Degree Programs for Criminal Justice Jobs in Colorado

According to the June 2014 Uniform Crime Reporting Data, there has been a 10% decrease in overall crime in Denver from the year prior, and a 5.2% drop in violent crime, even as Colorado has the fourth-fastest growing population in the U.S. Credit for these trends goes to the law enforcement, criminal investigations, legal support and corrections professionals that make the state’s criminal justice system so effective.

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Police officers, detectives, forensic technicians, crime scene investigators, paralegals and correctional officers all play their part in making Colorado a safe place to live and work.

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Jobs for Law Enforcement Professionals in Colorado

The most visible criminal justice professionals in Colorado are law enforcement officers, who are responsible for patrolling the streets, enforcing laws, responding to emergencies and arresting suspects.

Some of the largest police/sheriff’s departments in Colorado include:

  • Denver Police Department
  • Colorado Springs Police Department
  • Fort Collins Police Department
  • Aurora Police Department
  • El Paso County Sheriff’s Office
  • Denver County Sheriff Department
  • Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office

Qualifying for Police Officer Jobs at the County/City Level

Police officers are typically hired at the county or city level, with officers working for police departments for cities and sheriff’s departments for counties. Both police departments and sheriff’s departments have many of the same requirements for officer candidates, which include begin a United States citizen, possessing a high school diploma or GED, and possessing a valid Colorado driver’s license. Most departments also require candidates to have clear criminal backgrounds, as well.

In addition, most candidates for police officer jobs in Colorado must be 21 years old and able to pass a battery of written, physical, and psychological tests, while many departments now require (or recommend) that candidates possess some type of post-secondary education. For example, police officer candidates for the Boulder Police Department must possess 60 college credit hours if they do not possess prior military or law enforcement experience.

Qualifying for Police Officer Jobs at the State Level

Police officers at the state level work for the Colorado State Patrol. These officers, known as Colorado State Patrol Troopers must, at the start of the Police Academy, be at least 21 years old, must possess a current and valid Colorado driver’s license, and must either be a U.S. citizen or possess documentation that shows they are legally allowed to live and work in the U.S.

Individuals interested in becoming Colorado State Troopers often pursue a college degree in an area such as law enforcement or police science, as it may prepare them for the challenges of becoming a state police officer.

Requirements for Detective Jobs at the City, County and State Level

Most city/county police departments have multi-faceted criminal investigations division units that are organized by type of crime; therefore, criminal investigators may work in one or more of these units throughout their careers. For example, the Aurora Police Department has detectives working in a number of units within its Major Investigations Section, including:

  • Major Crime/Homicide
  • Economic Crimes
  • Crimes Against Children
  • Sex Crimes
  • Victim Services Unit

Criminal investigators at the state level work for the following agencies:

This division has an active effort in auto theft enforcement, and it also handles administrative inspections of auto wrecking facilities and storage yards.

The Colorado Information Analysis Center within the State Patrol also employs investigators to handle Homeland Security related investigations, as it is part of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) provides a full range of criminal investigative services to law and state law enforcement. Just a few of the crimes investigated by the CBI include:

  • Homicide
  • Arson
  • Gaming
  • Fraud
  • Sexual assault
  • Burglary
  • Theft
  • Public corruption

The agents of the CBI also perform investigations of suspected criminal activity when directed by the Governor. Investigators of the CBI may work out of one of the agency’s regional offices:

  • Denver
  • Grand Junction
  • Pueblo

Homeland Security and Emergency Management Careers in Colorado

The Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management employs field managers and local emergency managers who are responsible for developing comprehensive and sustainable emergency management programs throughout the state.

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These professionals assist local governments by providing:

  • Response assistance
  • Planning assistance
  • Training assistance
  • Exercise assistance
  • Grant administration

The Operations Section is responsible for the State Emergency Operations center and for the coordination with state agencies during emergency or disaster situations.

There are currently regional managers based out of Centennial, Colorado and in satellite field offices in Grand Junction, Pueblo, Fort Morgan, Clark, and Durango.

Although the requirements to become an emergency management or homeland security professional are varied according to the position, candidates with law enforcement experience or those who have post-secondary degrees in areas such as homeland security, public safety, and emergency management are often in demand for these careers.

Jobs for Correctional Careers in Colorado

Correctional officers in Colorado, who are responsible for supervising and transporting prisoners, inspecting the correctional facilities, and enforcing discipline, may work at the federal, state, or local level:

Requirements for Correctional Officer Jobs at the Federal Level

Correctional officer jobs at the federal level are found throughout the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which operates three federal facilities in Colorado:

  • Denver RRM
  • Englewood FCI
  • Florence FCC

Colorado is also the site of the National Corrections Academy, Management, and Specialty Training Center (MSTC).

Individuals who want to become a correctional officer at the federal level must be under the age of 37 and they must be a United States citizen. To qualify at the GS-5 federal level, the minimum level for employment as a federal correctional officer, candidates must also either possess a four-year degree from an accredited college or university or at least 3 years of full-time general experience or one year of specialized experience.

Requirements for Correctional Officer Jobs at the State/Local Level

Correctional officers who work for Colorado’s state prisons are employed by the Colorado Department of Corrections, which operates 20 state facilities and 4 private facilities, including:

  • Colorado State Penitentiary
  • Centennial Correctional Facility
  • Arrowhead Correctional Center
  • Fremont Correctional Facility

As of September 2011, there were nearly 7,000 employees with the Department who oversaw a prisoner population of 14,325 in state facilities and 4,404 in private facilities, according to the National Institute of Corrections.

At the local level, correctional officers usually work for the county jails. Colorado is currently home to 62 counties, all of which have jails, according to the National Institute of Corrections.

Correctional officer jobs at both the state and local level generally require candidates who are at least 18 years old and who possess a high school diploma or GED. However, it is commonplace for candidates to have completed some type of post-secondary study in corrections. Correctional officers with associate or bachelor degrees in these areas may enjoy better promotional opportunities and may be better prepared to handle this demanding profession.

Crime Scene Investigation and Forensic Science Careers in Colorado

Crime scene investigation and forensics both play an important role in our criminal justice system, as it is up to these professionals to capture and analyze evidence that is used in criminal proceedings. Crime scene investigation (CSI) professionals are called to the scene of a crime and are responsible for preserving and collecting evidence found there, while forensic scientists and technicians are responsible for taking the evidence and analyzing it in a scientific laboratory.

Because of the highly technical nature of these professions, four-year and even graduate degrees are generally required. Specialized degrees in crime scene investigations and forensic science are common among candidates interested in becoming crime scene investigators or forensic scientists.

In Colorado, crime scene investigators may be part of a police department’s criminal investigative team, while forensic scientists are found in crime labs at the local or state level.

The largest crime laboratories in Colorado are:

At the local level, crime labs are part of a number of police/sheriff’s departments, such as:

  • Colorado Springs Police Department/El Paso County Sheriff’s Department, Metro Crime Lab Unit
  • Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Crime Lab

Paralegal and Legal Assistant Careers in Colorado

Prosecuting suspected criminals in Colorado may be the job of attorneys and law firms, but it is the paralegals that help ensure that a case comes together. Paralegals are responsible for preparing reports, interviewing witnesses, and providing general assistance to attorneys.

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Although a formal degree program is not always a requirement to become a paralegal in Colorado, many law firms look for paralegals who have completed a paralegal studies program that has been recognized by the American Bar Association and who have earned certification through one of the following national accrediting bodies:

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

Just a few of the many major law firms in Colorado include:

  • Holland & Hart, Denver
  • Holme Roberts & Owen, Denver
  • Davis Grahams & Stubbs, Denver
  • Feldmann Nagel & Associates, Steamboat Springs
  • Godfrey & Lapuyade, Englewood
  • Oates Knezevich & Gardesnwartz, Aspen
  • Stevens Littma Biddison Tharp & Weinberg, Boulder

Degrees by State