Criminal justice can be a difficult yet rewarding field of work. If you want to help protect your fellow citizens and solve crimes, read on to learn about career options in criminal justice and police science.
Education in criminal justice or police science can lead to many different career paths, such as police officer, private investigator and crime scene investigator. If you wish to work in criminal justice or police science, you should have strong critical thinking and problem solving skills. You need to be able to communicate clearly with other people since you may work with a team of investigators or officers. Most employees in this field work at least 40 hours a week. You often work outside of an office setting, whether you are a police officer on patrol or an investigator examining a crime scene.
Job growth in criminal justice and police science varies between occupations, but it's expected to increase in the coming years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that police officers would experience a ten percent increase in job opportunities and private investigators would have a 22% increase from 2008-2018, the latter of which is considered to be much faster than average for all other jobs (www.bls.gov). You can advance to supervisor positions or work for different agencies with experience. Police officers made a median annual salary of $53,540 and detectives made $68,820 in 2010.
Education requirements depend on the type of career in criminal justice that you wish to pursue. Many of these jobs do not have formal education requirements but obtaining a degree in criminal justice or police science can open up more job opportunities. Some police and detective departments want applicants who have completed some postsecondary coursework or training in law enforcement. You must be licensed in order to work in some law enforcement jobs. You might find it beneficial to check out state licensing guidelines for the career you are interested in.
If you want to complete postsecondary education in criminal justice or police science, there are a number of options that might be right for you. An associate's degree in police science can be a good start if you want to work in law enforcement or private security jobs. In a police science degree program you can take courses in surveillance techniques, interrogation techniques, firearm overview and drug identification. Some associate's degree programs may offer concentration options such as crime investigation or police administration. Federal agencies may want you to have a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field. Most bachelor's degree programs have concentration options that give you knowledge for the career area you want to work in.
If you want to work in an area of criminal justice such as corporate investigation or computer forensics, you might want to consider courses in business law or computers. Some schools may offer specialization options in forensics and law enforcement intelligence for students who wish to work for employers who prefer applicants with in-depth training in a specific area of criminal justice. A master's degree program in criminal justice may offer courses in comparative criminal justice, research design and analysis, forensic serology, DNA profiling and topics such as the globalization of crime or counter-terrorism.