Degree Programs for Criminal Justice Jobs in Tennessee

Tennessee’s criminal justice system relies on a diverse team of professionals in various specialty roles responsible for everything from law enforcement and criminal investigations to prosecution and corrections:

  • 12,000 sworn officers enforce the law and protect the citizens of Tennessee
  • 1,500 detectives are employed in Tennessee, with almost one third of them located in the Nashville and Franklin areas
  • 4,500 paralegals are employed throughout the state, with more than 900 in Memphis alone
  • 200 forensic scientists and more than 1,500 crime scene investigators are employed in Tennessee

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A criminal justice degree in one of these specialized fields provides the knowledge and skills necessary to serve as a vital member of Tennessee’s criminal justice system.

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Police, State Patrol, and Detective Jobs in Tennessee

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce expects there to be 610 annual openings for police officer jobs between 2012 and 2020. This high rate of employment indicates incredible opportunities for aspiring law enforcement officers.

Guidelines for How to Become a Tennessee Police Officer in Tennessee

Local police officers make up the majority of the law enforcement community in Tennessee, and are the most publically visible. Job qualifications for local police departments follow these general guidelines:

  • Must be at least twenty-one yeas old
  • Must have a valid driver’s license
  • Must be a citizen of the U.S.

Some agencies, such as the Memphis Police Department, require that an applicant also have educational experience. This may come inthe form of formal education or military service. For a job with the Memphis Police Department, an applicant must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Have obtained at least 54 credits from an accredited college or university with a grade average of a C or higher


  • Must have obtained at least two years of military service experience

Once accepted, an applicant will need to pass physical, background, psychological, and medical examinations. Some local, Tennessee police departments that may be hiring include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Memphis Police Department
  • Lebanon Police Department
  • Martin Police Department
  • Smyrna Police Department
  • Old Allen Police Department – Memphis
  • Memphis Police Department

Qualifications for Tennessee State Highway Patrol Officers

Becoming a state highway patrol officer with the Tennessee Highway Patrol means completing a high-intensity, military-like training program. The state highway patrol has high qualification standards, including the following:

  • Must be twenty-one years old
  • Must be a U.S. citizen
  • Must have a clear criminal history
  • Must pass a timed physical test
  • Must pass a fingerprint and background check
  • Must have 20/30 corrected vision
  • Must have a high school diploma

If an applicant is selected, the trainee will need to attend 20 weeks of military-style state trooper training. This training takes place at the Tennessee Department of Safety’s Training Center in Donelson.

The Tennessee State Highway Patrol has eight districts, including districts in the following locations:

  • Nashville
  • Memphis
  • Lawrenceburg
  • Jackson
  • Knoxville
  • Chattanooga

Qualifications for Detective Jobs in Tennessee

Detectives assist local and state law enforcement agencies in analyzing criminal investigations.

The career of a detective is not an entry-level job. Therefore, when looking to become a detective with a local or state agency, oftentimes applicants will first become local or state police officers. After working as a police officer, gaining experience, and gaining specialized training, an officer may be promoted to the job of a detective.

At the federal level, an applicant will need to be between twenty-one and thirty-seven, hold a minimum of a four-year bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, criminology, or another related field, and have experience directly related to detective work.

Local, state, and federal agencies that may be hiring detectives include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Memphis Police Department: Investigative Services
  • Tennessee State Highway Patrol: Special Investigations Bureau – Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Lawrenceburg, Memphis
  • Federal Bureau of Investigations – Memphis, Knoxville

Paralegals and Legal Support Jobs in Tennessee

The Tennessee Paralegal Association (TPA) is an affiliate of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). The association is dedicated to giving paralegals access to continuing education and networking opportunities.

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To be qualified as a member in the association, a paralegal must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Successfully complete the NALA Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) examination
  • Graduate from a paralegal school approved by the American Bar Association (ABA)
  • Graduate from a non-ABA approved paralegal studies program that is accredited and requires at least sixty hours of training
  • Hold at least two full years of paralegal in-house training as a legal assistant

Student memberships are also available for full-time students currently pursuing legal assistant or paralegal studies.

Tennessee is home to ten ABA approved paralegal education programs. These programs maybe found in the following cities:

  • Chattanooga
  • Nashville
  • Harriman
  • Knoxville
  • Memphis
  • Gallatin
  • Morristown

Major Law Firms in Tennessee

The U.S. News and World Report created a comprehensive listing of the best law firms throughout the U.S. This listing shows that some of the best law firms in Tennessee include:

  • Aaron Sanders Law PLLC – Nashville
  • Abernathy, Story, Stovall, Hood, Harris, Garner, Ashworth & Campbell – Nashville
  • Adams and Reese LLP – Memphis, Nashville
  • Allen, Summers, Simpson, Lillie, & Gresham – Memphis
  • Almon Law, PLLC – Nashville

Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation Jobs in Tennessee

With forensic science and crime scene investigations jobs, science and the law meet. Jobs in this area include forensic science technician and crime scene investigator (CSI).

Organizations employing crime scene investigators and forensic scientists in Tennessee include:

  • Federal bureau of Investigations – Knoxville, Memphis
  • Tennessee State Highway Patrol: Special Investigations Bureau – Nashville
  • Tennessee Bureau of Investigations: Forensic Services Division – Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis
  • Tennessee Bureau of Investigations: Criminal Investigation Division – Jackson, Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville
  • Chattanooga Police Department: Criminal Intelligence – Chattanooga

Prerequisites for Forensic Science Jobs in Tennessee

Forensic scientists analyze, with incredible accuracy, the chemical, anatomical, and biological science behind crime scene evidence. With this level of skill necessary, a forensic scientist will need to have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree in forensic science, chemistry, or another hard science.

To work with state-level organizations, such as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, a scientist must also have a thorough knowledge of the judicial system, and have completed extensive training. Training completed in a laboratory that is accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board is beneficial.

With the competitive nature of forensic science jobs, it is helpful to obtain certification. Certification will help a scientist be recognized as skilled, educated, and experienced. Some certifications for forensic scientists include:

Crime Scene Investigation Qualifications for Jobs in Tennessee

When applying for work at a state or federal agency, crime scene investigators must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in criminal investigations, crime scene investigations, or another related field. Local police or state police department often provide officers with the education and experience necessary to be promoted to a career in investigations.

Certification will allow crime scene investigators to be recognized as advanced and excellent in their field. Some CSI certifications include, but are not limited to, the following:

Correctional Officer Job Opportunities in Tennessee

Correctional officers serve to protect both the pubic and inmates from dangerous activity. Correctional officer jobs are among Tennessee’s hottest jobs, with more than 340 job openings each year according to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

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Qualifications for Correctional Officers in the Tennessee Department of Corrections

The Tennessee Department of Corrections oversees all state prisons. Entry-level correctional officers in Tennessee must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Must be at least eighteen years old
  • Must be a U.S. citizen
  • Must pass a background check
  • Must pass a physical, psychological, and drug test

If accepted, a correctional officer must attend the Tennessee Correction Academy.

Tennessee state prisons include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Bledsoe County Correctional Complex – Pikeville
  • Charles B. Bass Correctional Complex – Nashville
  • Hardeman County Correctional Facility – Whiteville
  • Riverbend maximum Security Institution – Nashville
  • Tennessee Prison for Women – Nashville
  • West Tennessee State Penitentiary – Henning

How to Qualify for Jobs in the Federal Bureau of Prisons In Tennessee

GS-5 and GS-6 are the two levels for employment for federal correctional officers. An applicant will be hired at one of these levels, which is determined by the applicant’s previous education and experience.

The minimum qualifications are as follows:

  • Must be a U.S. citizen
  • Must be between twenty-one and thirty-six years old
  • Must have at least three years of general experience
  • Must hold a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field

To be hired at the higher, GS-6, level, and applicant needs to obtain nine credits of graduate, law enforcement study and have one year of specialized training and experience.

There are two federal prisons in Tennessee, including the following:

  • Memphis FCI
  • Nashville RRM

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