By Philip J Reed - April 29th, 2016
This week we dive into the field of Criminal Justice with CSU Global instructor Dr. Olivia Yu. Read on for an inside view of the profession, and how this can be a great career choice.
What misconceptions do students have before enrolling in the Criminal Justice program?
Dr. Yu: That’s a great question. Most people are likely to have a limited or incorrect picture of what the field of criminal justice is actually like. This is because their perceptions are shaped by dramatized portrayals in films and on television. You’re likely to see a lot more “action” on the screen than you see in reality, where more time is spent with paperwork and other documentation than you’d ever see in a movie. You may well see some exciting days in the field, but attention to detail, patience, and strong organizational skills are what you’ll likely be using on a daily basis.
What other skills are needed to be successful in the field?
Dr. Yu: Professionals in criminal justice need to have an understanding of law, human psychology, social and economic structures, and organizational behavior, at the very least. This is partially why people enter the criminal justice field from such varied backgrounds. It appeals to a wide variety of students, and different areas of knowledge and interest can contribute to being successful in this field.
Criminal justice professionals are expected to conduct themselves with integrity, empathy, common sense, discernment, courage, and sometimes even skill in finance, depending on their job. They need to be in good mental and physical condition. They also need strong written and verbal communication skills. You may not think that writing and speaking are the most important tools that law enforcement officers have in their arsenal, but they are.
They must also, of course, be law-abiding citizens with a clean past.
Where can you work with a degree in criminal justice?
Dr. Yu: You can find employment opportunities in the fields of investigation, security, legal assistance, intelligence analysis, and research and academia. Many graduates end up working with or within police departments. But you could also be working with defense contractors, consulting firms, intelligence agencies, or Fortune 500 companies. There are a lot of great opportunities out there.
What kind of changes have you observed in the criminal justice field?
Dr. Yu: Changes in the field are gradual but constant. That’s a positive thing, as problems with the criminal justice system are identified and addressed. One of the problems getting a lot of focus right now is high recidivism, which is a person’s relapse into criminal behavior. Joblessness among released inmates is a huge reason for this, so changes are being considered that could open employment opportunities for the formerly incarcerated.
Have you seen much change in the crimes that are being reported and responded to? How have criminal justice professionals responded?
Dr. Yu: While crime has always existed, it has been changing with globalization and advances of technology. New criminal justice fields are surfacing and growing in response to changes. Demand for cyber security specialists, for example, is predicted to rapidly grow as cyber crime is evolving and becoming more sophisticated in techniques.
These specialists have become vital members of the criminal justice profession. They are equipped with specialized knowledge of analysis, forensics, and reverse engineering. They design and implement information security programs to protect government and other organizations against various internet threats, such as malware, viruses, phishing, hacking, and information warfare.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to those interested in the field?
Dr. Yu: Tomorrow’s professionals need to be prepared for changes. Similar to entrepreneurs who anticipate changes in markets and public demand for goods and services, aspiring criminal justice professionals must understand what drives crime and anticipate changes in society. Interested students should consider how they can impact society and establish a long, productive career in the field of criminal justice.
One field that is closely related to criminal justice is criminology. How closely? About half of college students studying to become police officers confused the two. Read this article to find out why that is, and to learn more about the difference. If you have any additional questions you would like us to ask our faculty in the future, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
About Dr. Olivia Yu:
Dr. Olivia Yu has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a Ph.D. in Sociology. Her full-time career in higher education began in 1993 as a member of the criminal justice faculty at the Utica College of Syracuse University (UC), New York. She later accepted an offer to join the faculty at the University of Texas, San Antonio (UTSA) in 2001 as an escape from the long, snowy months in upstate New York.
Her experience with distance learning and online programs in higher education started in the mid-1990s, and she has since designed online courses for programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. She has taught both ground and online undergraduate and graduate courses in sociology, criminal justice, public administration, and quantitative research methods.
She has served as the Criminal Justice program coordinator at CSU Global since 2011. In 2014, Dr. Yu received the CSU Global Excellent Graduate Teaching Award.
Philip is a technical writer for Colorado State University-Global Campus. In his spare time he enjoys reading and Hawaiian shirts.