For more than 16 years, Troy University’s Dr. Halil Akbas worked in law enforcement in his native Turkey. There, he managed national and international projects relating to immigration, human trafficking and border security.
After being seriously injured during a terrorist attack in Turkey, he learned first-hand the risks police officers and agents face in the line of duty.
With a master’s degree in justice administration from the University of Louisville and a Ph.D. in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati, Dr. Akbas now serves as the Associate Chair of Anthropology, Sociology, and Criminology at TROY. He is also an Assistant Professor of Criminology, teaching undergraduate courses in criminal justice. From prospective students, he’s often asked, “What can you do with a criminal justice degree?” His response:
Careers in criminal justice vary widely, but all offer a rewarding way to serve their communities.
If you’re wondering what careers in criminal justice can entail, Dr. Akbas has some incredible real-life experiences to share.
Careers in Criminal Justice — Not Only Police Work
In his work teaching undergraduates pursuing TROY’s criminal justice degree, Dr. Akbas helps them to understand the work and processes involved in the administration of criminal justice agencies. Students explore law enforcement, corrections, constitutional law, criminology, and law and criminal procedure.
“Law enforcement is a very open field,” says Dr. Akbas. “It’s not all about police work.”
Beyond law enforcement, careers in criminal justice include:
- Digital forensics
- Law (further study required)
- Homeland security
While some entry-level roles, such as police officer or correctional officer, do not require a college degree, a bachelor’s in criminal justice will help you progress into more senior positions. It can also help you earn a larger salary.
“A police salary is changeable from one department to another,” says Dr. Akbas. “Although I wouldn’t say it’s a highly paid job, it’s a very secure job with good benefits relating to health and pensions. This degree will dramatically enhance earning potential and job satisfaction.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2021, the median annual salary for a police officer was $66,020 and $47,920 for a corrections officer. Both jobs are considered physically demanding, stressful, and potentially dangerous. Although he’s been injured in the line of duty, Dr. Akbas downplays the risks.
“There is always a risk,” says Dr. Akbas. “But this isn’t the movies. Many police officers, maybe 60% or more, work in departments where they are doing administrative jobs. They’re working in front of a computer, writing reports, analyzing crime statistics, managing human resources, and that type of thing. There’s a lot of bureaucracy that needs managing in the criminal justice system.”
Other careers in criminal justice require a bachelor’s degree from the start. These varied roles include positions such as crime lab analyst, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent, FBI agent, probation officer and correctional treatment specialist.
Find Your Ideal Fit with a Criminal Justice Degree
TROY’s criminal justice program provides students with a comprehensive education so that graduates have the knowledge, skills and expertise needed to shape policies in their chosen criminal justice field.
“We work hard to help graduates find their perfect fit in the criminal justice system,” says Dr. Akbas. “That could be as a police officer, a crime scene investigator or even going on to pursue a career as an attorney. You’ll also find our graduates working in the corrections system as prison officers and parole and probation officers.”
In the rapidly evolving criminal justice field, students are also encouraged to strengthen their criminal justice degree by choosing a minor in digital forensics or homeland security.
TROY’s Criminal Justice Degree Offers Theoretical and Practical Learning Opportunities
While the coursework for TROY’s criminal justice program provides sound theoretical learning in all areas of criminal justice, students also have the opportunity to gain real-world experience.
“We encourage students to engage in internships where they can immerse themselves in the agency’s working practices while also earning course credit,” says Dr. Akbas. “They can either find their own placement with an agency of their choosing, or we have internship coordinators to help place them.”
TROY’s program also allows students to attend regular presentations by criminal justice experts. These presentations provide students with more comprehensive insight into the criminal justice system.
“Our instructors frequently invite guest speakers into the program,” says Dr. Akbas. “But sometimes, law enforcement agencies approach us. They come into our classes, discuss what they do, and highlight potential career options to our students. It’s a win-win situation. They provide valuable content, and we can help them fill their future vacancies.”
Before graduating, TROY also requires students to participate in professional seminars, where they learn the scientific approaches used in the criminal justice system and how to research, understand and interpret events, explains Dr. Akbas. This approach helps students bring everything they’ve studied together in a collaborative environment, preparing them for their careers in criminal justice.
Open the Door to Advanced Careers in Criminal Justice
TROY alumnus Dr. Michael Allshouse is uniquely qualified to talk about how TROY helped him advance his career in criminal justice. He completed both the bachelor’s and master’s programs and went on to earn his Ph.D. in criminology. Now, he works as a child protective investigator (CPI) for the Fort Walton Beach Police Department in Florida.
“I have been in the field of law enforcement since 1989 and have worked on just about every level: local, state, and federal,” says Dr. Allshouse. “I can honestly say I have enjoyed every part of it.”
In his role, Dr. Allshouse conducts investigations of child abuse, neglect, abandonment and other issues. Working closely with the state attorney, law enforcement and child protection teams, he assesses the threat to a child through observation and interviews with the child, parents, relatives, and neighbors before arranging emergency placement when it’s unsafe for the child to remain in their home. While his job is challenging, Dr. Allshouse focuses on the positive nature of the work.
“I get to save kids every day,” says Dr. Allshouse. “But just being able to continue serving in the field that I went to school for is a reward in itself.”
Dr. Allshouse says TROY gave him the expertise he needed to be successful.
“TROY helped me stand out from the crowd,” says Dr. Allshouse. “When people walk into my office and see those degrees on my wall, they know without a shadow of a doubt that I know what I am talking about.”
Dr. Allshouse is quick to highlight TROY’s reputation with his colleagues.
“The area I work in has a lot of TROY alumni,” says Dr. Allshous. “That is why a degree in criminal justice from TROY is so highly recognized and prestigious.”
New Careers in Criminal Justice for Military Students
Dr. Akbas says TROY’s online criminal justice program is popular with military students.
“Many of the students in the program have a military background,” says Dr. Akbas. “A lot of military students are drawn toward careers in criminal justice because they see a similarity between their military service and a career in law enforcement.”
However, a significant difference between military service and criminal justice degree jobs makes the field attractive to veterans.
“As military personnel, they can be deployed anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice,” says Dr. Akbas. “They’ve enjoyed the discipline, culture and adventure of their military careers. But they are now looking for more stability in their lives after they retire from active service.”
A job in criminal justice allows veterans to settle down in one place while enjoying a career with a structure and culture similar to their military experience.
Active-duty service members also appreciate TROY’s online degree option.
“They enjoy the online program’s flexibility and how it enables them to fit their study around their very active military careers,” says Dr. Akbas. “We understand these students’ needs and, as such, TROY’s reputation with our military students is second to none.”
TROY Delivers Flexible Criminal Justice Degree
Dr. Allhouse knows from experience the criminal justice program at TROY is demanding.
“If you are looking for an easy degree or the easiest way through school, look somewhere else,” he warns. “But if you want to be challenged and get respect in this career field, TROY is where you want to go.”
Dr. Allshouse describes TROY’s online degree program as cutting-edge.
“It meets you where you are and invites you to learn at your pace, but you’ve got to be ready to learn,” he says. It’s the connection between technology, faculty, and students that really makes the program stand out, he adds.
“TROY provided me with the specific tools and knowledge to be successful in the field,” says Dr. Allshouse.
All that hard work paid off, he adds.
“This isn’t just an online degree,” says Dr. Allshouse. “When you walk across that graduation stage with your degree from TROY, you will not only be recognized by TROY. The world will recognize you as someone with a degree from one of the nation’s most prestigious higher learning institutions.”
Invest in Your Future with a TROY Criminal Justice Degree
For those still wondering, “What can you do with a criminal justice degree?” Dr. Allshouse urges potential students to “search their souls.”
“Know what you want before you embark on a journey with TROY,” says Dr. Allshouse. “It’s your future you are investing in, so choose wisely.”
If criminal justice degree jobs are in your future, TROY’s program can help you narrow down the one that is right for you — and provide life-changing experiences, according to Dr. Allshouse.
“In my experience, you will not be disappointed,” he says. “If I could go back and choose my educational path all over, I wouldn’t change a thing. TROY’s program has truly changed my life and enhanced my career.”
Dr. Allshouse believes his experience at TROY opened doors that would have previously been closed to him.
“Employers look at me differently knowing I am an alumnus of TROY,” says Dr. Allshouse. “That in itself is worth gold in the job market.”
Learn More About TROY’s Criminal Justice Degree
To learn more about what you can do with a criminal justice degree, explore TROY’s bachelor’s in criminal justice program.