Criminal Justice Career Requirements

Law enforcement and corrections professionals

With all the law enforcement procedural dramas on television - CSI, Law and Order, Without a Trace - is it any wonder we're so fascinated with the criminal justice field?

Not everyone who enjoys watching the shows wants to make a lifetime commitment though. It takes people with professional attitudes who are serious and dedicated to upholding the law and keeping communities safe. These talented individuals will serve as real-world role models.

How long will it take?

There are many two-year diploma programs offered at career colleges and vocational or trade schools that prepare students for front-line and entry-level jobs in specific fields of criminal justice. Those wishing to enter policing, private investigation, bylaw enforcement, customs and immigration and many other careers often take this route.

Some schools, generally community colleges, offer two-year associate's degrees. Others offer four-year Bachelor of Arts degrees in criminal justice or criminology.

Degrees are often favored by employers and can be a great choice for students who want a broader education, as they are likely to teach skills needed for entry-level jobs in a larger variety of fields.

It's important to choose the right criminal justice school, as some will open the door to better opportunities and a much more favorable criminal justice career outlook.

Skills and requirements

Depending on the field students wish to pursue, necessary skills will be somewhat different. In general, students who are completing a criminal justice diploma or degree will have to be well-versed in all aspects of the criminal code and justice system, as well as possessing some knowledge of criminal law.

Students will study varying levels of sociology, criminology and psychology, and receive instruction in conflict management, police procedures and court case preparation and presentation. Most will learn how to make an arrest and be taught rules related to use of force, search and evidence.

Other possible courses:

  • Forensic crime scene investigation
  • Report writing/business writing
  • Offences
  • Bylaws
  • Firearm safety
  • Interviewing techniques
  • Ethics

Most students entering a criminal justice school or applying for jobs in the industry will be required to undergo physical fitness and health testing as well as background checks.

Typical criminal justice jobs:

Law enforcement

  • Police officer
  • Private detective/private investigator
  • Private security officer
  • Immigration officer
  • Border control agent
  • Bylaw enforcement officer
  • Customs inspector
  • Sheriff's officer
  • FBI agent

Corrections

  • Corrections officer
  • Probation officer
  • Youth worker

In some cases, criminal justice career can in fact be a crime prevention career if you end up working with people in a counselor / rehabilitory role such as that of a probation officer, where you might help youth with issues such as addiction treatment.