Degree Programs for Criminal Justice Jobs in Kentucky

Kentucky’s violent crime rate is more than one third lower than the national average, partly due to the efforts of the state’s dedicated criminal justice professionals. Cities such as Bonnieville and Hardyville are renown for their safety, but Kentucky does have some notoriously high crime areas. In 2012, more than 40% of the state’s 9,752 violent crimes took place in the Louisville metro area alone.

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Members of Kentucky’s criminal justice community work in concert to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth. Some of these professionals like police officers and state troopers are highly visible to the public. Other critical personnel work behind the scenes: Forensic professionals process crime scene evidence so that criminal investigators can build a body of evidence that paralegals use in helping attorneys secure convictions, while correctional officers work to rehabilitate prisoners so they can re-enter society as law-abiding citizens.

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Throughout Kentucky, job growth is expected in all areas of specialization within the field of criminal justice:

  • Four hundred police officer positions a year will become available through 2022
  • The number of detectives is increasing by 1.4% a year
  • Correctional officer positions will increase from 7,185 to 8,978 between 2012 and 2022
  • Paralegal positions will increase by 145 a year through 2022
  • The number of forensic science technicians will increase by 2.5% a year

While a high school education has traditionally met requirements for a career in criminal justice, candidates for these jobs are more often required to hold a degree, or seek a college education electively as hiring standards become more rigorous.

Kentucky Law Enforcement and Criminal Investigator Jobs

The number of police officers in Kentucky is increasing at a rapid rate. The Kentucky Office of Employment and Training expects the number of jobs to increase by 2.8% a year through 2022. This makes it a good time to pursue law enforcement jobs with municipal police departments or the state police.

Police Officer Job Requirements in Kentucky

Some of Kentucky’s largest police department that periodically hire new officers include:

  • Lexington Division of Police
  • Louisville Metro Police Department
  • Bowling Green Police Department
  • Owensboro Police Department

The minimum requirements to become a police officer in Kentucky are as follows:

  • Being a U.S. citizen
  • Being at least 21 years old
  • Having a valid driver’s license
  • No having any felony or domestic violence convictions

While the minimum education requirement to join Kentucky’s police departments is a high school education, most departments require that applicants meet one of these standards:

  • 60 college credit hours
  • Active military duty (2 to 4 years depending on the department)
  • Being a certified law enforcement officer

A particular area of study is not specified, but many applicants obtain criminal justice degrees in law enforcement to prepare them to become a police officer.

Becoming a State Trooper in Kentucky

About 1,000 state troopers work for the Kentucky State Police and operate from 16 regional posts. Some of these include:

  • Ashland
  • Bowling Green
  • Campbellsburg
  • Columbia
  • Dry Ridge
  • Elizabethtown
  • Frankfort
  • Harlan
  • Henderson

The requirements to become a state trooper for the Kentucky State Police are similar to those of many municipal police departments:

  • Being at least 21 years old
  • Being a U.S. citizen
  • Having a valid driver’s license with no more than 6 demerit points
  • Being a high school graduate with one of these qualifications:
    • 60 credits of college courses
    • At least 2 years of active military duty
    • 2 years of being a full-time law enforcement officer (sworn)

Applicants frequently obtain their college credits in the criminal justice, law enforcement, or police science fields to prepare them for the rigors of being a state trooper.

Detective Jobs in Kentucky

The number of detectives in Kentucky is expected to increase from 621 to 711 in the ten-year period ending in 2022 according to the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training. It expects that 23 detective jobs will become available each year. This estimate takes into account the number of positions that will become available as detectives retire.

Opportunities for detective jobs in Kentucky range from municipal positions to jobs with the state such as the Department of Criminal Investigations in the Office of the Attorney General. Major municipal detective squads include:

  • Bureau of Investigation – Lexington Division of Police
  • Criminal Investigations Division – Bowling Green Police Department
  • Investigations Division – Owensboro Police Department
  • Major Crimes Division – Louisville Metro Police Department

Detectives in these divisions are sworn officers who have shown an aptitude for investigative work. Typically, they start out as patrol officers and work at that level for several years before being promoted to become detectives.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation office in Louisville also employs criminal investigators. The FBI is highly selective in its hiring process. Candidates must be between 23 and 36 years old unless they are older veterans. A bachelor’s degree is a strict requirement, and applicants must have three years of professional work experience.

Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigator Jobs in Kentucky

As the power of forensic analyses results in increasing numbers of convictions, the demand for these professionals is increasing throughout the country. The Kentucky Office of Employment and Training expects five forensic science technician jobs to become available on average each year through 2022.

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Forensic scientists process the physical evidence that is frequently necessary to solve crimes. This can range from DNA to ballistics to shoe or tire tracks. Dedicated cyber crime units are becoming more common as cybercriminals become increasingly sophisticated.

The Kentucky State Police has an extensive forensic laboratory system with six labs distributed throughout the Commonwealth:

  • Ashland
  • Cold Spring
  • Frankfort
  • London
  • Louisville
  • Madisonville

These specialists work with law enforcement officials throughout Kentucky to analyze crime scene evidence.

Job Requirements for Kentucky Forensic Scientists

The requirements to become a forensic scientist in Kentucky vary greatly depending on the nature of the job. Forensic scientists who will work in the lab usually need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in forensic science or a hard science. In some cases, candidates have advanced science degrees.

Technicians such as latent print examiners do not always need a bachelor’s degree. In some cases an associate’s degree combined with lab experience is enough to get hired.

Obtaining Crime Scene Investigator Jobs in Kentucky

Crime scene investigators (CSIs) in Kentucky range from specialized forensic scientists to sworn officers who have received extensive training in processing crime scenes. For instance, the Advanced Crime Scene Processors in one municipal police department are officers who have graduated from the National Forensic Academy. They use their intensive training to process crime scenes and work closely with the detectives in their department.

Another municipal police department in Kentucky uses civilian technicians to process its crime scene evidence. Its crime scene unit processed 2,713 cases in 2013. One of its technicians is a college instructor who works part time assisting the team with forensic digital analyses.

Kentucky Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation Units

In addition to the extensive network of Kentucky State Police forensic labs, at least four municipal departments have forensic/crime scene units:

  • Forensic Investigations – Crime Scene Unit – Louisville Metro Police Department
  • Forensic Service Unit – Lexington Police Department
  • Crime Scene Processors – Bowling Green Police Department
  • Evidence Collection Unit – Owensboro Police Department

State, Local, and Federal Correctional Officer Jobs in Kentucky

The numbers of correctional officers in Kentucky are increasing dramatically. Three hundred and seventy nine jobs a year are predicted to become on average through 2022 according to the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training.

These professionals have dual functions. Their most obvious job is to maintain order and safety to protect both correctional personal and inmates. Another part of their jobs is to assist offenders in their rehabilitation.

Kentucky Department of Corrections Job Qualifications

The Kentucky Department of Corrections is the major employer of correctional officers in the Commonwealth. Its 12 facilities for adult inmates are distributed throughout Kentucky. The largest state prisons are located in these cities:

  • Burgin
  • Central City
  • La Grange
  • Sandy Hook
  • West Liberty
  • Wheelwright

Applicants to be state correctional officers must be at least 21 years old. While this department only requires a high school education, many applicants obtain college degrees in sociology, psychology, or criminal justice to prepare them for their jobs and increase their chances of getting hired.

Federal Correctional Officer Job Qualifications

The Federal Bureau of Prisons operates five facilities in Kentucky:

  • FCI Ashland – Ashland
  • USP Big Sandy – Inez
  • FMC Lexington – Lexington
  • FCI Manchester – Manchester
  • USP McCreary – Pine Knot

The requirement to become a federal correctional officer include being at least 21, but younger than 37. This maximum age requirement may be waived for applicants who are veterans or have federal law enforcement experience.

Federal correctional officers must be highly educated. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement. Having 9 semester hours of graduate coursework can help applicants get hired at a more advanced level.

Jobs for Kentucky’s Paralegals and Legal Support Professionals

The number of paralegals in Kentucky is increasing by 1.2% a year according to the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training. Applicants can get the best paralegal and legal support jobs if they have a college degree. Kentucky offers a wealth of options for earning a degree in paralegal studies.

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The American Bar Association has approved eight programs in seven different cities:

  • Bowling Green
  • Florence
  • Lexington
  • Louisville
  • Morehead
  • Owensboro
  • Richmond

College degrees available include a bachelor’s, an associate of applied science, and an associate’s degree. Three different types of programs of study are available for Kentucky students:

  • Legal Studies Program
  • Paralegal Studies Program
  • Paralegal Programs

Students and paralegals benefit from joining the Kentucky Paralegal Association, though it is elective. The Kentucky Supreme Court established a ruling stating that this association certify paralegals as a way to demonstrate that they meet high professional standards. Thus, it offers the Certified Kentucky Paralegal (CKP) exam. The association holds preparation sessions before the exam and offers study guide materials at no cost on its website.

Kentucky’s top law firms are those recommended in a U.S. News and World Report 2011 ranking. Firms that practice in six or more different areas of law include:

  • Adams, Stepner, Woltermann & Dusing, PLLC
  • Bingham Greeenbaum Doll LLP
  • Boehl Stopher & Graves LLP
  • Bowles Rice LLP

Degrees by State