Important Criminal Justice Skills That Employers Value

the golden scales of justice
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Technically, criminal justice is a broad category for enforcing the law. Many attorneys are considered part of the criminal justice industry, as well as local law enforcement and federal agencies, such as the FBI and the CIA. As the world becomes a smaller place through world trade organizations and peace efforts through the United Nations, enforcing local, national, and international law is becoming more challenging.

Remember, skills vary by job, so be sure to review these skills lists for a variety of different occupations. Once you've highlighted the skills acquired during your studies, internships, and prior jobs, you'll be ready to include the appropriate skills in your cover letters, resume, and job applications.

What Are Criminal Justice Skills?

Once again, criminal justice incorporates all that is understanding and enforcing the law. Often, we associate criminal justice with an academic field of study, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree in criminal justice. Often, criminal justice skills can be transferrable between two different roles/jobs in law enforcement.

A criminal justice major could qualify you for an array of law enforcement roles, including a police officer, park ranger, paralegal, and forensics expert. Some criminal justice jobs, such as forensics, are more specialized than others. While some roles, such as fish and game warden or detective, are more physical. No matter which role you choose, there are a number of skills any employer will look for in someone with a criminal justice degree.

Types of Criminal Justice Skills

Applying Ethical Standards to Criminal Justice Issues

Criminal justice professionals are on the front lines of maintaining and upholding the basic ethical standards of society. Across a number of related fields—from policing to park rangering—legal as well as moral ethics are paramount for success. A criminal justice professional should not just be well-versed in the details of the law but should also understand and embody the spirit of ethics.

Basically, a criminal justice professional should have a sense of right versus wrong, even when those ethics are tested by difficult people or situations. If you select this vocation, there's a good chance you'll end up in a position of power that demands public trust. Maintaining scrupulous ethics will help you model standards throughout your department or office, and help you influence positive outcomes and consequences whatever your chosen field.

  • Accessing Resources with Crime Data
  • Adapting to Changing Circumstances 
  • Policy
  • Analyzing Societal and Economic Factors Contributing to Crime
  • Ethics
  • Assessing Models for Correctional Facilities
  • Compliance
  • Adherence to Safety Standards
  • Problem Sensitivity

Writing

A big part of most criminal justice careers involves writing. Therefore, strong written communication skills are essential.

For example, you may need to create reports to get approval for a warrant. Or, you may need to keep key records of policy papers or create proposals for funding. In most cases, a well-written report could mean the difference between convicting a known felon or setting them free. All too often, cases are often lost (or go un-tried) because of poorly written arrest reports.

Whether it’s to apprehend a criminal, demonstrate research findings, or convey any pertinent idea, a criminal justice professional must be able to communicate, in writing, the details of the issue at hand.

  • Composing Reports
  • Writing Essays Supporting Criminal Justice Perspectives
  • Writing Research Papers on Criminal Justice Topics
  • Critical Thinking
  • Producing Presentation Slides

Research

A criminal justice expert should have strong proficiency in research, along with preparing research findings for sharing with colleagues and supervisors. This research could include the ability to access resources with crime data, assess models, and create charts and graphs. One also needs to be able to utilize data visualization software, interpret social science research data, and create presentations.

You might be asked to analyze public policy and its impact on criminal justice. You also might be called upon to study and analyze the impact of reforms on criminal justice systems or to see how previous changes to policy has impacted crime. Either way, your research skills will be vital to your success.

  • Case Studies
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Memory
  • Legal Codes & Procedures
  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Investigation
  • Building Arguments
  • Attention to Detail
  • Interrogation 
  • Interviewing Witnesses
  • Note Taking
  • Observation
  • Developing Hypotheses for Criminal Justice Research

Computer

Criminology and related jobs are becoming increasingly complex as techniques and systems evolve. Simultaneously, the field of cybercrime has opened up a world of more specialized demands within criminal justice, such as cybersecurity investigation/prosecution. Both cybersecurity roles and more traditional criminal justice roles need computer skills to solve problems.

  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Crime Databases
  • Automated Finger Print Identification Systems
  • Crime Mapping Software
  • Internet Search

More Criminal Justice Skills

  • Collaboration
  • Composing Criminal Justice Case Analyses 
  • Creating Charts and Graphs
  • Employing Data Visualization Software
  • Debating
  • Decision Making
  • Evaluating the Efforts of Organizations to Control Crime
  • Evaluating the Validity and Reliability of Criminal Justice Research Studies
  • Facilitating Group Discussion
  • Interpreting Social Science Research Data
  • Leadership
  • Firearms Proficiency
  • Non-lethal Weapons Proficiency
  • Managing Stress
  • Multitasking
  • Organization
  • Physical Conditioning 
  • Project Planning 
  • Prioritizing Tasks
  • Problem Solving
  • Quantitative
  • Researching Legal Precedents
  • Research Techniques for Criminal Justice
  • SAS and SPSS Software Proficiency
  • Statistical Analysis
  • Teamwork
  • Time Management 

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

Add Relevant Skills to Your Resume: Each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description for every position you're applying for carefully and focus on the skills listed by that employer.

Highlight Skills in Your Cover Letter: Often, law enforcement agencies care about why you feel strongly about enforcing the law. It can be helpful to provide a brief explanation about what event(s) in your life cause you to want to pursue a career in criminal justice.

Use Skill Words in Your Job Interview: You should also consider providing examples of how you’ve demonstrated these skills toward measurable success in prior work. And don't be shy about using these words in your interview and be prepared to share examples of how you've exemplified each skill you mention.