Do you love the men in uniform or those with responsibilities to protect our people? Do you wanna be just like them? That is great! You could be like them.
But, do you know? It gets so easy with a criminal justice degree.
You could work in your desired profession and start protecting the people. Plus, having a degree would give you an edge over others during promotions or pay-hikes.
So, how do you get into criminal justice? Worry not; we are here to help.
In this article, we will guide you with a step-by-step guide to help you understand the processes involved in getting into criminal justice. We will also discuss the skills required and the job list in the respective departments.
Let’s get started:
How to Get into Criminal Justice?
Criminal Justice is an umbrella term comprising the systems through which Criminals are – charged, detained, convicted, and punished or freed according to the law. The criminal justice systems are – law enforcement, courts, and corrections.
Here is a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process of getting into the field of criminal justice –
Step 1 – Check the Educational Requirement
The first step towards a criminal justice degree is checking eligibility. You need to have a high school diploma or equivalent and should have a GPA that meets the requirement. Some institutions may also ask you to sit for a specialized test; you must pass it to be eligible.
The eligibility rules vary state-wise and per institution, so it’s better to check with the respective institutions for their eligibility rules.
Step 2 – Research and Self-Assess
You meet the educational requirement, and now it’s time to research your desired career. It’s time to self-assess your interests, skills, goals, and dreams. Someone might dream of becoming a Lawyer, while the other some super cop. So, it’s better to research and self-assess the area that aligns with your strength and passion.
You may also opt for an Online Program for a Degree in Criminal Justice.
Step 3 – Choose a Degree Program
Now, you need to choose a degree program. There are 2 types – Associate and Bachelor. An associate degree is quick and affordable while a Bachelor’s degree is most relevant to many career paths and is most sought after. Also, if wish to pursue a Master’s degree or a Ph.D., at some point, then a bachelor’s degree is better.
So, wisely select a degree program that suits your career goal and interest. Also, try to consider some factors like the university accreditation, course curriculum, flexibility of the credits transfer, and like that.
Criminal Justice Degree Options:
Step 4 – Apply to a College or University
You have finalized your career path, and the degree you require to achieve it, now it’s time to enroll in a college or university. Hope you have also researched which university has the reputation for the desired career of yours.
Considering you have enrolled in a criminal justice program, let us move ahead.
Step 5 – Complete Coursework
This is an important part. You need to attend classes, finish the coursework, and pass the exams. Because without it, you won’t be getting your degree. So, work smart, stay motivated, and keep pushing for your goal, that dream role.
Step 6 – Gain Practical Experience
You have the theoretical knowledge and now it’s time to put it into action. You need to seek out internships, cooperative education programs, or volunteer opportunities related to criminal justice.
The hands-on experience you will be getting here will enhance your skills and boost your confidence in your job. Also, this is a fantastic opportunity to build a professional network.
Step 7 – Develop Specialized Skills
You know it, every field requires a unique skill set. You should be focusing on those skill sets that fit your area of interest and try to develop them. Remember, practice makes a man perfect. Don’t hesitate even if you need to take up some certifications or training.
Step 8 – Build a Professional Network
During your time in those internships or as a volunteer you should be active in connecting with professionals in the criminal justice field. You could also join them through networking events, career fairs, online platforms, and professional organizations.
Also, if possible try attending some conferences or workshops held around you, just to stay updated on industry trends and opportunities.
Step 9 – Consider Advanced Education
If a master’s degree or a doctorate degree would allow you to meet your goals, you should take up advanced education. Even if it doesn’t, having advanced degrees would always enhance your knowledge, and offer opportunities for higher-level positions. It’s a win-win situation, you see.
Step 10 – Prepare for a Career
You have a degree, some hands-on experience, and the passion to join the dream position. The last step is preparing for it, practicing the interview questions, revising the knowledge, and importantly crafting your resume right.
Remember, your resume reaches first, not you. If it works well, it allows you in. That is its value. So, work on your resume and explore the job opportunities.
So, you are job ready and are wondering what jobs can I get.
Read -> Criminal Justice Degree
What job opportunities can I get in criminal justice?
Criminal justice is like any other degree. One can apply for jobs that require a graduate with a degree, associate, or bachelors. But it can give you an edge or help if you choose to work in certain fields of criminal justice.
Like, a lawyer who has studied criminology will have more skills in terms of criminal laws than others. Just like that, a Police officer, or a Deputy Sherrif will have more knowledge of laws related to criminal justice and can work accordingly.
Let’s get to the point, there are 3 areas where you can get a job depending on your area of interest and qualifications. The areas are – law enforcement, courts, and corrections.
Allow us to guide you through the skills required for the respective field and the job opportunities each component of Criminal Justice possesses.
Law enforcement is an important part of the criminal justice system. It is responsible for enforcing laws and maintaining public safety. The role of law enforcement in the criminal justice system is to –
- Uphold the law
- Protect individuals and property
- Ensure people’s safety and security
Law enforcement agencies include police departments, sheriff’s offices, federal agencies like the FBI and DEA, and other specialized units. They are the first stop a lawbreaker encounters.
These are the skills expected from a candidate aspiring to join Law Enforcement:
Being physically fit is essential for law enforcement officers as they require to engage in foot pursuits, restrain suspects, and respond to emergency situations.
Understanding and respecting diverse cultures and communities are important to understand public sentiment and build positive relationships.
Dealing with emotional and challenging situations is significant, and having emotional intelligence helps officers remain calm and empathetic.
Apart from these skills here are some skills that are equally important:
Communication Skills, Problem-Solving Abilities, Decision-Making, Attention to Detail, Critical Thinking, Ethical Conduct, Adaptability, Leadership, and Teamwork.
Job Opportunities in Law Enforcement
We have listed out a few law enforcement jobs that pay well and provide many opportunities to serve your people.
US Secret Service special agent
Annual Average Salary: $144,477
- They protect the VVIP officials like Presidents, Vice Presidents, former Presidents, and their families.
- They conduct protective intelligence operations by gathering and analyzing intelligence and eliminating potential threats to protected individuals.
- If a need arises, they could also go undercover to investigate crimes, national or international.
Annual Average Salary: $111,035
- They analyze information to identify potential threats to national security and public safety.
- They conduct investigations on federal crimes, interrogate, and arrest people who break federal laws.
- If someone commits a crime across two or more US states, FBI agents must detain them.
Annual Average Salary: $94,942
- They conduct thorough investigations into criminal activities.
- They collect evidence at crime scenes, conduct interviews with witnesses, and arrests suspect of crime.
Annual Average Salary: $81,695
- They ensure compliance with immigration laws and regulations.
- They monitor the entry and exit of individuals at ports, airports, and land borders, verifying travel documents and visas.
- They also maintain detailed records of interactions and actions taken during their duties contributing to intelligence gathering.
Annual Average Salary: $49,667
- They enforce the law; protect the lives and properties of the citizens.
- They investigate, interrogate, and make arrests if a crime occurs.
- They maintain paperwork and prepare reports related to their daily activities, including investigations and arrests.
Apart from these jobs, here are some law enforcement jobs that you may also opt for:
Sheriff, State Trooper, Special Agent (FBI, DEA, ATF, etc.), Border Patrol Agent, Customs Agent, Fish and Game Warden, Traffic Officer, Internal Affairs Investigator, and others.
The court system, local and federal courts, play a vital role in proving and deciding if the accused is innocent or guilty. The lawyers will try to prove their point and the judge will ultimately decide the fate of the accused, according to the law. It ensures justice and the accused is either punished or freed if proven innocent.
These are the skills expected from a candidate aspiring to join the Courts or the Law department:
Understanding legal principles, procedures, and terminology is crucial for interpreting and applying laws within the court setting.
Research and Analysis
Proficiency in conducting legal research, examining case precedents, and analyzing relevant information to support legal arguments and decisions.
The ability to think critically, analyze situations, identify relevant facts, and apply legal principles to make sound judgments and decisions.
Apart from these skills here are some skills that are equally important:
Attention to Detail, Communication Skills, Organizational Skills, Ethical Conduct, Problem-Solving, Interpersonal Skills, and Technology Proficiency.
Job Opportunities in Courts
We have listed out a few Court jobs that pay well and provide many opportunities to serve justice to people.
Annual Average Salary: $79,923
- They preside over court proceedings and listen to arguments from both sides, evaluate evidence, and apply relevant laws to reach fair and just judgments or verdicts.
- They make impartial decisions on grounds of law and fact.
Annual Average Salary: $89,379
- They represent the clients in courtroom proceedings.
- They advocate for their interests and fight to protect their rights, in the court.
- They can negotiate on behalf of their clients to resolve legal disputes outside of court.
Annual Average Salary: $54,130
- They work in libraries – law schools, law firms, courts, government agencies, and corporate legal departments.
- They are legal information experts who organize, oversee, and verify the accuracy of the resources.
- They may also help the attorneys in their research by providing them with appropriate materials.
Apart from these jobs, here are some court jobs that you may also opt for:
Magistrate, Court Clerk, Court Reporter, Court Interpreter, Bailiff, Court Administrator, Court Investigator, Legal Researcher, Legal Assistant, Paralegal, Jury Consultant, and others.
The correction system focuses on the management, supervision, and rehabilitation of individuals convicted of crimes in prisons, jails, and detention centers.
These are the skills expected from a candidate aspiring to join the corrections department:
Working in corrections requires high ethical standards and integrity. The professionals demonstrate genuine honesty, trustworthiness, and a commitment to upholding the law and ensuring the rights of individuals within the correctional system.
Crisis Management Skills
Corrections professionals must be prepared to handle crises and emergencies effectively. This includes remaining calm under pressure, following established protocols, and taking appropriate actions to ensure the safety of staff and inmates.
Conflict Resolution Skills
The ability to manage and resolve conflicts in correctional settings is essential. Skills such as negotiation, mediation, and conflict de-escalation help in maintaining a peaceful environment and minimize disruptions.
Apart from these skills here are some skills that are equally important:
Communication Skills, Interpersonal Skills, Problem-Solving Skills, Ethical Conduct, Physical Fitness, Cultural Awareness, Decision-Making Skills, and Professionalism.
Job Opportunities in Corrections
We have listed out a few Corrections jobs that pay well and provide many opportunities to work for the welfare of society.
Juvenile correctional officer
Annual Average Salary: $42,763
- They monitor imprisoned minors under the age of 18.
- They specialize in rehabilitating, reforming, and maintaining imprisoned minors.
Annual Average Salary: $44,992
- They monitor and supervise individuals put on probation by the court.
- They assess probationers’ progress, provide guidance, and ensure compliance with conditions set by the court.
- They work for the probationers’ counseling, education, training, and employment.
Correctional Social worker
Annual Average Salary: $55,231
- They work for the release of the inmates.
- They prepare their clients, inmate, for their post-release by educating them with skills and promoting positivity.
- They also work on inmates’ mental health and substance addiction, if any.
Apart from these jobs, here are some correction jobs that you may also opt for:
Correctional Officer, Correctional Counselor, Parole Officer, and others.
Getting a degree in criminal justice will help you live a dream life as someone who saves the people around you. It is also essential to hone the skills that your career demands which will help you during those tough times.
A career in criminal justice requires dedication, hard work, and a passion for serving and maintaining public safety. Stay committed, stay motivated, and keep learning, as you embark on this illustrious career.
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