Degree Programs for Criminal Justice Jobs in Georgia

Georgia is home to many experts in the field of criminal justice, employing a higher percentage of these specialists than is proportional to its population.

A disproportionally high percentage of law enforcement officers work in the state, and this has a knock-on effect with related criminal justice occupations. Detectives and paralegals subsequently earn a higher-than-average salary, paralegals are additionally found in a higher concentration, and so are correctional officers who transcend their expected correlation to population and rank Georgia as the fifth-largest employer in the nation.

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Because of the state’s appeal, criminal justice jobs in Georgia can be competitive. Education can be an important factor in overcoming competition, and college education is often required for more specialized positions in forensic science, criminal investigations and emergency management, among others.

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Law Enforcement and Criminal Investigation Jobs in Georgia

Every year hundreds of thousands of crimes are reported across Georgia. FBI statistics show that last year law enforcement officials responded to over 360,000 violent and property crimes alone. Law enforcement careers can be found at the city, county, state, and federal levels of government. To become a law enforcement officer in Georgia candidates must have a minimum of a high school education and a relatively clean criminal background.

Becoming a Police Officer and Deputy Sheriff

Meeting basic age, education, and background check requirements are essential for becoming a police officer or sheriff’s deputy, and each law enforcement agency sets its own hiring requirements. Having the additional qualification of a college education, especially in subjects like Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement, can provide applicants with a competitive edge and also result in a higher salary.

  • The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office requires new deputy sheriffs to have two years of work experience in law enforcement or one year of advanced work experience in corrections
  • The DeKalb County Police Department offers a higher salary for officers with a college degree
  • The Atlanta Police Department offers a progressing salary for candidates with increasingly advanced college degrees, starting with an associate’s degree
  • The Columbus Police Department offers a salary bonus for employees with college education
  • The Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department offers a higher wage for officers who possess a college degree
  • The Athens-Clarke County Police Department offers a higher wage for those with a college education
  • The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department offers a three percent pay incentive for officers with an associate’s degree and a six percent pay incentive for officers with a bachelor’s or master’s degree
  • The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office requires new applicants to have one of the following:
    • An associate’s degree
    • College credits that are equivalent to an associate’s degree
    • Two years of work experience in law enforcement
    • An equivalent combination of education and experience

Georgia holds its police officers and sheriff’s deputies in high regard. This is evidenced by the fact that compared with other states, many of Georgia’s city’s and rural area have a high number of police and sheriff deputies in the country:

  • The Hinesville-Fort Stewart area has the highest concentration of sheriff’s deputies and police officers of all metropolitan areas in the nation, while Macon ranks eighth on this list
  • The Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta area has the seventh highest number of police officers and sheriff’s deputies of all urban areas in the nation
  • The South Georgia non-metropolitan area has the fifth highest number of police officers and sheriff’s deputies of all rural areas in the nation
  • The East Georgia non-metropolitan area has the fourth highest concentration of police and sheriff’s deputies of all rural areas in the nation

Requirements to Become a State Patrol Officer

The Georgia State Patrol carries the responsibility of keeping the interstate highway system safe. That means interdicting drug traffickers, investigating criminal activities and accidents, as well as conducting patrols. This state police force will also provide assistance to local law enforcement agencies as requested.

A college education can provide candidates with essential State Patrol skills, and the agency’s stated preferences for candidates include:

  • Prior military service
  • Prior law enforcement experience
  • Current employment with the Georgia Department of Public Safety

Detective and Criminal Investigator Job Requirements

Georgia’s 3,720 detectives and criminal investigators handle the state’s most difficult cases. These professionals are usually employed in specialized investigation units within city and county law enforcement agencies, and also work at the state and federal level. Each agency chooses its own hiring requirements. These generally include prior law enforcement experience, and also often include a minimum level of college education.

  • To work with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations as a Special Agent, candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in any subject area
  • To work as an investigator with the DeKalb County Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division, candidates will need to have two years of related work experience or an equivalent combination of training and experience
  • Candidates who want to work as a Special Agent with the FBI will need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in a subject such as Criminal Justice, Political Science, or Information Technology

Some of the largest employers of criminal investigators and detectives in Georgia include:

  • Atlanta Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division
  • Columbus Police Department’s Bureau of Investigative Services
  • Richmond County Sheriff’s Criminal Investigations Division
  • Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Investigative Division

Of all the metropolitan regions in the nation, Brunswick offers the third-highest average salary for criminal investigators and detectives.

Paralegals and Legal Assistant Jobs in Georgia

With more than 8,000 professionals statewide, paralegals and legal assistants are an integral component of Georgia’s judiciary system. The Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta metropolitan area is home to more paralegals than most other metro-areas in the nation, while rural South Georgia offers the second-highest average paralegal salary of all non-urban regions in the nation.

While there are no state-imposed certification or degree requirements for legal assistants to practice in Georgia, private employers often specify a preference or requirement for these qualifications.

There are several paralegal studies degree programs offered at locations throughout the state:

  • Post-secondary paralegal certificate in Morrow and Gainesville
  • Associate’s of arts (AA) paralegal studies program in Athens
  • Associate’s of applied science (AAS) degree in legal studies in Morrow and Atlanta
  • Associate’s of applied science (AAS) degree in paralegal studies in Covington and Gainesville
  • Associate’s of Science (AS) degree in paralegal/legal studies in Savannah
  • Bachelor’s of science (BS) degree in paralegal studies in Gainesville
  • Bachelor’s of science (BS) degree in legal studies in Morrow, Atlanta, and Savannah

Georgia residents can also find nationally recognized legal assistant certifications through agencies such as the following:

Legal Assistant and Paralegal Employment Qualifications in Georgia

Paralegals and legal assistants can expect to find jobs with three types of employers: legal service providers, government offices, and commercial business. Some recent ads seeking paralegals in Georgia specified the following qualifications for hire:

  • The Schwartz Posel Immigration Law Group in Atlanta was recently seeking a paralegal with at least two years of experience in immigration, plus a preference given for individuals who possessed a bachelor’s degree
  • The Southern Environmental Law Center in Atlanta was recently looking for a legal assistant with the preferred qualifications of a bachelor’s degree or at least two years of office experience
  • Georgia Pacific in Atlanta was recently searching for a legal assistant who either possessed a paralegal certification or had prior experience working with contracts; the company stated a preference for candidates with a bachelor’s degree
  • TMX Finance in Savannah was recently looking for an experienced legal assistant with one of the following minimum qualifications:
    • Bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies
    • Paralegal certification
    • An equivalent combination of formal education, training and experience

Forensic and Crime Scene Investigation Jobs in Georgia

Forensic science experts and crime scene investigators are tasked with gathering, analyzing, and piecing together evidence from Georgia’s most serious crimes to put perpetrators behind bars. These specialized professionals must have a strong educational foundation in their fields of expertise. Because occupations in this field can vary considerably, necessary college education also varies depending on the specific forensic or CSI job.

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Candidates for careers in this field will work within specialized law enforcement and forensic units of city, county, state, and federal agencies. Each government agency will have its own hiring requirements.

CSI and Forensic Science Education in Georgia

To work as a Forensic Technician with the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department, candidates will need to have three years of related experience and at least an associate’s degree in subjects such as:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Forensic Science
  • Biology

The police department prefers candidates who hold an official forensic certification

To be a Forensic Investigator with the DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office candidates will need to have five years of sworn law enforcement or criminal investigative experience

To work as a Latent Fingerprint Examiner with the DeKalb County Crime Scene Unit or Bureau of Police Services candidates will need to have a year of training or education related to fingerprinting and fingerprint identification techniques, as well as at least two years of relevant work experience in:

  • Classifying and identifying latent prints
  • Collecting and processing crime scene materials
  • Operation of an automated fingerprint identification system
  • Print comparison techniques

Working as a Crime Lab Scientist with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation requires candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree that includes the completion of at least two science courses; candidates should earn their degree in a field that relates to their desired position at the Crime Lab

To work as a Crime Scene Investigator with DeKalb County Police Services candidates must have at least two years of related experience and an associate’s degree or equivalent college education in subjects such as:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Law Enforcement
  • Forensic Science
  • Any other related field

CSI and Forensic Certification

Candidates can pursue nationally recognized forensic science and CSI certification from agencies such as the following:

Georgia also operates its own forensic training agency through the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Division of Forensic Sciences. Through this agency candidates can find certification information for:

  • Drug identification
  • Breath test intoxication training
  • Fingerprint identification

Careers with the Georgia Department of Corrections and Federal Bureau of Prisons

Georgia’s 17,300 correctional officers are an essential part of ensuring justice is served at federal, state, county, and city prisons throughout the state. Although Georgia is the eighth most populous state in the country, it offers the fifth highest number of correctional officer jobs in the nation. By far the two largest employers of correctional officers in Georgia are the state’s Department of Corrections and the federal government’s Bureau of Prisons.

Qualifying for Correctional Officer Positions with the Georgia Department of Corrections

Working as a correctional officer at facilities managed by the state’s Department of Corrections requires candidates to have at least a high school education and good moral character. Candidates are preferred who have at least one year of prior correctional work experience and an associate’s degree in a field related to:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Corrections
  • Psychology
  • Sociology

To recognize the importance the Department of Corrections places on education, it offers the following bonus incentive pay:

  • Three percent lump sum salary payment for candidates with an associate’s degree
  • Five percent lump sum salary payment for candidates with a bachelor’s degree or higher

There are 31 state prisons operated by the Department of Corrections throughout Georgia, including:

  • Arrendale State Prison in Alto
  • Autry State Prison in Pelham
  • Rutledge State Prison in Columbus
  • Central State Prison in Macon
  • Coastal State Prison in Garden City
  • Phillips State Prison in Buford
  • Calhoun State Prison in Morgan
  • Dodge State Prison in Chester
  • Hancock State Prison in Sparta
  • Washington State Prison in Davisboro

Qualifying to Work for the Federal Bureau of Prisons

There are five federal prisons operated by the Bureau of Prisons throughout Georgia. Federal standards require correctional officers to meet one of the following qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree in any subject
  • One year of specialized work experience in corrections
  • Three years of general corrections work experience

Correctional officers work at the following federal prisons in Georgia:

  • Residential Reentry Management (RRM) field office in Atlanta
  • U.S. Penitentiary Atlanta
  • Correctional Institution D. Ray James in Folkston – managed by GEO Group
  • Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Jesup
  • Correctional Institution McRae – managed by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)

The Federal Bureau of Prisons also contracts the management of two of its Georgia facilities to private companies, which each have their own hiring requirements for correctional officers.

GEO Group – candidates must have a high school education and are preferred to have prior corrections experience and a college education in any of the following subjects:

  • Correctional Services
  • Behavioral Sciences
  • Cultural Studies

CCA – candidates must have a high school education, driver’s license, and be at least 18 years of age.

Jobs in Homeland Security and Emergency Management in Georgia

Homeland security and emergency management officials in Georgia keep the state’s critical infrastructure protected and ensure inter-governmental communication and response in times of disaster. These professionals work at the local, state, and federal levels of government and offer a wide range of expertise.

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To prepare for careers in these fields candidates can pursue a variety of majors:

  • Emergency Management
  • Logistics
  • Communication
  • Criminal Justice
  • Homeland Security
  • Information Sciences
  • Sociology

Important homeland security and emergency management agencies in Georgia include:

  • Atlanta Joint Terrorism Task Force
  • Georgia Terrorism Intelligence Project
  • FBI Atlanta Field Office
  • Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center
  • Georgia Emergency Management Agency-Office of Homeland Security (GEMA-OHS)
  • Terrorism Emergency Response and Preparedness Division of the GEMA-OHS
  • Georgia Bureau of Investigation
  • GEMA-OHS State Operations Center

Degrees by State