5 Things You Need to Know Before Studying Criminal Justice

marble clad steps of a courthouse building

If you’ve always desired to work in the field of Criminal Justice, we applaud you! This line of work isn’t always for the faint of heart. Fighting crime and contributing to making society a better place can be mentally and physically challenging depending on the type of work you do in the field.

Criminal Justice has a variety of branches you can pick and choose from. Whether you prefer to investigate behind a desk or get out into the field, the possibilities are endless. Jobs in the Criminal Justice field are everywhere. They can be found on all levels from private, county, state, and federal, state.

Studies Show Job Stability and Benefits

The field of criminal justice is large and career opportunities are many. A criminal justice degree can be your point of entry into a law degree program, or enable you to work in politics, academia, advocacy, corrections, homeland security, or law enforcement—to name just a few criminal justice jobs.

The United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the highest levels of employment in the Criminal Justice field are: colleges and universities, junior colleges, state government, business, and technical schools. They further reported that the top-paying industries were schools and state government agencies.

Many jobs in law enforcement or criminal justice are public sector jobs. Unfortunately, crime is a fact of life that doesn’t take holidays or downtime. If you choose to be a government agency you will be considered a public servant in which case your position is not as volatile since it isn’t as dependent on the ups and downs of the economy or a tough job market, as is the case with private sector positions.

In addition, criminal justice professionals who work for the government have good benefits including, health insurance, life insurance, training, and tuition assistance, paid holidays, and sick leave. Many positions qualify for retirement after 20 years of service and offer a generous retirement package.

Kinds of Jobs Available in Criminal Justice 

That is not to say that all of the top-paying jobs will be found there. These are merely statistics that show where you’ll find most of these jobs. So, if you’re looking to become an Air Marshall, DEA Agent, ATF Agent, Postal Inspector, Fish and Game Warden, Police Officer, TSA Officer, Homicide Detective, Probation / Parole Officer, Corrections Officer, Prison Warden, or work as a Crime Scene Investigator or Crime Lab Analyst, the chances are highly likely that you can find some decent-paying jobs there as well. Sometimes, even with a college degree, you may have to start off at an entry-level position and get promoted to certain jobs like this. This is because a level of trust needs to be built in this profession. You need to provide a proven track record of exemplary work and years of trusted service.

Criminology vs. Criminal Justice

Criminology and criminal justice both deal with criminals and law enforcement. That is almost where they’re similarities end. Criminal justice deals with all aspects of a crime from the time the crime is committed right up until the criminal is found guilty and sent to prison. Criminal justice covers all areas of the American justice system.

Criminology deals not so much with the actual crime but rather on why it happened. What made the criminal do what he or she did? Criminology is very similar to sociology in that it focuses on researching criminal’s minds to learn what makes them commit crimes and how to prevent them in the future. Criminal justice just deals with what to do after the crime is committed.

So what else do you need to know about pursing a career in Criminal Justice? 

  1. Know the Law 

This is an important one. If you are looking to “clean up” society, you want to be sure that you’re doing it the right way. Knowing the law is critical to making the right judgment. In order to work on behalf of the law, then you need to know the law! Some people might be under the misconception that you only need to know the law if you study to become a paralegal or attorney, but that is not the case. Any job in the Criminal Justice field is going to require some knowledge of the law.

Florida National University (FNU), a regionally accredited university has a great bachelor’s degree program in Criminal Justice that offers the following classes in law:

  • Introduction to Criminal Law
  • Constitutional Law
  • The Law of Evidence
  • Criminal Law
  • Tort Law
  • Correctional Law
  1. Know and Understand the Roles within The Judicial System 

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just know the law. You also have to understand the roles within the judicial system and why it’s so important for professionals in this industry to know the law, and most importantly, how it applies to their field of work. Having a better understanding of how things work within the judicial system, like when cases are transferred to another department or entity is a vital part of the system. It’s also important to understand how your role fits into the judicial system, what your role will be, and how you’ll be enforcing the law in your position. Obtaining a bigger picture of the judicial system as a whole will give you a better perspective of how you can contribute to the criminal justice profession.

  1. You’ll Need More Than the Law On Your Side 

Along with the law and common sense, there are other skills that will be exceptionally useful working in the field of Criminal Justice. Skills like critical thinking, public speaking, and multi-tasking are all talents needed in this field of work. In the realm of Criminal Justice, a great deal of work involves solving problems. In order to do this well, you’re going to need to take some basic college courses like:

  • Introduction to Statistics
  • College Study Skills
  • Fundamentals of Criminal Investigation, Criminal Procedures
  • Methods of Research in Criminal Justice
  1. Get Experience 

As aforementioned, most of the higher paid jobs in the field of Criminal Justice are promoted from within. For high-level positions in Criminal Justice, you need to make sure that you’ve established a good resume that shows you have the experience to take on more responsibilities in this particular field of work.

  1. It’s Not Like Television 

For some people, they’ve decided that they want to pursue a career in Criminal Justice based off television shows they’ve seen. Sometimes these shows glorify the criminal justice world in such a way where it may seem fun and even glamorous to work in, but the reality is the amount and type of crimes that are being committed around the world, and in your community are alarming to say the least. This can oftentimes place some type of psychological stress on some professionals. This is why we say that this field of work—depending on which branch you choose to work in, isn’t always for the faint of heart. 

Is A Degree In Criminal Justice For Me?

Despite understanding the above before you dive into a Criminal Justice program, there are a few other factors that you may find challenging for you in particular when considering this career field:

For example, if you have a criminal record or DUIs; if your credit is very bad (collections, bankruptcies); if you’re nearing the national average cut off age of 36; if you are not passionate about or fascinated with the field; and if you don’t want to carry a firearm.

Some of the top skills criminal justice needed (but it’s okay to build these while studying):

Hard/Technical skills

  • Psychology
  • Public health and safety
  • Surveillance
  • Law enforcement
  • Public administration
  • CPR
  • Prevention of criminal activity

Soft/Transferable skills

  • Communication
  • Writing
  • Physical abilities
  • Research
  • Attention to detail
  • Computer literacy
  • Relationship building

As you can see, it does take a certain skill set to be successful in criminal justice careers, but you might be surprised to discover you already have many of the transferable skills that could come in handy on the job. Of course, there’s plenty to learn when it comes to technical skills and abilities, but that’s where the training from a Criminal Justice program at FNU brings you up to speed.

Study Criminal Justice at FNU

FNU prepares you for the real world and will not sugarcoat it for you! Our university is equipped with the knowledge and technology you’ll need to ready you for any job in the field of Criminal Justice. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our advisors and become an FNU graduate!