Criminal Justice Programs

Education & Training

Criminal justice careers fall into three categories that serve and protect society. Their work pertains to local, state, and federal laws. The main components of the system are law enforcement, courts, and correctional facilities.

Each category has its own general criminal justice duties, though some may crossover. Those in law enforcement find and arrest criminals while those in corrections supervise prisoners. The court system sends suspects to trial and determines the punishment for crimes committed.

Trade Schools with Criminal Justice

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Educational Requirements

Criminal justice education varies between having a high school education and achieving a Ph. D. Security and dispatch are entry-level positions. Forensic scientists, special agents, and criminal profilers have at least a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

Border patrol agents, police officers and drug enforcement agents attend academies and perform rigorous physical training tests. Such criminal justice classes involve hand-to-hand combat, defensive techniques, and tactical instruction.

Criminal justice schools offer courses in basic law, arrest techniques, and first-responder skills. Correctional officers and law enforcement take similar classes.

Court hopefuls experience more by-the-book study sessions, seminars, and strict grading.

Court employees have extensive knowledge of state and federal laws. At a law or criminal justice school, lawyers, judges, and counsels have meticulous testing such as the bar exam and the law school admissions test (LSAT). They also study complicated case studies that inspired current law.

For a candidate to stand out among other potential hires, a professional criminal justice resume is ideal. Listed in detail should be experience, awards, and certifications related to the field.

Those with volunteer work show a desire to better their community.

What Is Criminal Justice?

The detection, detainment, trial, and punishment of crimes is the criminal justice system. It serves society by remaining impartial and just.

A criminal justice trade school helps students decide which part of the system is ideal for them.

Law enforcement

Law enforcement is the most well-known point of contact with the system. Officers and detectives investigate crimes, make arrests, and do their best to protect witnesses or victims. The information they collect as evidence is pertinent, and requires a keen attention to detail.

Judicial system

The courts offer an assortment of criminal justice jobs of varying expertise. Attorneys are deeply involved with every aspect of a case.

Specialists and assistants work on particularly pieces of a case, and don’t always see an issue completely through. All part of the system work together to ensure the most fair and safe result possible.

Corrections

An entry-level job in corrections requires a high school degree. Other occupations might call for a graduate criminal justice degree.

Employees who earn a degree during their work in corrections have job opportunities. Since they work directly with convicted criminals, workers must be patient and willing to enforce prison rules.

What Are Criminal Justice Jobs?

In law enforcement, a prospect might want to be a uniformed officer or a detective. These law enforcement jobs involve physical training and a standard criminal justice requirement of strong communication skills.

Police departments strive for a firm yet friendly reputation with the community.

Bailiffs, prosecutors, and defense attorneys make sure trials proceed in an organized and fair manner. They should be well-educated and practiced in the legal vernacular of the courts. Cases can be lengthy, confusing, and emotional, so it is important to stay calm, collected and focus on the facts of the case.

A criminal justice certificate opens doors to many occupations focused on correction. Officers and wardens work in prison environments to oversee inmates and their activities.

Counselors and probation officers aid in rehabilitating criminals.

The following is a list of titles associated with a criminal justice career:

  • Court clerk
  • Public defender
  • Paralegal
  • Social worker
  • Evidence Technician
  • Border Patrol Agent
  • Drug Enforcement Agent

Career Overview

What Types of Skills Should Criminal Justice Employees Possess?

When it comes to criminal justice skills, strong verbal and written communication is a priority. Those in court often make speeches or statements that have to be clear and concise.

Officers write reports upon their observations. Inaccurate or poorly written reports can result in tossing or delaying a case.

Analyzing and presenting information is crucial for criminal justice training. One must relay facts and figures accurately from sensitive crime databases or discrete sources. I

nvestigators and data experts review and present information to help determine guilt or innocence.

Adapting to change in procedure is a vital criminal justice skill. United States law originates from a living document. Therefore, the law changes based on modern day criteria.

Court proceedings remain traditional. Still, learning new software, managing inmate needs, and living in a progressive society is a constant effort.

Ethics & Morals

Perhaps the most important aspect of a criminal justice job is to be sure one’s actions maintain and uphold ethical and moral standards. Justly serving society and gaining public trust relies on a capability to determine right from wrong. Thorough decision making and humane values helps with the development of this skill.

Other Useful Skills

  • Research skills using criminal justice tools and databases
  • Recognizing contributing factors to crime
  • Adhering to safety rules and regulations when apprehending suspects and utilizing criminal justice equipment
  • Firearms proficiency for multiple types of guns
  • Stress management in difficult and time-sensitive situations
  • Ability to multi-task when working on several cases
  • Answering phones while locating suspects and assigning officers
  • Being timely with assignments and meeting deadlines to prevent delay of cases or emergency assistance
  • Physical fitness is important for law enforcement as they may have to chase suspects or defend themselves
  • Understanding confidentiality agreements with victims and witnesses
  • Paying close attention and being aware of surroundings when in dangerous areas

Work Environment

When entering the criminal justice workforce, one should expect to go through physical and mental testing. Competition can be difficult especially in law.

These prospects should prepare by studying past or present cases and going to mock trials. Officers should work out regularly to meet physical fitness standards.

The law never stops. Work hours can be lengthy and extend to double shifts. Workplace safety concerns can be life-threatening.

Deescalating unruly inmates as well as transporting high-risk suspects is a dangerous gig. Crime scenes require precautionary steps to avoid harm from chemical and biological hazards.

Where Can You Work?

Many applications for criminal justice jobs are available via government sites. However, interviews are generally in-person. Initial job offers are usually conditional upon the results of a background check, drug tests, and written exams. Other places to find criminal justice work are:

  • Security services at local venues
  • General district courts
  • Juvenile courts and correctional facilities
  • Police department websites
  • Online portals for government agencies

Can You Work Remotely?

Many remote criminal justice jobs are teaching occupations. Adjunct faculty at universities or criminal justice trade schools teach classes on criminology.

Active investigation and clerical work, such as transcribing audio for permanent records, are at-home procedures as well.

What Are Some Other Careers in Criminal Justice?

Career paths for people with criminal justice skills include popular industries like health and wellness, biological sciences, and communication studies.

Emergency medical technicians, registered nurses, and case managers aid in the physical and mental health of victims or suspects. Forensic scientists, bloodstain pattern analysts, and ballistics experts navigate crime scenes.

Program coordinators and food service supervisors work in prisons and jails to care for inmate’s overall well-being. Court reporters transcribe dialog from trials into official court documents.

Examples are airport security, fraud investigators, surveillance specialists, cybersecurity, and bounty hunters.

Criminal justice duties influence location and salary. Cybersecurity is in high demand as technology becomes more complicated and profitable to infiltrate.

Old school bounty hunters have limited rights per state legislation. They receive payment for contracted services only.

Career Outlook

Criminal justice careers are consistently in demand. Job growth projections for law enforcement are up 5% and court-related positions are growing by three percent. Corrections face a decrease in funding for prisons and population constraints resulting in a seven percent decline.

Salaries differ between positions. While the pay for police officers and detectives varies by city, the median salary is $63,380. Employees of the court earn median salaries of $50,940 for legal assistants and up to $120, 910 for attorneys. Correctional officers make an average of $44,330 a year.

Finding a job in law enforcement, the judiciary, or corrections depends on the locale. Larger cities hire more officers to patrol several zones. Alternatively, small towns typically have a pretty solid force. In court, term limits and private practice determines the hiring process. For corrections, there are less requirements, but even less demand.

Criminal justice benefits include the following:

  • Job security
  • Multiple pay grades, including overtime pay
  • Employee-first hiring/promotions
  • Pensions, such as the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)

Question and Answer: Police Officer

A session with Russell who worked as a police officer at the Sheboygan Sheriff Department in Sheboygan, Wisconsin for 25 years.

Q: What kind of training did you need to become a police officer?

A: When I started police work, the standards were different from what they are now. I had to apply and pass the testing. Then I had to take the physical and basic training. I already had military experience for over 10 years, so that was a plus in those days. I had drafting experience since I worked for Donahue and Associated for years. I worked the crime scenes measuring and drawing up the reconstructions for the department. This was before computers. Now they have specific computer reconstruction personnel.

Throughout the years, I was sent to school to learn more about the criminal justice system. This was something that Bill (another police officer at the Sheriff’s Department) and I did together. We needed to further our education for promotions. I was advancing my career and moving into the Detective Division.

Today, new police officers need to have courses in criminal science and understand the justice system. An associate degree in criminal science is recommended, but not necessary as long as you have the basic classes and pass them.

Q: What did you like and dislike most about the job?

A: The job was enjoyable for the most part. I was on the drive team. For years, I was the motorcycle cop during the summer months. I worked Road America and got to meet the drivers. Working on the road gave me the opportunity to make many new friends and learn about things that I never knew before. Driving all the time was not as bad as one would think because you do stop and catch up on some paperwork or watch the traffic.

Working in Sheboygan is a lot easier than it is working in some of the larger cities like Milwaukee. I really did not dislike anything about the job. Foot chases were not anything you wanted to happen, but it did from time to time and you need to know how to run. My career gave me a new understanding about different aspects of the community.

Q: Can you describe a typical day for you on the job?

A: The typical day starts with roll call. Roll call is where you hear information from prior shifts about what happened. You are told who is wanted and what to look for in a particular day. Then it is time to get in your car and drive. You are assigned a section to patrol. You just drive the streets and look for suspicious activity or if you get a call, you respond. I would stop for coffee at local restaurants. I had lunch at the restaurant out in Plymouth. The typical day was normally quiet.

Q: What are your career plans for the future?

A: The next step is being retired and building some houses to sell. Traveling is also on the plan. I will build a house and sell it so I can vacation in Las Vegas during the winter months.

Q: What previous job history prepared you for working as a police officer?

A: I spent more than ten years in the Navy and had drafting experience. I also did construction work prior to becoming a drafter, which was actually helpful on the job because it helped keep me physically fit.

Q: What kind of traits does a person need to have in order to be successful at this job?

A: You need a strong personality. You need a strong backbone. If you intimidate easily, being a police officer is not for you. You have to stand your ground and not back down. You also have to have a personality that people respect. If you are all business, people feel uneasy. A sense of humor is also needed most of the time. You have to be able to take death as it comes and not dwell on it.

Q: Would you recommend the job to someone else? Why or why not?

A: Yes, being a police officer is rewarding. Today, there are more gangs and killings to worry about, but it is still a rewarding job. I would not recommend the job to someone that shows instability in his or her personal life. You really have to have your life in order to work the job.

Related Resources

Becoming a Forensic Science Technician in Florida
Becoming a Police Officer in Florida