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Do you want to grow your career and become a leader in criminal justice? If so, you’ll need industry knowledge, interpersonal skills, decision-making abilities, and more. Here are 13 skills, attributes, and behaviors that can help you pursue your professional goals.

1. Strong Knowledge Base

Criminal justice leaders need a solid understanding of the criminal justice system, including components like law enforcement, courts, corrections, and rehabilitation programs. You should also be well-versed in relevant laws, regulations, and policies. A criminal justice degree program can provide a strong foundation in these areas.

2. Practical Experience

Having practical experience will be crucial in leadership and management positions. Start by taking on challenging assignments and opportunities to demonstrate your professional abilities and passion. To expand your understanding of the field, you may want experience doing multiple jobs within law enforcement, the courts, corrections, or related agencies.

3. Analytical and Critical Thinking

Advancing in criminal justice requires analytical and critical thinking skills. You’ll have to frequently assess complex situations, analyze evidence, and make informed decisions. You should be able to evaluate information objectively and consider multiple perspectives when solving problems.

4. Effective Communication

Communication skills are crucial, especially as you advance in the field. Criminal justice leaders must articulate ideas clearly, listen actively, and convey information effectively to diverse audiences, including colleagues, subordinates, superiors, and the public.

5. Leadership and Decision-Making

Leadership involves inspiring and motivating teams, fostering collaboration, and providing clear direction. You must make sound decisions under pressure, accept responsibility for your choices, and adapt to changing circumstances. To support your career advancement, look for chances to showcase your leadership potential within your current role or through extracurricular activities. Take the initiative to lead projects, mentor junior colleagues, or contribute to policy development. Displaying your work ethic and a willingness to take on additional decision-making and leadership responsibilities can show your readiness for a new position.

6. Ethical Conduct

Integrity and ethical conduct are mandatory in this career. Criminal justice professionals should be committed to upholding justice, fairness, and the rule of law. Ethical decision-making, honesty, and transparency are essential in maintaining the trust and confidence of your team members and the public.

7. Cultural Competence

Leaders in criminal justice must be culturally competent and sensitive to the needs of diverse populations. They should understand and respect different cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives to ensure fair and unbiased treatment of all individuals within the criminal justice system.

8. Conflict Resolution and Mediation

You’ve chosen a field where conflict is inevitable. Conflict resolution and mediation skills will help you handle disputes and difficult situations. As you move up the ladder, people will look to you to defuse tension, promote dialogue, and find mutually beneficial solutions.

9. Resilience and Stress Management

Criminal justice careers can be demanding and stressful. You’ll have to cope with pressure, maintain composure during trying circumstances, and support your team in times of stress. Practicing a healthy work-life balance with time for rest and relaxation will help you to stay calm and resilient on the job.

10. Emotional Intelligence and Relationship Building

Leaders should have high emotional intelligence to understand and manage their emotions and those of their team members. Empathy, self-awareness, and the ability to establish rapport will help you foster a positive and supportive work environment. In fact, increasing your professional network can open doors to new job opportunities. Industry conferences, seminars, and events are great places for connecting with other professionals. To expand your network further, you can participate in professional associations, committees, or task forces.

11. Support from Mentors

Search for mentors or role models who have excelled in jobs or organizations that interest you. Ask for guidance, emulate their leadership qualities, and learn from their experiences. These people can provide valuable insights and inspiration for your own journey. Your mentors may also be able to support your career growth by offering professional connections and recommendations.

12. Continuous Learning

Criminal justice work is full of constantly evolving challenges. In this profession, you must be continuously learning. First, you must learn from your successes and failures and get feedback from others to help you improve. Stay open to new ideas and approaches, including emerging trends, best practices, and technologies. Attending workshops or training on strategic planning, leadership, incident management, or similar topics can also help you to grow your skills and prepare for a promotion or job search.

13. Specialized Knowledge or Expertise

Developing targeted expertise can set you apart from your peers. Consider focusing on an area like homeland security, juvenile justice, or community policing. Acquiring specialized knowledge through research, training, education, or certification can enhance your credibility and make you a valuable asset to any criminal justice team.

Want to Take the Next Step in Criminal Justice?

Building a career* in the criminal justice field requires dedication, perseverance, and ongoing self-improvement. As you work towards your goals, South University’s criminal justice programs can provide valuable knowledge and education in the field. Learn more about our Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Master of Science in Criminal Justice programs today.

*South University does not promise or guarantee employment.