Education Requirements

Remember this one simple fact: the college degree that you earn today stays with you for life. Today’s job market in criminal justice is so competitive that without a degree your opportunities for advancement, a higher salary, and career satisfaction will be far less than non-college graduates. A career in any of the many fields of criminal justice essentially dictates that a higher education such as a bachelor’s degree is the minimum that is required to simply get in. An earned Criminal Justice degree will send you on your way for a successful law enforcement career.

The complexities of today’s criminal justice system of laws and legalities also come into focus with a Criminal Justice degree. Analytical thinking, problem solving, and methods of investigations are the tools and training necessary for tackling the ever-changing nature of law enforcement. Today’s criminal forces are far more sophisticated than the1920’s era gangster, with their modern crime operations rivaling those of legal corporations in terms of business strategies and tactics.

Getting into the police force whether it is on the community level, state level, or federal level, all require an education typically culminating in at least a bachelor’s degree, and this is especially important if rising through the ranks by promotion to a police detective or chief of police is one of your professional goals.

  • Agents for the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) serve a responsibility to enforce controlled substance laws and regulations of the United States through their involvement in investigations relating to terrorism, controlled substance growing, processing, manufacturing, and distribution. Agents must possess an education with a college degree, where special consideration is given to those with degrees and skills in criminal justice.
  • Agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are continually on the front line of federal investigations for criminal bombings, mail fraud, kidnappings, serial killers, and identity theft, where having a minimum bachelor’s degree provides a basis in critical problem solving and knowing when to think outside the box.
  • The US Marshals Service, which is the oldest federal law enforcement agency, requires a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent combination of education and experience. US Deputy Marshals are trained in law enforcement by providing tactical support services in response to national emergencies, disasters, and homeland security incidents.
  • The forensic scientist relies on a personal intellect, a personal instinct, and a large dose of critical thinking, which are skills that are learned and honed at the higher education level. These scientists are called upon in the courtroom to present their findings as expert witnesses in the evaluation of physical evidence. It is a complicated science that helps to determine the facts in legal disputes through exhaustive investigation and mystery solving.
  • The education of correctional officers is typically a high school diploma with the exception of some state or local correctional agencies that now require a college education or prior full-time related work experience. On the federal level new correctional officers entering the field must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and three years of full-time experience in a related field of counseling.
  • Considering that the primary role of the social worker is to improve the lives of other people, the minimum qualification is typically a college degree in psychology or sociology. A secondary college degree, such as a master’s, is often required by many community and state agencies when the social work involves health clinics, school settings, or the dispensing of medical treatment.

Careers in criminal justice are challenging and rewarding, but really require a true planning of goals and a personal dedication in pursuing that higher education.

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