How to Get Started in a Criminal Justice Career

By CSU Global - February 28th, 2019

Are you a college student trying to figure out which career direction you want to go in? Or maybe you’re an adult who is interested in pursuing a new career path? Either way, there are many options when it comes to criminal justice careers, such as policer officer, detective, crime scene investigator, customs agent, or forensics technician.

Although a degree in criminal justice will give you the education and hands-on experience you need, there are a few other ways to get prepared for an exciting career in the industry.

Here are six ways to get started in a criminal justice career:

Research the different types of criminal justice jobs.

When you’re interested in pursuing criminal justice, you should first understand the different kinds of jobs you can get with a criminal justice degree — even before you enroll for courses. This will encourage you to start thinking about your future. Since a degree in criminal justice can take you in many different directions, ask yourself a few questions.

First, are you more interested in working in an office or in the field? Next, does lab work interest you, or are you more interested in investigation? Finally, what are you most passionate about when it comes to justice? These questions can help you understand what position matches your interests.

Develop a career plan, and set goals. 

Once you figure out the direction you want to go in with your criminal justice career, it’s time to put a plan together and set goals. Each career will probably have a different set of requirements, such as specific training you’d need to become a police officer. Write down your selected career’s requirements, and map out the time you predict it’ll take to complete each item.

Setting goals for yourself will encourage you to stick to a timeline. A few goals could include starting a criminal justice degree program, enlisting in training, when you’ll start looking for a job, etc.

Earn a degree in criminal justice.

Earning a criminal justice degree is most likely a requirement for many different criminal justice careers. If you aren’t sure which career you want to pursue yet, this kind of degree is luckily broad enough to support your future career goals.

An online bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from CSU Global can get you started with an overview of the criminal justice system, its policies, and theoretical approaches to crime. To gain a deeper knowledge of criminal justice and leadership principles, and online master’s in Criminal Justice might be right for you. Each degree offers specializations, which can help you gain more specific experience in areas such as fraud, forensics, and criminology.

Get involved in a local network.

While you’re earning your criminal justice degree, you should get involved in the field locally. Most likely there are networking opportunities around your community, so you’ll want to look through the options to get connected. One great place to find a community is LinkedIn. Search for a community there, or ask other students or criminal justice professionals if they know of one.

If there isn’t a criminal justice community to join in your city, consider starting one! Chances are that other other students interested in this field would want to join.

Find a criminal justice mentor.

Once you get connected to a community, try to find an experienced mentor – someone who works in your criminal justice area of interest could give you advice, connect you to other professionals, and might even have connections for jobs once you graduate.

Ask your network if they know of someone who’d be a good mentor, or you can look to your CSU Global professors. They might have some connections they can introduce you to.

Start building your resume.

Although you likely need a degree in criminal justice to get the job you want, that doesn’t mean you can’t start with an internship or entry-level criminal justice job. Update your resume with information about your degree, and include your expected graduation date.

Search for criminal justice jobs, and you might find some that only require a year or two of experience. This kind of opportunity would be a great place to start.

Learn more about CSU Global’s criminal justice and law programs.

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