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Careers and Jobs in Criminal Justice

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This page contains information about careers in criminal justice, including job descriptions and help finding an appropriate job. It includes resources on what you can do with a criminology degree; books about careers in criminal justice; websites helpful for job hunting.

What can I do with a criminology or CJ degree?

Click here for a list of job and career ideas and another one here, with some additional links. The Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics has some information about average salaries, educational requirements and other characteristics for law enforcement, prosecutors in state courts, and judges (scroll down through the list of tables). CriminalJusticeUSA.com is a 100% free, non-commercial website that offers information on a variety of criminal justice careers. The FBI page has a section on careers & the qualifications to be a special agent (see also: Female Special Agents). The Washington Post recently did a long piece on FBI training five years after Sept 11 that is good reading for anyone thinking about an FBI job. [Horwitz, 'Just Don't Quit' Aug 16, 2006, p A14 and 'Old-School Academy in a Post-9/11 World' Aug 17, p A1]

Please remember as you job hunt that employers are increasingly likely to check MySpace, Facebook and other sites as part of a background check on you. Postings and content suggesting excessive drinking, drug use or inappropriate behavior can be problematic for your application. Likewise, think about any blogs you have in your name and whether they seem consistent with the type of person and professional judgment a prospective employer might be looking for. 

See: 'Pre-crime' come to your job: A company called Social Intelligence systematically trolls social networks for evidence of bad character using automation software that slogs through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn, blogs, and "thousands of other sources." The company develops a report on the "real you" -- not the carefully crafted you in your resume. The reports feature a visual snapshot of what kind of person you are, evaluating you in categories like "Poor Judgment," "Gangs," "Drugs and Drug Lingo" and "Demonstrating Potentially Violent Behavior." The company mines for rich nuggets of raw sewage in the form of racy photos, unguarded commentary about drugs and alcohol and much more. The company also offers a separate Social Intelligence Monitoring service to watch the personal activity of existing employees on an ongoing basis. The service provides real-time notification alerts, so presumably the moment your old college buddy tags an old photo of you naked, drunk and armed on Facebook, the boss gets a text message with a link.

 The Biggest Mistakes 20-Something Job Seekers Make ~ 20 Things 20 Year Olds Don't Get [Neither column is picking on your generation - don't be defensive and check them out]

The following are general books, probably most helpful in providing overviews off different job possibilities for those who are not yet sure what aspect of criminal justice to focus on. Criminal Justice Profiles is a helpful source to get an overview of many careers as is the criminal justice school guide. Also check out the detailed information that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has on Probation officers, Correctional officers, police and detectives, dispatchers, private detectives and investigators, lawyers, paralegals and legal assistants, and judges and magistrates

Clicking on the book titles or covers takes you to Amazon.com, which has a complete description and links to many other related books. 

Consider also Jobs in Social Change, because many people go into CJ hoping to help others and don't always find what they want to do. 

My bias is for Stuart Henry & William Hinkle, Careers in Criminal Justice: The Inside Story, 2nd edition. The chapters are by people - many of them former students of Stuart Henry - who write about becoming detectives, police, security, lawyers, guards, probation or parole officers, etc. The essays are a combination of biography, job description, advice and personal reflection. (I wrote one of the essays about becoming a professor of criminology.)

Career Planning

These books help develop general skills (like resume building and interviewing), discuss how to build experience through internships, or how to present yourself and communicate effectively through better writing. The last part might not sound glamorous, but poor writing will be a barrier to a job where you need to write reports, esp if they must be shared outside your immediate department.

 

I have reviewed quite a few books on the topic on criminal justice careers and would recommend Harr and Hass, Seeking Employment in Criminal Justice and Related Fields, 4th edition. Rather than personal stories and reflections like the Henry & Hinkle book, this one covers topics like interviewing, resumes and employment tests. It does a good job covering job hunting strategies and issues like dealing with rejection. There's an included CD-Rom also. 

Tom O'Connor's website covers some of these same issues for free although in much less detail and mostly with a law enforcement focus (great job with the interview questions and answers, Tom!). Note - last updated 2006, so some information may now be dated. 

Careers in Law podcasts, via Lewis & Clark Law School (note careers in environmental law). The National Paralegal College has a sample class for Constitutional Law and Criminal Procedure available online

See also Real Resumes for Social Work and Counseling Jobs: Including Real Resumes Used to Change Careers and Transfer Skills to Other Industries.

Links to Job-hunt Websites

The Ultimate Non-Profit Job Guide: 97 Job Boards that Cover It All (note: these are non-profit jobs in general; the ones that relate to CJ will be in various social welfare nonprofits.)

Criminal Justice Jobs Help ~ Law Enforcement jobs (search by zip code, includes private industry and teaching jobs)

Another especially useful site is Tom O'Connor's Criminal Justice Employment Mega Site (last updated 2006 - some info may be dated). 

What You Don't Get About the Job Search: The View From Employers (Atlantic) The Atlantic asked our readers to share with us the one thing most people don't understand or appreciate about looking for work. We got a surprising number of responses from employers with advice for the unemployed.

 

Police & Law Enforcement Careers

There are a ton of books because this is such a popular career choice. If you click on any of the options below, you'll go to Amazon, which will recommend many more related titles. 

See also the free websites discover policing and Introduction to Criminal Profiling. Although there's a great deal of interest in this career, opportunities are severely limited. After a large number of psychology classes, the most likely career option will be doing psychological evaluations rather than detective work. Also, if you have read some of Douglas' books like Mind Hunter, etc, you know that many of the FBI profilers work long hours under a great deal of stress from trying to catch killers before they take another life. Douglas had a nervous breakdown and depression also seems like a common problem among real profilers, as opposed to the TV kind. 

Police Investigation and Forensics (C.S.I)

Much of the forensics and C.S.I type of work requires a great deal of chemistry and science background, as opposed to crime scene investigation (which requires a good deal of care and being very methodological).  

The American Academy of Forensic Sciences has a list of accredited programs and more info about the topic. Read an interview with a forensic analyst (doesn't sound quite as glamorous as seen on TV). 

See "Education and Training in Forensic Science: A Guide for Forensic Science Laboratories, Educational Institutions, and Students" National Institute of Justice. Presents consensus criteria and recommendations to establish best practices for educating and training forensic scientists. The information serves students preparing for a career in forensic science, educational institutions as they develop and revamp curriculums, and forensic scientists as they advance their knowledge, skills, and abilities (64 pages, adobe.pdf). 

Also, "Crime Scene Investigation: A Reference for Law Enforcement Training" National Institute of Justice. Designed to help trainers and administrators develop training programs for crime scene investigators. Each part of the report includes proposed performance objectives for the student to ensure attainment of the material. (72 pages, adobe.pdf)

 

After the CSI people come through, there's the less glamorous job of cleaning up. But CNN writes that Crime-scene cleaner is a potential six figure salary, with no college degree required: "What they do have is a strong stomach and a willingness to do some pretty thankless work" 

But many jobs do require a degree or an advanced degree. All Criminal Justice Schools has more information about getting a Master Degrees in criminology and criminal justice, including many online degree programs.

Pre-Law Discussion Board

Advice to First-Year Law Students (Findlaw.com column - nicely written and helpful!). Another updated version of the advice from Aug 2006. See also, High Tuition and Debt Lure Graduates Toward High Pay, Away from Public Service Jobs (Washington Post, 30 Nov 2007). 

Is Law School A Loosing Game? : "...a generation of J.D.ís face the grimmest job market in decades. Since 2008, some 15,000 attorney and legal-staff jobs at large firms have vanished, according to a Northwestern Law study. Associates have been laid off, partners nudged out the door and recruitment programs have been scaled back or eliminated. And with corporations scrutinizing their legal expenses as never before, more entry-level legal work is now outsourced to contract temporary employees, both in the United States and in countries like India. Itís common to hear lawyers fret about the sort of tectonic shift that crushed the domestic steel industry decades ago." (New York Times, 8 Jan 2011)

Please stop back - I'll be expanding the list to include other careers as I have time & find good resources.

 

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