Law enforcement officers, such as police officers, detectives, probation officers, and correctional counselors, usually have extensive training in criminal justice. Many police personnel and detectives learn a great deal of what makes a good cop or inspector through on-the-job training or in a training academy, but many still pursue and complete criminal justice degree programs.
Most people who work in probation or correctional counseling have earned Bachelor's degrees from criminal justice training programs, but some jobs require Master's degrees in Criminal Justice, Social Work, or Psychology.
Criminal Justice Training: Overview
The criminal justice system is made up of three basic parts:
- Police: For many, the police are their first contact with the criminal justice system. Police officers are charged with keeping peace and upholding the laws of their jurisdiction.
- Courts: The court system is the place where legal disputes are settled and justice is administered. The majority of the people who work in the criminal justice system work in court settings.
- Corrections: Offenders who have been found guilty are turned over to the correctional system, where they either spend time in a jail, detention center, or in prison.
Other aspects and subsystems of the criminal justice system include managing sex offenders, firearm control, drug court, parole boards, and juvenile justice systems.
Criminal justice deals with the study and the laws that pertain to criminal behavior. People who study criminal justice, such as police officer candidates, learn the portions of law that govern criminal behaviors. For instance, police officers train on the rights they have when dealing with suspects.
Police officers are not the only workers who study criminal justice. Criminal justice degrees can also lead to the following careers:
- Crime scene investigators
- Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents
- U.S. Marshalls
- Private investigators
- Court reporters and court clerks
- Corrections officers
- Coast guard officers
- CIA agents
- Bail bond recovery agent
- Security guards
- Gaming surveillance officers
Criminal Justice Training: Degrees and Coursework
A degree in criminal justice is not required to become a police officer, but applicants must be at least 21 years of age. Correctional officers also aren't required to hold advanced education, but federal correctional jobs require at least a Bachelor's degree.
Most police officer criminal justice training programs include a 12- to 14-week academy in which recruits learn constitutional rights and civil law, state and local ordinances, and accident investigation techniques. Recruits also train in traffic control, patrol procedures, and the use of firearms and self-defense.
FBI agents must have several years of on-the-job work experience and an advanced college degree. Agents must also undergo 18 weeks of training at one of two approved federal facilities.
Fish and game wardens also must complete at least two years of college courses in most states and complete an additional three- to 12-month training program. Field training often follows.
Most federal justice agencies require a Bachelor's degree as the minimum education level and training at the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, or the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. Each federal agency, such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms or U.S. Customs and Border Protection, has specific training requirements that can be found on those agencies' websites.
Criminal Justice Career Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), over the next eight years, there are expected to be an additional 41,400 police officers and detectives employed in the U.S., and an additional 2,300 criminal investigators for a nationwide police force of more than 1 million. Employment for police and detectives is expected to grow 5 percent nationally from 2012 to 2022, according to the BLS.
Growth is projected to be similar for correctional officers, bailiffs, and jailers -- about five percent across all fields. Still, these fields are expected to add over 45,000 jobs through 2022. Security guards and gaming surveillance officers are expected to add an additional 130,200 positions in the next eight years, a 12 percent increase, the BLS states.
Resources for Criminal Justice
- BLS, Police and Detectives
- BLS, Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers
- BLS, Probation Officers
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Police and Detectives, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm#tab-1
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Correctional Officers, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/correctional-officers.htm#tab-1
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/security-guards.htm#tab-1