People with associate’s degrees in criminal justice will find that the education helps them in a number of entry or lower level positions in the field. Law enforcement officers have not traditionally been required to have college-level education in order to apply. That seems to be changing slowly. While civil service exams are still involved, police and sheriff’s deputy applicants in some departments may need an associate’s degree in criminal justice or a related field. Entry level correctional officers may encounter the same requirement, depending on the jurisdiction. A recent internet job posting for a Wisconsin correctional officer (prison guard) required an associate’s degree in criminal justice.
A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice will open the door to a variety of opportunities in the field. Another recent job posting from Virginia was for the director of an inter-agency gang task force. The job description included knowledge of regional gang activities and interdiction efforts, the ability to respond to night and weekend incidents. In addition, the applicant was charged with multi-agency coordination – not always an easy task among law enforcement organizations. At the same time, the applicant had to be capable of community outreach, grant writing and funding solicitation from legislative bodies. That’s a complex set of responsibilities: the educational requirement was a bachelor’s in criminal justice.
Positions within police departments can require criminal justice degrees. Specialized inspectors such as the “Criminalistics Supervisor,” a position recently posted by the Lakewood Colorado Police Department, require a bachelor’s. This particular position is overseeing a team of forensics technicians to assemble as complete a position as possible from a crime scene. As law enforcement becomes specialized and more technology is employed, higher levels of education become the standard.
There are a number of federal inspector’s jobs that require master’s degrees. Federal civil service rankings often have college level education requirements that can serve as substitutes for service in the next lower civil service rank. What is surprising is the number of agencies that have need for people with criminal justice educations. The Small Business Administration, The Drug Enforcement Administration, various branches of the Department of Justice have divisions that require oversight – these are a few of the listings you’ll find in federal job postings. Nearly every cabinet level department has an enforcement division, and people with graduate degrees in criminal justice will fit into many of them.
State departments of fish and game have enforcement divisions, as do environmental agencies. Graduate students in criminal justice have studied the psychology of enforcement practices in large social settings. Some of those principles are applicable for crime categories such as violations on federal wildlife preserves or illegal dumping of pollutants. White collar violations require investigations, by investigative bureaus which require oversight. It is in that sort of niche that a Master of Science/Criminal Justice Administration would fit admirably.
You don’t have to dig too deeply into the internet search engines to find a remarkable number of career choices open to people with criminal justice degrees, of any level. It’s just a matter of patience, coupled with a little perseverance.