Educational standards for law enforcement jobs are climbing steadily. Civil service exams have been the traditional rite of passage for police department applicants, with educational requirements minimal. That standard is changing, both for police and deputy sheriff applicants as well as correctional officers. The law enforcement listings in a recently consulted government jobs website listed a position for correctional officer in Green Bay Wisconsin. It was the typical jail monitor and prisoner movement type job, but entry level requirements included an associate’s degree in criminal justice “or a related field.”
That is indicative of the change that is occurring for sworn personnel positions. Physical condition is important but increasingly, so are interpersonal skills, knowledge of the law and investigative practices. Officers who do not understand the workings of the criminal justice system are officers that are more likely to make mistakes.
Some jobs in the area of social work require college exposure to criminal justice. The Children’s Protective Services bureau in many counties ask that their entry level counselors have an associate’s degree in criminal justice or social work. Many times, an endangered child is in a house where other types of criminal behavior may be present. Social welfare agencies have recognized that fact. As the laws have become more stringent regarding child abuse in the home, agency response to suspect households has become somewhat more militant.
The same is true for counseling services provided to women in crisis who are abuse victims. The case workers assigned to reports of this nature are often people with enforcement backgrounds, out of probation or parole departments. Those departments who have workers assigned full time to abuse reports may require criminal justice backgrounds of applicants for those positions.
Probation officers in the juvenile justice system may be eligible with an associate’s degree, although many departments now require bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice. There are counseling and correctional positions within the juvenile justice system that are similar to the correctional treatment officers in prisons: these jobs may only require an associate’s degree.
Many of the court clerk positions at the county and state level require certification and completion of some mandatory classes. An associate’s degree in criminal justice may be acceptable as a replacement for some of the training, although the testing requirement will not change. Oversight of a court clerk’s pool or a similar mid-level management position may also be an employment possibility for a graduate with an associate’s degree.
The fact is that law enforcement and criminal justice job requirements change with every jurisdiction: each county in a state will have its own courthouse employment requirements and every police and sheriff’s agency will also have their own guidelines for applicants. State law enforcement and court employment standards for education may be a little higher than at the local level, but again no two states are alike.
In the case of an associate’s degree, there are jobs in the criminal justice field where the completion of the degree will help you obtain the position. It will take research on your part and a fairly specific occupational goal in order to determine where that fit may be that will benefit you.