We’re enthralled by crime stories. Whether it’s mystery novels or serial television dramas, there’s something about the criminal justice system that hooks people. The complexities of law enforcement, criminology, and our security on local, state and national levels captivate us time and time again.
The surge in pop culture about public safety has encouraged more people to consider a career in the criminal justice field. That said, law enforcement and correctional organizations are looking more favorably toward candidates with collegiate experience. As stated by the American Bar Association (ABA):
"Police need personnel in their ranks who have the characteristics a college education seeks to foster: intellectual curiosity, analytical ability, articulateness, and a capacity to relate the events of the day to the social, political, and historical context in which they occur."
What do you need to succeed in this field? Keep in mind everything is not like it appears on TV. Those truly interested in criminal justice careers must have strong writing and interpersonal communication skills, and must be dedicated to serving their communities. Learning how to lead and interact in challenging situations, whether it be the courtroom or a town hall meeting, is also a must. You have to actively listen to the community you’re serving.
Furthermore, with media attention on our law enforcement and criminal justice system being at an all-time high, professionals must be able to make intelligent, in-the-moment decisions. Those entering this field need to present themselves with courtesy, respect and professionalism.
John L. Hudgins, an associate professor of sociology at Coppin State University, noted that many studies conducted since the 1970s have shown the benefits of higher education in policing include:
- Better behavioral and performance characteristics
- Fewer on-the-job injuries and assaults
- Fewer disciplinary actions from accidents and use-of-force allegations
- Greater acceptance of minorities.
For National Police Week, we recognize all those who currently work in public safety and the students working toward entering this field. As Herzing’s online program chair for criminal justice, I have the privilege of teaching students from all around the country. All of them have one thing in common: They all want to make a difference in their communities. By pursuing a degree in criminal justice or homeland security, they are gaining the knowledge to enjoy rewarding careers and make a difference in the lives of the people they serve.
Andrew Rule is the current Online Program Chair and System Division Chair for Public Safety programs at Herzing University. He has obtained a master’s degree in criminal justice and an M.B.A. He also holds a baccalaureate degree in criminal justice. His experience working in the Criminal Justice field includes four years in the U.S. Army, several years of working with incarcerated juveniles, and working at UPS in their loss prevention department. Andrew has been involved in higher education for more than 10 years.