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What is Criminal Justice?

Nebraska is predominantly an agricultural state. Farmers there primarily grow corn. In fact, Nebraska is one of the top three corn-producing states in the nation. That likely places the state in the top rankings worldwide. However, Nebraska's agricultural production is about more than just the raw materials. Much of the corn is processed into ethanol and the livestock raised there is processed into various foodstuffs and other products. Thus, manufacturing turns out to be Nebraska's top industry.

Close behind manufacturing is Nebraska's finance and insurance industry, real estate, business services, and social services such as education and healthcare. This all means that Nebraska is not so different from the rest of the states. While the state may have more farms and agricultural products, its economics are roughly the same. Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and corn. Nebraska also has difficulties with crime and other social ills.

A criminal justice professional is a person who works with the investigation, prosecution, or incarceration of criminals in the United States system(s) of justice. We may automatically think of patrol police when we think of criminal justice as a profession, but the field also includes workers such as jailers, social workers, probation officers, paralegals, and private investigators, among others.

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Online Criminal Justice Education in Nebraska

To address the crime issue, Nebraska's colleges and universities are busy educating students in their criminal justice departments. Colleges all over the state strive to recruit the very best academics to their departments. That often means recruiting degreed professionals from Nebraska who have experience with the criminal justice system in the state. After all, Nebraska has its own unique qualities when it comes to crime. Law enforcement and other criminal justice professionals in Nebraska face different demographics than their peers in New York City or small-town Georgia. When educators are able to make the academic material relevant to the situations their students will face, students reap great benefits, as do the communities they serve.

Criminal justice exists under a few broad umbrellas. There are criminal justice professionals working at the local, state, and national levels. While most work for a government agency of some sort, many also work in private enterprise. Private investigators work in the private sector but then many prisons and jails also operate as for-profit, non-governmental enterprises that contract with local, state, or national governmental agencies.

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Thus, criminal justice professionals may work in a variety of environments. There are patrol police who drive or walk around their district all day and there are detectives who may focus on financial crimes and spend a lot of their time on a computer. These days, computer scientists have entered the field as they are needed to investigate cyber-crimes.

Online Associate Degree in Criminal Justice (AS)

For those who are eager to launch a career but aren't ready to commit to a full bachelor’s criminal justice degree program, a local or online associate criminal justice degree option awaits their enrollment. Many Nebraska community colleges offer criminal justice as a certificate or degree program. They may also offer paralegal or legal studies degrees for those who would prefer to work in the legal system. Those seeking the associate degree will complete the core college curriculum, which will be helpful later on if they choose to pursue a bachelor’s criminal justice degree.

Students in an associate criminal justice degree program may have the option of pursuing their degree online. This may be helpful for those in remote farming villages in Nebraska. Their local community college may not offer criminal justice, but another community college across the state may offer it through an online degree program. Upon graduation, those with an associate degree are likely to have better job opportunities and higher salary offers than those with no degree, but they can do better still if they choose to complete a bachelor’s degree as that is the most common entry-level degree in the country.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice (BS)

Online criminal justice degrees can become far more in-depth and nuanced in a bachelor’s criminal justice degree program. Nebraska's four-year colleges and universities may offer a range of criminal justice concentrations that include forensics, forensic accounting, cyber security, or even forensic psychology. A bachelor’s criminal justice degree is vital for those who are interested in working in a crime lab where they spend their time scrutinizing blood samples, fibers, and even DNA evidence.

A full online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is also important for those who want to enter law enforcement at the federal level. The FBI, CIA, and department of homeland security all favor, if not require, bachelor’s degrees. This requirement is more pronounced when it comes to those working in the crime lab or with cyber-crimes, who must earn a focused degree that gives them the required skills for that employment option. Furthermore, a bachelor’s degree is a necessary prerequisite for those who want to pursue an advanced degree in forensics, public administration, or even an MBA.

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

Even criminal justice professionals may seek out an online master’s degree. An online graduate criminal justice degree can be a great boon to criminal justice professionals who wish to advance their job position and earnings, especially if they want to move into administration of an entire department. In fact, workers in any part of the criminal justice field can make good use of a master’s degree.

Those who are interested in moving up in their local or state government might consider an MBA or a master’s degree in public administration. They may also combine the two with an MBA that includes a concentration in public administration. There are also dual MBA programs, in which students can pair their business administration degree with another in public administration, computer science, or even forensic accounting. The options are practically limitless, so students should determine what they want to accomplish with their master’s degree and then find a suitable graduate degree program. Since Nebraska's colleges and universities may not support every sort of online master’s criminal justice degree option, students can find their specific degree online.

Online PhD Degree in Criminal Justice (PhD)

The peak academic achievement is a PhD or doctorate degree in criminal justice, or some related field. Workers in the criminal justice field are not terribly likely to seek out this level of scholarship. However, there are some who have a deep passion for the field and will earn this level of degree. This achievement may be most often useful for those who want to work in higher education as a college professor. However, PhDs might also choose to pursue a career as a consultant to criminal justice departments. This may be more common for those who earn a doctorate in forensic psychology or a laboratory forensics as this allows them a higher level of expertise that can make it common for them to be called upon as expert witness.

Criminal justice professionals may also pursue a PhD if they want to work as research faculty in a college or university. This way they can continue to pursue their research passions without having to teach or satisfy the requirements demanded of regular faculty. Nevertheless, a researcher can earn tenure and continue to work for their university so long as they can keep their funding.

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Become a Criminal Justice Professional in Nebraska

Nebraskans who are interested in criminal justice can become a criminal justice professional by taking a few important steps. The first of these steps is to decide what specific area of criminal justice most appeals to them. That is, are they interested in enforcing laws at the police level, or maybe they would rather seek out higher order criminals such as those that interest the FBI or Department of Homeland Security. Others may have talent in accounting but also a desire to chase down bad guys who can only be caught by way of a detailed accounting audit. This is common in white collar crime cases.

The first step to success in criminal justice is to find the appropriate degree program. For those with limited time, an associate criminal justice degree may be the best first stop on the way to a career. Students who have a strong criminal justice program offered in a local community college will appreciate the convenience. However, some may want to seek an online associate criminal justice degree program that will suit their specific needs. After all, there are many different avenues to take under the broad umbrella of criminal justice.

Those who start with an associate criminal justice degree can seek out employment upon graduation. This may be difficult for those who wish to work in one of the more technical areas such as forensic accounting, psychology, or laboratory investigations. However, there may be entry-level or support positions available that will provide exposure and perhaps a smattering of experience. Note that cyber security investigators may be able to use their associate cyber security degree in pursuit of an entry-level job.

It should be noted that many criminal justice jobs don't require a degree. It may surprise many, but police officers only need a high school diploma to work, though they must pass a training course approved by the state. The same can be said of corrections officers, private investigators, and even paralegals, though paralegals are most certainly helped by a degree. Thus, it may be possible to gain some experience in criminal justice before committing to a degree program. For those who aren't 100% certain of their path, pursuing work before a degree may make the most sense.

Careers for Criminal Justice Graduates

  • Psychometrists:
    These criminal justice professionals work to help assess the mental condition of known or suspected criminals. They administer and score psychological and neuropsychological tests for a supervising psychologist or psychiatrist. While workers may focus their practice in many different areas of psychology, those who work with a forensic psychologist can specialize in the criminal mind and criminal pathologies.
  • Emergency Management Coordinator:
    These public administrators specialize in ensuring that their area or city is prepared to respond to an emergency. They may study the known threats and conduct simulations that may attempt to anticipate yet unknown possible disaster situations. These professionals may work with police, paramedics, and even a staff of community volunteers to ensure readiness should the worst happen.
  • Forensic Accountant:
    While few think of accountants as crime fighters, forensic accountants are often responsible for taking down the largest criminals we know. After all, Al Capone was not prosecuted and jailed for any of his alleged alcohol smuggling operations, nor for the murders he was suspected of. Rather, Al Capone was taken down by forensic accountants who uncovered his tax crimes. Forensic accountants may also work with attorneys in civil matters where people are trying to hide funds or misrepresent their financial situation.
  • Forensic Psychologist:
    This is a psychological specialty that appeals to those who are interested in the criminal mind. A forensic psychologist may work with parole boards to determine if a convict is competent to be released. They may also work with prosecutors or defense attorneys to determine a suspect's state of mind at the time of a violent crime.

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  • Paralegal:
    A paralegal works with a criminal defense attorney to help prepare for trial. They draft briefs, motions, and even help to interview clients. Some paralegals even perform an investigatory function where they may even stake out people pertinent to their case. It's common for paralegals to have a certificate in paralegal studies or a bachelor’s degree in the humanities.
  • Social Worker:
    These professional can be found working with a wide range of people and populations. They can also be found within the criminal justice system helping criminals and the victims of crime. They may work in juvenile detention centers to help youngsters overcome their criminal impulses or may conduct home visits to ensure that a child's home life isn't conducive to criminality.
  • Private Investigator:
    To become a private investigator all that is required is a state issued license. Private investigators distinguish themselves with experience in police departments or with criminal justice degrees. Some have investigative practices where they spend a lot of time in the field tracking down errant spouses, but others spend more time on the computer conducting searches for lost friends or family members.
  • Detective:
    To become a detective in a police department, it’s necessary to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Aspiring detectives may augment their studies with work in forensics or maybe by taking courses in criminal psychology. This level of police work often carries a higher salary, but detectives may still work long or odd hours, including weekends.

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