Deciding if a Degree in Criminal Justice is right for you

Education in criminal justice is one of the best choices today for anyone who wants a secure path to a rewarding career. As with those who go into the Armed Forces to become officers, a professional law enforcement officer requires a clean record and good mental and physical health. It also takes personal qualities that include dedication, courage, intelligence, motivation and considerable self-confidence.

Retirement and health benefits are similar to those of career military, and much more beneficial than with almost any other career. In many criminal justice fields, retirement can began after just 20 years of service, with a lifetime pension of half pay, and at 30 years with three-quarters pay.

The career field has broadened considerably in recent years. Homeland Security has limitless potential for quick promotion for those who show leadership qualities, as well as a bachelor’s degree from a recognized college or university. Another growing opportunity area for the criminal justice graduate is the US Border Patrol, where enforcement activity is growing in scope and sophistication virtually every day.

Of course, the traditional path for the graduate has always pointed to service in the FBI. In its earliest days, the only applicants the Bureau would even consider had to have both bachelor’s and advanced law degrees. Today that isn’t required, but competition for the few openings every year is fierce, and those who want to join need excellent college records. This also applies to the CIA, CSI, DEA, Immigration, the Justice Department and other Federal government law-related positions.

As attractive as those careers are, they are only the top of the huge field a criminal justice graduate can explore. There are state, county and local law enforcement positions, as well as prison staff, that don’t necessarily require a four-year degree. However, for those who want to advance from basic police officer to higher ranks, it is a significant advantage.

There are now many variations of education resources for criminal justice careers, including on-line study courses. However, most legitimate college degrees require at least some on-campus study. If you’re about to start college or are already a student in another major and may want to pursue a degree in law enforcement, consult with school counselors about your thoughts. If you have friends and relatives in the field, be sure to have some serious discussions with them.

When you’re well on your path to a degree, check out opportunities for part-time and/or summer programs or jobs that involve real-life criminal justice or law enforcement work. It will make you a better candidate when you apply for a job in the field, and the record of experience will also look great on your resume.

Good luck!