October 29, 2018
Having achieved one goal of entering into a law enforcement profession, many personnel in the field next look to advance their careers and their ability to make a positive impact in their respective communities. Earning a criminal justice degree is an achievement that often comes with additional benefits but brings up another question: I have my bachelor's degree in criminal justice. Now what?
Joseph Medina had been passed up for a promotion multiple times. Frustrated, he approached his sergeant who suggested he do something to better himself in order to stand out to his employers, the Boston School Police Department. He did just that by earning an online criminal justice associate degree to boost his resume.
Medina, who was swiftly promoted to citywide mobile sergeant, is now taking aim at a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.
"I attribute my education with my promotion and have seen, firsthand, the continued career opportunities that are now attainable as a result of earning my degree," he said.
David Lemieux earned his police administration degree, an achievement he said came with a raise from his current employer, the Portland Police Department in Maine.
"Portland has an agency of approximately 150 police officers; I chose criminal justice in police operations to advance through the ranks as I gain experience," he said. "One of the reasons why I chose Portland was because of the room for advancement."
Of course, earning a degree while working full time comes with its own difficulties, and Lemieux said he needed to find a program that meshed with his work schedule, which typically involves second- and third-shift hours. A traditional on campus schedule wasn't an option if he wanted to sleep, so he turned to an online criminal justice program, which he said offered the best value in terms of time, flexibility and price.
"It was a little bit of a challenge figuring out how to plan my work, personal time and school work," he said.
Lemieux said he forced himself to break his weekly work into manageable chunks in order to meet assignment deadlines.
"Every instructor had a vast array of knowledge; they got back to you within 24-48 hours on a question that you might have," he said. "The instructors know that life happens and were able to work with you if an incident came up."
Jobs within the criminal justice field 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.
Published data from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting division shows there were nearly 1 million full-time law enforcement employees in 2017. And the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports nearly 3.4 million total jobs in protective service occupations and a 7% job growth rate among police officers and detectives through 2026.
Those who aren't already employed or who are considering the next step for their careers can use their criminal justice degrees to gain entree into a number of fields including, according to Criminal Justice Degree Schools, the following:
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.
Having achieved his goal of earning a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, Lemieux said he has a newfound confidence in his job duties.
"My affidavits have significantly improved," said Lemieux. "This was because of the projects and milestones we had to complete in each course. My instructors were able to provide me the proper feedback of how to obtain references and put them in a (proper) format. (My criminal justice degree) has also provided me with the knowledge in constitutional law to conduct proper police community involvement."
Similarly, Medina said there have been many practical benefits in addition to his promotion and obvious monetary gain.
"I feel that through my education I learned more about the other agencies that I interact with, such as the court system and the corrections system," he said. "I also learned a great deal about how a lot of the principles and tactics utilized in modern policing came to be."
Most important, said Medina, is the impact he's experienced at home.
"The promotion has enabled me to better provide for me and my son," he said, "and my earning of my degree has made my son realize the importance of education and has motivated him to want to go to college."
Ryan O'Connor works in higher education marketing at Southern New Hampshire University. Follow him on Twitter @NHRyGuy or connect on LinkedIn.
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