Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

What to do After Earning a Criminal Justice Degree

So you just walked down the aisle (the graduation aisle that is) to receive your criminal justice degree and now wonder what you got yourself into.  What really can you do with a criminal justice degree?  Fortunately, the answer to this question is not limited nor is it confined to a specific field.  Criminal justice careers have expanded over the past few years to open up a world of opportunities for recent graduates. 

Criminal justice degrees help prepare students for a future in law enforcement and other career opportunities within the criminal justice system.  As a result of new technological advances, the rate of crimes has not exactly increased, but the type of crimes being committed has evolved so that new departments are needed to combat new forms of criminals.   While crimes have remained the same for the most part, the way that crimes are committed has changed and expanded so that departments like the DEA, ATF, and others are now exclusively used for these forms of crimes.  Burglaries are still occurring as they always have, except now we also have more advanced technologies to be able to take more forensic evidence and hopefully capture the criminal.  The many individuals who are now part of a crime scene investigation are one reason criminal justice degree graduates are in such a high demand.

New departments such as the homicide department have specific employees within who typically have backgrounds in criminal justice and understand how criminals are now able to cover their tracks easier and have technological means to track them now.  Using resources such as computer forensics and public records, law enforcement officers are able to apprehend criminals better than ever before.  As a recent criminal justice graduate, you are better equipped to handle the modern trends in law enforcement and understand how everything fits together.  As a result, you are at a better advantage since you have the background, education, and modern understanding of the increasing technologies and can earn a job in nearly any department depending on your specialty.

Additionally, criminal justice degrees do not necessarily confine you into a career solely in law enforcement.  Criminal justice can be applied to many different sections of the business world and are applicable in legal forums, government opportunities, and many other sectors.  As crime continues to occur and criminals evolve with technology and modernity, new departments and employment opportunities for criminal justice students will open up as well, indicating that the criminal justice degree is a viable option for the future. 

Criminal Justice Careers and Salaries for a New Decade

We are at the start of a new year and a new decade, which means changes are occurring throughout the career and business world.  Criminal justice careers have felt these changes as well, as new departments have opened up within the field and new positions are now available to recent graduates.  We have new things to focus in the criminal justice field than we had only a decade ago, indicating the monumental changes that have occurred in such a short time span. 

One career that has taken off in recent years due to the increase of technology is that of computer forensics expert.  These individuals typically have a background in some type of computer programming field and understand the criminal justice system.  This new career choice has opened up as technology has allowed tracking through computers, which in turn allows law enforcement to go back through a person’s computer records in order to build up a case or find other defendants.  Furthermore, analyzing a computer of suspected terrorists (a recent fear within our nation) has helped apprehend a number of individuals on the verge of committing atrocious acts of violence.  This career can lead to a wide range of salary, typically around $100,000, making it a lucrative career option for computer students interested in a different type of future.

DEA agents have also become a highly sought after position in the criminal justice system because of the amount of drug related crimes that have been steadily increasing over the past decades.  The easy availability of drugs in urban locations has indicated that while the trend is slowly decreasing, the easy accessibility has led to a higher demand of law enforcement who are trained to deal with the problem. DEA agents help control the amount of drugs that enter the country by working with customs agents and help control the amount of drugs that go out into circulation.  The rise of drugs such as crack cocaine and methamphetamine are recent additions to the drug trade and have spawned a whole new type of drug underworld, a world that DEA agents work to contain. DEA agents receive a competitive stipend within the law enforcement world, ranging around $50,000, although has the opportunity for employees to earn much more with experience.

The department of homeland security is another such field that has opened up within the past decade as a result of the many international events which our country has been involved in.  Criminal justice students are perfect candidates for this type of position because of the wide range of options which the department offers.  Homeland security is a government program in charge of protecting our nation from outside terrorists or other potential risks and therefore plays an important role in securing its existence.  As a government job, homeland security employees earn anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000 depending on what position they take.

How to Tell if an Online Criminal Justice Degree is Right for You

Online education has swept the internet recently, and with it, popular degrees have flourished with the economic need.  Criminal justice is one degree which the online education field has welcomed, as it has led to a world of new opportunities for its students in recent years.  The criminal justice community has grown almost as rapidly as the online education community, indicating a distinct correlation between the degree program and the success of the internet.

As an incoming student of any education field, it is important to determine if online education is the right choice for you.  Criminal justice is no different, although this degree is easily accessible through online classes and coursework.  Criminal justice is a field within the arts and therefore is easier than other fields in which to earn an online degree, due to the flexibility of the degree program.  However, online education is particularly geared toward students who have an affinity for independent work and can function without the direct supervision of a professor or a fellow student.  As a result, online students are well trained to work in fields in which they will not be directly supervised, and their educational background will indicate this skill to future employers.

Criminal justice is a degree program which examines the intricacies of the criminal justice system and the mindset of criminals.  As technology has advanced, the criminal justice field has advanced as well, allowing for an easier way to capture criminals and understand the reasoning behind most crimes.  New departments have opened up, and the degree has flourished as students are easily placed within law enforcement positions and other technical positions in which they can put their educational training to use.

Online criminal justice degrees focus on more of the historical background of the degree, and an in-depth look at the criminal mindset, one aspect of the program that is easy to grasp through online coursework. Additionally, most criminal justice degree programs encourage students to enroll in an internship outside of the degree program in order to give their resume an added boost in the criminal justice system.  Online education is the perfect realm in which students can both attend classes (at their leisure) and still have a job or internship in any field.  Online classes allow students to schedule their coursework later or earlier in the day so that they can arrange their classes around their work schedule.  As a result, online education has become increasingly attractive to full-time students who also hold onto full time jobs.

Criminal justice is a field that is easy to delve into, although an online criminal justice degree may not be the right solution for every student.  Consider the pros and cons for both traditional and online schooling before you make your decision and understand that this will be the gateway for the future of your career.  

Penology, the Study of Prison Management

Penology is the study of prison management and criminal rehabilitation. As a part of the social science of criminology, penology addresses the theory and practice of societies and how they attempt to prevent criminal activity and apply the appropriate punishment for it. It deals with the treatment of those who are convicted of crimes and how they can be rehabilitated so that they are no longer a threat to society. This study addresses many different topics concerning the prison system, such as prisoner’s rights, prisoner abuse, and recidivism, as well as theories about the purpose of punishments, such as rehabilitation, retribution, and deterrence. Those who study penology typically become what is called a penologist. A penologist is someone who works directly with inmates within the prison system. The job involves working with prison architecture, the treatment of offenders, inmate self-help programs, and prison and jail management.

Penologists work hard to improve situations within the prison community. They evaluate prison systems and make suggestions about changes that need to be made regarding prison policy. Penologists evaluate prison systems by regularly observing the interactions between prisoners as well as those they have with authority figures. They interview prisoners to evaluate if current prison programs, methods, and rules, are successful in changing their behavior. They also conduct follow-up interviews with released prisoners to see if the rehabilitation programs they experienced while in prison are helping them function in the outside world. Along with inmates, they work closely with prison guards, wardens, criminologists, and parole and probation officers. A penologist makes the jobs of prison professionals much easier by making efforts to reduce the anti-social behavior of inmates and making recommendations on how their roles can be improved.

Penologists need to be patient, have a high degree of perseverance, and demonstrate calmness under stress and pressure. Those who want to pursue a career in the field should earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, justice administration, or psychology. These areas of study are beneficial because they will help students develop a strong educational foundation that will give them the knowledge and skills they will need to work in the prison system. Courses should be taken that address criminal law, the justice system, prison systems, and inmate behavior. It is also important that anyone who desires to work as a penologist knows about and understands issues that the correctional system faces today, such as overcrowding, budgets, the death penalty, and crimes that occur in prison.

Law School Graduates Face the Bar

Before they begin their professional careers, law school graduates must obtain a license to practice law from the American Bar Association. Before granting licensure, the association requires that a candidate demonstrate character and competence. First, bar examiners look at a candidate’s background to make sure that they have demonstrated good character and are fit to practice law. Second, they require that a candidate demonstrate competence by meeting educational standards and passing a bar examination. Bar exams are used to determine whether or not someone meets the necessary qualifications to practice law within a given jurisdiction. In the United States, agencies in individual states administer bar exams. Since attorneys are officers of the court of the bars to which they belong, all state bar licensing agencies are associated with the judicial branch of government.

In most states, the exam lasts about two days and consists of essay questions, the Multistate Bar Examination, and a performance test. Essay questions are meant to test the examinee’s knowledge of general legal principles as well as the state’s own laws concerning trusts, wills, and community property. The Multichoice Bar Examination is a standardized exam containing 200 multiple choice questions, which examinees are given six hours to complete. Created by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, it tests six subjects based on principles of common law, including torts, contracts, evidence, real property, and constitutional and criminal law. Most states also require that examinees complete a performance test that assess their actual skills as a lawyer. During the exam the examinee is given documents describing a fictional case and is required to use the material to draft a document containing a motion, opinion, or memorandum. While some states use their own performance tests, many use the Multistate Performance Test.

Passing the Bar Exam is not easy and the numbers reflect it. According to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, 79,125 people took the Bar Examination in 2009, and out of those people 54,027, or 68 percent, of them passed. While most schools teach their students about common law and how to analyze hypothetical fact patterns like a lawyer, they do not necessarily prepare them for the bar exam. In order to improve their chances of passing the bar exam, many graduates spend the time between graduation and sitting for the bar to engage in what is called a "bar review." During which they refresh their memory of black letter laws and take bar preparation courses offered by private companies.

Getting into Law School

While many people may have dreams of becoming a lawyer, getting into law school is a difficult and highly competitive process. According to the American Bar Association, there are only a total of 200 institutions that are ABA-approved, and with each school having a limited number of positions each year, applicants need to do everything they can to stand out among the competition. If you want to increase your chances of getting into law school, you need to start preparing in undergrad and do well on the LSAT.

When considering you for admission, law schools will take a detailed look at your career as an undergraduate. It is important they see that you majored in a relevant subject and took courses that that prepared you for law school. Students who consider themselves pre-law commonly major in the areas of political science, criminal justice, philosophy, history, and English. These majors provide a broad education and help students develop skills necessary to practice law, such as communication, analytical thinking, writing, and reading comprehension. Also they want to see that you took courses that reflect the variety of topics you will encounter in the field of law, such as constitutional history, criminal justice, practical logic, political methodology, and civil rights and liberties.

Most law schools require that you submit letters of recommendation, so you should develop good relationships with your professors, especially those who instruct courses that are relevant to law school. A recommendation by a professor who knows you well and sees you in a positive light can make all the difference when it comes to the selecting process. You should also be involved with activities that will help you develop the skills necessary to pursue a legal education. Think about the qualities of a good lawyer and what you can be involved in that will help you develop and demonstrate those qualities. For example, you already know that lawyers need to be good communicators that effectively argue their points, so it might not hurt you to join a debate team or write a column for the university newspaper.

Another extremely important part of the process of applying to law school is the LSAT exam. This exam evaluates your ability to think both critically and analytically and assess your ability to succeed in law school. To do well on this exam, you can’t study a specific subject or memorize facts, you must learn how to apply your knowledge and skills to solve problems. You can, however, prepare for the exam by taking prep classes, using practice exams, and learning how to apply logic.

Parole Officers Help Rehabilitate Criminals

Parole officers work with criminals who are released from prison before their sentenced release date. They help to rehabilitate them by easing their adjustment back into society so that they can function within a community. The officers do this by developing a plan for them before they are actually released, consisting of housing, education, employment, health care, and drug screenings. They also help criminals to avoid conduct that could pose any risk to their parole status and monitor their behavior through meetings and drug tests. These officers regularly attend parole hearings so that they can make suggestions based on their interaction and surveillance of their offenders they oversee.

At the very least a parole officer on the state and federal level must earn a bachelor’s degree. Given the nature of the work that a parole officer does, a degree in criminal justice is greatly beneficial, as well as a degree in related fields such as social work, psychology, or sociology. Some states may even require that parole officers have a year of related working experience or graduate study. It is also not uncommon for those wanting to work as a parole officer to be required to complete a training program first. These programs are sponsored by the State or Federal Government and last for about six months. They might also be required to take certification exams and pass oral, written, physical and psychological exams. Those who successfully complete these programs and other requirements can then apply for a permanent position as a parole officer.

Often, parole officers are employed by different counties, the state department of corrections, juvenile corrections, state criminal justice department, or a federal justice department. Regularly meeting with offenders requires officers to conduct a lot of fieldwork and travel extensively. They also experience a fairly heavy work load, typically having about 70 to 130 active cases at a time. In their routine duties, parole officers take a lot of risks and work in dangerous environments with convicts, their friends and family. These people can be unpredictable and may become upset, angry, or aggressive, when asked for specific information. Officers must always be aware of their surroundings and may be required to carry a gun in order to protect themselves. Even though it can be stressful, the work of a parole officer can also be very rewarding, as they gain personal satisfaction from helping offenders learn how to live better lives and become productive members of society.