Degree Programs for Criminal Justice Jobs in Mississippi
The FBI’s 2012 crime report revealed that Mississippi had the second highest homicide rate of all states in the nation, with 7.4 murders for every 100,000 residents. The National Institute of Corrections notes that Mississippi’s total crime rate in 2011 was about six percent higher than the national average.
These factors all highlight the fact that Mississippi is a place where criminal justice majors will have an opportunity to make a real difference. Whether in law enforcement and criminal investigations, or criminal prosecution and corrections, Mississippi’s criminal justice community is in need of well-educated and highly dedicated professionals.
Mississippi Law Enforcement and Detective Jobs
Law enforcement is the backbone of Mississippi’s criminal justice system. These professionals are the first personnel on the scene of crimes in Mississippi, gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses and directing the media and public away from the crime scene.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (circa May 2013), Mississippi has the second highest concentration of jobs for police officers and sheriff’s deputies of any state in the nation, with a total of 7070 law enforcement personnel. Police officers work for Mississippi’s municipalities, while deputy sheriffs are found within county agencies.
Becoming a Mississippi Deputy Sheriff or Police Officer
Age requirements vary depending upon the municipality, but generally, a Mississippi police officer or deputy sheriff must be at least 21 years old, a U.S. citizen, have a high school diploma/GED, and no felonies or sexual/domestic misdemeanors on record. Preference is shown to candidates with some post-secondary education related to criminal justice.
All law enforcement officers in Mississippi must complete standardized training, available within the approved full- and part-time training academies in the state. These academies are found within cities like Hattiesburg, Pearl, Tupelo, Gulfport and Camp Shelby.
Examples of agencies in Mississippi employing police officers and deputy sheriffs are:
- Adams County Sheriff’s Office – Natchez
- Fayette Police Department – Fayette
- Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office – Pittsboro
- Indianola Police Department- Indianola
- Wayne County Sheriff’s Office- Waynesboro
Becoming a Mississippi Detective
Detectives at the city and county levels in Mississippi first start their careers as police officers or deputy sheriffs, meeting the conditions for each of those job titles. At the state level, detectives should have some college coursework (preferably a degree) in criminal justice or a related discipline if they wish to work for the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI). This is the state’s centralized investigations bureau and consists of criminal investigators responsible for investigating cases statewide and assisting other law enforcement agencies.
Other requirements that must be met to become an MBI detective are five years of experience as a sworn officer with the Mississippi State Patrol, and passing various physical and psychological tests.
MBI offices are found within troop offices across the state, in cities including Brookhaven, Biloxi, Starkville, New Albany and Pearl.
Becoming a Mississippi Highway Patrol Officer
As of 2014, the Mississippi Highway Patrol reports 594 officers work for this state agency. Mississippi Highway Patrol Officers must be at least 21 years old, a U.S. citizen and a Mississippi resident.
Highway Patrol Officer Trainees must meet the state’s education and experience requirements in one of a few different ways:
- An associate degree, a high school diploma and four years of military service (active duty)
- A high school diploma and certification from a law enforcement academy and one year of law enforcement experience
Mississippi Highway Patrol Troops are located statewide in places such as:
Forensics and Crime Scene Investigation Jobs in Mississippi
Crime scene investigators and forensic scientists work with evidence that has been gathered at Mississippi’s crime scenes. It is their job to analyze and find meaning in the evidence. These types of jobs may have titles such as criminalist, latent print examiner, toxicologist, trace evidence specialist and firearm and tool mark specialist.
Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and laboratories employ CSIs and forensic scientists in Mississippi, such as:
- Mississippi Crime Laboratory- Jackson, Gulf Coast, Meridian and Batesville
- Federal Bureau of Investigation – Jackson
- Hattiesburg Police Department Crime Scene Investigation Unit – Hattiesburg
- Desoto County Sheriff’s Department Crime Scene Unit – Hernando
Qualifying for Mississippi’s Forensics Jobs
The specialized type of work done by forensic scientists in Mississippi requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. The field in which the degree is earned may be criminal justice or one of the sciences, depending upon the profession sought.
Certification is not necessary in Mississippi for forensic scientists but is attainablethrough the American College of Forensic Examiners institute. Some forensic scientists in Mississippi seek certification to help advance their careers more effectively.
Qualifying for Mississippi’s CSI Jobs
An associate degree is the minimum requirement for most CSI jobs in Mississippi. The major is usually forensics or crime scene investigations.
The International Association for Identification provides optional professional credentials to interested and qualified CSIs in Mississippi.
Correctional Officer Jobs in Mississippi
Correctional officers are charged with upholding the law within Mississippi’s federal and state prison facilities. Their jobs are just as important as those of the criminal justice professionals who try to enforce laws and prevent laws from being broken in the first place. The Bureau of Justice Statistics notes that as of 2013, Mississippi’s prisons housed 21,969 inmates.
Working for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Mississippi
Aspiring federal-level correctional officers in Mississippi must be under the age of 37, a U.S. citizen, and have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to be hired at the entry level. Three years of applicable full-time experience can be substituted for education.
The following federal correctional institutions are found in Mississippi:
- Yazoo City Federal Correctional Complex – Yazoo City
- Correctional Institution Adams County – Natchez
Working for the Mississippi Department of Corrections
The Mississippi Department of Corrections requires its correctional officers to have a high school diploma or GED. No experience is necessary to become an entry-level state correctional officer in Mississippi. They must, however, be at least 18 years old with a driver’s license and no felony convictions.
The Mississippi Department of Corrections maintains institutions at these locations:
- South Mississippi Correctional Institution – Leakesville
- Mississippi State Penitentiary – Parchman
- Central Mississippi Correctional Facility – Pearl
Paralegals and Legal Support Jobs in Mississippi
Paralegals within the state of Mississippi assist lawyers with substantive legal tasks. They are also referred to as legal assistants. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that there were 1630 paralegals working in the state of Mississippi as of 2013.
While education is not mandated for Mississippi’s paralegals, it is crucial to finding a good job. Certificates, associate degrees and bachelor degrees in these fields are the most helpful to Mississippi’s paralegals:
- Certificate in Paralegal Studies
- Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies
- Bachelor of Arts in Paralegal Studies
- Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies
Organizations such as the Mississippi Paralegal Association recommend national certification for paralegals as a way to further their career possibilities. The organization most often referred to in Mississippi is the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) . They offer certifications as a Certified Paralegal (CP) or Advanced Paralegal Certified (APC), both available through examination.
Careers for Paralegals and Legal Assistants in Mississippi
Not only law firms in Mississippi employ paralegals or legal assistants. They are also found within the state’s nonprofit agencies, businesses, academic institutions, medical facilities and more, like:
- Butler Snow LLP – Gulfport
- Mitchell, McNutt & Sams, P.A. – Oxford
- Benteler Automotive – Auburn
- Brunini, Grantham, Grower & Hewes, PLLC – Biloxi
- National Guard- Tupelo
- LoCoco & LoCoco, P.A. – Diberville
Homeland Security and Emergency Management Careers in Mississippi
Homeland security and emergency management jobs, at the state level, fall under the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. The Office of Emergency Operations coordinates emergency readiness and response in the state. They also work closely with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA).
Emergency management jobs require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in emergency management, public administration or a related discipline. Examples of emergency management job titles within these agencies are Emergency Operations Coordinator, Deputy Emergency Operations Coordinator, and Public Information Officer.
Homeland Security in Mississippi also falls under the provinces of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. The Mississippi Office of Homeland Security works closely with the Office of Emergency Operations in preventing terrorism within the state by identifying critical assets and planning emergency responses. This office also works closely with Mississippi’s local law enforcement professionals in times of peace and disaster.
Again, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, security studies or homeland security is most helpful to homeland security jobs in Mississippi. Job titles that could fall under the category of homeland security in Mississippi include:
- Executive Director
- Director of Mississippi Analysis and Information Center
- Emergency Response Coordinator
- Grants Administration
- Citizen Corps Liaison Coordinator
Degrees by State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia