Your Guide to a Career in Criminal Intelligence
The world of criminal justice and intelligence creates a challenging career field that never becomes stagnant. In recent decades, technology has allowed criminal investigation and intelligence gathering to advance considerably, making reviewing patterns of criminal behavior and tracking rates of crime a pivotal part of prevention and enforcement, as well as a necessary skill no matter what criminal justice career path you pursue.
Leading professionals in law enforcement and crime prevention agree that data gathering and analysis are imperative parts of keeping our communities safe. FBI Director Christopher Wray said, “The more complete the data, the better we can inform, educate and strengthen our resources.”
Those who understand the importance of data analysis, no matter their job title, can help solve crimes, prevent future misconduct, and improve communities’ overall safety by planning for the future. According to the International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA), “The professionals who perform crime analysis, and the techniques they use, are dedicated to helping a police department become more effective through better information.”
Even if they don’t hold the title of analyst or work for a police department, many criminal justice professionals use intelligence analysis in some way to complete their jobs. Those working as detectives, policymakers, or in one of the many other in-demand roles in the field need to understand analysis techniques.
Many degree programs in criminal justice and criminal intelligence highlight these skills and ensure graduates are prepared for the field’s evolving nature. Pursuing an education that focuses on the future ensures you’ll have a long lasting and impactful career.
What Roles Are Available in Criminal Justice and Intelligence?
Criminal intelligence and criminal justice experts are in high demand in public and private roles. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 5% increase in demand for police officers, detectives, and investigators between 2019 and 2029, which is faster than the average for most occupations. While many of these roles involve active patrolling, a growing number of jobs call for data analysis skills, an understanding of psychology, and a firm foundation of technology knowledge as well.
Because of the vast nature of the field, it’s important to research and understand the dynamic variety of roles available to professionals interested in crime prevention and law enforcement before choosing a degree. Some criminal justice specialists work for major federal agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Border Patrol, or the Department of Homeland Security. Others work for local police departments or private agencies. Those with a background in criminal intelligence can also apply their skills to nonprofit or research endeavors.
Here are just a few of the jobs available:
- Criminal Profiler: A criminal profiler helps law enforcement or government organizations identify and apprehend suspects through investigative techniques, psychology, and data analysis. Profilers usually work as part of an investigative team to pinpoint behavioral patterns, conduct research, advise, and provide training. Criminal profilers make an average base salary of $62,056 per year.
- Criminal Intelligence Analyst: Criminal intelligence analysts use many resources and copious data to identify patterns of criminal behavior to assist officers, detectives, and other professionals. They can work for local police stations, nonprofits, or the federal government, as well as research firms. The average base pay for intelligence analysts is $70,837. Depending on the role you take and where you work, salaries can be much higher than average. Top earners make more than $100,000 per year.
- Detective: Detectives gather facts and collect evidence for criminal cases. Through interviews, records, and other means, they investigate many types of crime. Most specialize in one kind of criminal behavior, such as fraud or homicide. They primarily work for law enforcement agencies or as private detectives. Criminal intelligence professionals who took roles as police officers or detectives earned a median salary of $65,170 in 2019. Those working for the federal government earned a median salary of $88,060.
- Criminologist: Criminologists compile data, conduct surveys, develop policies to stop crime and recurrence, and more. Many hold a master’s degree and work for government agencies or organizations that influence policy. Criminologists make an average base pay of $44,988 per year, while some make $75,000 a year or more.
- Corrections Officer: Corrections officers enforce rules and keep order in jails and prisons, supervise inmates, and report on inmate conduct. Their role is to maintain security and keep facilities safe. They made a median salary of $45,300 per year in 2019.
This list is just a sampling of the available roles in criminal justice. No matter where your career takes you, having the right education will help you succeed and make a difference.
How Do I Become a Criminal Intelligence or Criminal Justice Professional?
The first step to becoming a criminal intelligence professional is choosing the right degree program for your goals, education level, and interests. Associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees are available with concentrations in law enforcement, intelligence analysis, and more. Many government agencies and private organizations require at least a bachelor’s degree.
Criminal Justice Degrees
Programs focused on criminal justice offer a well-rounded education for law enforcement and criminal investigation jobs. Methodist University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, which allows students to advance their careers in many areas, including enforcement and analysis. The degree prepares graduates for jobs as crime scene investigators, a plethora of government positions, or detective roles. Southern New Hampshire University is another option for students interested in criminal justice degrees. The university offers programs at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s level with various concentrations.
A degree in criminology prepares you to understand the causes of criminal behavior. The University of St. Mary’s online Bachelor of Arts in Criminology Completion Program is one such degree. The behavioral-focused program covers psychology, sociology, and history, preparing graduates to understand human motivations and participate in de-escalation practices in the field. Graduates can become detectives, administrators, and policymakers.
Criminal Intelligence Degrees
Degrees in criminal intelligence offer a specialized look at data analysis and criminal behavior. Utica College’s Bachelor of Science in Criminal Intelligence Analysis prepares students to find data-driven ways to lower the rate of violent crimes. Graduates of the program pursue roles as intelligence analysts, tactical analysts, and more. Most graduates of programs of this type support law enforcement efforts through information and crime-reduction projects.
Other Degree Options
Another option for those looking to enter the intelligence field is choosing a major outside of criminal justice or intelligence. Many programs focus on data analytics, which can be used in many fields and prove useful for a variety of criminal intelligence careers. For those already working in criminal justice, a data analytics degree could help them transition into a career primarily in intelligence.
As the field grows and changes, professionals will likely have to continue learning. Certificate programs are another effective way to learn new skills and advance your career. Certificates often take less than a year to complete and allow credits to be transferred into a full degree program down the line.
Before picking a career or degree program, explore the roles you’re interested in to find out about the necessary education and licensure, work environments, and employment opportunities. No matter the path you choose, finding mentors will open doors. Be sure to get involved in the area that you hope to specialize in through volunteering and projects to network and learn more.
The criminal justice field will continue to evolve, but with the right educational foundation, you’ll be ready to evolve with it. If you’re interested in making communities safer and ensuring policies are data driven and effective, a career in criminal intelligence is right for you.