Degree Programs for Criminal Justice Jobs in Arkansas

FBI data revealed that the State of Arkansas was ranked sixth in the nation for its level of crime in 2013. The FBI also reported that the rate of both violent crimes and property crimes increased between 2012 and 2013 to a rate that is above the national average. The FBI expects that Arkansas will continue to show a rise in felony crimes in 2014.

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A large factor in Arkansas’ elevated crime rate is the State’s population centers. For example, Little Rock ranked second in the nation for murders in 2013 among all small U.S. cities, mainly due to the increase in gang activity there. During this time, the FBI reported more than 1,300 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. In July 2010 alone, there were 10 murders in Little Rock.

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Pine Bluff also ranked high among small towns for crime. In fact, due to its rate of violent crimes, it is now referred to as the “most dangerous small town in America.” FBI reports show that it is the second-most dangerous metropolitan area, falling just behind Detroit. In 2013, there were 18 murders in Pine Bluff and 2 murders within the first two months of 2014.

Qualified criminal justice professionals are in high demand in Arkansas, from police officers and criminal investigators to correctional officers and forensic scientists.

Law Enforcement Career Requirements in Arkansas

According to the Arkansas Crime Information Center there were 10,488 full-time law enforcement officers in Arkansas, an increase from 10,391 in 2011, and 10,207 in 2010.

Law enforcement professionals, who include both police officers and criminal investigators, are responsible for ensuring public safety. While police patrol the streets, respond to police calls, and arrest suspects, criminal investigators explore crimes and employ in-depth investigative techniques to determine suspects and motives.

Police Officer Job Requirements

At the local level, police officers work for city departments, while sheriff’s deputies work for county departments. At the state level, Arkansas State Troopers of the Arkansas State Police Highway Patrol are responsible for patrolling state highways and assisting local police departments.

Most Arkansas police departments, including the Arkansas Highway Patrol, require candidates to be at least 21 years old before they enter the police academy. Other basic requirements for employment include being a U.S. citizen, possessing a high school diploma or GED, and having a clear felony and domestic violence record.

For example, police officer candidates for the Fort Smith Police Department must be at least 21 years old, must be free of a felony record, and must be a citizen of the United States to qualify for employment with the Department. It is quite common, however, for police officers to pursue degrees in criminal justice or police science.

Just a few of the larger police departments in Arkansas include:

  • Little Rock Police Department
  • Hot Springs Police Department
  • Fayetteville Police Department
  • Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office
  • Benton County Sheriff’s Office
  • Washington County Sheriff’s Office

Criminal Investigator/Detective Job Requirements

Criminal investigation involves studying facts and evidence to prove the guilt or innocence of a suspect. Therefore, the work of criminal investigators involves interviewing witnesses and suspects, reviewing evidence and police reports, and searching for answers.

Criminal investigations, depending on the size of the department, are often organized into a number of divisions or units. For example, the Criminal Investigation Division of the Fayetteville Police Department is organized into three units:

  • Criminal investigations unit
  • Special investigations unit
  • Drug task force

Criminal investigators/detectives in Arkansas may work at the local, state, or federal level. At the local level, criminal investigators must typically first become police officers and earn valuable experience before being eligible for jobs in criminal investigations.

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Many police officers also choose to pursue degrees in criminal justice, forensic science, or a similar area of study when seeking to become criminal investigators. Some departments recognize degrees as satisfying part of the experience requirement. At the state level, candidates must serve as Arkansas State Troopers for a number of years before they can advance to criminal investigations.

At the federal level, criminal investigators in Arkansas may work for the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), which has a main office in Little Rock and resident agencies in:

  • El Dorado
  • Fayetteville
  • Fort Smith
  • Jonesboro
  • Marion
  • Texarkana

Becoming a criminal investigator with the FBI generally involves meeting the GS-5 or GS-6 federal pay level requirements, which include: being a United States citizen, being between the ages of 21 and 36, and possessing either a bachelor’s degree in a relevant major, such as forensic science or criminology, or equivalent experience.

Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation Career Requirements in Arkansas

Forensic scientists and crime scene investigators in Arkansas are the experts of forensic evidence, which is evidence that is collected/gathered and analyzed in legal proceedings. Crime scene investigators are called to the crime scene to gather, collect, and preserve the evidence located there, while forensic scientists take that evidence and analyze it in a crime laboratory.

Forensic scientists in a crime laboratory often focus their careers on a specific area of forensics, such as:

  • Digital evidence
  • Firearms/toolmarks
  • Forensic DNA
  • Forensic toxicology
  • Latent prints

Both of these professions usually require the completion of a bachelor’s or master’s degree in one of the natural sciences or in areas such as forensic science, forensic psychology, forensic investigations, and crime scene investigation. Individuals seeking technician positions in crime laboratories may pursue associate degrees in related areas.

The central crime laboratory in Little Rock, Arkansas, is the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, which serves as a central lab for the law enforcement agencies in the Arkansas. It is currently the only fully functional forensic laboratory in Arkansas; therefore, they accept evidence from investigations at the city, state, and federal levels.

Just a few of the law enforcement agencies where crime scene investigators work in Arkansas include:

  • Fayetteville Police Department, Criminal Investigations Unit
  • Benton County Sheriff’s Department, Crime Scene Investigations
  • Paragould Police Department, Criminal Investigations, Crime Scene Investigation

Correctional Officer Career Requirements in Arkansas

State and Local Correctional Officer Jobs – The Arkansas Department of Corrections has 19 state correctional facilities throughout the State. During 2010, the Arkansas Department of Correction had an average daily inmate population of about 15,000.

There are also 83 jails throughout Arkansas’ 75 counties, including:

  • Baxter County Jail, Mountain Home
  • Cleburne County Detention Center, Heber Springs
  • Columbia County Sheriff Detention Facility, Magnolia
  • Faulkner County Detention Center, Conway
  • Franklin County Jail, Charleston
  • Jefferson County Jail, Pine Bluff

Correctional officer candidates with the Arkansas Department of Corrections must possess a valid Arkansas driver’s license and a high school diploma or the equivalent. Candidates must also be willing to work anywhere in the State.

Federal Correctional Officer Jobs – At the federal level, correctional officers in Arkansas work for the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) at the Forrest City Federal Correctional Complex.

To work as a correctional officer with the BOP, candidates must, at a minimum, be younger than 37, be a U.S. citizen, and possess a high school diploma or GED. Many individuals interested in federal correctional officer jobs often pursue bachelor degrees in areas such as police science and criminal justice, as a four-year degree is a requirement for qualifying at the GS-5 level for individuals without prior experience.

Paralegal Career Requirements in Arkansas

Paralegals, also often called legal assistants, are individuals who have usually completed a formal course of study that leads to professional certification or an associate or bachelor’s degree. Although not a requirement to become a paralegal, most law firms seek legal assistant professionals who have formal training under their belt.

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Because there are no state licensing requirements for paralegals, national certification is a common pursuit among legal assistants. Just a few of the national certifying bodies for paralegals include:

  • National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
  • National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)

Paralegals may work for attorneys, law firms, corporations, and non-profit organizations, where their services include researching, gathering information, writing reports, and interviewing witnesses.

Some of the largest law firms in Arkansas include:

  • Friday Eldredge & Clark, LLP, Little Rock
  • Mitchell Williams Selig Gates & Woodyard, PLLC, Little Rock
  • Rainwater Holt & Sexton PA, Hot Springs
  • The Brad Hendricks Law Firm, Little Rock
  • Davis Wright Clark Butt & Carithers PLC, Fayetteville

Degrees by State