Whether a person works in law enforcement, corrections, or the courts, keeping our communities safe is a key focus of everyone in the criminal justice field. Of course, what that effort looks like in practice depends on the career you pursue. Across the board, however, a few things in criminal justice hold true.
1. You need to be a strong communicator to succeed.
Some criminal justice professionals work primarily on their own, while others almost always work as part of a team. Either way, if you’re working in criminal justice, you’ll at some point need to collaborate with a wide variety of other professionals and experts from outside your organization. You’ll also need to communicate extensively with people who may include colleagues, suspects, victims, inmates, and community members. The people you interact with will come from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences. All of them will require your attention and ethical treatment.
In many roles, you’ll need to give reports to your employer and coworkers. Sometimes that will involve simply repeating what happened but you’ll need to frequently write reports as well. Depending on your role, you may even supervise and instruct others. In each of these instances, your ability to communicate thoroughly and effectively will have a huge impact on your success. Other important skills and traits for criminal justice careers include critical thinking, attention to detail, integrity, and empathy.
2. Technology is increasingly important.
While many criminal justice careers involve a lot of face-to-face interaction and activity outside of an office, being competent with technology is still a must. For example, criminal justice professionals may need to search and update databases that contain criminal history and biometric information. They might use automated license plate readers to search for stolen cars or drones to gain an aerial view of a particular area of interest. Frequently, workers rely on phones, tablets, and even vehicle dashboards to access and distribute information. Many criminal justice organizations also use social media to build trust and demonstrate transparency in their communities, so that’s another area where technology comes into play.
At the same time, cybercrime continues to rise. Investigating such crimes will require understanding the technology involved. As you can see, technology is a topic of real importance in the field. Its use will only expand in the years to come.
3. Education and experience can help you stand out.
You are likely to face competition when applying for desirable criminal justice positions. In competitive job situations, a candidate with a criminal justice degree and work experience may catch the eye of the hiring manager. Some federal agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, require a bachelor’s degree for employment. Other positions prefer candidates with a master’s degree.
If you decide to pursue a criminal justice degree, it’s important that you find the right program for you. Undergraduate criminal justice programs should provide a solid foundation for understanding the entire criminal justice system and its three main components: law enforcement, corrections, and the court system. Courses that address ethics, criminology, juvenile delinquency, and topics related to race, class, and gender can give you a strong base for your future pursuits.
As you’re researching criminal justice programs, look for a curriculum that lets you take electives that match your particular interests and career goals. Problem-solving, communication, and conflict resolution should be emphasized as well. While a bachelor’s degree program should touch on criminal justice administration, management, and leadership, those areas are likely to be emphasized more heavily in a criminal justice graduate program.
Whether you prefer studying criminal justice online or on-campus, South University offers bachelor’s and master’s degree criminal justice programs that are designed to prepare you for working in today’s changing field. Explore our criminal justice programs on our website or request information today to learn more.