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What is Criminal Justice?

Criminal justice professionals have usually been through specific training and, possibly, have earned a college degree in the field. The range of careers in this field is wide and can include police officers to criminologists, security managers, agents of federal law enforcement organizations such as the CIA and FBI, or even lawyers or court bailiffs. Because of this breadth of actual career options, it can be hard to pin down exactly what your responsibilities as a criminal justice professional will be. They will depend greatly on what role you choose and which side of law enforcement or criminal justice you end up on.

Law enforcement professionals are required to have particular criminal justice skills but, depending on the criminal justice professional’s role, those skills can vary widely. Police officers and lawyers must have excellent communication skills. However, officers will need to also have some level of physical fitness, while lawyers will need to memorize and understand case law in their field. Paralegals also need to understand case law and be able to research, perform interviews, and create documentation for court cases. Having a strong ethical grounding is also vital for individuals working in this field.

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Criminal Justice Education in Indiana

Even as high school and college students are thinking of their futures and potential careers, they may not give much thought to where their probable careers land on their state’s list of top industries.

Indiana’s top industries include:

  • Transportation and warehousing ($13.2 billion)
  • Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services ($13.5 billion)
  • Construction ($14.1 billion)
  • Retail trade ($20.1 billion)
  • Wholesale trade ($20.6 billion)
  • Finance and insurance ($21.2 billion)
  • Professional and business services ($31.7 billion)
  • Educational services, healthcare, and social assistance ($35 billion)
  • Real estate, rental, and leasing ($36.3 billion)
  • Manufacturing ($100.7 billion)

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Looking at how the state ranks in its employment of criminal justice professionals, first-line supervisors of correctional officers saw an increase in employment of 3.2% in May 2020. Other protective service occupations also saw increases during this time frame—but they weren’t as large. Correctional officers and jailers saw an increase of 0.88%, detectives and criminal investigators saw an increase of 0.38%, and fish and game wardens saw increased employment of 1.09%.

Prospective criminal justice professionals will want to look at what career options most interest them to learn what entry-level education is required. Police officers may only need a high school diploma or its equivalent. Crime scene investigators may be required to earn a bachelor’s degree. Detectives and investigators may only need a high school diploma or GED, but they will also require years of experience within a police department and to pass certain tests to gain the rank of detective.

If they choose to view the national employment for adjudicators, administrative law judges, or hearing officers, students can see that a little more than 13,000 are employed across the country. In stark contrast, correctional officers and jailers hold more than 455,000 positions. Court reporters are employed at the rate of more than 3,100,000 and Indiana employs 660 of these professionals. Detectives and criminal investigators hold more than 110,000 positions in the US and, in Indiana, this number is more than 1,200.

Associate Degree in Criminal Justice (AS)

At the associate level, students learn material which helps them to prepare for criminal justice careers at the entry-level; or it may allow them to transfer their community college credits to an Indiana four-year university and complete a bachelor’s.

There are criminal justice degree programs that prepare students for careers in law enforcement, corrections, private or business security, court services, investigation, probation or parole, and much more. A good criminal justice program should expose students to different sectors of the field. These include corrections and probation, law enforcement, court services, and public, private, and business security, as well as forensics or cyber security.

Students should also gain exposure to different activities and job roles as they advance and prepare to earn their criminal justice degrees. This can be done through hands-on training or internships within the appropriate field. While a high school diploma or associate degree might be enough to get you into police academy training, those who wish to advance in their career or work in a science-focused position (such as a crime scene investigator), it might be advisable to plan to complete a bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice (BS)

People who want to become criminal justice professionals should check out the best criminal justice schools in Indiana. Once they find one and have been admitted, they will be ready to gain all the knowledge they will need to become a criminal justice professional. A Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice will provide a broad foundation in the field, as well as knowledge in criminology and, depending on the degree, courses and training in forensics.

If students are looking for a basic criminal justice degree as a precursor to a career in law enforcement or a law degree, then they should have no problem finding the degree for them. However, those who are looking to go into criminal profiling, CSI, or another specialized position should take extra time to review the curricula of several degree programs so that they can find the perfect program for them.

Once the student has obtained the skills and knowledge a criminal justice professional needs, they will be ready to find a job in the field. Of the four degree levels available, a bachelor’s degree usually teaches students about the origin of criminal law and its nature.

Careers that graduates may choose to enter include the following:

  • Military
  • State Agencies
  • Federal Agencies
  • Corrections Facilities
  • Private Security

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

Graduate students who are planning to return to school for their Master of Science in Criminal Justice will find programs focused on criminology, public safety, emergency management, and more. These types of criminal justice degree programs, which may be offered by some universities or colleges in Indiana, tend to help students improve their analytical skills, develop empirical knowledge, and have at least a theoretical understanding of criminal justice administration. They are likely to become familiar with concepts and knowledge that can expand their eventual career choices.

Students may also choose to earn an MBA with a concentration that focused on criminal justice. This may be in criminology or emergency management. No matter what concentration you choose, there are likely to be plenty of career opportunities for those who wish to move into administration within the criminal justice system.

Among the careers graduates may enter are positions in federal, local, and state corrections, private security, law enforcement or justice administration, emergency management, and crime and intelligence analysis.

PhD Degree in Criminal Justice (PhD)

Graduate students who are entering a PhD criminal justice degree program and working toward earning an advanced criminal justice degree in Indiana learn far more than simple histories of law enforcement and methods of justice administration. One Indiana Criminal Justice PhD program focuses on both cross-cultural and interdisciplinary inquiry.

Doctoral students learn to apply their knowledge to research technical discoveries, including training they may have obtained from other related disciplines. Faculty, and by extension students, in these programs work with other departments such as law, developmental science, anthropology, political science, public health, sociology, psychology, and others, offering truly interdisciplinary instruction.

Students benefit from faculty research in the US and other countries and, as they complete their degree, they are encouraged to begin new lines of inquiry as prompted by their own interests and experiences. As students begin working on research, they benefit from faculty mentors who provide training in the theoretical and methodological skills the students need at this level. Once students receive their PhD or doctoral degrees, they should be ready to begin or earn promotions in academic or research careers in criminal justice sciences.

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Become a Criminal Justice Professional in Indiana

Becoming a criminal justice professional in Indiana does not require a PhD, or even a master’s, for most positions. Indeed, the requirements for entry into an Indiana police training academy are similar to requirements in other states. These include that an applicant be at least 21 years of age, a citizen of the US, have earned a high school diploma or GED, not have a felony record, pass a background and financial check, and similar requirements.

Finding your way into the position of detective or police chief will require this and the added experience of having worked within a police department. The requirements for other positions, such as lawyer or paralegal or crime scene investigator, include other forms of education and experience. If you are interested in these paths, you can talk to an academic advisor or check out the government website for crime scene certification, which is done by the Crime Scene Certification Committee.

Criminal justice professionals with degrees from any level may benefit from earning professional certifications appropriate to their criminal justice positions. If they are looking for new positions in their fields, they should also make note of any certification requirements for certain positions. You might find certifications offered by criminal justice-focused professional associations such as the American Correctional Association (ACA), the Federal Bar Association (FBA), the Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Units (LEIU), and High Technology Crime Investigation Association (HTCIA), and more.

Just some of the certifications you might earn to advance your career include those in forensic science, security and protective services, corrections, and others.

Careers for Criminal Justice Graduates

  • Forensic Accountant
    By examining financial data, a forensic accountant can discover where missing funds have been sent. They may also figure out how to recover that money. As a part of their regular duties, these professionals write reports and present their findings as evidence in hearings. They may be called to testify as expert witnesses. The work of a forensic accountant is vital to public accounting and consulting firms, law enforcement agencies, insurance companies, and law firms.
  • Forensic Psychologist
    Forensic psychologists may also be referred to as criminal profilers. They may work with law enforcement agencies, developing a short profile of criminals. In their profession, a forensic psychologist may be asked to study the behaviors of criminals, focusing on anything from psychological theories to legal questions. Forensic psychologists may also study criminal justice and clinical psychology.
  • Paralegal

    Paralegals work alongside and under the supervision of an attorney. Their paperwork is combined with the paperwork the attorney produces and they file many documents with the court.

    A paralegal’s regular duties may include locating and interviewing witnesses, conducting client interviews, carrying out legal and statistical research, writing legal documents, pleadings, and correspondence, etc. They may also provide summaries of interrogatories, depositions, testimony, and attend the executions of real state closings, wills, depositions, trials, and court or administrative hearings with the attorney.

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  • Conservation Officer
    The duties of a conservation officer may include serving as a uniformed law enforcement officer within the Department of Natural Resources, enforcing and upholding all state and federal statutes. The conservation officer also enforces laws, rules, and regulations regarding permits and licenses for trapping, fishing, and hunting as well as the use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and snowmobiles. Some focus on forest fire prevention.
  • State Trooper
    State troopers support to local law enforcement agencies and deal with highways and larger public safety issues. They may patrol neighborhoods and areas when trouble is suspected, monitor and control traffic on state-owned highways and federal interstates, respond to emergency and non-emergency situations, make arrests, record details and events in reports, help in crime scene investigations, monitor suspects, search vehicles and buildings, and gather and secure evidence.
  • Victim Advocate
    A victim advocate is a source of emotional and technical support to crime victims. They offer victims’ rights information, emotional support, and valuable help in finding resources the victim may need. Depending on the situation, an advocate’s responsibilities may vary. Advocates may provide crisis intervention, resources and referrals, and data on victimization. They also provide assistance in filling out a Crime Victims Compensation application and any other paperwork required.

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