The field of criminal justice has myriad job opportunities within policing, the courts and corrections. There are positions available in government agencies and within the private sector as well. While most citizens see law enforcement as the primary job for those studying criminology, dispatchers, direct care workers and corrections officers are just a few of the other options available. Depending on the type of education, personality and professional goal of each applicant, there are numerous possibilities available when selecting a job.
The hiring process includes a background check, entrance/civil service exam, interview/oral board, physical and psychological testing. Some states have a civil service exam that is administered in yearly cycles. If the department is not civil service based, they will have their own individualized entrance exam that is released to candidates dependent upon organizational needs.
The majority of local and state police agencies do require a certain amount of college credits and most a college degree. The average patrol officer spends the vast majority of time interacting with the public during traffic enforcement or during citizen initiated calls for service. General contact with the public on a daily basis and solving order maintenance issues between neighbors is very common. Police officers also respond to 911 and disturbance calls within their individual zone or beat. Strong interpersonal, writing and communication skills are required for everyday duties.
This high stress and fast paced job attracts organized and motived applicants. In addition to the everyday dangers, shift work often adds to individual and organizational stressors. Opportunities for specialization depend upon the size and funding of the department.
Similar to police, dispatchers must be able to multitask and perform well under pressure. A dispatcher is the base of operations for officers on patrol. With a high school diploma, advanced typing skills, as well as a steady nerve one can become a dispatcher. A background check is also required for dispatching positions. Dispatchers also need excellent communication skills and the ability to organize and quantify pertinent information in a short amount of time.
While using state of the art 911, radio and national databases, a dispatcher receives, categorizes and disperses information directly to officers and other emergency personnel. Providing officers with critical information in a timely manner can prevent citizen and officer injury.
The ability of a dispatcher to know where each officer is and how to best delegate calls is also very important and can save lives. In addition, dispatchers keep detailed records of each incident and provide clerical support for the department. Dispatchers are also susceptible to shift work.
Residential Counselor: Juveniles
Entry level direct care positions require a high school diploma, background check and interview. Supervisory positions and salaries are based on experience and higher education. Working directly with specialized groups takes a very unique set of qualities.
Juveniles transitioning from home, foster care, hospitals, or previous residential programs often need support as well as redirection from counselors. This position not only incudes supervising clients, it also involves processing with clients, building confidence and teaching basic life skills. Juveniles also need encouragement developing their communication and behavioral management techniques.
Small client to staff ratios lead to high contact individualize treatment. These multifaceted interventions can include, but are not limited to psychopharmacological evaluations, individual, family and group therapies. Counselors should be comfortable preparing and running group therapy sessions, writing daily treatment notes and de-escalating volatile situations. Having patience, confidence, advanced active listening and strong interpersonal skills are needed. Most residential counselors have contact with police, probation, client families, schools, individual mentors and medical personnel during routine shifts.
Direct care workers have the potential to foster positive healthy relationships during some of the most stressful transitional periods clients will endure. Residential programs operate twenty four hours a day and require strict ratios according to individual program policies.
Hiring requirements include a background check, credit check, written exam, oral board, physical and psychological evaluation. Making sure candidates are not susceptible to corruption is an essential part of the background check. Correctional officers spend the majority of their time completing administrative duties such as daily logs and incident/disciplinary reports. Officers also facilitate hourly and individual movements of inmates. They regularly conduct rounds to ensure inmate safety and census.
Correctional officers need to be confident, vigilant and fit in order to handle the everyday requirements of the job. Reacting quickly and appropriately to potentially dangerous situations is a prerequisite of this position. Officers regularly interact with a variety of individuals from diverse backgrounds. The capacity to have positive contact with inmates allows officers to maintain order and also provide a safe working environment for fellow officers, nurses and mental health workers. Shift work is also a difficulty associated with corrections.
A background in criminal justice and criminology provides applicants with a variety of opportunities. Whether being on the front lines as a police officer or offering informational and strategic support as a dispatcher, there are jobs that fit varied personalities and skill sets.
Using Geographical Information Systems to create maps of hot-spots and making this information available to law enforcement is a unique way to support the criminal justice system. Victim advocates use their knowledge of the law to help clients file restraining orders and prepare to take the witness stand.
Determining individual strengths and current skills will provide an adequate starting off point for those interested in the field. Search state run websites in order to locate jobs in your area. Civil services, police departments and some correctional officer positions will be on these state sponsored cites. The following sources will provide job descriptions, educational requirements and the hiring process for diverse categories of jobs.