Criminal Justice Advising Guide

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What is Criminal Justice?

Criminal Justice is the system of law enforcement, corrections, probation, and the judiciary that deals with apprehension, prosecution, incarceration, and sentencing of individuals suspected of and charged with criminal offenses.


Career Opportunities in Criminal Justice

There are a variety of career opportunities in criminal justice, including various roles in law enforcement, courts, corrections, and research.  Popular career choices include:

Law enforcement: Municipal and county police departments, park police, criminalists, state crime commissions, attorney general, narcotics bureaus, liquor control boards, state police, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, Department of Transportation, Federal Trade Commission, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Food and Drug Administration, Office of the Inspector General, private corporations and insurance companies, private detectives/investigators, safety officers, private security, security patrol officers

Courts: Law clerk, court reporter, bailiff

Corrections: Probation officer, juvenile probation officer, parole officer, correctional officer, correctional counselor

Other: Data/research analyst, victim's advocate

With additional graduate/course work: Criminologist, criminal profiler, psychologist/psychiatrist, forensic pathologist, forensic anthropologist, instructor/professor, forensic scientist, crime lab analyst, crime scene investigator, prosecutor, defense attorney


Salary Trends in Criminal Justice

The salaries of criminal justice personnel differ greatly by position.  The starting salary for a Mobile PD officer with a Bachelor’s degree is $33,220 per year.  Lawyers and forensic anthropologists can earn in the area of $200,000 per year.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual income for detectives in the United States is $56,980.  By comparison, BLS reports that the median annual income for probation officers is $48,190.

Unlike more vocationally-oriented majors, such as majors in business, engineering, or the health professions, A&S majors tend to study a greater range of topics outside of their immediate major area. This greater breadth provides an interdisciplinary perspective that complements the more linear education in the student’s major area. 

As a result, A&S majors are compatible with a wide-range of career options. A large 2012 survey of employers found that 81% of employers will consider any degree, so most employers do not require a specific degree. So A&S majors typically find post-graduate employment at rates comparable to more vocationally-specific degrees, Furthermore, longitudinal studies which have followed college graduates over time have shown that Arts and Sciences graduates' rates of salary growth often exceed those of more vocationally-specific majors. For example, a 2010 longitudinal survey of college majors after graduation found that:

“Occupationally specific degrees are beneficial at the point of entry into the labor market but have the lowest growth in occupational status over time. Students earning credentials focusing on general skills, in contrast, begin in jobs with low occupational status but subsequently report the greatest growth.

Another longitudinal study concluded that:

"Employment across educational fields is almost identical for individuals aged 35-44, and beyond age 45, humanities graduates actually have higher rates of employment than those in other fields. After age 45, humanities and social science majors’ salaries overtake those of counterparts in other fields."

Finally, A&S majors have on average the highest rates of increase from starting to mid-career salary.


High School Preparation

No specific high school curriculum is required to prepare a student for an undergraduate major in Criminal Justice.  However, if your high school offers a course in Criminal Justice or Forensic Science, you may wish to take those courses for an introduction to the discipline that you wish to study in college.


How to Major in Criminal Justice

You can declare a Criminal Justice major at any time.  The one-page form can be completed in the department office, 226 Humanities Bldg.


Special Programs, Co-ops, Internships

Our department has a long history of internships with many of the criminal justice agencies in the Mobile area.  We have had students intern with major federal law enforcement agencies (e.g., FBI, US Marshals, Secret Service), the District Attorney’s office, the Rape Crisis Center, and various other agencies.  Internships are an important aspect of the criminal justice curriculum and can increase the competitiveness of a student’s job application.


Criminal Justice Highlights

Graduates with degrees in criminal justice from USA have gone on to serve in various federal law enforcement agencies and to attend nationally-recognized graduate programs and law schools.


Study Abroad Opportunities

Studying abroad is an exciting and meaningful experience that will contribute to your academic and personal development.  Participating on a study abroad program can be one of the most profound decisions of your college life, and can lead to many new and interesting opportunities.  It can help develop your critical thinking skills, sense of independence, and confidence.  When you depart on your study abroad program, you will go with excitement, trepidation, and uncertainty about the world and your place in it.  When you return home, your deep connection and affection for your host culture will be overwhelming, and will only be matched by a newfound respect and appreciation for your home.

Study abroad is the opportunity for USA students to spend time in a different country while earning credit towards your degree through taking classes, interning, volunteering, and more.  There are many different types of study abroad available to you at USA. They include faculty-led programs, international exchange programs, and direct-enroll and affiliate programs. 

Students on faculty-led programs will travel as a group led by USA professors and take classes in various locations. All courses taken on these programs are USA courses and offer USA credits that will apply to your degree. International Exchange programs are partnerships with specific universities around the world with which USA has a special, reciprocal relationship. Students enroll directly at the host university, and students from the host university attend USA. USA affiliate programs allow students to enroll at a partner university or program through a third-party provider. GPA requirements vary by program.

You should think of the Study Abroad Office as a one-stop shop for information related to your study abroad experience. The Study Abroad ( team is excited to assist you as you navigate through the process of choosing a program, and will help you from the advising stage until you return from your program.  You can get started by coming to meet with an advisor during Walk-In Advising hours. During an advising session, you can gain general information about the many programs available, how the application process works at USA and general guidance on where to begin.

Be sure to visit the OIE Study Abroad website at to begin your research.  The website contains information on how to get started, financing your program, and a comprehensive list of pre-approved study abroad programs and partners. While researching a passport or visa programs, consider the following: eligibility requirements, location, course offerings, and costs.  You should also meet with your faculty advisor for assistance in selecting a program based on courses related to your degree.

Studying abroad can be one of the highlights of your university career, giving you wonderful and challenging experiences that will allow you to grow both academically and professionally. Where will you study abroad?


Academic Plan

Academic plans are in place to help you stay on track to graduate in four years.

To see our academic plan for Criminal Justice, please click here

For additional degree information, click here to visit the undergraduate bulletin


For More Information

You can contact the department chair or secretary at (251) 460-7161, or contact our department by e-mail at for further information.  

You can find us on campus at:

Political Science and Criminal Justice
Humanities Building, Room 226
Mobile, AL 36688
(251) 460-7161

Department website