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Opportunities in Criminal Justice

Police car emergency lights.

Crime continues to be a major problem in the United States. Court dockets are full, prisons are overcrowded, probation and parole caseloads are overwhelming, and police are expected to do more. And, the bulging prison population places a heavy strain on our economy. In addition to murder, rape, assault, and drug law violations, terrorism has become a daily reality. The debate also continues about how best to handle juvenile crime. What's more, identity theft and online scams continue to thrive. Clearly, crime is a complex issue that defies simple explanations or solutions.

In this climate, it is clear that the criminal justice field is fraught with employment opportunities, and a college degree in criminal justice can give you a distinct advantage. Criminal justice -- the study of procedures and agencies established to manage both crime and the people accused of violating the law, has become one of the most popular undergraduate majors in the United States.

Criminal justice degree programs offer you the opportunity to pursue a career in law enforcement, or to continue your studies in graduate school or law school. Degree programs are generally structured around a core of criminal justice courses on topics such as law enforcement, the judicial process, corrections, juvenile justice, criminology, and criminal law and procedure. Other courses cover in-depth specialties such as victimology, juvenile delinquency, forensic science, criminal violence, alcohol and drug abuse, probation and parole, criminal evidence, constitutional law, and the death penalty. Since the criminal justice process reflects the structure, values, and concerns of society, criminal justice programs draw from a wide variety of academic disciplines: psychology, sociology, political science, history, anthropology, law, and others.

An integral component of criminal justice programs is an internship with law enforcement, youth services, victim services, and corrections agencies. These positions give you an opportunity to bridge the gap between theory learned in the classroom, and the practice of criminal justice in the real world. More importantly, you will be able to quickly decide if you are suited for this kind of work.

Since the 1960s, when Congress recognized that compliance with the Supreme Court's constitutional mandates required better-educated police, criminal justice has evolved into a learned profession. Those who want a career in law enforcement will benefit greatly from a degree in criminal justice, both at the entry level as well as during their entire career.

To learn more about starting a career in Law Enforcement, visit the Veteran Career Center.

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