October 15, 2015
Recent events have raised concerns about public safety and security in the U.S. Threats, both global and domestic, have spurred a high demand for criminal justice professionals who are equipped to navigate all aspects of crime and crime prevention.
If you're interested in staying on the cutting edge of security at local and global levels, a criminal justice degree may provide just the tools and skills needed to position you for a rewarding career in this field. Let's see what the possibilities are when you earn a criminal justice degree and explore why this field is experiencing such widespread growth. Beyond the more traditional career paths in criminal justice, such as law enforcement, new fields such as cyber security are beginning to boom, while existing sectors such as international security have experienced growth due to increased globalization.
Not only are careers in criminal justice on the rise, but according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), they're also expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations for at least seven years. What's more, most positions in this field are expected to increase by a minimum of 11 percent by 2016. These trends favor a demand for dedicated, knowledgeable criminal justice professionals to fill a wide variety of positions.
Despite common misconceptions (due in part to the popularity of television series like "CSI" or "Law & Order"), careers in criminal justice involve much more than policing or crime scene investigations. Both public and private sector careers, involving tasks ranging from lab work to fieldwork, await skilled candidates. From working at the forefront of national security to combating cyber crime, countless opportunities exist that allow individuals to apply their educational backgrounds and individual skills in reducing crime and safeguarding justice.
Overall, criminal justice is a fulfilling field that is sure to appeal to those with a penchant for problem-solving and analytical thinking. The work is inherently dedicated to improving the world around you. It's no wonder that so many people searching for a meaningful career are drawn to a degree in criminal justice.
If you think a career in criminal justice may be for you, the next question is, "Where do I fit in?"
To determine what career path is best for you, it's important to first gain a basic understanding of the criminal justice system. Criminal justice is defined as the "system of practices and institutions of governments directed at upholding social control, deterring and mitigating crime and sanctioning those who violate laws with criminal penalties and rehabilitation efforts." In simpler terms, criminal justice focuses on punishing or rehabilitating criminal behavior, while putting effective public safety measures in place to prevent and curb occurrences of such behavior in the future.
To accomplish this goal, the criminal justice system is broken down into interrelated branches: law enforcement, adjudication and corrections. These three elements work together to accomplish goals of crime prevention and reduction.
Generally speaking, the law enforcement division of the criminal justice system is concerned with investigating crimes, maintaining social order and enforcing criminal laws. Following law enforcement activities, the adjudication branch, or the courts system, is frequently involved. Courts are charged with the responsibility of settling disputes between parties and administering justice. Finally, the corrections branch administers and enforces punitive or rehabilitative action against those found guilty in court.
Jobs within the criminal justice field can be found across the three branches and typically encompass several key areas or disciplines, including, but not limited to:
With such a wealth of interests at hand, students pursuing a criminal justice degree may be surprised at just how many different professional applications are available.
Careers in criminal justice welcome individuals with diverse interests and skill sets. Whether you're interested in criminology, psychology, political science, social services, forensics or law, the odds are good that your criminal justice degree can set you on the right path.
These jobs are largely dependent on your education level, area of specialization and relevant experience, and they typically fall into one of two categories: law enforcement or legal.
Law enforcement refers to the practice of criminal justice, including policing and exploring the causes of criminal behavior and society's response to crime. The legal category involves aspects of providing services to individuals and businesses as a legal representative or as a public official in the courts.
A closer look at some of the most prominent jobs in each category for criminal justice degree-holders can guide you in making the appropriate career choice.
A bachelor's degree in an area of study such as criminal justice and three years of law school is needed to become a lawyer. The BLS forecasts 10 percent growth in employment for this profession. Students interested in these career paths typically enjoy courses such as Legal Traditions, Legal and Justice Research Methods and Judicial Administration.
In addition to those listed above, other careers in criminal justice include those pertaining to public administration, such as urban planning and public policy. Public administration careers are available at all levels of government and can also include work in the non-profit or social services sector.
Jobs in criminal justice may also be geared towards academic research into criminal intent, organized crime, terrorist activities or individual psychological indicators.
Opportunities in the criminal justice field are diverse and plentiful, and industry trends and insight have shown that career advancement is more easily obtained with the appropriate educational credentials and hands-on experiences.
So, to answer the question, "What can you do with a criminal justice degree?" it depends on your specific skills and professional goals, but dedicated and passionate students can apply their criminal justice degrees across a broader array of careers than you may have originally anticipated.
From those seeking to make a difference on the frontlines by enforcing laws aimed at preventing and curbing crime, to those working prudently to enact these statutes, an online criminal justice degree offers the skills and knowledge to move toward careers in those roles.
In addition to strong communication, leadership, critical-thinking and decision-making skills, these professionals are expected to possess high moral and ethical standards. Also integral to career success is a grasp of key topics and concepts in criminal justice practice and a well-rounded understanding of today's criminal justice system.
These online criminal justice degrees allow aspiring criminal justice professionals or those seeking career advancement to develop these essential skills while providing the flexibility and support of an online degree program. Designed specifically to meet the needs of busy adults occupied with family and work obligations, the bachelor's and master's degree programs are a flexible, accessible and affordable option for those interested in careers in criminal justice.
These programs provide those pursuing their passions in criminal justice, or those striving to broaden their knowledge, with real-world, applicable knowledge and skills from instructors who are leaders in their field, 24/7 access to class materials and a self-directed pace that helps set students up for success.
This was the case for Allison Aring, who ventured into a new career path by pursuing a bachelor's degree in criminal justice with a concentration in criminology. Despite taking time off from her studies in the past, she says, "[I] was always determined to complete my education goals. I am hoping that with SNHU I can attain this goal and finally get the degree I have been striving for. I see the finish line ahead!"
If you're captivated by the nature and history of terrorism and want to make a difference in an area of criminal justice that continues to grow in demand, then the concentration in homeland security and counterterrorism is for you. If advocating for justice and gaining deeper insight into legal processes is more your speed, then the legal studies and advocacy track will guide you in meeting this goal. For those looking to showcase their leadership abilities and pursue their passions in law enforcement, then the police administration and operations degree would be the way to go. If you aren't sure exactly where your professional goals will take you, but you know that you have an interest in working with underprivileged groups or other who require legal advocacy, the concentration in human services won't steer you wrong.
Earning a bachelor's degree in criminal justice is a good way to start your career in criminal justice. Many criminal justice students and professionals have found that pursuing higher education places them at an advantage that can help them excel in their careers. However, competition in this field is increasing and many employers are now beginning to raise the standards of employment, requiring applicants to possess advanced degrees.
Kara Wyman found that pursuing a master's degree in justice studies with a concentration in public administration was "not only self-rewarding, but professionally advantageous." Her criminal justice educational career began with an associate degree in criminal justice. As her professional career advanced, so did her desire to make a more pronounced difference and to further her education. "As my career continued to progress with a promotion to the rank of captain, I knew that it was time to get my graduate degree."
Along with a concentration in public administration, the program offers a comprehensive examination of the U.S. justice system and all its components, from policing and corrections to management and the law through the graduate degree program in justice studies with concentrations in cyber security and terrorism and homeland security.
It's clear that whether you want to work on the front lines of the justice system, or aspire to work behind the scenes impacting things like policy, criminal justice can offer you a broad range of options.
Criminal justice is a growing field with opportunities for those seeking to begin or advance their careers and wishing to do so in a field that lets them actively make the world a better place. Jobs within the system are varied enough to appeal to a range of skills and personality types, whether you're a problem-solver interested in a career in law or are fascinated by the prospect of working in forensics.
If you're interested in a career in criminal justice, consider an online degree in criminal justice. Armed with the educational tools, you can be one step closer to fulfilling your professional goals.
If you're interested in pursuing higher level education, learn what you can do with a master's in criminal justice.
Pamme Boutselis is a writer and content director in higher education. Follow her on Twitter @pammeb or connect on LinkedIn.
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