There are a variety of criminal justice careers available that will take you to different areas of the field. Your specific career choice may be influenced by: the type of degree (for example, associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate), the focus of your degree (for example, psychology or social work), and/or the availability of particular courses you wish to take (e.g., psychology). In order to determine what criminal justice career options are best for you, it is important to take some time to consider what you enjoy, where you wish to work, what skills and certifications you possess, and your future career goals. It may also be helpful to talk to other people who are employed in your desired field and ask about their opinions and recommendations.
There are a variety of criminal justice careers available to choose from. Some of the most common criminal justice majors are criminal justice majors that concentrate in Crime Scene Investigation, which includes everything from forensics to computer forensics. Other criminal justice majors focus on Law Enforcement, which includes everything from gang units to drug units. Other criminal justice majors specialize in Forensic Science, with jobs including tissue analysis to DNA testing.
There are a variety of institutions that offer criminal justice degrees. For students who are interested in pursing a career in this field, it can be helpful to visit local community colleges and use the Internet to research colleges that offer criminal justice majors. Students may also be able to locate information about a school by searching for its name online. Once a student has decided on a college or university to attend, he or she should make sure to meet with a career counselor to discuss his or her options and make sure that the chosen major is right for him or her.
Criminal justice education requirements vary by institution, but the general education requirements range from a bachelor’s degree to a master’s degree. Depending on where a criminal justice student attends school, he or she may be required to earn a minimum of one year of coursework at the college level before entering the program. Coursework typically includes mathematics, legal study, psychology, sociology, communications, and other courses that help prepare students for their specific job titles and positions within the field. Legal assistants, probation officers, paralegals, investigators, forensic scientists, and other professionals who work in the area of criminal justice may require additional education after graduation.
Requirements for entering the police force vary greatly. Some police departments require a high school diploma or GED; others may not conduct background checks on potential applicants. Each state may also have slightly different requirements for becoming a police officer. Police officers must undergo a training academy and obtain a certificate before they can legally carry a concealed weapon. Although most police officers receive extensive training in the use of their police equipment, some also receive on-the-job training in special circumstances such as gang activity, drug crimes, or domestic violence.
Criminal justice education requirements vary by state, but there are a number of job titles that are consistently represented in many state criminal justice programs. Detectives, bailiffs, patrol officers, court representatives, defense attorneys, correctional officers, lie detection experts, sergeants, prosecutors, judges, police officers, and forensic scientists all routinely take the exams required to advance to a higher level in law enforcement. Some careers require a college degree, though these positions usually require at least a master’s degree, so students who wish to pursue a law degree will need to take specific courses. Many law enforcement jobs require criminal justice administrators to take at least two years in college after beginning law school. Students who want to serve as an investigator in a local police department, or work as a surveillance operative for the federal government will likely need more advanced education.
All criminal justice jobs involve a mixture of surveillance and law enforcement skills. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is the primary agency within the Department of Justice responsible for implementing and enforcing alcohol and tobacco control policy across the country. Other government agencies such as the Transportation Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Defense are responsible for implementing other policies regarding criminal justice jobs. These agencies will often hire former criminal justice professionals to fill available positions.