Career Opportunities in Criminal Justice

Thinking about a career in criminal justice? Perhaps you’d like to patrol the streets and arrest suspects, investigate crimes using high technology, or even help convicted offenders to rebuild their lives. In the United States there are a wide variety of criminal justice careers to choose from:

o Private detectives and investigators assist individuals, businesses, and attorneys by collecting and analyzing information.

o Probation officers-in some states called community supervision officers-supervise people who have been placed on probation.

o Correctional treatment specialists-also known as case managers-counsel offenders and create rehabilitation plans for them when they return to regular life.

o Parole officers supervise offenders who have been released from prison on parole.

o Pretrial services officers conduct pretrial investigations, which help determine whether persons who have been arrested should be released before their trial.

o Uniformed police officers have general law enforcement duties.

o Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs are county law enforcement officers.

o State police officers-also called state troopers or highway patrol officers-work for a state government and patrol highways to enforce motor vehicle laws and regulations.

o Detectives are investigators who gather information and evidence for criminal cases.

o Fish and game wardens enforce state and local hunting, fishing, and boating laws.

o Federal law enforcement opportunities include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Air Marshals, and many others.

o Many Federal agencies employ police and special agents, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Law Enforcement, the U.S. Postal Service, the Forest Service, and the National Park Service.

o Many Federal agencies employ police and special agents, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Law Enforcement, the U.S. Postal Service, the Forest Service, and the National Park Service.

What are your prospects? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts steady job growth for many law enforcement careers through the next decade. Career prospects may vary according to the exact profession. Opportunities in local police departments, for example, are predicted to be excellent for individuals who meet personal, psychological, and physical qualifications. Opportunities are also expected to be excellent for qualified computer forensic investigators.

Wages and benefits for criminal justice graduates can be impressive. For example, in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report of May, 2006, police and sheriff’s patrol officers had median annual earnings of $47,460. Median annual earnings of detectives and criminal investigators were $58,260, while median annual earnings of police and detective supervisors were $69,310. Not too shabby!

Criminal justice degree training can help. People who want to enter the field of criminal justice can often begin their careers after earning associate degrees or certifications from dedicated criminal justice schools. The more you study, the further you might go. Criminal justice degrees, both bachelors and masters, are offered through many online and on-campus schools throughout the country. There are also federal and state safety training centers that offer ongoing courses to working professionals in counterterrorism, self-defense, and crowd control.

Many graduates of criminal justice degree programs find work as private security consultants for banking institutions, manufacturing and high-tech companies, and government agencies. With additional training they may go on to other careers, attending law school and becoming public defenders or prosecutors.

How do you get started?

The best way to research your options is to go online to a free college directory website like the one below. You can enter the search terms that are appropriate for you (such as “criminal justice, Miami, Florida,” or “online court reporter degrees”). You’ll be presented with free information about the programs that meet your criteria. Compare features such as financial aid, career services, and flexible schedules. Narrow down your choices and make your application. In less time than you think you could be training for a rewarding new career.