Are terrorists a potential problem in your city? What must you consider relevant when dealing with drugs, drug addicts, recidivism, etc.? Has homelessness become a major issue and divisive stumbling block for your community? Gangs a problem?
These are just some of the many questions students involved in criminal justice must address. The criminal justice field is not static, transparent, or straightforward. No, it is an interdisciplinary field that requires incredible fortitude, a vast amount of discipline, intelligence, humaneness and compassion. Knowing the issues, debating the manner in which problems are handled, and being strongly cognizant of the law are all a part of what you might expect to explore and learn as a student of criminal justice.
To be very accomplished, one must know the law backwards and forwards. You want to give yourself the edge for, certainly in a sense, it is an adversarial system to a degree. Knowing as much as you can about law, psychology, sociology, ethics, and public policy will enable you to not only become even more adept within the system but, at the same time, it will allow you also to better serve society. However simplistic it may sound, the more you know the better off you will be.
If you intend to get a master’s degree in criminal justice, you will find your personal interests will guide you in determining what aspect of criminal justice you wish to pursue primarily. Depending on the institution you pick to earn a degree, you can easily be studying subjects as far ranging as business administration, statistics, operating procedures, forensic science, homeland security, psychology, crime analysis, fundamentals of criminal law, sociology, human rights, history of the criminal justice system, ethics, justice administration, and more.
Scope out your options first. Assess a number of institutions and compare: the institutional biases (theoretical or practical); the course offerings; the roster of instructors and their specialties (have these professors had any experience in the field besides their academic training?). While keeping in mind generally what you eventually want to accomplish, try to evaluate what each institution is doing to best serve you and to keep up with current thinking and issues relevant to criminal justice (e.g., terrorism and international security). Interview local law enforcement agencies in your area: do these agencies offer internships or special training once you’re on the job? Do they maintain sufficient man power? Are they large enough to even accommodate someone who has had specialized training such as you intend to focus on? Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed, either. Small steps and general knowledge honed later to the specific, will give you the strongest base to accomplish your dream.