Are you interested in the field of criminal justice and thinking seriously about going into a program to meet entry-level requirements? Then you will be happy to learn that a wide variety of positions will be available to you, perhaps many of which you aren’t even aware of. And while it might be a little more difficult to land that crime scene analyst position (thank you, CSI!) it can be done.
Careers in criminal justice can be found in the private sector or in the different tiers of government agencies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2013 there were approximately three million U.S. residents employed in criminal justice jobs ranging from homeland security to corrections, law enforcement and law firms.
There are many careers in criminal justice that require a bachelor’s or a master’s degree, but there are also many entry level jobs that only require an associate’s degree or a certificate to start. And with the explosion of online schools that offer courses towards those degrees, you can start your career with a program specializing in one area and continue to work or raise a family while you go on to earn higher degrees if that is what you decide to do.
Here are some of the entry level criminal justice jobs that are available to people without a bachelor’s degree or above.
• Court Clerk
• Court Reporter
In these positions you will work within the courts, both criminal and civil. You will be in daily contact with lawyers, judges and police officers, and be responsible to all those parties. This is an integral part of the criminal justice field that operates at the courthouse, and will give you an inside look at our court system and how it works.
While it is still considered to fall within the legal category, being a paralegal is quite different from those discussed above. Paralegals who start with either a diploma or an associate’s degree are in very high demand; and the job opportunities exist for them in both small and large law offices in all areas of the law. These are great jobs on their own or for anyone considering law school, since it gives you the opportunity to gauge the field before committing to the time and expense of law school.
• Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor
• Corrections Officer
Corrections officers work inside the prison system dealing with both prisoners and staff, while substance abuse counselors work at substance abuse facilities or hospitals. They are tasked with client evaluation including background history and severity of addiction.
• Customs and Border Protection Officer
• TSA (Transportation Security Officer)
Unlike Border Patrol which requires a minimum of a B.A. to start, Customs and Border Patrol agents work the 300+ ports of entry to the U.S. screening returning citizens, visitors and cargo to enforce customs, immigration and agricultural laws and to help prevent human trafficking and contraband including drugs and weapons from being allowed into the country.
• Criminal Investigator
• Deputy Sherriff
• Fire Investigator
• Fish and Game Warden
• Transit and Railroad Officer
• Police Officer
• State Trooper
Law Enforcement includes a wide variety of position from Conservation Officers (Fish and Game) to transit and railway enforcement, fire investigator, state trooper and more.
• Loss Investigation Specialist
• Private Investigator
• Security Guard
• Fraud Investigator
• Private Security
Within this category, Loss Investigation Specialist is a particularly active field. With an estimation of $32 billion in merchandise stolen annually just from malls, much of the theft done by professional thieves, loss specialists are in high demand. Likewise, private security for individuals and firms are much needed as are security guards and fraud investigators.
For those individuals who like the idea of working independently of institutions, doing private security for people who are worried about becoming targets may be the right path for you. And fraud investigators, who can work on either civil or criminal investigations, can put sharp investigative skills to work while investigating credit card or insurance fraud. This job involves many skills including interviewing the victims of fraudulent activity, researching transactions and records, conducting surveillance and executing search warrants.
It’s important to remember that many of these jobs that require certificates or associate degrees to begin will require more advanced degrees in order to move up the ladder. But making a start by enrolling in an online college program like the Paralegal and Criminal Justice program offered by Brighton College is the perfect way to begin a career that is rewarding both lucratively and in the knowledge that you are doing something to help society.