Degree Programs for Criminal Justice Jobs in Kansas

Although such Kansas cities such as Kanorado and Linconville are very safe, other cities in the state are known for their high crime rate. For instance, the murder rate in Kansas City was twice the national average in 2012. From law enforcement officers and criminal investigators to legal support professionals and correctional officers, Kansas’ criminal justice community has worked together to reduce its murder rate by 37% between 2013 and 2014, moving it closer to the national average. But they won’t stop there.

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Kansas’ criminal justice community is made up of publically visible professionals like state troopers, municipal police officers, and sheriff’s deputies, as well as professionals like forensic scientists, detectives and paralegals that work behind the scenes.

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The field of criminal justice is dramatically increasing in Kansas:

  • More than 3,700 law enforcement jobs will become available between 2010 and 2020
  • About 300 detective jobs will be available between 2010 and 2020
  • The number of paralegals will increase by 18.7% through 2020
  • Forensic scientist jobs will increase 18.1% between 2010 and 2020

Since the fields of law enforcement, investigations, legal support, forensics and corrections are becoming increasingly complex, public safety agencies are seeking more highly educated candidates with criminal justice degrees specific to these specialized areas.

Law Enforcement and Criminal Investigation Jobs in Kansas

The Kansas Department of Labor expects the number of police officers in the state to increase by 7% through 2020. More than 2,200 of these jobs are expected to become available between 2010 and 2020. Kansas public safety agencies offer a variety of types of law enforcement jobs at the state and municipal levels ranging from patrol officer positions to more specialized criminal investigator jobs.

Kansas Police Officer Job Requirements

Some of the larger Kansas public safety agencies that may be hiring new officers include:

  • Kansas City, Kansas Police Department – Kansas City
  • Wichita Police Department – Wichita
  • Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office – Wichita
  • Johnson County Sheriff’s Office – Olathe

Police departments require that applicants meet these requirements:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Have a valid Kansas driver’s license by the time of appointment
  • Have no record of felonies or domestic violence
  • Be a Kansas resident
  • Be able to graduate from the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center

All of the Kansas police departments require applicants to have a high school education, but most prefer candidates with some college education. Many applicants hold associate’s or bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice, law enforcement, or police science.

Kansas State Trooper Job Requirements

More than 800 state troopers work for the Kansas Highway Patrol. The agency is headquartered in Topeka, but its officers travel throughout the state serving citizens and visitors using the state’s highway system. State troopers in Kansas work out of two regions:

  • East Region: Topeka, Pittsburg, and Lawrence among other areas
  • West Region: Wichita, Manhattan, Salina, Dodge City among others

The requirements to become a state trooper include being a U.S. citizen at least 21 years old, not having any felonies or a history of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes, and having a valid driver’s license. Candidates must pass extensive screening tests such as physical, psychological, and written exams.

The minimum educational requirement is a high school education, but college-level law enforcement education will help applicants stand out when they apply.

Becoming a Detective in Kansas

The number of detectives in Kansas is expected to increase by 5.6% through 2020 according to the Kansas Department of Labor.

In Kansas, detective jobs exist at the state and local levels. Some of the larger agencies with specialized criminal investigative divisions include:

  • Kansas Bureau of Investigation Field Investigations Division
  • Wichita Police Department Investigations
  • Kansas City, Kansas Investigations Bureau
  • Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division

In most cases, applicants who want to become detectives start out as patrol officers and work at that level for several years. Promising candidates can be promoted to be criminal investigators. Normally this takes at least two years, although one agency specifies that its officers work for five years before they are eligible to become detectives.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation has stringent requirements for its special agents who perform investigative work. The minimum qualifications include being a certified law enforcement officer with six years of experience. Preferred qualifications include two years of experience investigating felonies and a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as criminology or criminal investigations.

Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigator Positions in Kansas

Improvements in technology have made forensic analysis a vital part of securing convictions. The field of forensic science in Kansas is one of the most rapidly growing of the criminal justice specialties. Fifty-seven forensic science technician positions should become available between 2010 and 2020 according to the Kansas Department of Labor.

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Forensic scientists analyze crime scene evidence such as DNA, latent prints, tire tracks, toolmarks, and questioned documents. In addition, many departments have specialists who perform digital forensic analysis to catch cyber criminals. Kansas has several forensic labs that have demonstrated their high quality of work by obtaining ASCLD/LAB international accreditation.

This is a particularly good time to get forensic training in Kansas, because the Kansas Bureau of Investigation is replacing its antiquated Topeka forensic laboratory with a $55 million state of the art forensic science center on the campus of a Topeka university. The new forensic science center should be ready in 2015 and provide jobs for about 70 forensic scientists and technicians.

Kansas Forensic Scientist Job Requirements

Given the complexity of forensic analyses, applicants are expected to have at least a bachelor’s degree in forensic science or a hard science such as chemistry or physics. Requirements differ depending on the nature of the position. For instance, DNA analysts are expected to have coursework in molecular biology, genetics, or biochemistry. Toxicology expert job applicants should have a thorough background in chemical analytical techniques.

One Kansas university offers a B.S. in Forensic Chemical Science that offers the opportunity to perform forensic research as an undergraduate. It also offers a class in forensic anthropology.

Some agencies such as the Kansas Bureau of Investigation hire forensic scientists at varying levels depending on their level of lab experience. One way to get experience is to work as an intern. Students who are at least sophomores can apply to intern at the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

Kansas Crime Scene Investigator Job Requirements

One forensic science specialty is securing crime scenes, analyzing them, and preserving physical evidence to be analyzed back in the lab. The proper handling of physical evidence is crucial to successfully investigating and processing crimes. Crime scene investigators (CSIs) frequently handle a large number of cases. For instance, in the Wichita crime lab CSIs investigate between 1,800 and 2,100 cases each year.

CSIs come from a variety of backgrounds. In some cases, they are criminal investigators who have received advanced training in processing evidence. Some agencies have a specific hiring process for CSIs and require a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or forensic science.

Keeping up to date with new techniques is essential to being a good CSI, and certification is one way to do this. CSIs can get certified through the Kansas International Association for Identification.

Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation Divisions in Kansas

Kansas has a number of accredited forensic laboratories:

  • Kansas Bureau of Investigation Laboratory Division:
    • Great Bend
    • Kansas City, Kansas
    • Pittsburg
    • Topeka
  • Sedgwick County Regional Forensics Science Center
  • Johnson County Sheriff’s Office Criminalistics Laboratory

A number of Kansas public safety agencies have dedicated crime scene investigation units:

  • Kansas City, Kansas Police Department – Crime Scene Investigations Unit
  • Wichita Police Department – Technical Services Bureau
  • Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office – Crime Scene Investigation/Property Room Unit
  • Johnson County Sheriff’s Office – Criminalistics Laboratory

Kansas Correctional Officer Jobs at the State, Local, and Federal Level

In addition to maintaining inmate and staff safety, correctional officers work with the most dangerous inmates to help them learn the skills necessary to succeed once they are released back into the general population. Recidivism has been a large problem in Kansas, and the Kansas Department of Corrections has been aggressively working to reduce this through offender programs.

The Kansas Department of Labor expects the number of correctional officers to increase by 7.2% through 2020. It expects this level of growth to generate 1,115 jobs between 2010 and 2020.

Correctional Officer Jobs with the Kansas Department of Corrections

The Kansas Department of Corrections is the largest correctional officer employer in the state. More than 2,100 uniformed officers worked for this agency in fiscal year 2014. They oversaw 9,612 inmates in 2014.

There are nine state correctional facilities throughout Kansas:

Correctional officers

  • Lansing 502
  • Hutchinson 363
  • El Dorado 360
  • Norton 192
  • Topeka 165
  • Ellsworth 161
  • Larned 133
  • Winfield 132

Applicants for state correctional officer positions must be at least 19 years old by the time they are appointed. They must have a valid driver’s license and not have any felony or misdemeanor domestic violence convictions. Applicants must have passed the Kansas Department of Corrections test for Corrections Officer within the year prior to applying.

The minimum educational requirement is a high school diploma, but many candidates obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree to increase their chances of being hired. Psychology, sociology, and corrections are common fields to study to become a correctional officer.

Federal Correctional Officer Jobs in Kansas

The Bureau of Prisons has one facility in Kansas. It is a medium security prison with a minimum security satellite camp in Leavenworth. More than 2,100 inmates are housed there.

Federal correctional officer applicants must be younger than 37 unless they are veterans or can prove that they have federal law enforcement experience. U.S. citizenship is a key requirement.

Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree to be considered. Candidates can get hired at a higher grade if they have 9 semester hours of graduate work in a relevant field such as criminology, criminal justice, law, or social science.

Kansas Paralegals and Legal Support Professionals

The number of Kansas-based paralegals and legal assistants is rapidly increasing. The Kansas Department of Labor expects that 3,788 jobs will become available between 2010 and 2020.

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The best way to become a paralegal is to get a college degree, preferably at a school approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). Kansas offers one such school: a paralegal program in Overland Park. Students can earn either an associate in arts or a post-secondary certificate in paralegal studies.

Paralegal students benefit from joining the Kansas Paralegal Association. It offers a yearly scholarship for qualified applicants to take the national certification exams that will dramatically improve their ability to get jobs. In addition, the association is creating exam study groups in the Wichita, Topeka, and Kansas City areas.

Paralegals can obtain these certifications:

Major Law Firms in Kansas

Certified paralegals and legal assistants have a number of Kansas-based law firms to choose from. U.S. News and World Report created a list of the best law firms in the state in 2011. These are firms from the list that practice in 3 or more areas of law:

  • Adams Jones Law Firm, P.A.
  • Barber Emerson, L.C.
  • Bartimus, Frickleton, Robertson & Goza
  • Bever Dye, LC
  • Clark, Mize & Linville Chartered

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