Criminal Justice Careers for Women

by Allison Crowson, MJA on 8/27/15 11:27 AM

CJ-femaleThe criminal justice field is stressful, dangerous, and often unpredictable. Less than a century ago, this career path was not seen as fit for women. However, over time, with an evolving society, women have established a progressive position in the field that is important to the American culture.

Within the last five years, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports show nationwide criminal justice agencies having a growing number of women in their forces. The concept of criminal justice as a “man’s field” is shifting, presenting high-paying and flexible career opportunities for women.

Progression of Women in Criminal Justice Careers

Throughout the last century, the United States has seen the emergence of women in law enforcement.

  • In 1856, Kate Warne was named the nation’s first female detective.
  • Alice Stebbins Wells was hired as a Los Angeles police officer in 1910, making her the first American-born female police officer.
  • Two women began work as patrol officers in 1968.
  • In 1972, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was expanded, making it illegal to discriminate in employment in public agencies including police departments.
  • In 2011, 13% of law enforcement personnel were women

Women in Criminal Justice Today

In recent years, women have become more prevalent in all areas of law enforcement, from patrol to detectives, special assignments such as SWAT, and chiefs of departments. The National Center for Women & Policing reports that after extensive research, women police officers typically utilize a style of policing that relies less on physical force, and more on communication skills that defuse potentially violent situations. Many employers seek these particular skills to best equip their professional team. These specialties allow for progression of criminal justice careers for women.

The field of criminal justice thrives on organizational diversity. Within the Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI) team, female special agents are viewed as critical members. It is said that the women contribute unique and important perspectives, experiences, and skills to their mission. In many cases, women possess different analytical skills and abilities from their male colleagues that add value to the organization.

Women considering a professional career in criminal justice may have concerns that involve the physical requirements and the potential of being able to start a family. For many organizations that have physical requirements, the female candidates take the same physical fitness test as their male counterparts, although the scoring scale for each event differs slightly to account for physiological differences in gender. For women who wish to start family, organizations often times have programs designed to help women meet both their family and career goals. As a special agent, the FBI offers a part-time program that allows for individuals to have flexibility to raise a child and pursue a career.

While women have made inroads into careers in the criminal justice field over the last several decades, it remains largely a male-dominated profession to this day. In today’s world, there is a demand for women and the skills they bring to the criminal justice field.

An Educational Path to the Future

As a leader in criminal justice education, Norwich University offers the opportunity to help students make an impact on their career. Norwich graduates have gone on to rewarding and impressive criminal justice careers in a wide range of organizations, using their education to distinguish themselves by serving with skill, creativity, and confidence at the local, state, national, and international level.


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This post was written by Allison Crowson, MJA

Allison Crowson is the program manager for the Norwich Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Master of Science in Criminal Justice programs. An adjunct faculty member and academic advisor in Norwich’s criminal justice department since 2006, she teaches courses on criminology, victimology, introduction to the criminal justice system and the police. She earned a master’s degree in justice administration from Norwich University and a BA in transpersonal psychology from Burlington College.