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Criminal Justice Degree and Career Training Overview

Regardless of your career goals, professionals within the criminal justice system are required to undergo extensive training. While the majority of criminal justice graduates seek out employment within the correctional system, there is a myriad of other career opportunities designed for those with a criminal justice degree. While some career options require only an associate’s degree, the majority of high-paying and advanced criminal justice system careers require a bachelor’s or master’s degree. The following information can be used to help clarify questions regarding basic training a criminal justice student will encounter.

The Three Basic Elements of a Criminal Justice Degree

The exact elements of your training program are often determined by your specialization and educational institution. This can vary widely, from guard card classes online for those entering the private security industry, to hands-on training for an unarmed security license, to intensive multi-year federal training for law enforcement positions. All in all, most criminal justice degrees are built upon three primary pillars, which include:

  1. The Role of Law Enforcement – For the majority of civilians, their first contact with any person within the criminal justice system are with police officers. Therefore, one of the fundamental elements of any criminal justice degree program is the role of law enforcement in society.
  2. The Role of Court Systems – Regardless of the career path you choose, the court system will play a vital role within your daily duties. In a foundational sense, the court system is where all legal disputes are discussed and settled. It’s within this branch of the criminal justice system that laws are truly enforced and sentencing is carried out. The majority of career opportunities within the criminal justice system revolve around courtroom settings.
  3. The Role of Corrections – Those who have been found guilty in a crime are then transferred into the correctional system. This branch of the criminal justice system is one of the most important as it’s where offenders are rehabilitated. As a criminal justice major, you must fully understand the role of the correctional system. Of course, the level of involvement you have in this system is based upon your desired career. Those wishing to work as a forensic scientist won’t have to go through as many correctional-specific courses as those who wish to work directly within the corrections system.

Level of Studies

The level of study one must complete is based upon their desired career. For example, those who wish to become a police officer feature different training requirements than those who wish to become an FBI agent. The following list is some of the most commonly pursued careers within the criminal justice system, and their assigned training requirements:

Police Officer – Along with meeting basic eligibility requirements, such as being 21 years old and holding a high school diploma or GED, aspiring police officers must the hold at least an associate’s degree. However, those who wish to work in federal corrections jobs must hold a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in corrections. Police officers must also include a 12 to 14-week police academy training. Within this training, students are taught constitutional law, civil law, local and state ordinances and various investigative techniques.
FBI Agents – To become an FBI agent, you must undergo specific advanced-level coursework. While a bachelor’s degree is typically a minimum requirement, those with a master’s degree in criminal justice are the most desirable by this institution. Aspiring agents must also undergo an 18 week training at a federal facility – of which, there are only two in the United States.