. Try the local district attorney’s office for bad check coordinators, crime victims coordinators, etc. In the federal circuit all investigator jobs have an age limit of 36. So act fast. Try the poverty law centers for community organizers and investigators. You can teach junior college with a Master’s Degree in criminal justice. Most law enforcement jobs use have complete police academy training and qualify for jobs by rank. Hope this helps a little. I have a Master’s in CJ and presently applying for college adjunct instructor jobs.

  • Ryan

    I am going to be a sophomore in college this fall at a Massachusetts state school majoring in criminal justice. I have around a 3.5 GPA and will probably get my master’s. I do not want to be a cop. I would like to be something along the lines of a homicide detective but I do not want to put in years being a cop to get promoted and I would like a higher salary. I have asked some professors about this and they said to go federal. I know that there is not a lot of high-paying jobs in the criminal justice field, but do you have any advice for me if I do well in school and get an advanced degree on how to make a lot of money in this field? Thanks.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Hi Ryan,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      1. 9.9 times out of 10 you can’t be a detective unless you are a police officer first. Having that few years experience as a “cop”, at the very least, makes for a much better detective in my opinion.
      2. Your professors are right. If you want to skip being a police officer, then yes, go Federal – the FBI has a homicide unit – minimum of a Bachelor level education need to be completed.
      3. What is a high paying job to you? Most metropolitan police officers as well as FBI Special agents can count on about 50k and above to START. There are pay increases, overtime pay (which will be imminent), and other paid time and benefits. A graduate degree can help you put your foot in the door when it comes to being transferred to special units and status changes (promotions) – which usually equal a pay increase.
      4. As for the advice, when you complete your Bachelor’s and Master’s, perhaps even a PhD, money should be the last motivator for you. Knowing what you know now, there aren’t too many high paying positions. Those that are, are for the most part offered to seasoned leaders or are administrative in nature. Best bet: show that you have what it takes to EARN the promotion and the money that comes with it. Nothing is given away for free, especially in law enforcement positions, unless of course the department/agency in question practices cronyism, which usually leads nowhere really fast (think of Federal probes in Chicago). The criminal justice system is much different than it was in the 80s and 90s – there’s more scrutiny and outspoken individuals that keep an eye on such practices.

      I think that about covers it. Hope this helps.


  • Tiffany

    I would like to study criminal justice. Do you know of any good school in the southbay area like torrance or carson gardena ect, that are accredited schools

  • Cat Olsen

    I am considering going into the criminal justice field, however, i have two misdameaner DUIs. Will i even beable to find a job in this field? I do not want to be a cop or do paralegal work. Advice please!

  • Maribel

    I was wondering what would I have to do if I wanted to work with the FBI Criminal Justice right after I get my degree? First of all, which would be most preferable by the FBI? A Master’s or Doctor’s in Criminal Justice? What are the chances that I will actually be accepted by the FBI? Would I have to have some years of being a cop before? Also, does the school I graduate from matter or just as long as I get my degree?
    Thanks. hope to hear from you soon!

  • Barbara

    Hey . I am currently a freshman in college and I am really considering a career in Criminal Justice . It intrigues me ! I know of the many options that are laid out for me . But I am unsure of what to go with . I don’t exactly agree with the pay . I understand that starting pay is almost always low . But seriously some of these careers are starting at 20-50k . I’m looking for a career with options , good pay , security, and benefits . I am considering the FBI . But like I said I’m unsure of what to choose . Criminal Justice is broad . I need a specialization . I wouldn’t mind handling a gun . (: Thanks !

    • Radek M. Gadek

      If you look at metropolitan areas, even county or State law enforcement, you can find work starting at around 50k (perhaps not near you). Some Federal careers can start higher. Saying that, when you compare it to many other career choices, law enforcement officers get sizable pay increases and great benefits. Some of the LEOs I know, make 75k to 90k after 3-5 years on the job (that may entail promotion(s)). The caveats are stress, mandatory overtime, and the inherent danger of the job. You might want to consider that before even thinking about this career.

  • Kim Fuino

    I’ve started school for a career in criminal justice. I would like to end up in victims advocacy, especially those of domestic violence and rape. Will I need further training to do this? If so, what kind? Thanks.

  • marisol

    I am absolutely confused. Not to long ago my major was criminal justice, now however I have decided to change it. I have heard from people in the field that criminal justice may be looked down upon. I also feel that I should choose a major that will help me in the criminal justice field but that I can also benefit from if I take another direction. I also want to take advantage of the fact that I am bilingual in English and Spanish. Is there jobs as translators for the federal police and if so what should I major in?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Marisol, I have heard opinions about criminal justice degrees in the field from both angles. So the jury is out on that one. In my opinion, a major in Criminal Justice is a great option for those who truly seek work in the criminal justice system. I don’t think it’s a degree for those who don’t have the passion or the calling. It’s true for many degrees which people “think” they should take on, while not really knowing much about possible employment opportunities, or worse yet, not wanting to work in the profession at all. I recently touched on this matter in my blog post: What can you do with a criminal justice degree?. That post alone should help you a lot.

      I agree with you. You should choose an academic path that will bode best with you. No question there. The criminal justice system, including law enforcement agencies, would not dream of having homogenous workforce. It would be a total calamity if almost everyone would hold only a criminal justice degree. Diversity, including in academics, is what drives the cj system forward.

      IF you are one 110% sure about being an interpreter, than pursuing language in college is a very viable option. If you can prove your proficiency (spoken and written) you might not need to take a language degree (ie. Spanish). This way, you can focus on a degree that you truly have interest in.

  • Helen

    Hello I was wondering would a criminal justice degree make me a more valuable candidate when applying to the police academy or trying to get a position with Brinks Security?

  • Vanessa

    First, let me congratulate you on your site! It’s awesome!

    The “youth counselor” career really interests me. Do you know if the counselor has to meet with the offenders in their homes? I wouldn’t want to go that route if that’s the case. The same question applies to substance abuse counselors. Both careers seem very interesting to me because it involves counseling. I have an Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies, but I REALLY don’t want to work as a paralegal. The academic adviser from my previous school said that my classes are transferable to the criminal justice program, which is the reason I’m looking into it. I have a passion for counseling people, but I wouldn’t want to meet inside an offender’s house (too dangerous!). I don’t have much interest in the other careers that would classify as the primary careers to be enrolled in the program. But if I want to use my paralegal classes, the criminal justice program might be my only option. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Have a great night!

    • Vickie

      Most youth court counselors only meet in court with the youth offender, the youth judge and the family. In some cases the department of human services has to intervene in the event of truancy or neglect or abuse suspicions.

      • Vickie

        It would be the recommendation of the youth court counselor for the department of human services to do the home visits.

  • Amber

    So I really would like to work as a homicide detective, or something similar. I know you said that you have to become a cop first, but can you become like a parole/probation officer then move up to detective (so you don’t be a cop) or does it not work that way? What other careers are similar to a detective but don’t involve being a cop? Thanks!

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