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What is a Criminal Justice?

As it is defined, criminal justice is the framework of laws and rules, along with the agencies designated to ensure criminals are held accountable for their crimes. Criminal justice may also work to help victims of crime recover as much as possible.

A criminal justice professional may hold one of a number of positions. They fill multiple roles, from officers arresting and jailing a criminal to working with them when they are released from prison, helping them to stay on the straight and narrow.

In between these two options, there are corrections officers, prosecuting attorneys, and police investigators. At the local level, detectives also investigate crimes and interview witnesses and victims. Federal agents, who can work for one of several federal law enforcement agencies, may focus their attentions on alcohol, tobacco, and firearms or they may work, investigating crimes that have been committed across state lines.

Court professionals include the district attorney, city attorney, state’s attorney general, United States attorneys, federal, county, and alternate public defenders. Corrections officers include both probation and parole officers. Wardens and corrections counselors keep criminals detained and work with them helping them to figure out how to make better decisions.

As you can see, criminal justice is a degree that can lead to a vast number of options once you gain a degree. What tasks you will perform and where you will perform them is determined almost completely by which direction you choose during your education and the early years of your career.

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Criminal Justice Education in Colorado

In the U.S., as in Colorado, there are several criminal justice systems. These exist at the local, county, state, tribal, federal, and military installation levels. Laws, agencies, and criminal proceedings may differ among the state’s jurisdictions.

Three areas of criminal justice include law enforcement, the courts, and the correctional agencies that house, punish, and rehabilitate criminals. As students consider their options for the best criminal justice schools in Colorado, they may want to examine all areas of this field.

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Associate Degree in Criminal Justice (ADCJ)

An associate criminal justice degree may be a general degree covering the criminal justice system, or you could earn an Associate of Arts in Victim Assistance from one state program. This degree introduces students to the viewpoints of victims and may be beneficial for students majoring in human services, counseling, psychology, or social work.

This program also introduces students to courses focusing on several types of crime. These include juvenile delinquency, juvenile crime, sexual assault, domestic violence, crime scene investigation, criminal profiling, investigation, victimology, crisis intervention, violence against children, policing systems, criminalistics, and an introduction to forensic science. Graduates with criminal justice degrees begin with entry-level positions.

The emergency public service department also offers a law enforcement academy, giving the basics in law enforcement. This program is intensive, lasting 17 to 18 weeks, allowing future and new law enforcement officers or parole officers to obtain the required training.

Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice (BCJ)

A bachelor’s degree program offers students a well-built, comprehensive understanding of the modern criminal justice system and study of crime. Students meeting degree requirements may walk into a job after graduation or gain officer training.

As they are designed, these programs introduce students to critical thinking and offer a wide foundation of understanding in the criminal justice system as a whole, as well as state-specific law. By the time they graduate, students should have the necessary skills and knowledge to find a variety of pertinent employment opportunities.

Master's Degree in Criminal Justice (MCJ)

A master’s degree can be earned through an option of online or hybrid programs. These programs offer graduate students and criminal justice professionals master’s degrees in fields such as criminology and criminal justice. By the time they graduate, students will have gained a deep understanding of law enforcement administration.

These programs may include focuses on gender-based violence, crime analysis, theories of crime and other specialized topics. Students will develop strategies and skills they can use throughout their entire criminal justice career. These skills prepare students to look critically at empirical data and find new ways to control crime.

Additionally, students may choose to earn a Juris Doctor/MBA, which allows criminal justice students to study criminal, constitutional, and/or contract law. They may also study economics and corporate and management finance. Students who graduate with these degrees will be highly knowledgeable in legal and business matters and they will be able to market their skills as legal counsel to several entities, such as insurance companies and corporate firms.

PhD Degree in Criminal Justice (DCJ)

Students in a PhD program will delve into theoretical studies, sociological paradigms, scholarship and research in criminal justice and criminology , public policy, and public management as they prepare to begin academic careers, teaching a new generation of criminal justice students, or working in public policy analysis, public management, politics, non-profits, or advocacy.

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Become a Criminal Justice Professional in Colorado

Once a student has graduated with their criminal justice degree in Colorado they may be able to choose from one of several fields within this profession. However, Colorado does require certain law enforcement and criminal justice personnel to obtain and hold certification.

  • Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) Basic Peace Officer Certification

    Once the academy graduate has completed all requirements of the state and earned the Basic Peace Officer certification, they are qualified to find a job as a peace officer. In order to do so, a candidate must graduate from a POST basic academy, pass a physical exam, a psychological exam, and a background check. Then they will be able to serve as a fully authorized peace officer in any law enforcement agency in the state of Colorado.

    In general, candidates must also meet certain requirements such as being 21 years of age, never have been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence offence, and must also have an associate degree or at least 60 hours of college credits.

  • Crime Scene Investigator Education

    Whether these positions are filled by police officers or civilians holding a college degree in science, they are critical to investigating and solving crimes using scientific evidence. CSIs document various crime scheme, collect, bag and secure physical evidence, take photos and measurements, analyze blood spatter, find DNA, gather footprints and fingerprints, attend autopsies to gather more evidence, write detailed reports and testify in court. A CSI should be skilled in problem-solving, critical thinking, oral/written communication, detail-oriented and work well under pressure.

    There are also basic requirements for this position in Colorado. For one thing, candidates must have a high school diploma (or GED) and additional pertinent training, as well as two years of experience or a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a similar field.

    CSIs who have worked for more than one year are able to earn certification through the International Association for Identification (IAI). By taking continuing education, they may also earn more certifications.

  • Private Investigators Licensure

    In Colorado, private investigators must be licensed through the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) Office of Private Investigator Licensure. Many of those who go into private investigation have previous experience in the field, which provides them with the experience they need to succeed.

    Candidates for this licensure should have a degree in criminal justice or a related field, be at least 21 years old, be a legal resident of the U.S., complete a background check, pay a $330 application fee, and pass the CO Jurisprudence Exam to demonstrate knowledge in the field. This will gain you level 1 licensure. In order to move forward to level 2 licensure, you’ll need to have 4,000 hours of investigative work and you may be required to have more education depending on other circumstances.

    As you can see, there are specific rules surrounding the requirements to work in criminal justice and gain licensure for various fields. Make sure you do your homework and figure out all the requirements for the position in which you are most interested before you get too far into school or a job search.

Careers for Criminal Justice Graduates

  • Emergency Management Coordinator

    An emergency management coordinator draws up specific plans and procedures that spell out how an agency will respond to emergencies and threats. These threats range from a natural disaster, attacks, or some other emergency that impacts the community.

    Their response lasts for the duration of the emergency and goes on after the danger has passed. Of most criminal justice careers, this one allows professionals to interact with most agencies.

  • Forensic Psychologist

    In the role of a forensic psychologist, a professional works closely with law enforcement agencies at all levels. They may develop a psychological profile of criminals and their expertise in psychology means they are able to handle legal issues to psychological theories. Law enforcement agencies rely on forensic psychologists to help them find criminals. In school, they may study criminal justice and clinical psychology.

  • Paralegal

    Paralegals help attorneys who provide legal services. While they aren’t able to offer legal advice, they do handle much of the work for the lawyers for whom they work. They may arrange mediation, help with trial preparation, and give support behind the scenes during trials.

    Paralegals may also draft legal documents and pleadings, write up deposition notices, motions, subpoenas, certifications, briefs, and more. They may also investigate the facts of a case by interviewing witnesses and clients and performing legal research into case law.

  • Social Work
    Social workers spend their time helping clients to deal with their life issues. Their clients may be struggling with issues that have been caused by abuse, neglect, mental health, parental drug use, and domestic violence. A clinical social worker may routinely diagnose mental, emotional, and behavioral health issues, then treat these issues. However, most social workers focus on finding support for those who have issues within their community.

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  • K9 Officer

    A K9 officer is a human law enforcement officer whose partner is a specially trained dog. With their canine (K9) partner, they make sure the law is followed and may also catch criminals. Because this field is still small, positions aren’t readily available. A K9 officer may work for a local, state, or federal agency and you may also find roles in the military.

    Federal law enforcement roles that work with dogs may include Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). These officers are especially useful in these roles because of the canine ability to train to sniff out drugs and even weapons.

    Dog breeds most often chosen for 59 roles include Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Bloodhounds, Doberman Pinschers, and Beagles. Each breed has a role that meshes well with their innate abilities, such as sniffing explosives, drugs, or cadavers.

  • Homeland Security Professional
    Homeland Security officers protect the U.S. against counterterrorism and also perform roles in emergency response and cyber security. Because of the many things which fall under the DHS’s purview, the roles of a Homeland Security professionals are much broader than stopping terrorists. If a Category 5 hurricane strikes the East Coast and New York, these professionals might respond along with FEMA so that the people affected by the hurricane are able to get the assistance they need in the aftermath. They also help the federal response to infectious diseases, where they may be assigned to work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also gather and share the intelligence needed to prepare for attacks and prepare to deal with any possible damage caused by a security threat and then work to lessen it.



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