Criminal Justice Degree
A career in Criminal Justice is like no other. It can be filled with times of action, times of suspense, times of repetitive tasks, times of delivering great oratory, and times of helping those less fortunate. Criminal Justice is a term defined to mean: the enforcement of laws to govern and control a society, the initiation of a sanction or punishment to those that break the laws, and the practice through rehabilitation of the law breaker. Criminal justice can be summed up in three words - enforce, sanction, and rehabilitate.
In the United States, modern criminal justice is made up of a series of laws that are enforced at the community, the state, and the federal government levels. The court system is the forum to sanction out punishment and penalties to those individuals that break these laws, and the effort to rehabilitate these offenders is conducted by the practices of private and government organizations.
To enroll for a Criminal Justice degree, and therefore a career in criminal justice, is to consider a wide variety of choices of employment based upon your interest, desire, and the level of education that you achieve. As a criminal justice professional you will have the ability to enforce, sanction, and rehabilitate depending upon what area you choose to pursue.
A Criminal Justice degree will help your chances of being accepted by the community, state, and federal police forces and agencies where the main role is to enforce the law. The opportunity to work in a hometown with the local police force or on the national stage with a federal agency starts with an education beyond high school. The field of criminal justice is very competitive, and the way to meet the competition head on is to have that Criminal Justice degree, not to mention that many of the opportunities, especially those with the state and federal governments, simply require a college diploma as a condition for employment.
A Criminal Justice degree is also an excellent first step if a career goal includes continuing on to law school with the ultimate plan of arguing the client's case in the courtroom. An education in the past, present, and future trends of criminal justice is the basis of a Criminal Justice degree, and as a professional your goal is to have the most relevant education on the subject that is available.
To be a career agent with any of the multiple Federal Department of Justice (DOJ) organizations, such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); and the United States Marshals Service (USMS), will require a higher education as a first step toward employment. A Criminal Justice degree is an answer to that education, and a very important one that provides the necessary training to be a success.
If you choose to enter the field of forensic science, a Criminal Justice degree will teach the basis of how analytical thinking is actually applied to investigative procedures. As a forensic scientist, you will provide courtroom testimony about your laboratory findings on physical evidence. It is a complicated science, but an especially important profession that determines the true facts in legal cases.
An online Criminal Justice degree is the first step in launching a career toward the enforcement, sanction, and rehabilitation areas that make up the cornerstones of our society's criminal justice system. What you do after that is only limited by your own goals and ambitions.
Advantages of a Criminal Justice Degree
A Criminal Justice degree can open up many avenues in the field of law enforcement from the community level, to the state level, and onto the national and international scene. A criminal justice diploma can help to insure career advancement, career security, and a higher salary beyond just a high school education.
In practice the criminal justice degree programs offered at community colleges, junior colleges, four-year universities, specialized training schools, and on-line Internet schools can truly benefit two different types of educational-minded individuals - those who are looking to start a career and those who are looking to advance their career.
The Individual Looking to Start a Career
An individual who is looking to start a career understands that having knowledge in one's chosen field is real power, and by obtaining a Criminal Justice degree, a person can focus their interests and energies directly on the subject of criminal justice. When applying for a position in a selected area, many agencies or organizations, regardless of them being private, state, or federal, will give special preference for those having a degree that is related to the actual interview position. This would include having an education in criminology, law enforcement, and the administration of justice to name just a few specialty studies under the criminal justice title. Today, many of these same agencies are making an earned college degree the minimum standard for employment.
The Individual Looking to Advance His or Her Career
Individuals who are looking to advance their careers, namely those who are already in law enforcement such as police officers, correctional officers, social workers, or other criminal justice practitioners, may find that earning a Criminal Justice degree will satisfy a promotional requirement within their department, which in turn can lead to a higher salary and job security. It could also satisfy a desire to just expand one's own personal and professional growth on the subject. You should never underestimate the experience that on-the-job training brings, but then also never underestimate what furthering your education on the subject can bring to a career.
The need for professionals in law enforcement is on the rise. In fact the overall job market for a person with a Criminal Justice degree is expected to grow by over 10 percent on average in the coming years. The United States Department of Labor has estimated the following outlook for a variety of criminal justice careers measured within the ten-year span of 2008 to 2018.
In police work, the Labor Bureau indicates that most police departments will see a rise for qualified individuals with employment expected to grow 10 percent. In 2008 about 79 percent of the police force was employed by local governments, with 11 percent at the state level, and another 10 percent at the federal level. Individuals possessing bilingual skills, a military background, or college training in criminal justice are expected to have the best opportunities for law enforcement. The most competition for employment will come at the federal level, for those wanting to enter such agencies as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), due in a large part to fewer job openings and the ever-changing federal spending budgets from Washington, D.C.
Openings for correctional officers are expected to grow at a rate of 9 percent between the decade of 2008 and 2018 with the demand being driven by population growth and the increasing rates of incarceration. The need to replace correctional officials that leave the work force, change occupations, or retire will also continue to generate job growth. The opportunity to work as a corrections officer in the private sector will see an increase as more states outsource their prison operations to private companies.
In 2008, the Labor Bureau listed the number of social workers in the United States at around 642,000. Of those, workers in the areas of healthcare and social assistance accounted for 54 percent, and another 31 percent were employed by various government agencies. Employment is expected to increase at a rapid rate of 16 percent with an emphasis placed upon elderly care professionals providing treatment to the aging baby boom generation. Workers trained in the areas of mental health and substance abuse are also expected to see a demand for their services of nearly 20 percent over that same 2008 to 2018 decade. This increase is being driven by the fact that the court systems are placing substance abusers into treatment centers in lieu of passing prison sentences.
The Labor Bureau predicts a faster than average growth of 14 percent for the employment of security guards at all levels. Driven by a heightened awareness of crime prevention, random acts of vandalism, and organized terrorism, the need for professionally trained security personnel will only increase. Private security companies will be in demand for airports, shipping harbors, public event gatherings, and as a supplement to the local police forces in community neighborhoods. Private security officials are also expected to play a large role in protecting hospitals, specialized retirement centers, and nursing homes as the population increases in age.
Since legalized gambling has become more prevalent, the employment of specialized gaming surveillance officials is expected to see a rise. The Labor Bureau estimates a 12 percent increase for individuals trained to use the latest in sophisticated technology to prevent stealing, cheating, and money skimming from within the casino's operations.
High Wages and Benefits
More often than not, a career in the criminal justice profession requires a college level degree. Employers are using the college diploma as the first method of screening those applicants in their search for new employees. A focused education with a Criminal Justice degree is really a must have for those pursuing a career in law enforcement, since not only are they better prepared to take on the challenges of the career through education, but the earnings power of that college degree is much higher when compared to those with only a high school diploma or less.
According to statistics collected by the United States Census Bureau in the year 2000, the average worker with only some high school level education had an average annual salary of $23,400. Once that worker earned a high school diploma, their annual salary increased to $30,400. This amounted to a 23 percent increase for just staying and graduating from high school. When that worker went on to college and earned a minimum of an associate's degree, which is a degree that usually takes a student two years of full-time study, that person's annual salary jumped to $38,200. Doing the math, this amounted to a 20 percent annual increase over the basic high school education. Now, if this is taken just one step further with a worker that went on to earn a bachelor's degree, which generally takes a student four years of full time study, that worker's annual take home pay increased to $52,200. This amounted to almost a doubling, or a 42 percent increase, over the high school education level salary.
That sample exercise quickly shows the annual earnings power of having a college education. In addition to those higher salaries, the employers and organizations that provide positions in criminal justice also offer much better benefits for an individual's healthcare, retirement, and vacation when compared to only a high school level job. The competition alone for these organizations, to attract the best and the brightest of applicants, requires that a good benefits package be provided in conjunction with the salary.
Having a Criminal Justice degree from a college or university is fast becoming the minimum standard that one will need to include on a resume if their career path is be a successful one. Having that Criminal Justice degree can also provide the annual earnings power to enjoy that success as well.
Wide Range of Criminal Justice Career Choices
Those graduating with a Criminal Justice degree have at their disposal a wide range of career choices. It could be as a police officer in law enforcement, as a paralegal in the courtroom, as a federal agent with homeland security, as a correctional officer in a prison, as a social worker in the community, or even laying the foundation of knowledge in criminal justice before attending a law school. For an individual that wants to enter the field of forensic science, where solving crime mysteries is an obsession, a Criminal Justice degree can be that initial starting point for understanding investigative procedures and analytical thinking.
An education in criminal justice is an interdisciplinary approach to learning that combines a study into the legal issues of the law, the psychology and sociology of human behavior, and the administration of justice within a society as a whole. The study of criminal behavior is, in fact, very sophisticated and complex. Criminal justice graduates are continually on the offense to identify patterns found within the criminal mind and to analyze how societies should apply systematic approaches in an attempt to rehabilitate these offenders.
A Criminal Justice degree can allow a specialization and a narrowing of focus to a chosen field of interest. The aspect of law enforcement alone can provide an opportunity to centralize a career in investigative crime solving, a combating of domestic and international terrorism, or the continual fight against illegal drug trafficking.
Probation and parole officers working within the correctional institutions see firsthand how the criminal justice system attempts to accommodate and administer treatment and rehabilitation to the offender. It is also a role that takes on the added responsibility of overseeing those who have been convicted of crimes.
Social workers can be involved in conducting research especially within the urban environment by determining ways of improving services to the public or becoming involved in the planning of public policies. The term 'social worker' encompasses many forms of services where one can narrow his interest and passions by working within a particular population group or at a selected location. Specialized social workers can be responsible for the welfare of children in families. This may take the form of assisting single parents with finding appropriate daycare, directing abused children to foster care homes, or even arranging a child's adoption. Social workers can perform an especially important role in the medical and public health arena with their ability to provide assistance for those people coping with a mental condition, a terminal illness from disease, or by counseling and arranging care provider services.
Service to the federal government, as an agent within the Federal Department of Justice (DOJ), includes working for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the United States Marshals Service (USMS); and the Office of Inspector General (DOJ-OIG). Each one of these specialized enforcement services has their own area of expertise and unique mission within the criminal justice system.
The courtroom provides an important setting for a lawyer, or attorney, where the primary responsibility is to carry out the practice of law by acting as both an advocate and an advisor in defense of the common man. Fighting against injustice can become a passionate cause of a lifetime.
A Criminal Justice degree covers a broad social science of learning that is limited only by an individual's own personal ambition and interests.