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What is Criminal Justice?

Law enforcement officers (police, sheriff, state police, highway patrol) enforce laws and arrest violators of the law. They make arrests and investigate crimes. Federal agents, police investigators and detectives work in this area. This sector also includes programs and initiatives designed to prevent criminal activity from happening, which may be under the purview of crime prevention specialists. And police detectives, investigators, and federal agents often gather evidence and testify in court.

The courts prosecute cases and defend the people accused of crimes. This system also works to protect both victims and witnesses. The legal system studies and applies new laws to forbid and punish illegal actions. At the state and federal levels, prosecutors and defense lawyers try crimes and either convict or acquit defendants. City and district attorneys, attorneys general, and United States attorneys work at the local, state, and federal level.

Those defendants who have been convicted go into the correctional system (jails and prisons), where they are housed, detained, punished, and/or rehabilitated. Corrections officers guard prisoners and probation and parole officers interact with those who are never detained but who must report in to ensure they do not commit further crimes and those who have left jail but are still under watch to avoid recidivism (reoffending). Rehabilitation specialists and corrections counselors work to rehabilitate prisoners, while wardens oversee the jails and prisons.

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Criminal Justice Education in Maine

Maine’s top 10 industries may all, at some point, need assistance from criminal justice professionals across the spectrum — these industries include educational services, healthcare, and social assistance, among others. Social assistance offices may need the protection of a security guard or obtain referrals through calls for mental health disturbances. Retail and wholesale trade also often require security guards and may need protection or investigation in the case of robberies and other crimes that happen in public.

Tourism is another industry in the region that has really grown, particularly at the Acadia National Park, where people from all over the U.S. and around the world to visit. Baxter State Park is the northernmost limit of the Appalachian Trail, which also draws its share of tourists. Conservation officers are a part of the criminal justice profession and are a large part of the personnel at both parks.

In Maine, 10,230 criminal justice professionals were employed all over the state in recent years. This covers law enforcement personnel, corrections officers, firefighters, and personnel employed by the court system. The annual mean wage in this field is close to $81,000.

Criminal justice involves more than some might think and expands from the police to the court system, and, for those convicted of crimes, corrections positions.

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Maine criminal justice professionals work through a variety of systems. These are law enforcement, the court system, and corrections. Each system has its own goals.

Associate Degree in Criminal Justice (AS)

At the community college level, criminal justice degree programs offer prospective students who want to work in this profession the understanding and knowledge they need to be successful. Criminal justice curriculum offers hands-on experiential learning to the students in many schools. This is intended to help students connect their theoretical, conceptual awareness of the criminal justice system to the real-world.

Students who attend accredited schools should be able to transfer into a four-year college or university; enter entry-level positions in law enforcement, private security, court positions, or corrections; and they will also be ready to apply to the Maine Criminal Justice Academy’s Law Enforcement Pre-Service Training program or enter the Basic Law Enforcement Training Program.

Should graduates want to begin working in law enforcement, they may find positions as municipal police officers, state troopers, game wardens, fire marshals, dispatchers, loss prevention workers, fraud investigators, victim witness advocates, corrections officer or probation officer, marine patrol officer, or game wardens. The great thing about criminal justice is the number of positions available to those with only an associate degree.

Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice (BS)

These undergraduate programs help students be competitive when applying for positions in the field. A bachelor’s degree will ensure that they are seriously considered for job openings, though they will also need to attend a pre-service training program in order to be accepted as police trainees and in other positions. Students are exposed to both direct experiences and classroom learning at this level, and they gain more knowledge than those who only earn an associate degree.

College credits include general education and criminal justice core and elective courses such as Evidence, Serial Homicide, Advanced Criminology, Constitutional Rights of Prisoners, Violence and Aggression, Federal Careers, Advanced Critical Skills, Research Methods and Statistics, Organizational Communication, Constitutional Law, Report Writing and Testifying, Forensic Psychology, Domestic Violence Law, Victimology, Civil Liability, Critical Skills, Motor Vehicle Law, Homeland Security, Fire Investigation, Juvenile Delinquency, Crime in Film, Terrorism, Psychology and the Legal System, A View from Prison, and others.

Career opportunities include local and state law enforcement, court administration, probation officer (pre- and post-adjudication), community corrections, research opportunities, and other opportunities.

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

In this advanced degree program, graduate students are exposed to criminology and criminal justice learning at a higher level. For example, a Master of Science in Criminology degree teaches students to get into the criminal’s mind — this is a vital skill in today’s law enforcement environment. Here, students are able to get the insight they need about crime causation and they learn how to read and understand data so that they can create real change.

These types of degree programs are focused on leadership development within a criminal justice career and some of them are available 100% online.

Some of the common courses include Criminological Theory, Juvenile Delinquency & Youth Crime, Organizational Policy & Change, Applied Statistical Analyses for the Social Sciences, and Analysis of Police Operations. A few potential careers may include the Department of Corrections, a city police department, state Attorney General’s Office, and a youth development center.

PhD Degree in Criminal Justice (PhD)

A Doctor of Philosophy in Criminology and Criminal Justice or similar degree will guide students through their courses, instructing them in carrying out interdisciplinary research as they teach at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Doctoral candidates will instruct their students in areas of criminology/criminal justice, depending on their areas of specialization. Doctoral graduates will have the background they need to work in analytical and administrative leadership posts. These careers may be in domestic and international research and policy institutions.

The program also equips doctoral graduates to become policy managers, analysts and administrators in community and criminal justice venues, helping to protect crime or to respond effectively to violators.

This program helps hone doctoral candidates who will be able to stand at the front of a growing frontier in criminology and the criminal justice system. Upon graduating, they will have the tools to focus on crime control and to address criminal justice policy issues using high-level research.

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Become a Criminal Justice Professional in Maine

Those who wish to work as state police are required by the state of Maine to meet some minimum qualifications. These include being 21 years of age and completing Basic Law Enforcement Training, not have a criminal record, pass a physical fitness test, and more. Law enforcement personnel who want to advance in this profession can consider certificates or certifications. The certifications they select should fit their current degree or career trajectory. There are many options available; you can see some of them below.

  • Certified Digital Forensics Examiner (CDFE)

    This certification is offered by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS). They offer this online study program and exam to officers who may already be employed to detect computer fraud. Some topics covered include USB Forensics, Disk Storage Concepts, Digital Evidence, Digital Forensics Reporting, and Cell Phone Forensics.

    Police officers will study incidents involving cyber-crime, terrorism, child pornography, espionage, fraud, and cyber-attacks. They also learn about the tools and techniques used in this type of law enforcement work. These include acquisition, preservation, and recovery, as well as analysis of evidence obtained. Police officers can also earn a Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator Certificate (CHFI).

  • Court and Judicial Security Certification
    This certification allows police officers to expand their ability to move into other areas of law enforcement. Courthouses and courtrooms need security. The National Sheriff’s Association, together with the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) Corrections Academy offers training to staff members and police officers who want to make themselves more employable.
  • Paralegal Certificate
    This certification is intended for graduates who hold their associate or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. It expands opportunities for employment of paralegals may within the criminal justice field. Colleges offer these paralegal certificate programs, which may require between 18 and 60 credit hours. By the time you complete the course, you may have earned the equivalent of an associate degree. These programs help graduates to increase their knowledge in family law, civil litigation, legal writing, ethics, tort law, and legal research.

Careers for Criminal Justice Graduates

  • Psychometrists

    These mental health professionals provide diagnostic tests to people who may be suffering from neurological diseases, mild to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), psychological health problems, or learning disabilities. At this level, they are required to carry out their duties while under the general supervision of licensed neuropsychologists or psychologists.

    In testing clients, the psychometrist works closely with the individual; they may work with the clients for an extended time frame. However, those who work within the criminal justice system may provide tests for a variety of inmates upon request of a lawyer, law enforcement or investigatory agency, or a warden.

  • Emergency Management Coordinator

    Emergency management coordinators take charge of both technical and administrative responsibilities that aid local emergency management programs (private organizations, municipalities, government agencies, and others).

    These professionals set up plans and provide training and management in preparation for possible emergencies such as technological malfunctions, natural disasters, or aggression from outside groups. The coordinator should be able to build relationships with other departments and municipalities and create workable plans to handle any emergencies that develop.

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  • Forensic Psychologist

    These professional uses the principles of psychology in their work within the justice system. They may evaluate a defendant’s mental state so that it can be determined whether any mental illness may affect their criminal liability in a case.

    They may also recommend treatment if the defendant is found to need it. If the defendant’s mental illness is severe enough, they may need to be involuntarily committed to a mental health facility.

  • Paralegal

    Paralegals work under the supervision of an attorney and the work they produce is used in conjunction with the attorney’s work. However, paralegals cannot provide legal advice or do anything that is only supposed to be done by a licensed attorney.

    Paralegals can and do carry out client interviews and maintain contact with, locate, and interview witnesses, as well as performing investigation and research tasks and statistical research.

    They draft legal documents and correspondence and summarize testimony, interrogatories, and depositions. They may also write and sign correspondence as long as their paralegal status is clearly noted on the document.

  • Conservation Officer

    Conservation officers take care of the natural resources in their area; they work to secure these areas, protect them, and work with conservationists to keep them healthy.

    Some of their responsibilities include following technical standards and specifications in managing, protecting, and improving natural resources; helping with research projects or studies to provide sustained production of wildlife, livestock, and forage; patrolling backcountry areas and other sites; provide emergency services; and managing wildlife/human interactions on roadways or campgrounds.

  • K9 Officer

    A K9 officer works closely with a police dog, helping to enforce laws and catch criminals. These positions are rare but attractive assignments.

    They may work in federal, local, or state law enforcement or with the military. Agencies that hire K9 handlers include the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Their general duties depend on their specialty. In short, they carry out the duties of a police officer, with a trained dog as their partner.

  • Homeland Security Professional
    A homeland security agent should hold a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, or a related degree. They may work in the Management Directorate, Citizenship and Immigration Services, National Cybersecurity Center, Military Advisor’s Office, and more.


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