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Although the old adage warns us not to mess with Texas, it doesn't stop criminals from trying—and when they do, graduates from criminal justice schools in Texas are there to hold them accountable. In fact, the Brennan Center for Justice  reports that violent crime in major cities like Austin, Dallas, and Houston has been declining.

Many of the dedicated law enforcement and legal professionals in the state began their training in criminal justice degree programs. Continue reading to find out more information about these programs and the career paths commonly taken by graduates.

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Leading Criminal Justice Schools in Texas

Our Methodology

To be considered for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria:

  • Accredited at the institutional level
  • Private nonprofit or public school
  • Minimum of 1 bachelor's or master's degree in subject area for 4-year schools
  • Minimum of 1 associate degree or certificate program in subject area for 2-year schools

Schools were then scored on factors such as:

  • Cost & Financial Aid
  • Number and variety of program offerings
  • Student-teacher ratios
  • Graduation rates (4-year schools only)
  • Placement and support services offered
  • Academic/Career counseling services
  • Employment services
  • Loan default rates

These factors were assembled for each school and rated using a peer-based-value (PBV) calculation. PBV compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or similar) qualitative score and cost. PBV denotes the overall value or "bang for your buck" of a college or degree program.

Although there are many choices for those who want to enroll in criminal justice schools in Texas, it can be overwhelming to know which school or program is best. Using the ranking below can give prospective students confidence that they're applying to the best schools in the state. We've evaluated these colleges based on vital factors such as enrollment rates, tuition cost, and the ratio of instructors to students. Explore top criminal justice schools and programs in Texas below.

2-Year Colleges

  1. Sam Houston State University

    Huntsville, TX

  2. Saint Edward's University

    Austin, TX

  3. Angelo State University

    San Angelo, TX

  4. Texas State University

    San Marcos, TX

  5. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

    Edinburg, TX

  6. The University of Texas at El Paso

    El Paso, TX

  7. The University of Texas of the Permian Basin

    Odessa, TX

  8. Tarleton State University

    Stephenville, TX

  9. West Texas A & M University

    Canyon, TX

  10. Prairie View A & M University

    Prairie View, TX

4-Year Colleges

  1. Howard College

    Big Spring, TX

  2. Hill College

    Hillsboro, TX

  3. Grayson College

    Denison, TX

  4. Galveston College

    Galveston, TX

  5. McLennan Community College

    Waco, TX

  6. Tyler Junior College

    Tyler, TX

  7. Alvin Community College

    Alvin, TX

  8. Angelina College

    Lufkin, TX

  9. Odessa College

    Odessa, TX

  10. Amarillo College

    Amarillo, TX

Texas' Fulfilling Careers in Criminal Justice

There are a number of jobs available to graduates from criminal justice schools in Texas, such as patrol officer, paralegal, police detective, and probation officer positions. The table below highlights some of these jobs and provides information on how many people are employed in specific positions, as well as how much money they make.

Police, Sheriff and Highway Patrol Officers

  • Total Employed in Texas: 60,790
  • Median Salary in Texas: $58,520
  • Degree Level Required in Texas: Academy Program

Correctional Officer

  • Total Employed in Texas: 48,280
  • Median Salary in Texas: $38,020
  • Degree Level Required in Texas: Certification

Business Compliance Officer

  • Total Employed in Texas: 22,430
  • Median Salary in Texas: $70,580
  • Degree Level Required in Texas: Bachelor's

Paralegal and Legal Assistant

  • Total Employed in Texas: 22,350
  • Median Salary in Texas: $49,700
  • Degree Level Required in Texas: Varies; up to Bachelor's

Detectives and Criminal Investigators

  • Total Employed in Texas: 16,940
  • Median Salary in Texas: $74,880
  • Degree Level Required in Texas: Varies; up to Bachelor's

Probation Officer

  • Total Employed in Texas: 7,670
  • Median Salary in Texas: $40,810
  • Degree Level Required in Texas: Bachelor's

Court, Municipal and License Clerks

  • Total Employed in Texas: 9,620
  • Median Salary in Texas: $32,770
  • Degree Level Required in Texas: Varies; up to Bachelor's

How Do Texas' Criminal Justice Careers Compare to the National Average?

How do criminal justice salaries in Texas compare to other locations? In some cases, the earnings that professionals make in Texas are close to national averages, or even exceed them. The tables below provide a comparison of state salaries and job growth to national levels to illustrate how Texas stacks up.

Job National Texas
Private Detectives and Investigators 43,570 53,530
Lawyers 139,880 149,400
Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers 60,350 62,760
Administrative Law Judges, Adjudicators, and Hearing Officers 93,140 99,400
Correctional Officers and Jailers 40,910 46,750
Paralegals and Legal Assistants 53,180 54,480
Detectives and Criminal Investigators 73,650 81,490
Court Reporters 56,940 78,410
Bailiffs 44,320 45,740
Fish and Game Wardens 54,760 66,900

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015

Job Growth
Job National Texas
Private Detectives and Investigators 0.011 0.218
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists 0.036 0.172
Lawyers 0.056 0.24
Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates 0.006 0.139
Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers 0.05 0.189
Bailiffs 0.047 0.194
Court, Municipal, and License Clerks 0.045 0.188
Court Reporters 0.015 0.146
Fish and Game Wardens 0.019 0.125
Correctional Officers and Jailers 0.037 0.149

Source: Projections Central, 2015

Expert Advice on Criminal Justice in Texas: FAQ with Alejandro Del Carmen

Alejandro (Alex) del Carmen

Alejandro (Alex) del Carmen received a Ph.D. in Criminology from the College of Criminology at the Florida State University. He is considered an authority on the topic of race and crime with particular emphasis on racial profiling in law enforcement. Dr. del Carmen has written numerous articles in internationally recognized journals and published several books. Among these is the nationally recognized book titled “Racial Profiling in America”, which he published with Prentice Hall. Dr. del Carmen has presented his research findings throughout the world (Scotland, Belgium, Slovenia, Spain, United Arab Emirates, and Italy).

Dr. del Carmen is currently Professor and Executive Director of the School of Criminology, Criminal Justice and Strategic Studies at Tarleton State University. He also serves as a Federal Monitor for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. In this role, he monitors, on behalf of the U.S. Courts, the New Orleans Police Department.

Q. What do criminal justice departments look for when considering students to admit?

They look for individuals who are motivated and have a core belief and commitment in serving others.

Q. What careers are available in Texas to those who complete criminal justice degrees?

Careers vary from police officers to intelligence analysts in the intelligence community. Some of the most frequent careers are police officers, federal agents, correctional officers, judges, lawyers, analysts, lab technicians, statisticians, crime analysts and professors.

Q. What makes criminal justice a rewarding career to pursue?

You will end up serving your country, your state and your fellow community members. In short, you will be committing to an ideal and principle bigger than your own ambitions.

Q. What makes the criminal justice profession unique in Texas?

We are a state that is made up of honest and hardworking people. Texas law enforcement is a national model for others to follow.

Q. What makes the criminal justice field unique in your state?

The criminal justice program at Sam Houston State in Huntsville, in the same town with the headquarters of the Department of Criminal Justice, is a pretty unique fit between academic program and real world application, and there has always been a lot of cross-pollination between the two.

The size of the criminal justice population is also significant, though not completely unique, and that inherently makes for more career opportunities.

Q. What are the most important qualities that people in the criminal justice field have?

There are a lot of different roles in the criminal justice field, but in general there should be some empathy for the less fortunate and a desire to help people. Careers in law enforcement, probation, parole, and corrections, should not be filled by people with a mentality of “teaching criminals a lesson” or other less than empathetic motivations.

Q. What criminal justice jobs are most common in your state?

Like every state, law enforcement, supervision, and corrections.

Q. What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a career in criminal justice?

Be well-rounded in your education, including and understanding of the research and statistical methods well enough to review treatment literature and the psychology of criminal conduct; core legal concepts in criminal justice, such as due process, separation of powers, and the legal process from beginning to end; and implicit bias, racial disproportionality, and the impact of poverty.

Q. What do criminal justice departments look for when considering students to admit?

Most criminal justice programs in Texas do not admit students. That is done by the university or college admissions office. Students may choose criminal justice as their major and begin enrolling. Institutions tend to have academic advisors who may be staff or faculty to help students choose a major and to follow degree plans that have been established.

Q. What careers are available in Texas to those who complete criminal justice degrees?

Any career open to any other social science degreed individual is open to a criminal justice graduate. Law enforcement careers exist at the city, county, state and federal level for Texas graduates. Some cities in Texas now require college credits for employment as a police officer including some cities that require the bachelor's degree. The Texas DPS, Game Wardens, and Park Rangers are state level career opportunities. The federal government has more than 50 agencies that hire criminal investigators or inspectors. Both of these careers require the bachelor's degree at the federal level.

Employment is available from probation, parole, and prison systems in Texas or probation and the prison system at the Federal level. Court systems and prosecutors hire in a variety of roles including bailiff, court administrator, investigator, and trial assistant. Victim assistance programs hire advocates and counselors. This may include organizations that serve only children or only women victims. Substance abuse programs hire counselors and prevention specialists. In Texas, Child and Adult Protective Services hire case workers, independent school districts hire attendance specialists, private retail organizations hire loss prevention specialists, insurance companies hire claims investigators, claims adjustors, and fraud investigators and all of these are careers for Criminal Justice majors in Texas. Private security is a major source of careers for criminal justice majors. Major private security companies employ in Texas.

This is not a complete list, but is to demonstrate the wide variety of careers open. Additional careers are open once one finishes a master's or PhD. Degree.

Q. What makes criminal justice a rewarding career to pursue?

Several things make criminal justice rewarding:

  • Salaries and Benefits are very good in many careers.
  • Opportunities for advancement exist in many careers.
  • The prevention of crime, protection of people, catching of criminal offenders, serving victims, counseling those in need, providing behavioral correction and other goals are significantly the intangible rewards.
  • Contributing to a just society may be seen as rewarding.

Q. What makes the criminal justice profession unique in Texas?

Most criminal justice programs advise their students and graduates to seek careers not just in Texas, but in the nation (any state or federal system). Our graduates are marketable nationwide and students should not limit themselves to only local or Texas job openings. Little is unique in criminal justice professions as similar jobs exist at local, state and national levels and in all states.

Texas' Professional Resources for Future Criminal Justice Employees

Business Compliance Resources

This page contains information provided by the Texas Economic Development Division. Users can learn about funding a new business, strategies for building a new company, and local and state incentives available to entrepreneurs. Provides comprehensive information that small business owners in Texas need. The Austin Chamber of Commerce provides business growth and development resources to entrepreneurs in the state's capital.

Correctional Resources

This organization creates training programs for corrections professionals and conducts research about the field. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, or TDCJ, is responsible for managing those who are incarcerated in state-run jails and prisons, as well as private correctional facilities. Anyone interested in starting a career in the corrections industry can find leads from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on this page. The TJJD provides information about the juvenile justice system in Texas. It contains resources for the public about programs, facilities, probation, community services and more. The Parole Division promotes public safety through supervision, programs and services for offenders.

Court and Judicial Resources

Provides seminars, education, conventions, and certifications for court reporters around the state. This website has information about the different courts in Texas and what jurisdictions they handle. Also, users can find training materials, information on court rules, and forms that are used in court cases. The Texas Municipal Courts Association, or TXMCA, offers training and support to those who work for municipal courts around the state. The TCJC seeks to improve the criminal justice system in Texas for adults and youths by providing policy research and advocacy. The Texas chapter of the national organization for Court Appointed Special Advocates provides resources and advocacy for children who have been abused and neglected. A membership-based organization, the TJCJ provides education and resources for judges in Texas. Provides career support, including education, certification programs, and networking events. This site allows users to search for specific parts of the Texas Constitution, as well as statutes, administrative rules, and Attorney General Opinions. There is also information on building codes, municipal laws, and federal statutes. Since 1949, TTLA has provided trial attorneys with professional development support, such as continuing legal education courses, conferences, and networking opportunities. This webpage provides membership-based resources for paralegals in the state of Texas. The Texas Attorney General is responsible for providing legal counsel and representation to state entities and employees as well as consumer protection to Texas residents.

Law Enforcement Resources

This page has information from the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center on the training programs it provides for warrant officers and bailiffs. Job listings from the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. Agency responsible for licensing private investigators in Texas. This organization provides education and advocacy services to those in the animal control profession. Organization that provides education and resources to private investigators. This association serves a relatively small group of Texas officers who are in charge of investigating gangs and organized crime. A membership-based group, the association provides information about training and connects members.

Wildlife and Environmental Resources

Job leads from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department are available on this page. TPWD is responsible for managing and conserving the state's natural resources. This group works to protect wildlife in Texas. This page provides information about wildfire investigators in Texas. Texas game wardens provide law enforcement, water safety and search and rescue. Their mission is to serve the citizens of Texas and protect the state's natural resources. State park police provide safety services in Texas state parks to protect visitors and the park's resources. This page provides career information about working conditions and recruiting.

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