Careers in the criminal justice field are varied, requiring a variety of skills for different career paths. This guide is an introduction to the career options available in the private sector as well as the local, county, state or federal levels. If you are already working in one of these fields, it may spark ideas on how to advance or become more specialized in your professional life. This guide will explain what it takes to succeed in the field, as well as the interesting and meaningful positions available within criminal justice.
THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE LIFE
A life in criminal justice can be exciting and rewarding, but if you’re thinking of entering the field, you should be aware of the high level of dedication that is needed and the risks involved in a chosen career.
Each profession in criminal justice plays a critical role in the safety and security of the nation’s citizens: from the policeman who takes the emergency call, to the researcher whose data helps communities make safer choices in city planning. A dedicated person with drive and passion for their job will likely find fulfillment and success. A career in criminal justice can be extremely rewarding.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE EDUCATION
For those looking to break into the field, a degree in criminal justice can help you establish a solid knowledge base. For experienced professionals, an education can bring a broader perspective, reveal new research methods and problem-solving and provoke the type of critical thinking that is so crucial to succeed in the criminal justice field.
Fortunately for those already working in the field, many schools, including Norwich University, offer online degrees, allowing students to learn at times when it is convenient for their schedules.
“Norwich offered an online program where I could get my bachelor's degree in criminal justice. That offering, coupled with the longstanding military tradition at Norwich made my decision easy. I never even applied to another school,” Brad Hanson, Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, Class of 2018.
Benefits of earning a degree include:
- Increased workforce appeal: Generally, employers perceive candidates with higher education as more qualified than those without. According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, it’s estimated that by 2020, 35% of all job openings will require a bachelor’s degree.
- Evidence of dedication: Individuals who pursue a degree display a high level of commitment to their profession. Advancing your education shows dedication and desire to improve skills and qualifications.
- Advanced knowledge in specialized areas: Many criminal justice jobs require specialized knowledge or skills. Most degree programs will offer concentrations or tracks that can help you gain the particular knowledge you need.
A criminal justice education should include:
- A comprehensive curriculum that covers the criminal justice and legal systems, methods in social science research, data analysis and writing, ethics, and policies and procedures of corrections.
- Theoretical and practical applications of key topics including leadership, ethics, intelligence gathering and analysis and communication.
- Specialty courses could consist of criminology, terrorism, cybercrime and security, public safety, community involvement, drugs and gangs, emergency or relief operations, immigration policies, interrogation, report writing and homeland security and intelligence.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT JOB FOR YOU
After deciding on the right educational path, it’s critical to analyze your professional options before choosing a specific career. You may change jobs several times within the field before deciding which route is best for you.
To choose the job that best fits your personality and strengths, carefully consider the following:
- Educational requirements: In addition to a degree, certain jobs may require a specific skillset or advanced training. Be prepared to know the type of skills and training that are required before pursuing employment in a particular field.
- Licensing and certification: Some professions require licensing or certification, such as DNA and firearms analysis training for a crime lab position or clinical licensing for a social worker.
- Work environment/level of danger involved: While some criminal justice work takes place in a typical work environment, many scenarios can be dangerous and work best for patient individuals who have a high tolerance for stress and exposure to danger.
- Emotional neutrality: Consider that you will need to remain emotionally neutral in difficult situations, such as those involving abuse, addiction and death. Although some incidents can be emotionally trying, these are often the experiences that provide the greatest sense of professional accomplishment.
- Job outlook: Prepare yourself more for a more sustainable career by researching the projected outlook of your chosen professional track. Know what jobs are in demand and which jobs are on their way out.
Positions in the corrections sector deal specifically with individuals who have been sentenced to incarceration or rehabilitation. The facilities available for employment range from halfway homes, to the local jail, to a maximum security federal prison.
A quality corrections officer will not only supervise and guard, but will also offer a sense of inspiration and motivation to the incarcerated individuals. In addition to the care and guarding of inmates, many administrative jobs exist inside the facilities.
Corrections positions include:
- Diversion Program Director
- Correctional Officer
- Prison/Jail Administration
- Probation/Parole Officer
- Security Guard
The field of investigations can be exciting, but is requires patience, dedication and endurance. Whether working in the public or private sector, investigators collect and document evidence and provide analysis on their findings to reach the most logical conclusion.
Some types of investigation require further certification, such as those who work in a crime lab, which must complete DNA-analysis training and firearms analysis training.
It should be noted that many investigator positions, such as detective, are generally ‘earned positions,’ requiring a number of years in law enforcement before moving up.
Some examples of jobs in investigations are:
- Criminal Investigator
- Private Investigator
- Crime Scene Examiner
- Fraud Investigator
COMMUNITY LAW ENFORCEMENT
The need for brave individuals who serve and protect in their own communities is ever present. These men and women are responsible for maintaining public safety, preventing crime and apprehending offenders.
Additional training for these types of jobs generally include basic training at a police academy that can last from 12 weeks to more than a year. A bachelor’s degree is recommended for those individuals who want to advance in rank.
Law enforcement positions include:
- Police Captain
- Drug Enforcement Agent
- Traffic Enforcement
- Highway Patrol
- Fish and Game Warden
FEDERAL LAW ENFORCEMENT
Jobs in federal law enforcement are highly sought after, given the prestige and scope of jurisdiction. Individuals who are serious about pursuing positions at the federal level must maintain a clean record and intense training is usually required in addition to a bachelor’s degree.
Federal law enforcement positions are extremely competitive, and acceptance is dependent on stringent testing of your physical, medical and psychological state.
Some federal criminal justice positions are:
- Special Agent
- ATF Agent
- CIA Agent
- Deportation Officer
- Naval Investigator
- Postal Service Investigator
- S. Marshall
- Coast Guard
- Secret Service
RESEARCH AND EDUCATION
For those with an interest in criminal justice but little desire to be ‘out on patrol,’ the fields of research and education may be a logical fit. Most individuals entering this sector attain dual degrees, which include psychology, behavioral science, education or statistics/analysis.
These types of positions can garner higher salaries, and many individuals in these positions are scholars in the field: published authors of research that shapes the way law and order is perceived and implemented.
A few of these jobs include:
- Criminal Justice Educator
- Crime Analyst
- Cyber Security Analyst
- Criminal Profiler
- Forensic Science Technician
- Blood Spatter Analyst
FEDERAL AND PRIVATE SECURITY
In the past decade, America has taken a more proactive stance on national security, including the protection of its borders. As a result, many new jobs have been created to meet the growing demand.
Careful applicant screening is conducted and most positions will also include a basic training program. For personal security jobs, such as body guard or witness protection worker, individuals operate on a more personal level with clients and often dedicate time around the clock to the safety of their employer.
A few jobs in security include:
- Security Officer
- Transportation Security Administration
- Body Guard
- Border Patrol Agent
- Customs Agent
- Witness Protection Officer
TAKING THE NEXT STEP
There will always be a demand for qualified, trained and dedicated criminal justice professionals. Each job is important, weaving into the larger design for a safer country. Deciding which profession is right for you is a matter of personal preference, but proper research can result in an informed decision and a successful career.
You can make your way in the highly rewarding field of criminal justice, and the best place to start your journey is with a quality education. Norwich University Online offers an excellent degree completion program, providing you with the flexibility of earning your criminal justice bachelor’s degree on your own schedule. In addition to offering a comprehensive program, Norwich accepts a number of previously earned credits and training so that you can achieve your degree faster. Don’t wait to start your dream job.
Norwich admissions advisors are available to answer your questions about transferring course or training credits, program details, financial assistance, scheduling flexibility, or any other aspect of the criminal justice online degree completion program. You can call, email or visit our website for more information.