You were always the person in your group of friends who followed the rules, never TPing, prank phone calling, staying out past curfew, or even speeding 3 mph over the limit. And to this very day, you refuse to put a toe out of line. You’re already a hardcore follower of every letter of the law, so why not get paid to enforce it?
Your options in criminal justice are far and wide — and jobs in this field are on the rise. Whether you want to be a police detective, a sheriff, a probationary officer, or private investigator, you have options for a career in criminal justice. In fact, careers in legal occupations are forecasted to grow by 5% through 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And cybersecurity (also known as Information Security Analyst) positions are growing at 18%, much higher than average, as technology advances and we are forced to chase bad guys online as well as on the ground.* Median salaries vary greatly depending on the discipline you are interested in (e.g., $24,680 median security guard salary to $60,270 median police and detective salary).*
Your passion to protect, serve, and investigate exists without a question. Now all it takes is putting that into motion. You see what is right and wrong, and now it's your turn to fix the wrongs and make your community a safer place. How you do it is up to you, so start your path in criminal justice today.*Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/security-guards.htm
From an associate’s degree to a Juris Doctor, a range of programs can prepare you for a legal and law career. Build a foundation of legal knowledge with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in paralegal, legal studies, political science, public policy, American government, or criminal justice (the enforcement side of working in law). An associate’s degree require around 60 credits of coursework compared to the 120 credits required to receive a bachelor’s degree. Are you thinking of applying to law school someday? According to the American Bar Association website, students can gain acceptance into law school regardless of undergraduate major. Even biology or art!
To become a lawyer you need to earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. J.D. programs usually require around 80 credits of coursework beyond the bachelor’s level. You can pursue a joint degree to specialize your legal practice. Some joint degree options include business, public health, educational policy, security studies, Foreign Service, environmental law, and taxation. Keep in mind the J.D. degree isn’t the only pathway to a career in law. You could instead earn a master’s or doctorate degree in areas like public policy, political science, health policy, public administration, and legal studies. To earn a graduate degree you’ll need to complete at least 30 credits. These programs teach you to understand, develop, implement, and evaluate policies that impact all kinds of industries.
At the undergraduate level students learn the ins and outs of the legal system. You’ll study the evolution of law through history and the many ways it has both influenced and been shaped by society. You’ll need excellent critical thinking skills if you plan on working in any legal aspect. Therefore, you will spend time reading and analyzing complex legal cases and documents. You and your classmates can team up to compete in regional or national mock trials, where you’ll analyze a hypothetical court case and get to play the role of attorneys and witnesses in a realistic forum. It’s a great way to build your analytical thinking and public speaking skills. You may also have to complete an internship to see the legal system in action—and take an active role in it! Students complete internships with state and federal government agencies or as legal or policy interns with companies and non-profit organizations.
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