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Add Law and Order to Your Career With Criminal Justice Studies

Criminal justice has been part of society since the beginning of time. From the Old Testament judges to modern-day forensic technicians and accountants, the face of criminal justice has evolved, but the mission remains unchanged to protect citizens and ensure the safety and security of the world we live in.

While criminal justice was once limited to saving the world from bad guys with guns, technology has altered the way crimes are committed, creating the need for more sophisticated methods of criminal detection. Today's weapons are physical as well as virtual, with the growing threats of identity theft, hacking, and cyber terrorism. Now more than ever, highly trained criminal justice professionals are needed to stay one step ahead of crime.

Criminal Justice Degrees
Along with all the different types of crimes that can be committed comes a host of training opportunities for criminal justice professionals. Criminal justice degrees provide instruction in law enforcement, the courts, corrections, and much more. A crime scene technician certificate program can place you on the path to cracking your first case. An associate degree in fire science teaches the essentials of firefighter safety, strategy, and tactics. A bachelor's degree in criminal justice combines the theory and practice of crime prevention and control and boosts career opportunities in the field.

New Degree Spotlight: Homeland Security
In the decade since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, homeland security has become a critical concern in the United States. Fittingly, homeland security degrees have been developed to train professionals to keep our land safe and secure, preventing terrorist attacks, reducing vulnerability to terrorism, and minimizing the damage from potential attacks and natural disasters. Hundreds of colleges across the country now offer homeland security degree programs to provide students with specialized safety, prevention, crisis management, and disaster recovery skills. Of these schools, 118 have been designated as National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAEs) in Information Assurance Education (CAE/IAE) by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. In addition, 50 schools have been designated as National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Research (CAE-Rs), and 13 schools have been designated as National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance 2-year Education (CAE2Y). These schools, which are located in 40 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico, may be eligible to offer homeland security scholarships and federal grants.

Criminal Justice Career Skills
When you're looking for a job in criminal justice, there are a few special skills to concentrate on in order to enhance your career prospects. A strong academic background in math and science will stand you in good stead in the increasingly technical field of criminal justice. Language skills are a huge asset in our multicultural world, especially if you plan to work in a metropolitan area. Criminal justice professionals who speak two or more languages especially critical languages like Arabic and Chinese are especially in demand in the FBI. Computer science and information technology expertise is also critical to today's complex criminal justice careers. In addition, many hands-on criminal justice careers require top physical condition. Military experience can help you attain the level of physical fitness required for police and detective work.

Inside Look at Criminal Justice Programs
At York College of Pennsylvania, criminal justice education has been in existence since 1969, offering a full menu of courses and a required internship for all majors. "York College has been a leader in criminal justice education for quite some time," says Christopher Hertig, an assistant professor of behavioral science at the school. The criminal justice program at York features a strong emphasis on student research, and many students and alumni have been published in "The Professional Protection Officer: Practical Security Strategies and Emerging Trends," the text for the International Foundation for Protection Officers' (IFPO) Certified Protection Officer (CPO) program. "We offer our students tuition waivers into IFPO programs such as the CPO and Security Supervision and Management Program," says Hertig. "This gives our students a unique head start in their careers." In addition, students in the criminal justice program at York have the opportunity to work for the Department of Campus Safety and gain valuable training and experience, assisting them with job placement and career progress.

Spotlight on Criminal Justice Career Paths
Countless career paths exist for those inclined to criminal justice. Check out these five for starters.

>>FBI Agent
If cyber crime, drug trafficking, espionage, kidnapping, organized crime, and terrorism are on your list of violations to eradicate, put in your application for Special Agent status. You'll need a bachelor's degree and at least three years of professional work experience, or an advanced degree and two years of professional work experience to make the cut. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), median annual earnings of FBI agents were $68,820 in May 2010; the highest 10 percent earned more than $119,320. Employment is expected to grow faster than average 17 percent between 2008 and 2018 though competition for these coveted criminal justice jobs is also anticipated.

>>Parole Officer
Become an agent for change by helping ex-cons get back on their feet and stay out of trouble. As a parole officer, you'll need a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, psychology, social work, or a related field. According to the BLS, in May 2010, parole officers earned a median annual salary of $47,200, with the highest 10 percent earning more than $80,750. Employment is projected to grow about 19 percent between 2008 and 2018 faster than the average for all occupations and job opportunities are expected to be excellent in this criminal justice profession.

Lawyers need all the help they can get, including preparing for closings, hearings, trials, and corporate meetings. With an associate degree in paralegal studies or a bachelor's degree in another field plus a paralegal certificate you can provide much-needed assistance and deliver high-quality legal services with a smile. According to the BLS, in May 2010, paralegals earned a median annual salary of $46,680, with the highest 10 percent earning more than $74,870. Employment is projected to grow a whopping 28 percent by 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations, but competition for jobs is expected.

>>Private Investigator
If you've got a knack for finding a needle in a haystack, put a private-eye career on your radar. An associate or bachelor's degree in criminal justice or police science can help you develop the surveillance skills, information-gathering techniques, and critical mind you'll need to hack it in this criminal justice career. According to the BLS, median annual earnings of salaried private investigators were $42,870 in May 2010; the highest 10 percent earned more than $74,970. Employment is expected to grow 22 percent by 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations, though keen competition is expected for most PI jobs.

>>Correctional Officer
Correctional officers hold the key to the livelihood of the prison population, as they maintain security, prevent disturbances, and enforce discipline. You'll need a high school diploma to get in, and a bachelor's degree if you've got your eye on the Federal Bureau of Prisons. According to the BLS, median annual earnings of correctional officers were $39,040 in May 2010; the highest 10 percent earned more than $67,250. Employment is expected to grow 9 percent between 2008 and 2018, and job opportunities for correctional officers should be favorable.

Fun Facts About Criminal Justice

  • In 1998, Concord Law School launched the first fully interactive, online law degree program.
  • In addition to earning an MBA online from the University of Phoenix in 2005, former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal spent a year training to become a Miami Beach reserve police officer.
  • Criminal justice education began in earnest in 1968 with the passage of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act. This created the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, which provided extensive funding for criminal justice education, training, and professional development.
  • According to the BLS, careers in criminal justice and protective services will grow as fast as or faster than the average for all occupations in the years to come.
  • It was the work of a forensic accountant one who works on investigation and litigation teams that finally brought gangster Al Capone to justice.

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