October 23, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Plymouth State University
Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College
Pennsylvania State University - Beaver
University of Arkansas - Fort Smith
University of North Carolina at Pembroke
Saint Elizabeth University
The University of Akron
Boise State University
Cedar Crest College
University of North Carolina at Pembroke
Arizona State University
Tennessee State University
Department of Social and Behavioral Science
Dr. Chris Sharp: For instructors, I look for those that have not only been in the field in some capacity but have taken the theory learned in the classroom and found ways to apply it. I want to know what innovative things they have done in their department (Crisis Intervention Team, De-escalation, Mental Health Training, Peer Mentoring, etc.). Importantly, did they do something beyond "just their job"? Also, what are the extracurriculars? You can tell a lot about a person about where they focus their free time. If their focus is on family, civic organizations, church, etc., it shows a commitment to a stable community, starting with the family.
Dr. Chris Sharp: The ability to connect with people where they are. Ask them questions, find out something about them, and then relate something similar to you to show that common bond. Don't be afraid to open yourself up and become vulnerable; none of us are a rock. Once you make the connection, find what motivates them or gains compliance, and use that to get them to do what you need them to do. If you're a leader, that may mean initiating change. If you're a line officer, that may mean talking someone into handcuffs instead of a takedown. As a fugitive recovery officer with over 1,000 arrests in 3.5 years, I can count on one hand the number of physical altercations I had. It starts with establishing mutual respect, even to those that may not have earned it yet. Learn a foreign language. You never know when you will need it, especially in a high tourist area.
Dr. Chris Sharp: Know how to write succinctly, clearly, and well. Your file will end up in court and will reflect you. The last thing you want to do is seem unsure, uneducated, or incompetent because you don't know how to write.
Dr. Chris Sharp: Knowing strategic planning, budgeting, budget execution, and public policy analysis will give you the higher-level skills you need to move up in your career. There are certification programs out there. Find them and get certified. Also, understand human resources; not just managing people but leading people. This will make you a force in your organization.
Plymouth State University
Criminal Justice Department
Mark Fischler: The ability to see the world from an interdisciplinary perspective. The world is complex.
Mark Fischler: Emotional intelligence is key. Must be able to relate with others and make connections, or you will not be successful.
Mark Fischler: The ability to write clearly and concisely. To be successful, one must communicate through the written word no matter what job one takes in the criminal justice field.
Mark Fischler: The ability to speak multiple languages. The world is getting smaller in the sense that we can connect with people all over the world. To have a skillset to speak another language will distinguish you from the rest.
Master of Art Degree in Criminal Justice
Bianca Harris: Along with experience in at least one aspect of Criminal Justice, the skills of a Criminal Justice instructor that stand out surround communication, attention to detail, above-average writing, logical thinking, strategic planning, training in trauma and substance use disorder, multi-lingual, and previous supervisory experience.
Bianca Harris: Communication, integrity, and work ethic are the most important.
Bianca Harris: Strategic planning, management, public speaking, Microsoft Suite, and email communication are the most important.
Bianca Harris: Public speaking, strategic planning, and management skills.
Sociology and Criminal Justice, College of Arts and Sciences
Stephanie Lake: Employers want to know that students have developed critical thinking, research, and writing skills and can demonstrate proficiency with concrete examples. Students should highlight any experiential learning endeavors, including internships, quantitative or qualitative research projects, research assistantships, and other work done in the community that demonstrates problem-solving and communication skills. The ability to successfully navigate and communicate with diverse populations is a big plus. For this reason, the interdisciplinary criminal justice program at Adelphi is firmly grounded in the social sciences - Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, Political Science, and traditional Criminal Justice. Students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills by exploring criminological theory related to crime, the law, and criminal justice policy and working with diverse cultures and populations.
Stephanie Lake: Soft skills: see above. Critical thinking, written and oral communication skills. Students must demonstrate the ability to express themselves well in writing and verbally and communicate within a diverse population. Active listening skills are also valued when dealing in stressful or contentious situations where data collection and mediation may be required.
Stephanie Lake: Hard/Technical skills: Computer: Quantitative Research skills, including proficiency with data collection, manipulation, and statistical analysis (SPSS and other social science software), and experience with crime databases. Ability to research legal precedent and theory in the peer-reviewed literature.
Stephanie Lake: Depending on the type of job in the field, analytical and writing skills (law); quantitative and statistical skills (criminal justice policy assessment and evaluation); a double major in criminal justice and psychology or master's degree in forensic psychology (intervention and counseling).
Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College
Student Services - Library and Criminal Justice Instructor
Joe Bouchard: Employers will need to be ready to answer policy and procedure questions regarding personal protection against infection for some applicants and interviewees.
In general, I do not foresee a diminished flow of new professionals. Of course, as some agencies have a population bubble of retirees, many more new recruits are needed to fill the gap.
Joe Bouchard: Basic computer skills remain a must as agencies go more and more digital. Also, netiquette will be necessary to maintain professionalism. One does not need smile face emojis on official documents. As non-traditional or older applicants enter the field, it behooves agencies to consider the differing learning curves for the multi-generational workforce and incorporate into technology training.
Basic skills such as clear communication (written and spoken) will always be important to employers, no matter the level of technology. Applicants who can comprehend and speak mandatory terms (shall, will, must) and discretionary terms (may, could, should) that occur in policy directives and operating procedures will be valuable to any organization.
Joe Bouchard: In my experience, wages have risen steadily. This will need to continue, as the need for new staff increases due to a glut of retirees. Also, this is a stressful field and wages should match the intense pressure.
Jodi Gill: In criminal justice, our "business" is people and being able to think critically and quickly in responding to them. In addition to required courses in the major, I always suggest students take courses in Psychology (at a minimum, an introductory course). Our society is also more diverse and global, so any classes which increase knowledge and understanding of other cultures are helpful. Foreign language skills are beneficial in the field, as well.
Jodi Gill: Our field is not dependent on geography, and there are needs everywhere! Right now, it is an exciting time as governments are exploring additional ways to address issues beyond law enforcement. For example, restorative justice, mediation, and other community-related programs can proactively prevent crime before it happens. A degree in criminal justice can prepare graduates to successfully contribute to these initiatives in very meaningful ways.
Jodi Gill: There really is no "typical day" in this field, which is why I enjoy it so much! At any point in time, criminal justice professionals are required to pivot and adapt. Coursework in criminal justice prepares individuals for changing times and circumstances, and our graduates are prepared to meet those challenges!
Mary Wuestewald: I think Covid-19 will have an enduring impact on all realms of life. Specifically for graduates, the success of various industries has been affected which will affect their job prospects, at least in the immediate future. They will need to take this into consideration when planning their careers. They will also need to be tech-savvy, as many businesses and organizations have had to learn to rely on virtual interaction. On a practical note, I foresee significant economic impacts associated, in part, with Covid-19, so they will need to plan accordingly.
Mary Wuestewald: They need to have sharp technological skills. No matter the extent of technological advancement, however, graduates need good writing skills. Writing will always be a critical component of communication. They need to be able to articulate their points of view in a clear and non-aggressive manner. They need to be able to compromise, accept constructive criticism, and show responsibility and dedication to their work. Increasingly, they need to be open to a diversity of opinions and know how to interact appropriately when they encounter someone with opposing viewpoints.
Mary Wuestewald: Many employers look for the completion of at least a bachelor's degree, as this communicates an ability to set and achieve goals, as well as a desire for self-improvement. If they are aiming for employment in a criminal justice-related field, it helps if applicants have some type of practical experience in addition to their education. Such experience doesn't need to be fancy. It could simply be the completion of an internship at a CJ-related agency. I personally take a close look at letters of recommendation. Are they of the garden variety or was their former employer/professor/colleague genuinely impressed by this individual?
Dr. Matthew Hassett Ph.D.: COVID-19 and responses to the coronavirus have impacted most aspects of daily life in one way or another. While graduates may be impacted in certain ways for the time being, I do not believe that there will be a severe enduring negative impact on those in the justice field. Moreover, if justice graduates were to attempt to take an optimistic view of the current situation, it could be argued that the recent pandemic further cemented the importance of obtaining a criminal justice degree. Pandemics, tragedies, and other difficult situations hopefully remind the general public how important those who pursue careers in public service are to our society - including those in the field of criminal justice.
Dr. Matthew Hassett Ph.D.: Beyond the obvious specific skills that someone would need to be successful, young graduates should possess some degree of several general skills that may not always be immediately thought of when entering a justice field. For instance, I have served as a reference for several former graduates when they entered the job market and have been interviewed myself by their prospective employers. Some of the most common skills that I was asked about related to a job candidate was their ability to work with others, lead, critically think, orally communicate, and write. The further development of any of these skills would better position a young graduate.
Dr. Matthew Hassett Ph.D.: First, I do not believe that the importance of a college degree and its impact when searching for jobs should be understated. Additionally, however, having any type of real-world experience would only make a candidate's resume more attractive. I have seen beneficial experience range from military service to prior positions of employment within a justice capacity to internships completed during one's pursuit of their degree.
Saint Elizabeth University
Criminal Justice Department
Dr. James Ford Ph.D.: The coronavirus pandemic has impacted many of our graduates. Some first-year students have missed their first-year experience as freshmen when they normally would be engaged in social and academic activities. Some colleges and universities went entirely remote while allowing science and art courses to be conducted in-person. Other schools utilized the hybrid method of learning and most afforded students the option of being remote or in-person. The professors also had the option of being in-person or remote.
My particular program in Justice Administration and Public Service is offered fully online and we are asynchronous which didn't impact the academic learning process. The students were impacted personally but not delivering academically. Our professors were very helpful to all of our students who may have been impacted by Covid-19 and very understanding with due date assignments.
Dr. James Ford Ph.D.: Students will still need a well-rounded education in the discipline of their choice. Good Verbal and Written communication still remains at the forefront as needed in the workforce. Working in groups and with others from diverse cultures and ethnicity is important to prepare for the future. Students have to know that we don't work in our silos, we need to work well with others.
Dr. James Ford Ph.D.: It is my opinion that internships are very important for students. First, it affords the student an opportunity to work in the field that they aspire to belong. It also affords the employer an opportunity to observe and offer a constructive opinion to the students. Most of the students at my university do engage in internships even during the pandemic. Our university also provides workshops on how to dress for success and mock interviews to prepare students for the actual interviews.
Dr. David Licate Ph.D.: I tell graduates that it is necessary to build a network of peers and mentors. Criminal Justice careers are information-driven. Changes in law, policy, and technology happen always. New professionals can learn best practices and stay on top of their field by communicating with peers and more experienced professionals. Participation in professional associations and reading trade, government, and academic publications can help professionals problem-solve and prepare them for career advancement. College graduates should not forget that they are educated to make evidence-based and data-driven decisions and be agents of positive change when they get on the job.
Dr. David Licate Ph.D.: We are entering an era of "Big Data," where those with the requisite skills can mine vast databases. Whether you are in policing, corrections, law, or the private sector - the ability to use computer information systems, including geographic information systems, will be essential. Creating relational databases, mine for data, and creating interactive crime maps are a few desirable skills. As the field of predictive analytics evolves, we will see more forecasting. Instead of just using a map of where crime has occurred in the past, we can forecast where crime is most likely to happen in the future and pre-position resources to deal with it before it happens. Technology that identified high-risk people and places would continue to evolve and help prevent, not a reaction to, crime.
Dr. David Licate Ph.D.: Criminal Justice is a broad field. Students enter careers in policing as officers and investigators, corrections as probation/parole officers and treatment specialists, courts and law as bailiffs and lawyers, and the private sector in various risk management and security administration jobs. Jobs in policing begin in the $60,000 range with regular increases throughout the career. At the federal level, agents can be at 100,000 within the first decade on the job. I have included a slide presentation that divides the field into various job tracks. Again, the area is vast. You can be an FBI agent, forensic technician, Money Laundering Investigator for a bank, counselor, crime and intelligence analyst, a physical security specialist for a chemical factory...you can have a job at all levels of government and the private sector. Salaries and career paths vary widely.
Jim Kerns: The experiences that stand out for criminal justice agencies can include all life skills that involve problem-solving, critical thinking, and good communication skills. Agencies are looking for people who are mature in their lives and their decision-making processes.
Many people do not give themselves enough credit for the life skills that they develop during their youth. Leadership skills; were you a sports captain, held a leadership position in your youth group and created a legacy program at your school? Agencies want well-rounded people that have been involved in activities like philanthropic endeavors, volunteering in the community, and getting involved in helping their community become more muscular.
The best way to look at your resume is to review the job description you are applying for and then address each quality or qualification on the job description. Resumes should be tailored to the agency you are using. Resumes may include past job-related experience, identified skills required for the job, and soft skills that make the candidate the most attractive candidate for the job.
Jim Kerns: Technology continues to grow and become more critical in the career field of criminal justice. Technology is rapidly developing and constantly changing. Body-worn cameras have become a new norm for many police agencies. Now, police agencies are looking to use cell phone video as their primary body-worn cameras.
Increased cybersecurity technology is helping law enforcement to combat world criminal enterprises.
Technology such as doorbell cameras, video surveillance cameras, traffic cameras, and facial recognition software is continuously updated and used more significantly in criminal investigations.
Jim Kerns: Coronavirus has had a significant impact on our world. The pandemic's current state shows over 238,000 deaths and over 10 million people contracting the disease in the United States alone. There are so many unknowns about the long-lasting effects of the condition that it is difficult to determine our country's long-term effects.
As far as the pandemic effect on graduates, we have seen a reduction of internship opportunities for students to gain experiential learning. Where most criminal justice opportunities exist, government agencies are very hesitant to take on college interns during the pandemic.
The lack of opportunities stems from agencies being restricted by mandates from local leaders. Agencies are also trying to learn how to do their jobs remotely and cannot host internships while they are learning themselves.
New graduates may be entering the criminal justice field with less experiential learning and thus have less certainty of what they would like to pursue in the area. Additionally, fewer in-person classes can mean fewer interpersonal interactions. If this trend continues, criminal justice graduates could be ill-prepared for the extensive interpersonal communication skills needed in the criminal justice field.
Scott Hoke Ph.D.: Many CRJ jobs are either government-related or are tied to non-profit organizations. Local, county, state, and federal government positions offer several benefits, including benefits packages and job stability. Posts in this area are also the most sought after and may take a while for the candidate to work through the hiring process. It is not unusual for the entire process to be measured in months as compared to weeks.
Since the criminal justice system is one of the largest employment sectors, people often underestimate the work scope. Many non-profit organizations work with offenders, families. And victims in the criminal justice system. These organizations tend to have higher turnover rates, and it may be easier to find vacancies. Lastly, there are several non-profit organizations that work with issues surrounding community improvement. Although the pay may not be as high as other criminal justice system areas, the work is often quite rewarding.
Scott Hoke Ph.D.: Post-pandemic, I think you will see a strong job market in criminal justice. In some areas of the country, police organizations struggle to find enough qualified candidates to fill open positions. It would appear that, in some sectors of the criminal justice market, demand is outpacing supply.
Scott Hoke Ph.D.: Are there any particularly useful places in the United States for graduates to find work opportunities in this field after they graduate? The answer to that question depends on what the student would like to do as a career. If the student has an interest in federal law enforcement, as an example, then those types of jobs are more likely to be found in major cities.
But local, county, and state law enforcement jobs can be found in any area of the country. The most significant barrier to employment is if the student narrows their focus to a particular city or region. Expanding the possibilities beyond local borders allows the individual to pursue more opportunities. Logic would suggest that smaller towns or areas offer smaller options.
Scott Hoke Ph.D.: Concerning trends, I don't think the criminal justice system is as sensitive to hiring trends as other employment markets. Police and law enforcement organizations function that same in almost any environment. If there is any change in the employment outlook, it will come from the impact that pandemic may have on non-profit organizations. Many client-based non-profit organizations may see funding interruptions or changes in the method of delivery. That may lead to a reduction in the number of available jobs.
Scott Hoke Ph.D.: As with society in general, the delivery of services through remote services may last for awhile. Many non-profit organizations may find that the delivery of services is more effective using digital platforms. More narrowly, concerning law enforcement, geographical software's use, and understanding will continue to become important. Understanding the geographic distribution of calls-for-service allows departments to deploy resources more effectively.
Mario Paparozzi Ph.D.: Rely on your presentation as much as you may want to rely on a college degree. A college degree helps to "open doors." Once a door is open, even a little, it is up to the individual to "carry the ball across the finish line." Always remember that a college degree does not make up for deficiencies in an individual's presentation to the "professional/career world." An individual's presentation includes good interpersonal communication skills, using proper grammar when speaking and writing, and dressing for the career you seek. Finally, always remember that criminal justice means "justice for all." This includes career colleagues, criminal offenders, and the community. If an individual is not able to embrace righteousness for everyone, then he should seek another profession.
Mario Paparozzi Ph.D.: Advances in technology are difficult to foresee, and they often happen unexpectedly. It is essential that graduates stay abreast of all aspects of technology and how they may enhance efficiency and effectiveness in specific career choices. It appears that artificial intelligence will experience significant advances and become more prominent in the educational, healthcare, and business sectors. Artificial intelligence will likely play a central role in criminal profiling and a variety of forensic applications.
Mario Paparozzi Ph.D.: The starting salaries in criminal justice careers vary by occupation and jurisdiction. The most promising path for a personally rewarding and lucrative career in criminal justice is to "get one's foot in the door" through entry-level positions. Even though entry-level positions may not seem gratifying or financially rewarding, they are the best pathway into the places that criminal justice graduates dream about obtaining. Graduates must remember that the coveted careers in criminal justice will go to those already working in the field. A graduate should not expect one of those positions only by dint of a college degree. A college degree is necessary, but not sufficient, for obtaining a challenging, gratifying, and financially rewarding career; practical experience counts!
Dr. Virginia Beard: -First, as a result of not just the pandemic but also as a result of retirement and many officers leaving the profession because of the social climate and impact on law enforcement, there will be a significant number of openings in law enforcement. Therefore, there will be a considerable push to recruit officers, and if there are unwilling job candidates, then we may see, as we have in the past, a lowering of the standards for hiring (not always a good thing).
-I believe that public policy in criminal justice will become one of the more focused upon avenues for individuals as they navigate the system and complete advocacy work in this manner.
Dr. Virginia Beard: -Body cameras will continue to expand in usage across the United States police department.
-Research on other "less than lethal" weapons will continue and develop more and better weapons to incorporate into the use of force continuum.
Dr. Virginia Beard: -There will be BOTH. The field includes a diverse array of professions. There will be an increased demand for police. Increased demand for graduates with advanced degrees in public policy. The need for lawyers is decreasing as the market is full.
David Bugg Ph.D.: Many police departments are experiencing hiring freezes because they are experiencing economic uncertainty from their funding sources due to lost tax revenue. I think going forward we will continue to see slow rates of hiring as the economy stabilizes.
David Bugg Ph.D.: I think several technologies will become more important and prevalent in the next 3-5 years. In no particular order:
-Body-worn cameras: as potentially racially motivated incidents and allegations of officer misconduct continue to gain national attention; departments will continue to turn to this technology to share video and audio of events, especially as alternatives to costly data storage fees become available in terms of affordable storage for small and midsize departments, who have generally been priced out of using this technology for this very reason.
-Social media: as new platforms emerge and the need for criminal investigations to utilize social media to build and conduct investigations grows, even small and midsize departments are spending time training officers for cyber investigations and dedicating the task of crime analysts to examining social media for investigative purposes.
-Uncrewed aerial vehicles: with decreasing budgets removing the ability of many departments to be able to access helicopters for drug interdiction, general uses such as pursuits, and for assistance in search and rescue operations, UAVs will become a logical alternative as they can perform many of these operations at a fraction of the cost. Ease of operation and lower costs for the technology make them highly accessible to law enforcement for these reasons.
-Encryption: the threat of cyber attacks against government institutions means law enforcement increasingly has to be concerned with cybersecurity-related issues. Given the sensitive nature of information about open criminal investigations, law enforcement has to navigate the encryption of data on networks and devices as more and more portable devices are used by agencies to perform their routine functions.
David Bugg Ph.D.: There is a genuine potential for a decrease in demand for graduates in this field over the next five years. The "perfect storm" of the pandemic, calls for police reform, and just general social unrest with government institutions, in general, has created a climate for law enforcement and criminal justice that I have never seen in the 20 years I've been working and teaching in the field. Some agencies will continue to grow, as long as they can remain insulated from these concerns. However, for many agencies, who are already experiencing problems maintaining staffing sizes given economic constraints, the need may remain for hiring. Still, the budgets will likely manifest until the economy recovers, and public and political sentiment favors expenditures on criminal justice-related hiring.
Vera Lopez Ph.D.: In terms of the academic market for our graduate students, I think there will be a trend toward hiring graduates who can teach online.
Vera Lopez Ph.D.: Videoconferencing technology such as Zoom, as well as other programs that facilitate online learning.
Vera Lopez Ph.D.: Students in the School of Social Transformation learn about some of the most pressing social, political, economic, and environmental justice issues of our time. Many of our courses focus on what students can do to affect social transformation in their local and global communities. Undoubtedly, students will be able to apply these skills in the real world in various settings ranging from community-based organizations to schools.
Tennessee State University
Department of Criminal Justice
Dr. Deborah Kitchen Ph.D.: - Communication skills
- Experience with technology
- Internship experience
Dr. Deborah Kitchen Ph.D.: I would work on getting some certificate that would make you stand out. Or maybe learn a second language - Spanish.
Dr. Deborah Kitchen Ph.D.: Knowledge of computer technology and software design.