Personality traits and skills for criminal justice

Which Personality Characteristics Will Help You Succeed in Criminal Justice?

Certain personality traits can make you a better fit for a career in criminal justice, both as a student studying to earn your Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and then as a professional working in the field. In fact, some character traits make people uniquely suited to thrive as criminologists, and while the traits may vary slightly from job to job, anyone looking to become a police officer, detective, security manager, college professor, law clerk, counselor, criminologist, or any other role in criminal justice is likely to have an easier time building a successful career if they have the right personality. Below, we explain the top 5 personality traits for people looking to launch a successful career in criminal justice.

1. Patience

Much of the criminal justice field is rooted in government regulations and laws. Unfortunately, collaborating with governmental agencies can result in a lot of waiting and paperwork. As a counselor, lawyer, or police officer you may have to wait months for your client to go before a judge. A criminologist can wait years for statistical analysis to prove or disprove a hypothesis, and a security manager can spend much of their time waiting for a crime to take place. Probation officers often wait weeks, or even months, to see a client if they’re unable (or unwilling) to meet. We’ve all been told to be patient, but if it’s part of your job, you really do need to master this skill. If you’ve got the willpower to keep cool, wait patiently, and work within sometimes slow systems, then criminal justice could be the right career path for you. On the other hand, if you’re a fast mover with high expectations for efficiency and timeliness, you might be happier in the private sector where you can have more control over processes.

2. Integrity

As a criminal justice professional, you’re on the right side of the law, and that means integrity is crucial for earning respect from your clients and managers. Integrity is defined as “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” When a criminal justice professional does not have the integrity necessary to put personal bias or beliefs aside, their relationship with coworkers, clients, and the community can be compromised. Worse than that, one professional’s lack of integrity can create or advance stereotypes and stigma around the criminal justice industry altogether. It’s necessary for criminal justice professionals to demonstrate integrity at all times in order to be accepted by society. Almost all sectors of the criminal justice field are built on the mission of helping people, oftentimes people who are socially underserved and living in crisis mode. To best help people, criminal justice professionals need to prove their integrity, commitment, and resourcefulness to establish trust. Police officers and judges must act based on the laws of the land, rather than their personal feelings about someone’s situation. Counselors have to provide clients with a range of choices and resources, regardless of what they believe to be the ‘right’ choice. Integrity can be a hard quality to master because it demands that you remove yourself from the situation. Having a personal bias doesn’t mean you don’t have integrity; we all have biases based on our backgrounds. However, your ability to identify those biases and prevent them from influencing how you help people is the important part.

3. Empathy

As said above, criminal justice is largely based on helping people, which requires empathy. Many people mistake empathy for sympathy. To have empathy is to understand and be sensitive to a person’s situation without pitying them, which is sympathy. Just as you need integrity to overcome personal bias, you need empathy to provide solutions, options, and resources based on the belief that people have the ability to change, improve their situation, and overcome challenges. Correctional officers should be empathetic to a prisoner’s sadness about being locked away from family, unable to make decisions for themselves, and the loss of their previous life, because that is something we can all agree would be very sad and hard to deal with. A police officer should be empathetic to the cost of a speeding ticket, or the emotional distress of having to remove a child from their parent because we all understand unexpected costs and loss of stability. Having empathy for these types of criminal justice situations doesn’t mean that you condone or support the choices that led to these unfortunate circumstances, but you can understand how the aftermath can be difficult, frustrating, annoying, and/or challenging. Your ability to separate the person from the crime will allow you to better serve your mission as a criminal justice professional, regardless of the role you fulfill.

4. Courage

This is a big one. Courage is necessary in most professional environments in order to have your voice heard, move up in the organization, become a leader, and assert yourself as a valuable asset. In criminal justice, courage can mean even more. Police officers, special agents, corrections managers, and security managers risk their lives every day in order to protect. Handling firearms, confronting conflict head-on, being the first responder to critical situations, and dealing with unstable or possibly dangerous people can all be required of criminal justice professionals. Of course, criminal analysts, law clerks, and college professors aren’t facing these same threats on a daily basis, but their roles also require courage. These types of criminal justice professionals are often defending criminals; identifying external factors as influencers; and advocating for populations that may be thought of as dangerous, threatening, or unsavory. This work requires courage as well, so be prepared to stand up for what and who you believe in.

5. Discernment

Discernment is basically the sum of all the traits we’ve discussed so far: the ability to judge something. As a criminal justice professional, you’ll be required to exhibit discernment on a daily basis in order to take the next steps with the best intentions and outcomes as your focus. Police, corrections, and security personnel working in the field must constantly make quick decisions on how to deal with a situation. Your ability to make the right decision is crucial for conflict resolution, protection, and preventing a situation from escalating. Making the wrong decision can mean life or death. Office-based criminal justice professionals also need discernment when providing resources to clients, publishing information externally, completing a scientific study, or teaching a concept. Because criminal justice deals with people, the consequences of not having discernment can negatively impact a person’s life or an entire community.

How to Launch a Successful Career in Criminal Justice

If you have the ability to employ these five personality traits in a well-thought, unbiased, best-intentioned manner, then the field of criminal justice may be the perfect place to launch your career. But just having the right personality won’t be enough to succeed in this competitive, challenging field, as you’ll also need to develop the foundational knowledge, skills, and abilities required to succeed as a criminal justice professional. To ensure your attempts to launch a career in criminal justice are successful, you should consider first completing an online Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice, and potentially even a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice as well, especially if you’re looking to achieve one of the top-rated criminal justice jobs. For more information about breaking into the industry, the many reasons to consider studying criminal justice, the skills necessary for succeeding in the field, and the changes the criminal justice has recently seen, be sure to listen to our full interview with Dr. Oliva Yu.

Why Should You Choose to Study Criminal Justice with CSU Global?

We were the nation’s first independent, fully accredited, 100% online state university, and our regionally accredited online Bachelor's and Master's programs in Criminal Justice are designed to provide you with the relevant real-world skills you need to launch or advance your career in this challenging industry.  Both programs were built with the systems and tools needed to make online learning easy and effective. Choosing to study online with CSU Global will allow you to take charge of your future and elevate your criminal justice career prospects with confidence. Each program has also recently earned excellent rankings, including:

  • A #1 ranking for our Bachelor’s Program in Online Course Report’s 10 Best Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs by.
  • A #1 ranking for our Master’s Program in Best Master’s Program’s 25 Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice for 2020.

You can trust us to deliver an excellent and widely-respected education thanks to our other recent rankings, including:

  • A Top 10 ranking for Best Online Bachelor's Degree Programs and Top 7 ranking for Best Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans from U.S. News & World Report.
  • A #3 ranking for Best Colleges in Colorado from Best Value Schools.
  • A #3 ranking for Best Value Online Graduate School from Value Colleges.

Finally, to save time and money, we also offer competitive tuition rates and a Tuition Guarantee that ensures your affordable tuition won’t increase between enrollment and graduation. To get additional details about our fully accredited, online Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice, or our online Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice, please give us a call at 800-462-7845, or fill out our Information Request Form. Ready to get started today? Apply now!