Criminal Justice Career Guide

Criminal Justice Careers

Take some time to explore the many legal & criminal justice careers, get to know where your unique skills, talents, and aspirations fit into the web of the criminal justice system. Most criminal justice careers fall into one of the following categories: law enforcement careers, legal and court system, corrections, homeland security, academic and research, and private sector. Under each of these major categories there are several additional branches and options for a possible place among criminal justice careers. Some of the categories are very similar and interact among the others. For example, a career in forensics is a major part of the legal system and law enforcement system. For this reason, criminal justice careers are sometimes not easily categorized.

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Law Enforcement

When one thinks of law enforcement, the first thing that comes to mind is the patrol officer, which is the most visible aspect of the law enforcement system in our everyday lives. However, the field of law enforcement is vast and has many levels, branches, and specializations. There are local law enforcement agencies such as the city police departments or the state patrol offices. At the federal level, there are agencies such as the FBI, CIA, ATF, and Secret Service. Some of the federal law enforcement agencies are also integrated into the recently formed Department of Homeland Security and those efforts often overlap.

Homeland Security

Homeland security is a term that has become a part of our everyday vocabulary since the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the increased threat of terrorist activities on United States soil. The Department of Homeland Security was formed in the wake of 9/11 as a more robust and efficient system that utilizes the efforts of several separate departments and divisions with one unifying goal of protecting our country from threats and preparing for the possible handling of tragic events and disasters. From intelligence gathering, border patrolling, and disaster preparedness, there are a number of important positions from the local to federal level which sustain the operations of this vitally important department.


Forensics careers have experienced major growth in recent decades as technology and new methods of evidence analysis have evolved. This evolution in sophistication and technology in forensics has become a major force in more precisely identifying suspects as well as the facts and events surrounding a crime. The application of forensics has many subdivisions and special applications. Forensics careers can be pursued in the study of blood groups, accounting, fingerprints, video analysis, toxicology, psychology, biological evidence, ballistics, and more. For those who have a scientific disposition and an eye for precision, a career in one of the many forensics roles could be a good fit.

Information Technology

With the advent of the information age, a new set of threats and security concerns have become a major priority in both our government and the private sector. The fields of cyber security, information security, and computer forensics are all closely related and sometimes overlap. Those in IT security careers gain knowledge in both offensive and defensive mechanisms for dealing with potential security breaches leading to exposure to sensitive information, access to control systems, and a whole host of potential criminal activity and leaked intelligence surrounding the use of computers, the internet, and digital devices.

Legal & Court System

The legal and court system, also known as the judicial system, is the mechanism in our country that provides clarity of laws, enacts new laws and precedents, and orders punishments for those individuals or entities that do not adhere to those laws. The courts are a place where disputes are settled, using the clarity of the law to guide the outcome. The training and education involved in obtaining a position within the legal or court system depends on what capacity you will be acting in. From judges and lawyers to court clerks and bailiffs, there are many roles to assume depending on your skills and interests.

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Corrections System

Our nation’s corrections system is the institution that handles the punishment, incarceration, and rehabilitation of individuals found guilty of crimes from our court system. They are in place to act as a deterrence to committing crimes, as an actual punishment for removal from the freedoms of society, and as a place where rehabilitation can be carried out so that they may be released as productive members of our society. Corrections careers have multiple dimensions; the probation officer role is very much a counseling role, while other roles function to maintain peace and order within the institution. Take some time to learn more about what is often a misunderstood career path and learn about the many rewarding roles to be played.

Public Administration & Government

Public administration and government careers include becoming an elected official, urban planning, public policy, and being a part of the many roles required to make our government tick. City and urban planners play a central role in strategizing and implementing vital infrastructure systems and policies including traffic management, sustainable development, parks, and waterfront planning. Public administration careers are available at all levels of government from local to federal. You may also choose to focus on social services or non-profit management. Learn more about available public administration and government programs and careers.

Academics & Research in Criminal Justice

Academic research into criminal intent, organized crime, terrorist activities, or individual psychological indicators are subjects that are heavily researched in criminal justice academia. Understanding the phenomenon of criminal intent, how it arises in individuals and then spread to groups is something any healthy society must understand. Learn how society and law creates incentives and disincentives for deterring such activities. If you enjoys research and taking a theoretical approach to the problems in criminal justice, an academic or research position may be a good fit.

Private Sector & Security

The private sector has a significant amount of need for trained security professionals, bodyguards, cctv operators, casino security, airport security, and more. In addition to security positions, private detectives are needed by businesses and individuals for a variety of tasks. Also, large corporations must employ internal security personnel to investigate possible white collar crimes, embezzlement, fraud, and a whole host of security breaches. Learn about the many types of security careers available as well as the education and training necessary.

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Roadmap To Your Legal or Criminal Justice Career

Many begin to research a career in criminal justice because they are instinctively drawn to one particular aspect of the field, while others have been aroused by what they see in films or television. Some may have a friend or relative who works in criminal justice and have been motivated by the rewarding nature of the career. Regardless of the call to duty or the fascination, finding your niche with so many choices offered can seem daunting. This comprehensive resource has been developed to provide clarity into personality traits, skills, education resources, working conditions, compensation, and insights from professionals in the field. We will provide you with a road map for education including recommended degree’s, as well as a list of schools that offer programs for your particular area of interest among the many criminal justice careers. Whether you are looking for that entry level position, growing in your respective field, or making a career transition, the means to accomplish this goal are within this resource.