Careers and Jobs
in Criminal Justice
This page contains information about careers in
criminal justice, including job descriptions and help finding an
appropriate job. It includes resources on what you can do with a
criminology degree; books about careers in criminal justice; websites helpful
for job hunting.
What can I do with a
criminology or CJ degree?
Click here for a list of job
and career ideas and another one here,
with some additional links. The Sourcebook of Criminal Justice
Statistics has some information about average salaries, educational
requirements and other characteristics for law
in state courts, and judges
(scroll down through the list of tables). CriminalJusticeUSA.com is a 100% free, non-commercial website that offers information on a variety of criminal justice careers.
The FBI page has a section on careers &
to be a special agent (see also: Female
Special Agents). The
Washington Post recently did a long piece on FBI
training five years after Sept 11 that is good reading for anyone
thinking about an FBI job. [Horwitz, 'Just Don't Quit' Aug 16, 2006, p
A14 and 'Old-School
Academy in a Post-9/11 World' Aug 17, p A1]
Please remember as you job hunt that employers are
increasingly likely to check MySpace, Facebook and other sites as part
of a background check on you. Postings and content suggesting excessive
drinking, drug use or inappropriate behavior can be problematic for your
application. Likewise, think about any blogs you have in your name and
whether they seem consistent with the type of person and professional
judgment a prospective employer might be looking for.
come to your job: A company called Social Intelligence
systematically trolls social networks for evidence of bad character
using automation software that slogs through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr,
YouTube, LinkedIn, blogs, and "thousands of other sources."
The company develops a report on the "real you" -- not the
carefully crafted you in your resume. The reports feature a visual
snapshot of what kind of person you are, evaluating you in categories
like "Poor Judgment," "Gangs," "Drugs and Drug
Lingo" and "Demonstrating Potentially Violent Behavior."
The company mines for rich nuggets of raw sewage in the form of racy
photos, unguarded commentary about drugs and alcohol and much more. The
company also offers a separate Social Intelligence Monitoring service to
watch the personal activity of existing employees on an ongoing basis.
The service provides real-time notification alerts, so presumably the
moment your old college buddy tags an old photo of you naked, drunk and
armed on Facebook, the boss gets a text message with a link.
The following are general books, probably most
helpful in providing overviews off different job possibilities for those
who are not yet sure what aspect of criminal justice to focus on. Criminal
Justice Profiles is a helpful source to get an overview of many
careers as is the criminal
justice school guide. Also
check out the detailed information that the Bureau of Labor Statistics
has on Probation officers,
Correctional officers, police
and detectives, dispatchers,
private detectives and
paralegals and legal
assistants, and judges
Clicking on the book titles or
takes you to Amazon.com, which has a complete description and links to many other related books.
Consider also Jobs
in Social Change, because many people go into CJ hoping to help
others and don't always find what they want to do.
My bias is for Stuart Henry & William
Careers in Criminal Justice: The Inside
Story, 2nd edition. The chapters are by people - many of them
former students of Stuart Henry - who write about becoming detectives, police,
security, lawyers, guards, probation or parole officers, etc. The essays are a
combination of biography, job description, advice and personal reflection. (I wrote one of the
essays about becoming a professor of
These books help develop general skills (like
resume building and interviewing), discuss how to build experience
through internships, or how to present yourself and communicate
effectively through better writing. The last part might not sound
glamorous, but poor writing will be a barrier to a job where you need
to write reports, esp if they must be shared outside your immediate
I have reviewed quite a few books on the topic on criminal justice careers
and would recommend Harr and Hass, Seeking Employment in Criminal
Justice and Related Fields, 4th edition. Rather than personal stories
and reflections like the Henry & Hinkle book, this one covers topics like
interviewing, resumes and employment tests. It does a good job covering job
hunting strategies and issues like dealing with rejection. There's an included
website covers some of these same issues for free although in much less
detail and mostly with a law enforcement focus (great job with the interview
questions and answers, Tom!). Note - last updated 2006, so some information
may now be dated.
in Law podcasts, via Lewis & Clark Law School (note careers
in environmental law). The National
Paralegal College has a sample class for Constitutional Law and Criminal
Procedure available online.
See also Real Resumes for Social Work and Counseling Jobs: Including Real Resumes Used to Change Careers and Transfer Skills to Other Industries.
Links to Job-hunt Websites
Ultimate Non-Profit Job Guide: 97 Job Boards that Cover It All (note: these
are non-profit jobs in general; the ones that relate to CJ will be in various
social welfare nonprofits.)
Criminal Justice Jobs Help ~ Law Enforcement jobs (search by zip code, includes private industry and teaching jobs)
Another especially useful site is Tom
O'Connor's Criminal Justice Employment Mega Site (last updated 2006 - some
info may be dated).
What You Don't Get About the Job Search: The View From Employers (Atlantic) The Atlantic asked our readers to share with us the one thing most people don't understand or appreciate about looking for work. We got a surprising number of responses from employers with advice for the unemployed.
Police & Law
There are a ton of books because this is such a
popular career choice. If you click on any of the options below, you'll
go to Amazon, which will recommend many more related titles.
See also the free websites discover
policing and Introduction to Criminal Profiling.
Although there's a great deal of interest in this career, opportunities
are severely limited. After a large number of psychology classes, the
most likely career option will be doing psychological evaluations rather
than detective work. Also, if you have read some of Douglas' books like
Mind Hunter, etc, you know that many of the FBI profilers work long
hours under a great deal of stress from trying to catch killers before
they take another life. Douglas had a nervous breakdown and depression
also seems like a common problem among real profilers, as opposed to the
and Forensics (C.S.I)
Much of the forensics and C.S.I type of work
requires a great deal of chemistry and science background, as opposed to
crime scene investigation (which requires a good deal of care and being
American Academy of Forensic Sciences has a list of accredited programs
and more info about the topic. Read an interview
with a forensic analyst (doesn't sound quite as glamorous as seen on
See "Education and Training in Forensic Science: A Guide for Forensic Science Laboratories, Educational Institutions, and
Students" National Institute of Justice. Presents consensus criteria and recommendations to establish best practices for educating and training forensic scientists. The information serves students preparing for a career in forensic science, educational institutions as they develop and revamp curriculums, and forensic scientists as they advance their knowledge, skills, and abilities
(64 pages, adobe.pdf).
Also, "Crime Scene Investigation: A Reference for Law Enforcement
Training" National Institute of Justice. Designed to help trainers and administrators develop training programs for crime scene investigators. Each part of the report includes proposed performance objectives for the student to ensure attainment of the material.
(72 pages, adobe.pdf)
After the CSI people come through,
there's the less glamorous job of cleaning up. But CNN writes that Crime-scene cleaner
is a potential six figure salary, with no college degree required:
"What they do have is a strong stomach and a willingness to do some pretty thankless
But many jobs do require a degree or an
advanced degree. All Criminal Justice Schools has more information about
getting a Master
Degrees in criminology and criminal justice, including many online
Advice to First-Year Law Students
(Findlaw.com column - nicely written and helpful!). Another updated
version of the advice from Aug 2006. See also, High
Tuition and Debt Lure Graduates Toward High Pay, Away from Public Service
Jobs (Washington Post, 30 Nov 2007).
Law School A Loosing Game? : "...a generation of J.D.ís face
the grimmest job market in decades. Since 2008, some 15,000 attorney and
legal-staff jobs at large firms have vanished, according to a Northwestern
Law study. Associates have been laid off, partners nudged out the door and
recruitment programs have been scaled back or eliminated. And with
corporations scrutinizing their legal expenses as never before, more
entry-level legal work is now outsourced to contract temporary employees,
both in the United States and in countries like India. Itís common to
hear lawyers fret about the sort of tectonic shift that crushed the
domestic steel industry decades ago." (New York Times, 8 Jan
Please stop back - I'll be expanding
the list to include other careers as I have time & find good resources.