Degree Programs for Criminal Justice Jobs in Washington DC

Washington D.C.’s crime profile included 104 homicides in 2013, an increase over the landmark low of 88 homicides in 2012. Despite the recent uptick, the long-term trend points to reductions in violent crime thanks to the District’s tough anti-crime efforts.

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Criminal justice efforts in Washington D.C. also continue to be a priority because of the increased risk of terrorism, both domestically and internationally, and because of the sheer concentration of federal agency facilities located here.

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From national security to neighborhood policing, legal support and corrections, Washington D.C.’s criminal justice system relies on thousands of professionals in a variety of specialized fields:

  • 4,000 police officers
  • 290 forensic technicians
  • The highest concentration of paralegals in the nation
  • An average daily population of about 2,600 inmates

A degree in law enforcement, forensic science, paralegal studies or homeland security, among the many other specialized fields of criminal justice provides the key skills necessary to serve as an effective member of the District’s criminal justice system.

Law Enforcement Jobs in Washington D.C.

Law enforcement officers are the front line professionals who are responsible for ensuring public safety by patrolling the streets, enforcing laws, and arresting suspected criminals throughout the greater Washington, D.C. area.

Qualifying to Join the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department

The District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department is the largest police presence in Washington D.C., employing nearly 4,000 police officers. In 2013 alone, the Department made 41,747 arrests and responded to more than 53,000 calls for service.

The Metropolitan Police Department is divided up in to a number of Bureaus, including the Patrol Services and School Security Bureau, as well as 7 police districts.

Individuals who want to become police officers with the Metropolitan Police Department must be at least 21 years old, must be a U.S. citizen, must possess a valid driver’s license, and must have completed at least 60 semester hours of college credit in any subject matter if they do not possess previous law enforcement or military experience. It is common for candidates to complete degree programs in areas such as criminal justice, police science, and public administration when pursuing police officer jobs with the Metropolitan Police Department.

Job Requirements for Other Local Law Enforcement Agencies in Washington D.C.

There are a number of local law enforcement agencies in Washington D.C. that are unique to our nation’s capital:

The District of Columbia Housing Authority Office of Public Safety has a fully operational, 24-hour police force that is responsible for patrolling the city’s public housing developments. Many of the sworn police officers have concurrent jurisdiction with the MPD through the District of Columbia, while a select group of special police officers are commissioned by the Mayor to have full arrest powers on DCHA properties.

The Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) includes 490 sworn police officers, along with an additional 64 security special police officers. The officers of the MTPD provide a variety of law enforcement and public safety services for the Metrorail and Metrobus systems in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. The MTPD is the only tri-jurisdictional police agency in the U.S., and it serves more than 3.2 million people.

The Washington National Cathedral Police Department has its own police force, which is responsible for securing the cathedral and providing protective services to the nearly 500,000 visitors that tour the structure each year.

The District of Columbia Protective Services Division (PSD) is the police force responsible for overseeing the physical security and law enforcement activities of all of the properties owned or leased by the Government of the District of Columbia.

Law enforcement agencies at the local level in Washington D.C. require candidates to meet specific, minimum requirements. For example, candidates for Metro Transit police officer jobs must be at least 21 years old, they must possess a high school diploma or GED, they must be a U.S. citizen, and they must have no felony or serious misdemeanor convictions.

Criminal Investigation Job Requirements in Washington D.C.

Criminal investigators/detectives are an important component to the criminal justice system in Washington D.C. At the District level, criminal investigators generally work for the Metropolitan Police Department’s Investigative Services Bureau, which is responsible for the investigation and disruption of drug/narcotics trafficking, firearms trafficking, and prostitution/human trafficking offenses in Washington D.C.

The criminal investigators of the Metropolitan Police Department usually start out as police officers before qualifing for detective jobs. These professionals also often possess bachelor’s or master’s degrees in areas such as forensic science, criminal justice, or public safety.

Criminal investigations in Washington are often carried out at the federal level by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has a Washington D.C. field office. The FBI in Washington D.C. has active partnerships with:

  • Washington Field Office Joint Terrorism Task Force (brings together 34 local, state, and federal agencies that respond to terrorism leads)
  • Intelligence Division/Field Intelligence Group
  • Cyber Crime Task Force
  • Washington Metropolitan Major Medical Fraud Task Force
  • Violent Crime/Gang and Drug Task Force
    • Northern Virginia Gang Task Force
    • High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Major Offenders Initiative
    • MS-13 National Gang Task Force
    • Safe Streets Task Force (works with the Metropolitan Police Department)
    • Violent Crime Task Force
    • Bank (partnership between the FBI, 46 local law enforcement entities, and more than 50 financial banking institutions)
    • Art Crime Team

Federal Law Enforcement Jobs in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. is home to many federal agencies that employ federal law enforcement officers, including:

  • United States Marshals Service
  • United States Park Police (provides law enforcement services for all federal properties in D.C.)
  • United States Secret Service (uniformed officers cover White House, foreign diplomats, the embassy, and VIP protection)
  • National Zoological Park Police
  • Smithsonian Museums Federal Police
  • Supreme Court Federal Police
  • United States Park Police (National Parks Federal Police covers all national park services in D.C. and the surrounding region.)
  • United States State Department Diplomatic Security Service (State Department Federal Police)
  • United States Department of Defense Police
  • United States Mint Police
  • Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP Federal Police)
  • United States Postal Police
  • Federal Protective Service (federal police providing service to Homeland Security buildings)
  • Government Printing Office (GPO Federal Police)
  • Amtrak Police
  • U.S. Federal Reserve Police (law enforcement arm of the Federal Reserve System)
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Police (responsible for VA Medical Center in D.C.)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI Federal Police, protection of FBI headquarters)

The majority of federal agencies hire candidates for law enforcement positions at the GS-05 level, which requires candidates to be between the ages of 21 and 36, to be U.S. citizens, to be free of felony crime convictions, and to possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university if they do not have previous work experience in law enforcement.

Many choose to pursue degrees in areas such as criminal justice, sociology, public safety, emergency management, or police science.

Correctional Officer Jobs in Washington D.C.

The Washington D.C. Department of Corrections (DOC) is under the District of Columbia’s public safety cluster and is one of the 50 largest municipal jail systems in the country, reporting an average daily population of about 2,600 inmates. The mission of the DOC is to provide a safe, secure, orderly, and humane environment for inmates and pretrial detainees.

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The DOC consists of two facilities: the privately operated Correctional Treatment Facility and the Central Detention Facility (also known as the D.C. Jail).

To become a correctional officer in D.C. through the DOC, candidates must be at least 21 years old; they must be a high school graduate; and they must possess a valid driver’s license with a clear driving record, among others.

It is also common for correctional officers in Washington D.C. to possess degrees in corrections.

Note: Although the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has its headquarters in Washington D.C., there are no federal prisons located here.

Homeland Security and Emergency Management Jobs in Washington D.C.

The District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) leads the planning and coordination of emergency management and homeland security efforts in the District of Columbia as to ensure that the nation’s capital is prepared as to prevent, respond to, protect against, mitigate, and recover from a wide variety of threats and hazards.

Emergency management and homeland security professionals in Washington D.C. often possess bachelor and master degrees in areas such as homeland security, public administration, criminal justice, public safety, and emergency management, among others.

Paralegal and Legal Assistant Jobs in Washington D.C.

As of 2011, one in 12 residents in Washington D.C. was a lawyer, according to the American Bar Association, creating tremendous opportunity for paralegals and legal assistants in the state.

Most employers seek out paralegals (also referred to as legal assistants) that possess an associate’s degree or certificate in paralegal studies from a program recognized by the American Bar Association.

Further, paralegals with industry experience often seek national certification. Although certification is not mandatory in this profession, it is considered a valuable addition to any paralegal’s resume:

  • National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
  • The American Alliance of Paralegals (AAPI)
  • The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)

Just a few of the major law firms operating out of Washington D.C. include:

  • Wiley Rein LLP
  • Lathan and Watkins LLP
  • Patton Boggs LLP
  • Crowell & Moring, LLP
  • Steptoe & Johnson LLP

Forensic Investigator Jobs in Washington D.C.

The professionals of forensic science in Washington D.C. serve law enforcement at all levels as forensic scientists and crime scene investigators. Crime scene investigators work at the scene of the crime, identifying, collecting, and preserving evidence, while forensic scientists analyze the collected evidence in a laboratory environment. Because forensic science is a swiftly advancing field of study, it demands professionals with extensive education in areas such as:

  • Criminology
  • Pathology
  • Anthropology
  • DNA
  • Latent prints
  • Forensic imaging
  • Firearms/toolmarks
  • Trace evidence
  • Chemistry
  • Latent print
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Goth crime scene investigators and forensic lab techs generally possess bachelor’s or master’s degrees in areas related to forensic science.

Forensic scientists in Washington D.C. are found working out of the Department of Forensic Sciences Consolidated Forensic Laboratory. The Forensic Science Laboratory Division (FSL) collects, examines, and analyzes physical evidence submitted in criminal cases. The FSL is authorized to examine evidence submitted by any DC governmental agency investigating a criminal offense. Currently, the FSL offers the following services:

  • Forensic biology
  • Materials analysis
  • Firearms
  • Fingerprint examination

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