Preparing for Careers in Criminology and Criminal Justice

Get Ready for a Rewarding Career

CSI: Murder victim and crime scene tape
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After all of the pomp and circumstance, after the parties and gifts and celebrations, and after all of the joy and excitement of college graduation, reality soon sets in. You're going to have to do something with that degree of yours, aren't you? Though some graduates with bachelor's degrees in criminology or criminal justice will already have jobs lined up and waiting for them, many will not. That's why it's important to have a plan to get started on landing your new career.

The good news is, the fields of criminology and criminal justice offer plenty of opportunities for people of all education levels. The bad news is, it can often take a lot of time and a lot of work to get hired. Figuring out what you want to do and how you want to do it now can save you plenty of time and heartache in the future.

Whether you're just starting your college education, getting ready to walk across the stage, or even if you've been out of school for years, there are plenty of things that you can do after graduation to help you choose and find criminal justice and criminology careers.

Determining a Career Path

Obviously, before you can start a career, you'll have to figure out exactly what it is you want to do. There are plenty of considerations that should go into finding the career in criminal justice or criminology that's right for you. They include taking a personal assessment of your natural talents and abilities, as well as your personal interests and strengths.

One way to find out what career might be best for you is to look into some of the most popular criminal justice jobs available right now. These include police officers, probation and parole officers, detectives and investigators, paralegals and legal secretaries.

If those careers don't do it for you, there are plenty of other options available to you. You can choose to go the academic route, perhaps to prepare for a career as a criminologist or forensic psychologist.

You may also be interested in learning more about working in forensics. The role of a forensic scientist can include some fascinating and truly intellectually stimulating work. It also allows for an almost infinite number of specialties within the field, including ballistics experts, bloodstain pattern analysts, and forensic computer investigators. Because forensics is a relatively young discipline, there's ample room for growth and diversification within the field.​

Getting Started on the Job Hunt
After you've settled on the career path you want to pursue, you're going to need to begin the actual job search. In hunting for jobs, be sure to make use of the four keys to job search success: cold calling, informational interviews, networking, and perseverance.

In the age of the internet, of course, you can't discount the efficacy of job boards and career sites. Though there are limits to what you may find, online job search sites can be an effective way to find a job or get a better picture of what may be available to you.​

Background Checks and the Hiring Process
One important thing to remember about careers in criminology and criminal justice is that the hiring process can be lengthy and grueling. Extensive background investigations are often required, and polygraph exams may be administered. You may also be subjected to physical abilities tests and psychological assessments in order to determine your suitability for the job, depending on your career choice.

Should You Go to Grad School?

Of course, you may ultimately decide that you're not yet ready to leave college. If that's the case, there are plenty of benefits to earning a master's degree in criminal justice or criminology. In fact, many federal law enforcement careers give preference to candidates with either extensive work experience or advanced diplomas.

Finding Success in Criminology and Criminal Justice

Whatever you endeavor to do, you can hope to find a long and rewarding career so long as you are willing to put forth the time and effort. Study hard, work hard, and maintain a clean background, and you'll put yourself in the best possible position to land a great job in a great field.