Degree Programs for Criminal Justice Jobs in Montana

According to the Montana Board of Crime Control, one of the biggest problems facing law enforcement and criminal justice professionals in this vast state is prescription drug and narcotic abuse. A study found that as of 2011, about five percent of Montana’s population abused prescription drugs. This abuse was estimated to cost Montana about $19.62 million per year when counting costs for lost productivity, law enforcement, health care, treatment and family services. In response, Montana has created Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Forces, a collection of various types of criminal justice professionals and law enforcement officers, to combat this huge problem.

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This is just one initiative that is driving the increase in criminal justice jobs across all areas of specialization – from the law enforcement officers that fight street crime and the forensic professionals that support criminal investigations, to the paralegals that assist prosecutors and the correctional officers that oversee incarcerated criminals.

A specialized degree in law enforcement, crime scene investigations, forensic science, paralegal studies or corrections is one of the most effective ways to qualify to join the ranks of the dedicated professionals that make up Montana’s criminal justice system.

Law Enforcement and Detective Jobs in Montana

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2008 there were 119 state and local law enforcement agencies across the state of Montana, employing 3,229 personnel – 1,950 of where were sworn law enforcement officers. These jobs include police officer, deputy sheriff, sheriff, detective, and state trooper.

Examples of agencies employing deputy sheriffs and police officers in Montana include:

  • Billings Police Department- Billings
  • Bozeman Police Department – Bozeman
  • Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office -Bozeman
  • Flathead County Sheriff’s Office- Kalispell

Qualifying for Police Officer and Deputy Sheriff Careers in Montana

Although individual local police department requirements may vary, police officers in Montana must always be U.S. citizens who are at least 18 years old, with a minimum of a high school diploma or GED. Additional consideration is given to applicants with higher education, especially in criminal justice. Candidates must also pass pre-employment screenings including psychological, physical and background investigations.

Deputy sheriffs in Montana work for county sheriff’s offices. While some requirements vary from one office to the next, generally candidates must be U.S. citizens who are at least 18 years old, with a high school diploma or GED. Again, special consideration will be given to applicants with higher education, especially in the field of criminal justice.

Both police officer and deputy sheriff candidates must have, or be able to obtain, Montana P.O.S.T. (Public Safety Officer Standards and Training) certification, usually within a year of being hired. This is to ensure that all law enforcement officers in the state receive the same standard training. It involves completion of a basic law enforcement course at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy in East Helena.

Detective Qualifications in Montana

Detectives in Montana typically begin their careers as police officers, deputy sheriffs or state troopers. They must meet the requirements of these positions before being promoted to criminal investigator, or detective. Some higher education in criminal justice, especially criminal investigation topics, is necessary for law enforcement officers who aspire to become detectives.

The following Montana agencies employ criminal investigators and detectives:

  • Montana Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation – Helena
  • Missoula Police Department Detective Division – Missoula
  • Lewis & Clark County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations – Helena
  • City and County of Butte-Silver Bow Police Department Detective Division- Butte-Silver Bow

Montana Highway Patrol Careers

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, as of 2008 Montana employed 218 sworn highway patrol officers or troopers, an increase of 5.8 percent from the number employed in 2004.

Highway patrol troopers in Montana must meet the basic requirements of a police officer or deputy sheriff, plus have a valid driver’s license and three years of driving experience. In addition, troopers must be Montana residents with good vision and depth perception and be willing to accept assignment in any part of the state.

The law enforcement basic course and POST certification must be completed within the first year of employment.

Examples of areas in Montana in which troopers may be stationed include:

  • District I – Missoula
  • District II – Great Falls
  • District III- Butte
  • District IV-Billings
  • District V – Glendive
  • District VI-Kalispell
  • District VII- Bozeman
  • District VIII- Havre

Forensics and Crime Scene Investigation Jobs in Montana

Forensic science jobs involve working with evidence collected from crime scenes anywhere in Montana. This evidence could include fingerprints, footwear impressions, hair, DNA, and more. Crime scene investigators, or CSIs, are employed at the state and local levels in Montana.

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These agencies in Montana employ forensic scientists and crime scene investigators:

  • Montana Department of Justice Forensic Science Division – State Crime Lab – Missoula
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation field office- Butte
  • Missoula Police Department Investigation Division and Forensic Laboratory – Missoula
  • Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division National Enforcement Investigations Center – Helena

Qualifying for Jobs in Forensic Science in Montana

Forensic science jobs in Montana are highly specific and require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in the area in which an aspiring scientists wishes to work. This could be criminal justice, forensic science, toxicology, forensic chemistry or other related fields.

Professional certification is not necessary for forensic scientists to get a job in Montana. However, a White House subcommittee recommended professional certification for forensic scientists in a 2014 report. The report proposed that all forensic laboratories and employees become accredited by professional agencies such as the American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT).

Qualifying to Work as a Crime Scene Investigator in Montana

CSIs in Montana typically need some sort of higher education in order to succeed in their jobs. An associate degree or certificate in criminal justice, criminology or a related discipline may suffice.

Professional certification is optional for CSIs in Montana. The International Association for Identification offers various types of certification that is recognized by CSI employers in Montana, including certification in forensic art, forensic video, crime scene investigation and blood pattern analysis.

Correctional Officer Jobs in Montana

The Montana Department of Corrections operates six correctional facilities in the state, housing approximately 2570 inmates as of 2010.
New Montana correctional officers must have at least a GED or high school diploma. While no experience is necessary in order to be hired, new correctional officers must complete 328 hours of training the first year, and 40 hours of training each additional year they work for the Montana Department of Corrections.

Correctional Facilities in Montana

The Montana Department of Corrections operates these institutions:

  • Montana Women’s Prison – Billings
  • Montana State Prison – Deer Lodge
  • Dawson County Correctional Facility – Glendive
  • Crossroads Correctional Facility – Shelby
  • Cascade County Regional Prison – Great Falls

Paralegals and Legal Support Jobs in Montana

Montana state law requires paralegals to be qualified through experience, training or education to perform substantive legal work. The law also states that paralegals in Montana must work under the direction of an attorney licensed in the state.

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Examples of degrees that paralegals in Montana may obtain include:

  • Certificate in Paralegal Studies
  • Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies
  • Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies
  • Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies

The Montana Bar recommends that paralegals graduate from an American Bar Association (ABA)-approved paralegal program, but this is not a strict legal requirement.

As of 2014, licensure and/or professional certification is not yet required for Montana’s paralegals. However, it is highly recommended that paralegals in the state join the State Bar of Montana Paralegal Section. Becoming a member shows that a paralegal holds the highest ethics and professional standards in the field.

Companies and Law Firms That Employ Paralegals and Legal Assistants in Montana

Employers of paralegals in Montana include:

  • Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs – Billings
  • Anderson Law Office – Kalispell
  • Oracle- Bozeman
  • Parker, Heitz & Cosgrove, PLLC – Billings
  • Datsopoulos, MacDonald & Lind-Missoula

Homeland Security and Emergency Management Jobs in Montana

Examples of potential employers of homeland security and emergency management professionals in Montana are:

  • Montana Department of Military Affairs Division of Disaster and Emergency Services – Fort Harrison
  • Montana Homeland Security Task Force – statewide
  • American Red Cross – Kalispell
  • Indian Health Service – Browning

Though there is substantial overlap between homeland security and emergency management, there are distinct roles within these specialized fields. Homeland security professionals in Montana help to protect residents from terrorist threats, while emergency management jobs ensure that Montanans are prepared for disaster.

Jobs in these related fields require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in emergency management, homeland security, risk management, criminal justice or a similar discipline.

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