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Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement Administration


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What to Expect

When it comes to the fields of criminology and criminal justice, the more education you have, the better.

Criminology and criminal justice students can expect to study many different social sciences. Psychology, sociology, political science, law, economics, history, philosophy, computing science and mathematics could all cross a student's schedule.

Some programs include practical courses such as profiling, criminal investigation procedures, interview and interrogation, and cultural awareness. The range of material gives important preparation for the working world.

"Not only does this benefit students by teaching them the value of perspective in critical thinking, but practically speaking, students graduate from the program qualified to work or study in the fields of law, sociology, psychology and criminology," says Karen Williams. She is a criminology student.

This is her second degree. Her first degree was in chemistry, but an interest in criminalistics drew her back to school.

Criminalistics is using science and technology to investigate crime and accident scenes. It includes examining and comparing physical evidence in criminal investigations. Evidence can include DNA, fingerprints, firearms, substances and more.

"I saw problems growing with how legal professionals and social scientists were going to make use of the type of scientific knowledge coming from criminalistic techniques. The reality was that a combination of a science degree and a social sciences degree provided me insight from both worlds and gave me a very unique and marketable perspective," says Williams.

Ilya "Shawn" Kaminsky is a criminal justice student at Seattle University. After graduation he plans to go to law school.

"Criminal justice is a good major in general because it has a practical application. The criminal justice field is very diverse and there are lots of jobs available within this field," says Kaminsky. He points out internships are a great way to break into the job market.

Homework for this program can vary depending on the courses a student chooses. Some programs have more math and science requirements.

This is a popular program, so first-year class sizes can be very large. That translates to large graduation classes and more competition for jobs.

"I would urge students to be proactive to deal with this reality," says Williams. "I can't emphasize this enough; introduce yourself to your professors! Go to their office hours, ask questions and continue to touch base with them throughout the year."

Having a relationship with your profs is important when the time comes to get reference letters for jobs. But don't wait until then.

To save money on texts, approach your professors to find out if the textbooks are required or only suggested reading.

"Education is expensive and it is extremely frustrating to have gotten an A in a course after spending $100 on a text that you never once needed to open," says Williams.

How to Prepare

Volunteer work can be useful to find out what career path you want to follow.

Find out what real-life workers do on the job -- don't believe everything you see on TV! "You may think you want to become a corrections officer but it may be that your pre-conceived notions of what a corrections officer is are very different from the day-to-day reality of the profession!" says Williams.

In high school, work hard in humanities classes like English and social studies to build your communication skills.

"Being able to communicate effectively by writing, speaking, reading, and listening well is essential and central for success at a university and on a job," says Kaminsky.

You must stay out of trouble if you plan to work in the criminal justice system. Jobs in this field usually require a background check. This can include a driving record inquiry, criminal and credit history investigation and psychological evaluation.

"Individuals who abstain from illicit activities and who live within social conventions will have more and better opportunities," says Kaminsky.


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