Criminal Justice Careers for Veterans

Criminal justice career judge holding a gavel

For many U.S. military veterans, criminal justice careers are a natural next step. Experience in the military has, in many ways, prepared them for a paramilitary job such as law enforcement, but there are other options, too, including including work in corrections, probation, and more in the criminal justice system. For many, these will be fulfilling places to use the skills they've learned.

Entering or Re-entering the Working World

Veterans often worry that military service will work against them on a resume. Actually the opposite is true. According to a 2014 CareerBuilder.com study, 46% of employers pay more attention to a resume if it's from a U.S. veteran. This poll also found that, given two equally qualified resumes, 68% of hiring managers and human resources professionals are more likely to hire a veteran vs. a non-veteran.

Employers spoke highly of the qualities servicemembers bring to the table, including teamwork, self-discipline, respect, integrity, and an ability to perform under pressure. While these skills are useful at just about any job, they're especially valuable in criminal justice careers.

Transferable Skills

"(Veterans) have the mannerisms, esprit d'corps, the military model - they're already a fit for the job," said Dr. Jeff Czarnec, associate dean of SNHU's online criminal justice program. "Experience has prepared them for what they will see or deal with on the street."

Mark Evenson, adjunct faculty at SNHU, was in the Army himself before becoming a police officer. He knows firsthand the benefits veterans bring to criminal justice careers. "It's a natural transition," he said, speaking of their maturity, diversified training, and willingness to take on responsibility.

A criminal justice career, especially on the front lines of law enforcement, means dealing with difficult and sometimes tragic situations. Military veterans are accustomed to working within a strict hierarchy, taking orders, and helping each other as a team. Close work with colleagues from many backgrounds has often given them interpersonal skills and self-confidence. These skills can hold them in good stead when dealing with stressful or dangerous situations; and, Evenson said, "You could apply the same to other fields in criminal justice, (such as) corrections or probation officer."

Czarnec cautioned, though, that criminal justice careers have one important difference. "You've got to tone it down a lot," he said. "The strongest muscle in your body is going to be the brain." High emotional intelligence, quick thinking, the ability to assess a situation with little to no information, and anger management are all keys to success in criminal justice careers. Whether you're in corrections, probation, or administration, your biggest asset will be the ability to handle intense situations.

Taking all that into account, if you're committed to helping people, communicating well, and building on your military training, you'll be an important asset to the U.S. criminal justice system.

The Advantages of a Criminal Justice Degree

While a college degree is not always required to work in law enforcement, it can give you an advantage over other job applicants. More and more, a bachelor's degree indicates a level of discipline and training that appeals to employers and many federal agencies require it.

According to a 2015 survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterans who have a bachelor's degree have higher rates of employment than veterans with a high school diploma. A criminal justice degree can be especially helpful. It can enable you to capitalize on your existing skills, while broadening your other skills to be the most well-rounded and capable employee.

If you're a veteran considering a degree program, you're likely aware that the GI Bill® can assist your education. SNHU is proud to work with servicemembers, providing advisors who have experience in your branch of the military, and veterans such as Evenson who are teaching in the criminal justice program. If you're considering a degree at SNHU, visit the military application information - the admission team is committed to helping you every step of the way.

Criminal Justice Degree Concentrations at SNHU

SNHU's online BS in Criminal Justice offers several concentrations, so you can find the best fit for your skills and professional plans.

If you're an active-duty servicemember preparing to transition into civilian life, or a veteran, law enforcement may be the most intuitive career move, allowing you to maximize your self-discipline, adaptability, and firearms experience. SNHU's comprehensive program in Police Administration and Operations can prepare you to get the most out of academy training. Whether you want to be on the front lines or behind the scenes, you'll gain a broad range of skills that police departments value and reward. Between leadership and management classes, and more specific options such as Effective Patrol and Community Policing, you'll be ready for a variety of positions ranging from law enforcement to private security to corrections. If you already have a bachelor's degree and want to prepare for leadership positions, SNHU's MS in Criminal Justice offers a Public Safety Administration concentration.

Criminology is a fascinating field focused on criminal minds. What are the reasons for deviant behavior? How can understanding them help address crime at all levels? SNHU's unique concentration in Criminology supplies essential training in ethics, sociology, psychology, and criminal justice leadership. If you are curious about how human and environmental factors contribute to violence, criminology could be a great fit.

The concentration in Human Services and Advocacy is ideal for veterans who want to focus on helping the people our criminal justice system serves. For job seekers with degrees, the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 10% growth in social and community service management positions by the year 2024. The field includes elder, family and child advocacy.

SNHU's concentration in corrections prepares you for careers such as probation and parole officer, correctional case manager or administrator, and more. These positions are always in demand, particularly for military servicemembers. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Prisons encourages veterans to apply for correctional jobs. In this program, as with others at SNHU, your faculty have years of hands-on, real-world experience. You'll emerge with a research paper suitable for presenting at conferences - a great way to get your knowledge to other professionals and job markets in your field.

SNHU's innovative concentration in Homeland Security and counterterrorism can connect you to a rapidly growing field. You'll study the causes and mindsets of domestic and international terrorism and the many ways to combat them. You'll emerge prepared for a variety of jobs, including investigator, federal agent, and dispute resolution specialist. If you already have an undergraduate degree and want to dive deep into counterterrorism, forge ahead to SNHU's MS in Criminal Justice concentration in advanced counterterrorism and Homeland Security.

Your Unique Experience Improves the World

However you've served, as a veteran you are uniquely suited for many areas of criminal justice. A criminal justice degree can strengthen the skills you've learned in the military. You're already committed to teamwork, integrity, levelheadedness and logic. What else do you need to make the leap?

"You need the desire to help," said Czarnec. "You have to have a heart, compassion. No one dials 911 for a birthday party. [People] are having a problem and you want to help them."

Education can open rich opportunities for veterans' talents, experience and desire to make a positive difference in the world.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by the VA is available at the official U.S. government website.

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