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Finding the Right Criminal Justice Career for You

Jul 1, 2008
A generation ago, pursuing a career in criminal justice usually meant either becoming a police officer or working in a legal field. But today, the criminal justice field offers dozens of different opportunities to serve the public. In fact, it can be very confusing when you discover how many different degrees are offered. It can be difficult to choose what type of degree to get for the kind of career in which you're interested.

First, determine what kind of criminal justice career you want to focus on. Perhaps you want to focus on being a police officer or a sheriff. In many parts of the country, you can become a police officer or sheriff by going to a local academy without a college degree. However, a college education will help you earn promotions more quickly. If you want to be a state (rather than local) police trooper, you may need to get a Bachelor's degree before entering the academy. So, it's always a good idea to check the requirements by talking to officers in your area.

There are also several investigative careers that you might enjoy if you have good science skills. These include forensic sciences, behavioral sciences and forensic psychology. Graduates with degrees in these specialties can work for crime labs within police departments at the state and local levels, or work for the federal government through the FBI, CIA or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

If the inner workings of the legal system appeal to you, perhaps a career as a probation officer, juvenile justice worker or social worker would be a good fit. These are all positions where you help implement the punishment or rehabilitation aspects of the criminal justice system. As a juvenile justice worker, it can be very rewarding to turn a young life around, but it takes strong a personality. You need to be a person who can handle the discouragement, as well.

The criminal justice field is growing rapidly, and college degrees are evolving to keep pace. With scientific investigative methods also constantly improving, new fields continue to emerge. Be sure you talk to several schools and find one that offers a program that's a good fit for you. Some of the programs now offered include Criminal Justice/Forensic Science, which focuses upon collecting and analyzing the forensic evidence at crime scenes. Blood, trace evidence, and gunshot residue are examples of these types of evidence.

Criminal Justice/Juvenile Justice programs offer a thorough base of knowledge in juvenile law, correctional counseling, and community outreach. The program enables graduates to be juvenile counselors, probation officers or juvenile social workers. Criminal Justice/Private Security programs focus on discovery, search and seizure as well as special investigations with an eye toward becoming part of a private security force for a school, government or business.

The list of programs in which you can major is extensive, including various specialties such as Homeland Security, Private Investigations and Fraud Examination. Criminal justice workers can find rewarding jobs within the government, in the private sector or with a law firm. You'll work closely with others who, like you, respect the law and want to contribute to upholding it while also earning a good living. Another perk is that others will look at you with respect when they know that you've dedicated yourself to a career that stands for law and order.
About the Author
Andy West is a writer for Education Expo and Education Review Place .
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