Is a Career In Criminal Justice For You?

Discerning a career path is an exiting yet challenging life experience. If you’ve considered pursuing a job in criminal justice, you might already know that this is a broad term that is used to classify numerous types of jobs in the same industry. By searching for criminal justice jobs online, you’ll find that there are many schools throughout the country that offer and affordable education in various fields of study. Each type of work includes unique skill sets and potential job opportunities with room for advancement.

Once you determine which type of work you want to do, you can then narrow down the selection of schools that are currently offering programs to fit your needs and ultimate goals. It’s helpful to research each type of job ahead of time so that you can make informed decisions as you plan for your future. You can refine your search to include specific criteria, such as schools that offer post-graduate programs or schools that have high job-placement rates for graduates.

A career path that encompasses numerous types of jobs

While every job is unique regarding its eligibility requirements, skill set, purpose and income level, an issue that is common across all types of work in this industry is that such careers include elements that pertain to upholding the law. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all such jobs are the same; in fact, one job may be vastly different from another. Many jobs intersect with one another. The following list includes the most common types of careers that are part of the crime work-related industry:

Police officer

If you become a local patrol officer, your duties might include responding emergencies, reports of criminal activity or other urgent matters in a community. You might also be called upon to assist detectives in a criminal investigation, provide information to help keep a community safe or issue traffic citations or make arrests.

Youth correctional counselor

If you have always wanted to make a difference in the lives of children and teenagers, working as a youth correctional counselor might be a good option. In addition to guidance and counseling to underage criminal offenders, you’d also monitor their needs and progress with the goal of helping them transition back into society.

Forensic scientist

As a trained forensic scientist, you would use scientific analyses and observation to draw conclusions regarding various types of evidence gathered at a crime scene. This particular job requires the utmost integrity because a forensic scientist is often called to testify in court. Crime-related evidence must be handled with care, according to stringent protocol and accepted safety standards. In addition to performing analyses with unquestionable accuracy, a forensic scientist is also tasked with writing lab reports regarding each test or analysis that he conducts as part of a criminal investigation.

Salaries depend on job and location

Each type of job includes various levels of earning, which would depend on your rank within a specific department, as well as your years of experience in a particular industry and your level of education. If you’re working within the field of forensic science, an average salary for a laboratory scientist or crime scene investigator is just under $58,000 per year. Police detectives typically earn several thousand dollars more per year than that, with a first-line supervisor or sergeant bringing in just under $89,000 per year.

Consider the possible benefits of this type of work

Choosing to work in this industry includes advantages over many other types of jobs. The following list shows several benefits of working in this field:

  • It is rewarding to help improve public safety.
  • This type of work is intellectually challenging.
  • You will learn skills that are applicable to other types of jobs.
  • You’ll have opportunity for advancement and various potential earning levels.
  • Such work is often interesting and exciting.

You can secure employment at the local, state or federal levels of government. Once you determine which type of job you’d like to pursue, you can research what types of subjects you’ll need to study to earn a degree.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in a field of criminal law

While there may be job opportunities in the industry that do not require a college degree, it’s always best to earn a degree because it automatically starts you out at a more competitive potential earning level. It is common to study biology, chemistry, computer science and even, accounting when working toward a criminal law degree.

If you plan on working a police detective, criminologist or correctional counselor, you’ll no doubt take classes in psychology, as well. If you’re investigating a crime scene, you will be thinking about a suspect and what his or her motive might have been. An undergraduate degree in psychology is helpful in understanding the human thought process or various types of personalities, which can aid in an investigation. It is also helpful to hold a degree in psychology if your duties include helping to rehabilitate prisoners. Many people go on to conduct research or teach criminal justice, in which case, they may first earn a master’s or doctorate degree in a chosen field of study.

How to kick start your career

To determine which type of job best fits your needs and job-related goals, it’s a good idea to make a list. Include your skills and current level of education, as well as personal strengths and weaknesses and how each item on your list might assist or impede your ability to do a specific type of work. It’s also helpful to speak to others who have already navigated a similar industry path. Another logical step to take is to contact numerous colleges and universities that offer programs in your chosen field of study so that you can decide where to go to earn a degree.