What is Criminal Justice?
The criminal justice sector helps to protect individuals and businesses from bad actors who would inflict harm. Front line representatives of criminal justice include police officers, sheriffs, and more. Then there are court-related personnel, which includes attorneys, federal defenders, judges, court officers, paralegals, and more. Corrections facilities hire wardens, corrections officers, probation officers, and more.
Criminal justice careers are slated to grow fast, with some areas adding jobs more quickly than others. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialist positions are expected to increase by 4% between 2020 and 2030.
Criminal justice professionals may be found at a variety of levels and in a variety of settings. This makes it difficult to specify exactly what tasks you might be doing as a criminal justice professional, as they vary depending on what specific field you enter, the size of the department you join, the level of government you are linked to (local, state, federal), and more.
Criminal Justice Education in Georgia
Law enforcement officers are those who are most often present in communities, patrolling the streets to deter crime, investigating and solving crime, arresting criminal perpetrators, and carrying out short-term surveillance. In the court system, criminal justice professionals may take notes, maintain the safety of the lawyers and judges, work to defend or prosecute in front of a judge, and more.
Once a defendant has been convicted and sentence to prison, corrections professionals become involved. The professionals here ensure that convicts can’t get out of prison by maintaining the security of the building at every entry point. Once they are released, parole or probation officers enter the scene to make sure that they report their activities when necessary and to make reports to the correct authorities until they have completed their parole or probation period.
Other criminal justice and mental health professionals are also involved in working with convicts and those who have been released from prison and students interested in criminal justice can find a rewarding career in the field whether they choose to investigate crimes, prosecute defendants, advocate for victims, or help former prisoners to turn their lives around.
Though criminal justice is not one of the top industries in Georgia, those who are a part of this system will find themselves interacting with important sectors of the economy depending on the line of work they enter. Those who deal with white collar crime might interact with fraud or theft in the real estate, rental and leasing sector, which brings $74.1 billion into the state, or professional and business services, which contribute $72.8 billion a year to the state economy.
The information sector brings in a healthy $46.2 billion in. This sector is connected to information technology, the internet, online banking, and more, which must be policed by those who are willing and able to perform cyber security tasks and forensic techs and accountants.
Associate Degree in Criminal Justice (ADCJ)
A community college student who wants to become a criminal justice professional can gain themselves a good start with an associate degree in criminal justice. In this degree, they’ll learn about corrections, law enforcement, and the court system in the US, as well as procedures, juvenile justice, corrections, criminology, and laws. Students should verify regional accreditation for the school they choose, since this may be a requirement to enter the local law enforcement department after they have graduated.
Once they graduate with their associate degree, these professionals may be able to write grants for criminal justice systems in their community or accept one of a few positions in police departments. They may also be able to enter other positions, such as that of park ranger, with an associate degree.
Potential careers include security positions, probation, corrections, crime investigation, forensic science investigations, crime scene technicians, police officers, security agents, state or local police officers, park rangers, and fire inspectors.
Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice (BCJ)
Students enrolled in criminal justice degree bachelor’s programs set themselves on the perfect path to successfully enter this career field. Whether they choose on-campus, online learning, or a hybrid degree program, they will gain all the knowledge they need to start their careers.
Some degree programs at the best criminal justice schools in Georgia offer academic majors in legal studies or crime and justice. Other options blend traditional criminal justice curriculum and a more forward-looking emphasis. Students may also choose a minor in digital criminology along with their bachelor of science degree.
After graduation, students may find work with state or federal law enforcement agencies (Homeland Security, ATF, FBI, DEA). Or they may work for private companies in a security capacity.
Master's Degree in Criminal Justice (MCJ)
Graduate students earning a degree in the criminal justice field can expect to expand their knowledge of both social and criminal behavior throughout the course of their degree. They may plan to advance in their careers in order to become influential in deciding criminal justice laws and policies, or they may work in the court system and be looking to pass the bar or find another high-level career in criminal justice and corrections.
The skills students can learn in a criminal justice degree at this level can prepare them to work in diverse, but related, fields. These include private business, law enforcement, education, judiciary, criminal justice administration, law, and social services. This degree is often offered in an online format, which allows working students to continue working while they earn their degree.
When they graduate, they may be able to work in probation or parole, the correctional system, by offering assistance to victims as a victim advocate, in a law enforcement position, or teaching.
PhD Degree in Criminal Justice (DCJ)
A PhD or doctorate in criminal justice may not open more fields for students, but it can set them up as an expert in their chosen field. One of the main reasons someone might complete a PhD degree program in criminal justice is that it allows them to become teachers and scholars in the criminal justice field. With this, they can teach at a public university and engage in research on their chosen subject.
A good doctoral degree program offers one-on-one mentoring with an easily flexible curriculum. It may also introduce students to writing scholarly papers and presenting their articles at both regional and national conferences if they have not already moved in that direction. Students may also have the opportunity to work on research alongside members of the faculty.
Career opportunities may include attaining tenure at universities or colleges; working as researchers for local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies; working for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, FBI, EPA, ATF or other local and state agencies, carrying out research, and more.
Become a Criminal Justice Professional in Georgia
Georgia, as with most states, has specific requirements for those who wish to work within their local police departments or join their state law enforcement and other public service departments. Becoming a Georgia peace officer requires that applicants be 18 years old, a citizen of the US, have at least a high school diploma, and not have been convicted of a certain level of criminal behavior. They will also be required to complete a background check and pass the Accuplacer, Asset, or Compass test before enrolling in Basic Law Enforcement Courses. After this, they will complete a physical exam and an interview before attending a GPSTC Regional Academy.
As you can see, the requirements are extensive. However, these steps can prepare you for entry into a wide swathe of criminal justice positions. Those on the law side or social work side will often require more education in legal studies or psychology, which we will not discuss here.
Professional certifications or passing particular training may also be required for some criminal justice professionals. Required certifications will be pertinent to a professional’s responsibilities. Certifications can also improve your career, which may mean higher rank and pay. Here are just some certifications in this field.
- Certified Financial Crime Specialist
This is the only certification intended for professionals who possess wide-ranging skills and a broad foundation of knowledge concerning financial crimes, gained by expanding their educational options. Once they register with the Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialists, they may take the Certified Financial Crime Specialist certification and exam.
- Advanced Studies in Computer Forensics
This certification requires candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or computer science. Once they have earned their certificate, they may investigate illegal activities such as child pornography, terrorism, cyber-crime and fraud, espionage, and cyber-attacks.
- Certified Law Enforcement Analyst (CLEA)
This certification is offered by the International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA). The certification is based on a point system. On-the-job training, work experience, academic work, skills, and demonstrable abilities and knowledge accumulate points for the professional. This certification requires the applicant to hold at least three years’ full-time experience as a law enforcement analyst, in corrections, intelligence, or any related field.
- Certified Criminal Justice Addiction Professional (CCJP)
Professionals who wish to earn this certification must have a good understanding in addiction counseling, theoretical understanding, and counseling skills. They must also understand the criminal justice system, along with knowledge gained with advanced specialized training.
Careers for Criminal Justice Graduates
- Emergency Management Coordinator
An emergency management coordinator is a highly specialized professional. They plan out disaster responses or activities for crisis management. They also provide disaster preparedness training so that everyone in charge is prepared in the event of a disaster hitting within their state, whether natural or otherwise. This includes earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, or even technological disasters, such as emergencies with nuclear plants or spills of hazardous materials.
Emergency management coordinators develop tests, perform them with their team, and evaluate them according to both state and federal regulations. They also handle other duties, such as inspecting equipment and facilities (emergency centers and communications equipment) to ensure their operational and functional abilities are ready for emergencies.
- Forensic Psychologist
Television shows and movies have brought the work of forensic psychologists to viewers everywhere. The CSI television franchise often features forensic psychologists. While a real-life forensic psychologist may not work exactly as portrayed, they still have a passion for tracking down criminals by using forensic psychology to figure out what causes a suspect to act as they do.
A forensic psychologist uses psychological principles as they work with legal specialists, lawyers, and judges to understand the psychology behind a crime. Their cases may focus more on criminal, civil, or family cases.
- Social Work
Social workers focus their work on their clients’ life issues. These may include mental health, abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and substance abuse within a family. A clinical social worker may be responsible for meeting, evaluating, and diagnosing emotional, behavioral, or mental health issues.
Social workers should be empathetic, compassionate and have good critical thinking skills. Much of what the social work professional does involves maintaining accurate records, meeting with clients and other professionals who are also working with them, and offering support to their clients and their families.
- K9 Officer
This officer works closely with their law enforcement canine to ensure that laws are followed. They may also catch and detain criminals and suspects. There are not many of these criminal justice positions available for K9 officers in the country, so this makes landing such an assignment a big achievement for the officer.
These officers may work at all levels of government (state, local, federal). They may be assigned to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) or the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).
K9 officers may be paired with Doberman Pinschers, German shepherds, Rottweilers, and Belgian Malinois breeds. Other breeds, such as beagles and bloodhounds may work in sniffing out illegal substances and search and rescue or cadaver detection, respectively.
- Homeland Security Professional
A homeland security professional receives known potential threats and work to create new security measures intended to keep the threat from taking place. They may also work closely with CBP and other departments. These professionals also develop response plans to future emergencies that may not take place.
- Victim Advocate
Victim advocates work as the go-between for a victim of a crime and the criminal court. Using their knowledge, the advocate offers advice about how the criminal justice system and the legal community work.
Crime victims need to know their legal rights. They also need to know what is going to happen as their case goes through the criminal and court system. Because the victim may be required to be interviewed more than once during a police investigation and throughout the upcoming trial, the advocate works to help lessen the repeated trauma the victim experiences.