There are many reasons why people choose to pursue jobs in criminal justice. Some people enjoy the variety inherent in certain criminal justice careers—including the uncertainty of what the next day will hold. Other people desire to be an asset to the community. Whatever the reason that people opt to join this field, there are many different jobs to choose from that go beyond traditional law enforcement.
Criminal justice jobs
A corrections officer is in charge of guarding inmates in jail, prison, juvenile detention centers, or other reformatories. They move prisoners from one location to another, keep them from escaping, and prevent inmate on inmate violence. Some corrections officers are armed, while others are not, depending on the place of employment. The job also involves some paperwork and report writing. A certificate or associate degree is typically the minimum educational requirement. A corrections officer does not have any law enforcement authority outside of the institution at which he or she works.
Crime Scene Investigation Agent
A crime scene investigation (CSI) agent is responsible for meticulously collecting evidence at a crime scene, and then utilizing that evidence in scientific ways to assist in a criminal investigation. Crime scene investigation is not entirely like what is shown on television. Many of the sciences, tools, and tricks used by fictional CSI agents are not available to actual CSI agents—the futuristic technology simply doesn't exist. However, CSI agents do have quite a bit of modern technology at their fingertips, which is the basis of this job. To be a CSI agent requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree.
Not all criminal justice jobs require you to work the streets. For example, a court reporter writes down every official word spoken during a trial. This information is the official documentation of the trial, and is often used by attorneys when filing appeals. The court reporter uses a computer or stenotype word processor, and must exhibit great attention to detail. The court reporter may also dictate dispositions, interrogations, and other official meetings. This job requires a minimum of a certificate or associate degree.
Criminal justice careers can also involve working for one of the federal agencies, such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS); or Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The ATF focuses on the possession, sale, and distribution of alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and explosives. The FBI handles a variety of federal criminal cases. The INS focuses on illegal immigration, while the DEA works the frontlines of the war on drugs. Entry into any of these agencies requires an extensive background check, a minimum of a bachelor's degree (although a master's degree is even better), and possible relocation or travel. There are administrative jobs in these organizations as well.
There are criminal justice jobs in the private sector as well, such as security guards, bodyguards, and private investigators. A private investigator may be hired to collect evidence of infidelity, insurance fraud, employee theft, missing persons, or other private matters. The evidence may be used to build a criminal or civil case, but most private investigators do not have law enforcement authority. A private investigator is often someone retired from public criminal justice service, but some people enter this field right away.
Whether you choose to seek one of these jobs in criminal justice or another career in the field, be sure to pursue the right education to reach your goals.