Criminal Justice Careers Tips

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If I get my degree in Criminal Justice, What are My Options in Terms of Working for the Government?

Criminal Justice Careers For The Government

One of your options in pursuing a degree in criminal justice is to work for the government. The options within this context are:

  • Local government -- generally requires a minimum of an associates degree
  • State government -- generally requires minimum of bachelors degree
  • Federal government -- generally requires a minimum of an online criminal justice masters degree
While these indicated government branches and degree levels are quite typical, there is no fixed degree or job experience that is set in stone for a particular career, nor is a degree a guarantee that you will instantly find the job you are seeking. Search jobs, apply for internships, call and ask to schedule an informational interview as your near graduation from your criminal justice program. Some other suggestions include interviewing local police officers at the station in order to get your name and your interest out there right away. If you take these early steps, you will experience more confidence, less stress and more overall success when you start your government job search upon graduation.

What Can I Expect to Make with a Degree in Criminal Justice?

Criminal Justice Salaries

As you may have already gathered, the field of criminal justice offers such a broad range of job opportunities that it is impossible to make a blanket statement about what an average salary for a criminal justice professional would be. Basic research suggests that salaries can range from the high $20,000 (for some local level jobs) to the $100,000 (for some federal government positions and/or specialties, such as medical examining).

For information on different salary ranges, research salaries online, at the library, and talk to professionals in the field. Make sure you note in your research whether you are inquiring about the starting level salary or the ceiling level salary for that area of expertise. An additional suggestion is to consider not only salary, but also potential benefits (like educational stipends, retirement, health insurance, career growth, etc.).

How Should I Go About Determining which Area of Specialty in which to Work?

Further Investigation Regarding Your Career in Criminal Justice

Prior to obtaining your degree in criminal justice it's important to really understand the realm of possibilities available to you in criminal justice. Criminal justice is a very broad topic and even within each specified area of interest there are numerous career options.

Take forensic science, for example. Forensic Science is one area of specialty within the field/or degree area of criminal justice that offers numerous job possibilities including:

  • medical examiner
  • crime lab analyst
  • forensic psychologist/social worker
  • forensic engineer
  • crime scene examiner
Each of these sub-specialties within the criminal justice specialty of forensic science requires a different level of education and a different skill set. For example, you would have to obtain a masters or a PhD in Forensic Science to work as a medical examiner. Psychological profiling can also fall under this category, but will most likely require additional clinical knowledge, education and experience working with criminals in a clinical context.

For this reason, it's important to try and pre-determine your area of specialty, do research on the sub-specialties within that speciality, look at possible career options and then decide which program best suits your needs.

What are Some Job Options on the State Level with a Degree in Criminal Justice?

Criminal Justice Careers: State Level Government

If you are interesting in seeking a state-level position in the criminal justice field, you should consider obtaining at least a bachelors degree in the field. While you may be able to obtain employment with less education, your chances of career growth will be more limited in the long run. And even if you do work for an agency that is willing to pay for further education, having to go back to school and earn an additional degree later may take time away from enhancing your career.

State level careers in criminal justice can range from work as a forensic scientist to a probation/parole officer, to a mediator/dispute resolution counselor. It is important to identify your areas of interest prior to obtaining your degree. For example, if you are interested in forensic science, but you are interested in the more specific area of psychological profiling, you may have to get a joint degree (with a second focus in social science or psychology) to increase your job options upon graduation.

How Do I Prepare a Resume for my Job Search?

Criminal Justice Resume

One important thing to consider when preparing your resume for a career in criminal justice is to specify what your area(s) of specialty are. You can emphasize this in your objective, your educational section and, most importantly in your experience section. It is likely that human resource or management personnel will only quickly glance at your resume prior to determining if they want to read further, so it is crucial that you enter key words relative to the specific job you are seeking. For example, put the word "forensics" or "forensic science" or "medical examination" in italics or bold if you are interested in this line of work.

There is no one sure fire formula for completing a resume in the criminal justice field, as each job description and potential employer will be unique. Tailor your resume and cover letter, as needed, for each specific job application. This task may seem tedious at first, but it will ensure you a higher standard of communication and a better representation of yourself and your skill set.

What Type of Job Opportunities are available in Local Level Government with a Criminal Justice Degree?

Criminal Justice Careers: Local Government

If you are seeking a criminal justice career with the local government, you will most likely require a minimum of an associates degree in the field (that is, if you haven't already obtained on-the-job training). Some of the local level criminal justice employment opportunities to consider include a local level corrections officer, a park police officer, a county police officer, a juvenile justice officer, or working for the sheriff's department. Take the following into consideration as you research career opportunities in law enforcement/criminal justice:

  • Visit local government facilities and interview people in the field. This will give you an accurate depiction of what it is like to work in these areas, to get a feel for these environments and to inquire what level of education is required for both entry level and promotional opportunities.
  • Research the jobs that interest you. Find job descriptions, average salary, and get contact information to conduct interviews with people in the field.
  • Go to the library and check out books related to this type of employment and see if the specific areas and duties assigned are of interest to you.
  • Sit in on a couple of classes (per professors approval) prior to starting your criminal justice degree) to get a "feel" for what to expect.

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