Careers in Criminal Justice
Criminal justice is a rewarding and challenging career. The importance of what those in the field of criminal justice are doing every day can hardly be underestimated. Preserving the peace, working in the court system, and securing facilities and ensuring the safety of those using them are just part of the duties of the police officer, paralegal, and security guards.
Police Officers on the Front Line
Police officers and sheriff's deputies are the first professionals that come to mind when discussing criminal justice. The job duties of law enforcement officers are many and varied:
• Arrest of violators
• Building security checks
• Public relations
• Community caretaking
A police officer works in stressful situations. Officers respond to domestic violence, robberies, public disturbances, and drug and alcohol offenses. Much of an officer's day is spent investigating traffic crashes and reported crimes.
Police officers and sheriff's deputies are required to be certified as peace officers in the state in which they are employed. Certification is awarded after successful completion of criminal justice classes in a basic police academy which lasts several weeks. Many law enforcement agencies require a degree for job consideration or for promotions to supervisory or specialized positions.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2009, there were an estimated 641,590 law enforcement officers employed in the United States. The annual mean wage was $55,180. Job prospects for police officers are good as agencies seek to fill vacancies as they occur.
The Paralegal and Courtroom Justice
Paralegals are instrumental in the criminal justice process. These professionals assist attorneys in several ways:
• Preparation for court proceedings and trials
• Analysis and organization of information
• Draft legal documents
• File maintenance and case tracking
An estimated 71 percent of paralegals are employed by law firms. The majority of those paralegals work in medium-sized or large firms. Smaller firms, or highly specialized firms, such as those that specialize in individual bankruptcy, family law or tax law tend not to employ paralegals as much as the larger firms.
Other graduates work for state and federal governments, the medical industry, and manufacturing and sales firms.
Paralegals are usually required to have earned an associate's degree in paralegal studies prior to employment or possess a bachelor's degree in another field with a certificate in paralegal studies. Most certificate programs can be completed within a few months.
Additional paralegal certification awarded by nationally recognized paralegal organizations is not required by most employers. But professional certification makes paralegals competitive for the best positions.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the estimated number of paralegals in May 2015 was 266,810. The annual mean wage was $55,080. The job prospects for paralegals are excellent. It is expected that the growth of this industry will be faster than for other occupations.
Security Guards as Unsung Heroes
Security guards are employed in both the public and private sectors. Most security guards are uniformed to serve as a deterrent to theft, vandalism, and trespassing. Security guards wear many hats during the day as they ensure a safe and secure environment. Duties include:
• Crime prevention
• Public relations
• First aid
• Fire suppression
States have varying certification requirements for security guards. Some states have no requirements and others require certification for guards who carry firearms.
Employment prospects for security guards are good. In May 2009, there were an estimated 1,028,830 security guards employed at an annual mean wage of $26,430. Earning a college degree favorably positions graduates for hiring in the field of criminal justice. Online criminal justice classes and degrees satisfy not only entrance level employment requirements but accelerate graduates into management positions.
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School of the Month:
Norfolk State University is a public college in Norfolk, Virginia. They offer a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice (MACJ) degree. This program has two concentrations — Planning and Juvenile Justice and Criminal Justice Management. This program is intended to help develop leadership skills and offer career advancement for its graduates. Students may pursue this degree either through full-time or part-time study. Learn more about it.