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What is Criminal Justice?

Criminal justice professionals perform work related to creating and upholding societal laws, rules, and agencies meant to keep people accountable for their actions. Those interested in the field should realize that there is no single criminal justice system; rather, there are numerous systems working in tandem to achieve common goals. As a result, prospective professionals will have opportunities to choose from a wide variety of important jobs in prominent sectors such as law enforcement, the court system, politics, advocacy, and corrections. In most cases, it’s relatively easy to find criminal justice professions that align well with personal interests and/or passions.

With so many different opportunities, it’s difficult to identify a specific set of responsibilities for criminal justice professionals. Daily tasks can vary significantly depending on several factors including job type, employer preference, and local population size. Even positions within the same system often have unique descriptions. Fortunately, the skills learned through most academic criminal justice programs can be applied to many different settings.

The best criminal justice professionals have strong aptitudes for communication, empathy, and leadership. Perceptiveness and good judgement is also essential. Additionally, some level of physical strength and stamina can be beneficial. Those in this field must be able to determine the best way to solve a wide array of issues without escalating the situation.

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Criminal Justice Education in Idaho

Are you considering pursuing a criminal justice degree in Idaho? This type of program is often ideal for individuals interested in law enforcement and legal advocacy. The criminal justice field is particularly versatile, with a wide variety of career options available to those with the appropriate education and training. Program graduates often develop numerous skills that qualify them for jobs related to individual and/or community safety. They also gain several abilities and assets that be easily transferred to other professions.

Some of the most notable career paths in criminal justice include:

  • Criminology
  • Cyber Security
  • Emergency Management
  • Forensic Science
  • Fire Science
  • Homeland Security

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in protective service occupations is expected to increase by 3% from 2019 to 2029. This may seem like somewhat insignificant growth, but it is comparable to most other professions. It’s expected that this projected growth will account for approximately 95,200 new positions in the field.

Protective and criminal justice services are not considered large industries in Idaho, but professionals performing this type of work are essential to the state. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, protective service occupations accounted for 13,320 Idaho jobs in 2020. The annual mean wage for Idaho professionals in this field was $47,490, which is higher than the national median.

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There are a wide range of employment opportunities available for criminal justice professionals in Idaho, and the need for qualified employees is not likely to diminish any time soon. The field is also supported by numerous private companies and organizations that require and benefit from security services.

Prospective criminal justice students will have little trouble finding an accredited program in Idaho. Many public and private colleges and universities in the state offer degrees of this type. Online and virtual learning classes also make it possible to complete coursework from anywhere with consistent internet connection. It’s recommended, however, that individuals who plan to work in Idaho strongly consider enrolling in a school within the state. These institutions tend to understand the needs of local employers better and ensure the knowledge and skills gained are regionally appropriate for the job market.

Associate Degree in Criminal Justice (AS)

You can find criminal justice employment opportunities at the federal, state, and local levels, with additional jobs available in the private sector as well. In order to accommodate the field’s varying needs, there are academic programs at every level, from associate to doctorate. Your personal career goals will dictate the type of education necessary to be successful. While a high school diploma or GED may suffice for many entry-level positions, some jobs require candidates have a master’s degree prior to applying. Research your preferred professional carefully prior to enrolling in a criminal justice program.

An associate degree in criminal justice is ideal for students interested in gaining a basic introduction to the field. Graduates at this level are generally qualified for most entry-level employment opportunities including, but not limited to, police officer, correctional officer, and private investigator. Other common jobs for individuals with associate degrees are security guard, surveillance specialist, fire inspector, paralegal, or legal assistant.

A popular alternative to gaining employment after earning an associate degree in criminal justice is to pursue further education. Courses at the associate-level also often help students gauge their overall interest in the field. Those who are interested in obtaining more advanced positions can then transfer credits earned and enroll in a related bachelor’s degree program after graduation. This method is often less expensive than attending a traditional, four-year institution for all four years of your undergraduate education.

Most associate degrees in criminal justice consist of 60 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately two years to complete. Some colleges and universities do offer accelerated programs that can be completed in as little as 18 months. Every curriculum is different, but common instructional topics include American government, law enforcement, judicial processes, and critical thinking.

Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice (BS)

Some criminal justice professions require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree. Notably, however, even the employers who do not require bachelor’s degrees often give preference to candidates who have them. This is because individuals with higher-level degrees are often perceived as more knowledgeable and better qualified. As a result, professionals with bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice tend to have an easier time finding and maintaining employment.

This type of degree often prepares students for careers in legal studies, social services, and criminal investigation. The most accessible employment opportunities available after graduation include guidance counselor, child safety advocate, social worker, crime scene investigator, and homeland security specialist. They may also be able to apply for federal positions with the FBI and/or CIA.

Alternatively, graduates can choose to pursue even more advanced degrees in criminal justice. Professionals possessing graduate degrees usually enjoy additional employment opportunities, promote faster, and earn more money.

Most bachelor’s degree programs in criminal justice consist of 120 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately four years to complete. Common courses include criminology, judicial administration, and legal traditions. Instruction typically places an emphasis on the importance of research guidelines and writing.

Master's Degree in Criminal Justice (MS or MC)

Those interested in obtaining leadership roles in the field will likely need a master’s degree in criminal justice. New and current professionals often utilize this type of advanced education to progress their careers further. Graduates are generally qualified to take on more responsibilities, which results in them applying higher-paying supervisory roles.

Many criminal justice master’s degree programs range from 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework. Full-time students can complete requirements in two years, but part-time students may need three to five years. Coursework varies, but instruction tends to focus more on management, data analytics, organizational strategies, and decision-making. Many colleges and university also incorporate a combination of career-related electives, internships, and research projects into their programs.

PhD Degree in Criminal Justice (PhD)

A PhD in criminal justice is not a common requirement for employment in the field, but high-level positions in research and academics can necessitate this type of degree. Programs typically consist of between 50 and 75 credit hours and take full-time students about five to seven years to complete. Prior to graduation, those enrolled often conduct independent studies and are responsible for writing dissertations.

Alternatively, individuals can pursue doctorates in business administration (DBA). While seemingly unrelated, this degree helps prepare students for leadership roles within the criminal justice system. Upper management and executive professionals, for example, often earn DBAs. Coursework varies somewhat, but students can expect classes to cover key topics in leadership theory, strategic thinking, consulting, and intervention practices. This type of degree can usually be completed within six years.

Both the PhD in criminal justice and the DBA result in advanced mastery over theory and practice. As a result, graduates gain access to some of the best jobs in the field. The most common employment opportunities include postsecondary criminal justice professor, social service director, information systems manager, forensic scientist, and police chief.

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Become a Criminal Justice Professional in Idaho

There are many ways to pursue a career in criminal justice in Idaho. A good first step, however, is identifying which part of the field you are most drawn to. This will help you determine which academic program is most appropriate. Whether you want to work in law enforcement or serve as a victim advocate in the court system, it’s imperative that you select a degree type and level that supports your ultimate career goals.

Knowing your entire academic and career plan prior to enrolling is not entirely necessary, however. Because the field is so vast, criminal justice programs are often specifically designed to expose students to various aspects early. Many colleges and universities offer opportunities to select a concentration after a couple years of study, ensuring those enrolled have plenty of time to explore their interests and options.

Some of the most common criminal justice specializations include:

  • Crime Scene Investigation
  • Homeland Security
  • Legal Studies

Additionally, those pursing bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees in criminal justice will often need to complete internships. While generally unpaid, these positions provide students with hands-on experience working in the field and can lead to employment opportunities after graduation.

The state of Idaho does not require armed or unarmed security guards or even private investigators, to be licensed. There may be, however, some employers who expect employees to obtain certain credentials prior to or after being hired. Additionally, individuals planning to start their own businesses will need to acquire business licenses. Criminal justice professionals can also choose to earn certification from field-specific organizations. As every job is different, it is important to research requirements thoroughly prior to applying.

Many also benefit from joining criminal justice professional organizations. These offer a wide variety of benefits including ample opportunities to network, access to field-related resources, discounted admittance to conferences, and continuing education classes. Networking is particularly important in the criminal justice field, as the sharing of knowledge and ideas is paramount to improving cohesiveness and effectiveness.

Some of the most prominent associations, societies, and organizations include:

  • Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences
  • American Academy of Forensic Sciences
  • American Correctional Association
  • American Society of Criminology
  • International Association of Law Enforcement Planners
  • International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology
  • National Criminal Justice Association

Careers for Criminal Justice Graduates

After earning a criminal justice degree and acquiring the necessary or preferred certifications, you will be qualified to apply for a wide variety of positions in Idaho.

Salaries and daily duties will vary, but some of the most common career options include:

  • Emergency Management Coordinator
  • Forensic Accountant
  • Forensic Psychologist
  • Paralegal
  • Social Worker
  • Conversation Officer
  • K9 Officer
  • Homeland Security Professional
  • State Trooper
  • Victim Advocate
  • Substance Abuse Counselor
  • Police Officer
  • Police Supervisor
  • Corrections Officer
  • Corrections Manager
  • Probation Officer
  • Parole Officer
  • Private Investigator
  • Crime Scene Investigator
  • Crime Scene / Forensic Science Technician
  • Lab Scientist
  • Crime Prevention Specialist
  • Secret Service Agent
  • Detective
  • State Trooper / State Highway Patrol
  • Criminal Justice Professor
  • Social Worker
    Social workers help patients and their families work through a wide variety of emotional and social problems. These professionals often coordinate support groups, facilitate educational workshops, and provide referrals. They also advocate for their patients and ensure they have all the resources necessary to successfully overcome issues. According to PayScale, social workers make an average base salary of $48,900 per year.
  • Paralegal
    Paralegals perform legal research for the lawyers they work with. These professionals often provide attorneys with various support services such as meeting with clients, assisting with filing documentation, and appearing in court. They may also conduct interviews, edit pleadings, and help review legal documents as needed. According to PayScale, paralegals make an average base salary of $49,100 per year.

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  • Crime Prevention Specialist
    Crime prevention specialists work with various industries to prevent accidents and provide safety training. These professionals often help companies and organizations save on long-term costs associate with illness, theft, and workplace accidents. They must be able to communicate with others efficiently in order to do their job well. According to PayScale, crime prevention specialists make an average base salary of $36,900 per year.
  • Crime Scene Investigator (CSI)
    Crime scene investigators secure areas where crimes have occurred, performing thorough examinations and collecting related evidence. These professionals often determine what scenes to investigate and what evidence to examine during unattended natural death, accident, suicide, and homicide cases. They also supervise and monitor the work of forensic investigators. According to PayScale, crime scene investigators make an average base salary of $48,300 per year.
  • Probation Officer
    Probation officers work with criminal offenders to help them avoid committing further misconduct. These professionals are often responsible for ensuring that dangerous criminals remain in prison. They regularly work with law enforcement, the courts, sentencing judges, accused suspects, and convicts. According to PayScale, probation officers make an average base salary of $44,450 per year.
  • Substance Abuse Counselor
    Substance abuse counselors diagnose and treat people who struggle with substance use and abuse issues. These professionals work with patients to pinpoint and eliminate possible triggers and develop individualized treatment plans. They regularly meet with patients one-on-one and in group settings. According to PayScale, substance abuse counselors make an average base hourly rate of $17.72, or $40,250 per year.
  • State Trooper
    State troopers perform duties often associated with police officers, such as taking suspects into custody and filing the necessary paperwork. These professionals regularly patrol assigned areas and work to obtain information about alleged crimes. They may also perform searches and arrests when necessary. According to PayScale, state troopers make an average base salary of $56,150 per year.

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