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What is Criminal Justice?
Louisiana, like every other state in the nation, has a growing need for criminal justice professionals. Even as the state economy grows, so does the criminal population. Not only do parishes need to hire more law enforcement officers, but industries, such as manufacturing facilities when the manufacturing industry grows, need to hire private security to ensure safety for the equipment, property, and even intellectual property that informs the products and processes there.
Since Louisiana is the only state in the nation that operates under the Napoleonic Code, law enforcement experts have a need for specialized education that helps them understand how to enforce the law. The Napoleonic code has special quirks that are vital for criminal justice students to understand, such as the fact that suspects are not considered innocent until proven guilty. For this reason, Louisiana's criminal justice educators are asked to be sure to provide the appropriate education to their students. This helps law enforcement work in conjunction with the state's legal system to keep the peace and ensure that criminals are handled properly.
Louisiana's public system of higher education is constantly striving to update its criminal justice rubric, curricula, and teaching methodology to ensure that the state's law enforcement and general criminal justice professionals are all the best prepared individuals possible. For instance, Louisiana's universities that offer forensics degrees keep up to date with the latest technologies and laboratory methods so that students are able to assess evidence as well as any other professionals in the nation.
Even Louisiana's business and computer science educators are engaged in helping the state fight crime. Accountants can take training to easily audit books to catch white collar criminals who are attempting to launder money. Louisiana's computer science departments train students in cyber security, which the state's industries and law enforcement depend on to maintain the state's infrastructure systems. For instance, without cyber security experts on the case, the state's healthcare systems might all fall victim to ransomware attackers. The state government, too, might fall victim to hackers who could disrupt every aspect of life for Louisiana state residents.
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Criminal Justice Education in Louisiana
Criminal justice is a popular college degree because it opens up many doors to gainful, rewarding employment. A criminal justice professional is a worker who focuses their efforts on law enforcement, rehabilitating criminals, or working on criminal cases in the legal system. These professionals can be found working in a variety of environments. Law enforcement, for example, is very diverse. Criminal justice professionals may work in crime labs where they analyze evidence including fibers, DNA, and blood. Others may work as detectives who investigate homicide, vice crimes, or even white-collar offenses. Then there are street police who pull over motorists and respond to 911 calls.
Criminal justice professionals can find work in every town in the nation. Even the smallest hamlet has a police office that needs to be staffed. Many criminal justice professionals also work for private security agencies, which have need wherever an asset needs protection. They can also work in the corrections system as prison guards, probation officers, or even social workers.
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Associate Degree in Criminal Justice (ADCJ)
This is a popular first degree for many aspiring criminal justice experts. An associate criminal justice degree from a local community college is typically far cheaper than the equivalent degree from a four-year institution, and it can still open many doors. With an associate criminal justice degree, students can start their careers as police officers, corrections officers, or even as paralegals who specialize in criminal cases.
Another option for a student with an associate criminal justice degree is to work as a private investigator, security specialist, or social worker. Private investigators can work with clients such as companies who need to uncover an embezzling employee, families who are missing a child or other loved one, or attorneys who need help gathering evidence for their case. Barring this career option, a two-year degree is a great way to land work with a security firm or in the corrections system as a probation officer, among other options.
Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice (BCJ)
With a bachelor’s criminal justice degree, career opportunities continue to increase. Graduates who hold a four-year degree in criminal justice can work in law enforcement at the detective level, which garners them higher pay and status. They will also have an easier time finding work in a private investigation firm, and attorneys prefer to hire a paralegal who holds a bachelor’s degree rather than one with an associate degree.
Those who are interested in forensics should also consider starting their career with at least a bachelor’s degree. A four-year degree will provide them with a thorough education in how to work in a lab. While many can get started with a biology degree, some colleges offer a forensics degree through their criminal justice department. This specialized training will help the degree holder land a job with a crime lab or with a police department. The most talented may land a job with the FBI or other federal level law enforcement agency.
Master's Degree in Criminal Justice (MCJ)
Criminal justice careers really improve when the professional has a master’s degree in criminal justice. Another option is an MBA with a concentration in criminal justice or public administration, which can be a boon to those who work in criminal justice administration. Those who are pursuing forensics can also benefit from a master of science in criminal justice. There are other options for criminal justice professionals, depending on their area of specialty.
For instance, there are forensic accountants and cyber security experts whose careers can benefit from a graduate degree. In the case of forensic accountants, it may be beneficial to pursue a dual MBA in which they focus on forensic accounting for their master’s degree and use their MBA to concentrate on finance. Yet another option is a master’s criminal justice degree paired with an MBA which concentrates on finance or accounting. Cyber security experts who work with law enforcement should evaluate their career goals and either gain advanced degrees in their tech focus or administrative matters.
PhD Degree in Criminal Justice (DCJ)
There are few law enforcement agencies that require a PhD for employment at any level. This level of expertise is more often found on the forensics side of law enforcement where a depth of knowledge in, say, DNA analysis will come in handy when it comes to solving cases. A PhD in criminal justice or public administration can also be helpful for those who want to work in government or for a private think tank that consults with law enforcement on improving its practices.
A PhD in criminal justice also comes in handy when it comes to working in academia. Criminal justice is a very popular degree for undergraduate students and Louisiana colleges and universities seek doctorate-level professors for their tenure track positions. It will help to complete a dissertation in a research area that a criminal justice department finds valuable for its curriculum. Teaching at the college level can be very rewarding, and PhDs may also find that they can consult with local law enforcement or even federal agencies, depending on their research focus.
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Become a Criminal Justice Professional in Louisiana
There are many ways to become a criminal justice professional in Louisiana. Since the field is so broad and diverse, positions can demand as little as a high school diploma or as much as a PhD in a highly technical field. Still, one thing bonds all criminal justice professionals, no matter their jobs, degrees, or desires. That is that they all have a sense of justice and a desire to see a society that is free of crime and chaos.
Youngsters may start their path to a criminal justice career when they play cops and robbers with their friends in the neighborhood. Others may be inspired by a police officer who helps solve some problem for them or their family. Many also are inspired by depictions of law enforcement in films and television shows. However, to launch a criminal justice career, students need special training.
One way that many gain training is through military service. While work as a military police officer may be optimal, regular infantry solders often return home to work in law enforcement or for security companies. Those officers who work more administrative jobs may also find work in the criminal justice system since they gain experience with logistics and managerial tasks.
For those who choose college, there are many options available. Students who have a love of science may pursue a career in forensics. For this, they will need to find a criminal justice department that offers forensics or else earn a degree in biology. Biology students can focus their resumes with internships in crime labs or alongside forensics units in their state or local police departments.
For those who are intrigued with fighting crime as forensic accountants or cyber security experts, a college degree is mandatory. To pursue their goals in the law enforcement community, it will be necessary to focus on their core field. However, that work should be informed with a minor concentration in criminal justice and internships with law enforcement agencies or affiliated bodies. Experts in these fields will also benefit from advanced degrees and industry certifications that strengthen their skills in forensic accounting or cyber security while also adding terrific credentials to their resumes.
Careers for Criminal Justice Graduates
These professionals work with psychologists in administering psychological tests. In the criminal justice field, a psychometrist may work with a forensic psychologist to help them assess a patient or client. A background in psychology and/or expertise in statistics will be beneficial in this career. To excel in this field, many pursue certification, which can be obtained by passing a professional examination.
- Social Work:
There is a growing movement that is calling for social workers to take a more active role in law enforcement and crime prevention. Social workers can also work in the correctional system to counsel prisoners and then help freed prisoners with assimilation back into society. While people can work as social workers without a college degree, a master of social work enables professionals to conduct individual therapy and help criminals uncover their true motivations.
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- Emergency Management Coordinator:
With climate change causing so much havoc in cities and states across the nation and world, there is a growing demand for this type of specialist. Emergency management coordinators are skilled at the logistics behind emergency response. They must be able to think logically and make split-second decisions that may determine the fate of an entire city.
- Forensic Accountant:
These specialized accountants don't see much limelight. The good guys in this field help uncover money launderers, embezzlement schemes, and other financial crimes. They may work with law enforcement but can also help divorce attorneys discover where an errant spouse has hidden their money.
- Forensic Psychologist:
This profession has been the focus of many movies and television shows where the forensic psychologist works as a criminal profiler. They also work with the state or attorneys to determine whether a suspect or prisoner is competent for trial. They may also work with criminal deviants in a psycho therapeutic environment to help them heal and rehabilitate.
Attorneys love hiring criminal justice majors to work in their criminal law practices. These legal professionals perform a number of tasks including filing documents with the court, conducting preliminary interviews with clients, and even investigations. This career can be quite lucrative and has a low bar to entry. Paralegals start their careers with anywhere from a high school diploma all the way through a bachelor’s degree. While a criminal justice, pre-law, or paralegal degree may be optimal, paralegals can also start with a humanities degree.
- Conservation Officer:
These workers focus their law enforcement duties on matters pertaining to the environment. They seek to protect endangered species or make sure that hunters and fishers obey the limits for their quarry. Conservation officers might also be on the lookout for those who dump toxic waste or trash illegally, chop down too many trees, or otherwise pose a threat to the local ecological system.
- Homeland Security Professional:
After 9/11 prompted the federal government to take a more proactive approach to terrorism and national security, the Department of Homeland Security was established. There are degrees that specialize in homeland security, but criminal justice students may also pursue a career with this agency.