A criminal justice education is ideal for someone who enjoys the intricacies of the law, has a strong sense of fairness and justice, and wants to work with their community to create a safer, more pleasant place to live.
Those seeking a criminal justice education will study laws, regulations and punishments assigned to those who have been accused of committing a crime. They will also study how crime and punishment affect society at large. Criminal justice education is a starting point for police officers, advocates, detectives, legal prosecutors and defenders, as well as other individuals interested in the pursuit of protective, legal or judicial services.
Those who are interested in criminal justice education and working for a law enforcement agency will need to:
Most jobs in criminal justice require at least a high school diploma, although many interested in a law enforcement career earn an associate, bachelor's or master's degree in some related discipline before entering the workforce.
Police officers and detectives also must graduate from their agency's training academy and then complete a period of on-the-job training.
Criminal justice education and training depends on the career path you choose, as well as your state's requirements. In some cases, a high school diploma and passing a physical exam are required to join a training program. However, earning a criminal justice degree can give you more opportunities for advancement. Many state and local agencies require at least an associate degree for entry-level positions. A bachelor's degree can be beneficial for those who want to advance to higher levels in the field, as is a master's degree.
Criminal justice degree requirements for federal agencies include a minimum of a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and related work experience. For instance, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) requires an applicant to hold a bachelor's degree, have at least three years of related work experience and meet other criteria that set their skills apart from other law enforcement specialists, such as fluency in a foreign language. In addition, a training program must be completed, which tests both knowledge and physical ability.
Those who pursue a criminal justice education might find work in a variety of specializations. Many of these specializations require additional criminal justice training or courses with a special emphasis. Possible specializations include, but are not limited to, the following:
Whatever criminal justice field you enter, it's likely you'll need some kind of specialized training. Police officers must graduate from a training academy, for instance, while fish and game wardens need to have taken classes in biology and natural resources and also attend a training academy.
The training requirements for federal law enforcement agencies are even stricter, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition to having a Bachelor's degree and three years of professional work experience, candidates for federal law enforcement jobs must complete intensive training at centers in Quantico, Virginia, and Glynco, Georgia.