Degree Programs for Criminal Justice Jobs in Texas

The Texas Workforce Commission reported that the number of jobs for law enforcement professionals, including correctional officers, detectives, criminal investigators, and police officers, is expected to grow by 16.4% between 2012 and 2020. This means that there will be more than 5,500 new law enforcement jobs created in the state each year during this period.

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Texas ranks among the top five states in the U.S. in terms of having the highest number of forensic science technicians and crime scene investigators. Between the years 2012 and 2020, the number of forensic technician and crime scene investigator jobs are both expected to grow by about 17%, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

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From the law enforcement officers that respond to crimes in progress and the CSI professionals that collect and analyze evidence, to the detectives that investigate these crimes and the legal professionals that work to prosecute criminals – the criminal justice system in Texas is a massive complex of diverse and highly qualified professionals.

With the field demanding more specialized professionals than ever before, applicants for these jobs will need to stand out among a large pool of applicants. This means earning a specialized criminal justice degree in the areas of law enforcement, criminology, forensic science, crime scene investigations, or paralegal studies, among others.

Law Enforcement and Criminal Investigation Jobs in Texas

As of 2012, there were over 57,000 police officers employed throughout Texas. That number is expected to grow by 17% by 2020, creating an average of more than 2,500 new law enforcement jobs each year.

Requirements to Become a Police Officer in Texas

Police officers are the most prevalent and visible law enforcement officers. They work directly with the general public. Although the specific requirements may vary from department to department, most police stations have similar general requirements, which include:

  • Must be at least 21 years old
  • Must be a U.S. citizen
  • Must have a valid Texas driver’s license
  • Must have 20/20 vision corrected or uncorrected
  • Must be able to pass a physical, psychological, and fitness exams
  • Must have a high school diploma or GED
  • Must have attained at least 30 hours of study at an accredited college or university
  • Must qualify for Texas Commission on Law Enforcement officers Standard and Education for licensing as a peace officer

There are many police departments located throughout Texas, including some of the state’s largest law enforcement agencies:

  • Sulphur Springs Police Department – Sulphur Springs
  • Weatherford Police Department – Weatherford
  • Houston Police Department – Houston
  • Arlington Police Department – Arlington
  • Dallas Police Department – Dallas

Texas State Highway Patrol Officer Jobs and Qualifications

To become a state highway patrol officer with the Texas Highway Patrol, an applicant must earn at least 60 college credits from an accredited college or university, as well as meet these basic requirements:

  • At least 20 years old when applying
  • At least 21 years old upon graduating from the academy
  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Must have a high school diploma (or GED)

If the applicant meets these basic requirements, there will then be a physical, written, psychological, fitness, and background check. If accepted, the applicant will then attend the Department of Public Safety Training Academy.

The state highway patrol division is located in Austin, Texas, but there are many offices, including those found in the following cities:

  • Austin
  • Conroe
  • El Paso
  • Lubbock
  • Hurst
  • Pierce
  • San Antonio
  • Waco

Detective Jobs and Qualifications in Texas

More than 16,500 detectives were employed in Texas as of 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Further, the Texas Workforce Commission expects that 17.4% more detectives will be required by year 2020 to meet the demand for criminal investigation services in the state.

Aspiring detectives may be hired first as police officers or state troopers, then trained and educated to be promoted to a the job title of detective. Many detective and special investigations training schools are restricted to full-time commissioned law enforcement officers.

Otherwise, detectives may find work directly with state or federal agencies. To obtain work at a state agency, such as the Texas Criminal Investigations Division (CID) or the Federal Bureau of Investigations, a detective must have at least a four-year degree in criminal justice, criminology, or another related field. Along with the degree, an applicant must have at least three years of experience.

Agencies at the federal, state, and local levels that may be hiring detectives include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Federal Bureau of Investigations – Dallas, Houston, San Antonio
  • Texas State Highway Patrol: Criminal Investigations – Austin
  • Austin Police Department: Criminal Investigations – Austin

Paralegals and Legal Support Professionals in Texas

The Texas Workforce Commission indicates that the number of paralegal jobs will grow by almost 30% by 2020. This means that each year, over 900 new paralegal jobs will be created.

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There are two paralegal associations in Texas that work to support paralegals throughout the state:

Both associations have membership requirements that include attaining paralegal education and certification. Associations prefer members who have completed paralegal training at an American Bar Association (ABA) approved school. In Texas, there are at least eleven ABA approved paralegal schools located in the following cities:

  • Amarillo
  • Dallas
  • Port Arthur
  • Baytown
  • Houston
  • Commerce
  • San Marcos
  • Richmond

Further, the associations prefer that paralegals attain voluntary certification. These certifications include:

Law Firms that May Be Hiring in Texas

Law firms throughout Texas that may be hiring include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto, & Friend – Houston
  • Adams and Reese LLP – Houston
  • Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi, & Mensing P.C. – Houston
  • Ainsa Hutson, LLP – El Paso
  • Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP – Dallas, Houston

Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation Jobs in Texas

Crime scene technicians collect and preserve evidence from crime scenes, while forensic scientists are required to analyze evidence, which may include hair, DNA, latent prints, or ballistic evidence. These professionals are expected to be experts in their field, whether working in a laboratory setting as forensic laboratory scientist or at the scene as a CSI tech.

Requirements for Jobs in Forensic Science in Texas

Most jobs will require that a forensic scientist have at least a four-year degree in a hard science. Oftentimes, it is even beneficial to have a master’s degree as well.

Voluntary forensics certification is available to forensic scientists who want to add a higher level of quality assurance to their list of credentials. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences accredits organizations that certify individual forensic scientists, including the following:

Crime Scene Investigation Job Requirements in Texas

More and more, law enforcement agencies are hiring civilian crime scene specialists. In agencies like the Austin Police Department, CSI jobs are so competitive that there are 100 applicants for every vacancy.

To be qualified and prepared to obtain a CSI civilian position, applicants must have a clear criminal record, must have at least a bachelor’s degree in crime scene investigations or criminal justice, must be able to pass intensive background investigations, and must have excellent communication skills.

Further, candidates may attain voluntary certification in order to stand out among the large applicant pool. Certification options include:

Hiring Agencies for Forensic Scientists and Crime Scene Investigators in Texas

The federal, state, and local agencies that may be hiring forensic scientists and crime scene investigators in Texas include:

  • Federal Bureau of Investigations – Dallas, Houston, San Antonio
  • Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Crime Laboratory Services – Austin
  • Texas Division of the International Association for Identification – Conroe
  • Homicide Investigators of Texas – Weatherford
  • Sulphur Springs Police Department: Criminal Investigations – Sulphur Springs
  • Fort Worth Police Department: Special Victims and Forensics – Fort Worth
  • Austin Police Department: Forensic Science Division

Texas Department Correctional Services and Federal Bureau of Prisons Jobs in Texas

The Texas Workforce Commission indicates that the number of correctional officer jobs will grow 15.5% by the year 2020. This means that each year, there will be more than 2,000 new jobs available to new correctional officers in Texas.

Correctional Officer Jobs in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice oversees the correctional facilities throughout the state. To become a correctional officer with the Texas Department of criminal Justice, an applicant must meet the following criteria:

  • Must be 18 years old
  • Must hold a high school diploma
  • Must have never been convicted of a felony, drug related offense, domestic violence offense, misdemeanor, etc.
  • Must be able to pass pre-employment, drug, and physical ability test

Although a college degree is not required, preference will be given to applicants who have advanced communication and law enforcement skills. These skills are obtained by attaining a degree in criminal justice. With even further education and training, a correctional officer may be able to be promoted to the positions of sergeant, lieutenant, captain, or major.

There are over 100 correctional units in Texas, some of which are located in the following counties:

  • Wichita
  • Williamson
  • Anderson
  • Freestone
  • Rusk
  • La Salle
  • Liberty

Federal Bureau of Prisons Correctional Officer Jobs In Texas

Federal correctional officers may be hired at either the GS-5 or GS-6 level. The minimum qualifications include:

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

Advanced hiring qualifications include obtaining a minimum of nine credits of graduate study in a criminal justice field, and having a minimum of one year of specialized experience in law enforcement.

Texas is home to more than twenty federal correctional facilities. These facilities include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Bastrop FCI
  • Byran FPC
  • Fort Worth FCI
  • Houston RRM
  • San Antonio RRM
  • Houston FDC

Requirements for Homeland Security Jobs in Texas

Homeland security jobs are perfect for those Texans who are passionate about protecting the United States against the threat of terrorism and organized crime. Homeland security jobs include border patrol agents, federal protective services criminal investigators and more.

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The key requirements for becoming involved in Texas Homeland Security jobs, such as these, include the following:

  • Must be a U.S. citizen
  • Must not be older than 37 years old
  • Must have lived in the U.S. for the last 3 years
  • Must pass an entrance, medical, physical, drug, background, and polygraph exam
  • Must have no prior convictions or misdemeanors
  • Must have a valid driver’s license

For each level of service, different levels of education and experience are required. For instance, the minimum level of service, GL-5, requires at least one year of experience, and the GL-7 level requires one year of experience in law enforcement work specifically.

If the applicant does not have the required work experience, it may be substituted with higher levels of education. For the GL-5 level, an applicant will need to have obtained a bachelor’s degree, and for the GL-7 level, an applicant will need to obtain one full year of graduate education in a law enforcement field.

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