Do you love the idea of making a difference in the community and helping others? For those that consider themselves to be socially conscious, obtaining a career in the criminal justice field seems like a promising fit. Whether it's solving crimes or defending others (innocent or guilty) in the court of law, considering a career in this particular field is of great significance to the community.
If you've ever watched an episode of Law & Order or CSI and envisioned yourself doing that line of work, it is certainly possible. There are several aspects of the criminal justice industry you can get involved in. What's also beneficial about entering this field is the array of positions to choose from. Whether you want to be an officer of the law or an attorney, getting your foot in the door and gaining the industry experience you need is fairly straightforward. Below, are a few entry-level positions you can apply for after completing college.
If you're interested in the criminal justice system as it pertains to the law, becoming a lawyer might be a path you're interested in. As such, to gain industry experience, obtaining a job as a paralegal is a great option. Many law firms and attorneys hire entry-level paralegals to assist them with day-to-day administrative and legal tasks. Paralegals make a decent living with a pay of about $45,000 a year or more.
Paralegals are essentially responsible for laying out the groundwork for attorneys to complete their jobs more expeditiously. Depending on the needs of the law firm, a paralegal can be responsible for anything from reaching out to clients to set up appointments to gathering necessary research and documents for trial. The experience is certainly rewarding and leaves the door open for you to further your education and obtain the necessary training to become an attorney or judge if you so desire.
2. Child Protective Services Worker
If you care for the safety and well-being of young children, then consider a career as a child protective services worker. It is the responsibility of the service worker to provide whatever assistance necessary to ensure the physical and psychological well-being of the child and their family is upheld. Responsibilities might include providing counseling for troubled families, removing children from unsafe conditions, and helping to enrich the lives of children and their families. While this position may not be as financially rewarding as other careers within the criminal justice field, the reward of helping children often compensates for that. Again, because it is an entry-level position, criminal justice majors have the opportunity to advance into higher paid positions within the social services division.
3. Parole Officers
Parole officers are often the first point of contact for recently released inmates. These officers essentially help inmates as they learn to reenter society and become productive citizens once again. Parole offers play a crucial role in helping inmates get back on their feet and on the right track. This includes ensuring they abide by the regulations set in place after being released, helping them find employment or schooling, and in some cases helping them find a place to live.
4. Correctional Officer
If you're looking for a career that is as challenging as it is rewarding, then becoming a correctional officer may be an ideal choice. It is the responsibility of the correctional officers to ensure that prisoners are upholding the laws of the prison. Primary responsibilities include supervising inmates and ensuring their safety and well-being during their period of incarceration. There is a high demand for correctional officers in many areas and here again, entry-level positions can lead to higher-ranking careers within the prison system.
Lastly, but certainly not least on the list of entry-level positions in the criminal justice field is a police officer. While you will likely start as a patrol officer during your first few years of duty, this job is highly rewarding and has extreme potential for growth when you're ready. As you know, it is the officer's job to ensure the safety and well-being of the citizens within the community. Depending on which position you apply for, you could essentially be responsible for anything from monitoring traffic to following up on 911 calls.
Steps to a Career in Criminal Justice
Whether you want to be an officer and protect the citizens or a social worker that helps families within the community, there's something about the criminal justice field that is not only lucrative, but emotionally rewarding as well. Depending on which path you decide to take, each of these entry-level positions may require a certain set of criteria. This may or may not include:
Obtaining a criminal justice degree – while some entry-level positions don't require a college education, having one under your belt can ultimately help you propel up the ranks. Look into top criminal justice colleges in PA and across the U.S. to find a program that fits best with your schedule. If you already have a degree, look into furthering your education, which can help you become a supervisor or manager.
Physical Training – If you're thinking of becoming a police officer or corrections officer, it may be necessary for you to undergo extensive physical training. This is necessary to ensure that you can keep up with the physical demands of the position.
If you're interested in obtaining a career in criminal justice or law enforcement, getting a head start is not an issue. Many of the positions described above do not require extensive education or experience and allow you to begin training for your dream job. If giving back to the community, serving the people, and ensuring the safety and well-being of others are passions of yours, a criminal justice career is just for you.