Step one is to be totaly and completely honest with yourself. Do you truly want to establish a career in the criminal justice and/or corporate security community? What areas or facets of this discipline attract you the most?
After completing the above steps, next decide what area of criminal justice you desire to pursue. There are many occupational positions related to this field of study. In the public sector, these are as follows: Police Officer, Sheriff’s Deputy, Military, Federal Agent, State Police, Probation and Parole, Juvenile Justice, Prosecution, Forensics, etc. Within each one of these categories there are different career avenues, as well, such as narcotics, investigations, patrol, protection, crime scene analysis, SWAT, etc. Also, there are numerous federal agencies that employ criminal justice professionals. Each of these positions require a college degree and have a different scope of employment and different jurisdictions. Therefore, if this is your chosen career path, a degree in criminal justice would be very appropriate.
Fortunately, criminal justice has evolved into a professional occupation. To coincide with this and gain access to the best paying and more desirable positions, it is necessary to obtain a college degree and a degree in criminal justice would definitely assist you in the application process. Even those positions in criminal justice at the most basic level that do not require a college degree, such as a rural deputy sheriff, reward the individual applicant that has a college degree with more points and place a preference on the educated applicant. If an applicant is able to secure a basic criminal justice position without a degree, it is unlikely he/she would be able to progress through the ranks of the profession without a college degree, again preferably a criminal justice degree.
Check out the educational achievements of the managers and high ranking staff positions of most criminal justice agencies in the country. You will quickly learn they are all educated at least with a college degree and many with graduate degrees in criminal justice. At the most sought after Federal law enforcement agent positions such as the US Secret Service and the FBI, the competition is so great that most successful applicants have obtained graduate degrees in some area of criminal justice.
Examine the private sector, also. There are many opportunities for professional employment in corporate security, security assessments, private investigations, and personal security. Yes, there are entry level positions that do not require a degree. However, the management and well paying positions all require a degree and again, it is articulated in the job announcements that a degree in criminal justice is preferred. Without education, success and upward mobility is difficult if not impossible. Specific education in the criminal justice field will only enhance and qualify the applicant for employment and advancement.
Ironically, because of the 911 terrorist attacks, there are many public and private opportunities in the field of criminal justice at all levels. Because of the recent retirements of the baby boomer generation, opportunities exist at one of the highest rates ever for this country in criminal justice. However, if you are interested in this career and lifestyle, do yourself and your family a favor, become educated and since this will be your chosen vocation, pursue a degree in criminal justice. Furthermore, continue your education, it will make you a better applicant, a better employee, and an overall better and well rounded individual.