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Criminal Justice Career Paths

There are many different paths for Herzing’s criminal justice degree graduates. Career opportunities exist at the federal, state and local levels, as well as private sector organizations.

  • Local: sheriff department, juvenile justice facilities, jails
  • State: court system, narcotics and liquor bureaus, crime commission, attorney general offices, prisons
  • Federal: Food and Drug Administration, Department of Defense, Department of Transportation, immigration, FBI, customs, Federal Trade Commission, and veterans affairs
  • Private: private investigation, security officers, safety patrol, insurance investigations, bodyguards

Specific career opportunities include:

Detectives and criminal investigators – Detectives investigate crimes and gather facts that lead to uncovering the criminal or parties responsible. They conduct interviews, examine paper and electronic records, observe suspects for suspicious activities, and participate in raids and arrests. Often, a detective or investigator specializes in a specific type of crime, such as homicide, narcotics, or financial crimes, and will work on a case until it is solved or dropped.

Fish and game wardens – These professionals patrol hunting and fishing areas to enforce hunting, fishing and boating regulations. They also investigate violation complaints and conduct search and rescue operations.

Parole and probation officers (also known as Community Supervision Officers) – Parole and probation officers perform very similar duties, however parole officers supervise offenders who have been released from prison, while probation officers work with offenders who are sentenced to parole instead of prison. These officers monitor an offender’s activities by visiting them at home, work or therapy sessions. They typically employ the offender’s family, church, and other community organizations to help the offender stay on a lawful path. While both occupations require filling out reports and paperwork, probation officers also spend time working for the courts conducting background investigations, recommending sentences, or attending hearings.

Correctional treatment specialists – This type of officer works in a jail, prison, or parole facility. They evaluate the progress of the offender using psychological tests, interviews and questionnaires, and must determine if the offender is likely to commit further crimes. This evaluation will be included in the officer’s comprehensive case report on the offender which will be used during parole board release hearings. Correctional treatment specialists also help the offender develop job skills or resolve emotional issues by setting up training and treatment programs.

Correctional officer and jailers – Also known as Detention Officers, they are responsible for overseeing inmates in a public detention facility/jail while they are awaiting trial, or in a prison once they have been convicted and sentenced to serve time. Correctional officers keep the peace in prisons and reformatories as well as process new inmates, report on inmate activities, and transport inmates between institutions. They also conduct inspections of inmate cells, settle disputes, and enforce disciplinary procedures.

Career Advancement

Criminal justice positions typically have multiple levels of rank, and advancement is determined by level of education, length of experience, and on-the-job performance. As most positions are in the public sector, specific levels must be reached before advancement can occur; this may include a minimum exam score, number of years in the position, or a bachelor’s degree.

Work Environment

Depending on the specific occupation, work environments can vary greatly. Some criminal justice positions require large amounts of time in an office environment while others are primarily mobile. Work weeks are typically 40-hours in length, and there may be opportunities for over-time. Shifts may be rotating. Many professionals in this field belong to a union, and full-time employees receive full benefits packages. Public sector employees also typically receive a government pension at retirement.

Regardless of the occupation, most people employed in a criminal justice position will routinely engage in situations where their personal safety is threatened. In addition, professionals in this field are expected to be honest and ethical while on-duty and off, and are often looked at as role models within the community.



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