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Criminal Justice is a fun sort of field where you get to deal in one way or another with criminals and lawbreakers. It can be a physically and emotionally demanding field, requiring a person to deal with some intense feelings and situations. It can even be dangerous at points.
These are reasons why many people avoid the department, but for Criminal Justice Majors, that's exactly why they joined up.
There's lots of places you can go once you get started on your criminal justice career, including anywhere from police departments to correctional facilities, and could even lead to you joining the FBI, if you're so inclined. But once you're out of college, where do you start?
Which is all to say that when graduation day comes around, you've got a lot of tough decisions to make about where and what you're going to be.
Well, that's where we come in. We literally created a map, just for Criminal Justice Majors such as yourself, to navigate your way through the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone -- it's pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who prefer step by step navigation on your path, keep reading. We'll give you the rundown on:
First thing's first: what skills you'll need to get started.
Skills for criminal justice majors tend to fall within the analytical and information-gathering categories. You've spent most of your time reading about cases and laws and the various applications of the law, and now that you're entering the field you need to be able to apply this information to concrete situations.
This requires a great memory and concentration, not to mention a creative and active mind. It's certainly not for everyone, but for the brightest and the best, careers can be long and rewarding.
Let's take a look at what this means for Criminal Justice in particular:
Broad knowledge of law and the nature of crimes.
This is an absolute must. If you get through your undergraduate school without much knowledge of the law and the reasons that people break it, then you're pretty much useless to any career you could hope to have in the field. Knowledge should be fairly broad with small areas of specialization -- preferably areas that you hope to expand on with whatever career you go with.
Computer literacy/research skills.
Another absolute must. For almost any career in Criminal Justice, you'll be spending a lot of time on computers going through mounds and mounds of data. You have to have some way of processing and understanding this information. A good understanding of computers is particularly important nowadays, given how important the internet has become to society, and how much of it is used as an accessory to (or even medium for) crime.
Along with being able to conduct research and locate relevant data, you'll need to be able to come up with creative and useful interpretations of this data in order to solve the complex problems that the Criminal Justice field often presents.
There are as many kinds of internship opportunities in the Criminal Justice field as there are different kinds of jobs in said field, but some of the more plentiful you'll find are related to law enforcement in one way or another. These assorted groups and government agencies are always looking for new blood, especially when that (metaphorical) new blood is willing to take a look at some actual blood. On an unpaid basis, no less.
These internships give you a great opportunity to see how these organizations operate from the inside, and help you make the kind of connections you'll need when it comes to moving forward with your career after college.
Some common groups that Criminal Justice Majors intern with include:
Before you settle on an internship or placement, though, you'll want to make sure it's the right fit for you. Ask yourself these questions:
Jobs for Criminal Justice Majors exist in many different fields, but for the most part, you'll find them in either government positions, private correctional facilities, or in security. Other jobs in criminal justice are more related to rehabilitation -- helping ex-convicts adjust to life outside of prison, rather than putting or keeping them there in the first place.
These are all very different fields, but in all of them there's much to find that might be interesting or exciting to you regardless of how you choose to specialize. In fact, the job choices ahead of you might become somewhat overwhelming with the size of the options available.
With our map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.) But here, we wanted to call out some of the most common jobs for recent Criminal Justice major grads.
Here are a few of the most interesting entry-level jobs for recent grads such as yourself:
Probation and parole officers handle individual cases of those who have gone through the correctional system and are now on probation or parole. The role requires a lot of empathy as well as the ability to project authority, as it requires talking one-on-one with and giving directions to ex-convicts. Due to the unique difficulties of the position, probation officers tend to specialize in certain kinds of cases.
Paralegals are people who are trained for tasks related to legal duties and to provide legal assistance, but who cannot offer legal services on their own (depending on local laws). For the most part, paralegals work through attorneys, who they assist or otherwise represent.
FBI field agent
FBI field agents are some of the best of the best when it comes to the Criminal Justice field. It takes a series of tests, both physical and mental, just to be accepted, and only those within the age range of 23-37 are allowed to give it a shot. If you manage to get in, you'll spend months training at the FBI's facility in Quantico, VA, after which you could be shipped to almost anywhere. It takes a lot to be a field agent, but those who make it through the process are as passionate as they get.
One way or another, the most likely employer for your first job in a criminal justice career is going to be related to the government in some way. It's the government's laws that criminals are breaking -- it stands to reason that the most jobs related to criminal justice would be coming from Uncle Sam.
So before you scour the depths of the internet looking for any company desperate enough to hire someone with lots of debt and no experience, check out the US Government's USAJobs site, where empty government positions are posted.
On a small related note, local government is an excellent place to start when looking for government positions. This idea seems obvious, but the practical aspect of actually going to a local Chamber of Commerce or Town Hall and just trying to talk to someone directly doesn't always occur to folks.
In general, though, it's a great idea to try introducing yourself in person to potential employers. It makes you more memorable, and as far as getting your foot in the door goes, it's much more difficult for someone to ignore you when you're out tapping your foot in their waiting room. If nothing else, they'll probably be open to answering a few of your questions about finding a job in your field.
Obtaining a graduate degree in your course of study can serve as an excellent way to separate you from the herd -- but you must first decide whether it's worth your time.
Master's degrees in Criminal Justice work much like any other field -- they make you more competitive and have the potential to get you a nice pay bump, with the trade-off being time and money spent achieving the degree.
The PhD is a little unique, however, in that many of those who achieve the PhD still end up being involved in the practical field of Criminal Justice rather than just teaching or conducting research, unlike most other majors. Research is still the primary purpose of the PhD, but doctors in Criminal Justice also end up influencing public policy or acting as high level consultants.
Once more, here are the common advanced degrees that people with Criminal Justice degree normally consider:
Certificate in Criminal Justice
Master's in Criminal Justice
If you're still not sure what to do with your degree here are some external sites, to help you with your decision:
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The American Institute for Graphic Arts
One of the largest professional associations for graphic designers. Resources available to members includes design news, continuing education and certifications, contests, and networking opportunities.
Enter "Criminal Justice" into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to Criminal Justice Majors. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot - don't worry - the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.
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