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What is Criminal Justice?

If working with the public and assisting or protecting people at their weakest moments appeal to you, a career in criminal justice might be worth considering. When most people think of criminal justice, they automatically jump to police officers, sheriff deputies, prison guards, and probation officers. But those jobs barely scratch the surface of what a person can do with an education in criminal justice.

Although the terms do sound as if you’ll be working with all criminals, all the time, most first responders and emergency management jobs also fall under this umbrella. For example, social workers and private investigators both fall into this category, and neither necessarily directly work with people who have a criminal history. There are a lot of things you can do with a criminal justice education in Oklahoma.

A criminal justice professional works on both sides of the system, with either those in the criminal justice system or with those who have been negatively impacted. There is also a part of the profession that works with those who are going through recovery and rehabilitation, either after a period of incarceration or as part of addiction recovery. These people are trained to solve cases, assist, and ensure that justice is served for everyone. Criminal justice professionals work in jails, as law enforcement officers, social workers, private investigators, and even work at the federal level for agencies such as the CIA, FBI, and Homeland Security. Paperwork is often involved as the activities of the professionals and those they are involved with have to be chronicled in detail. And, in criminal and civil cases, appearances in court to testify are often required.

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Online Criminal Justice Education in Oklahoma

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for workers in the criminal justice field is going to increase between now and 2030, so this is a good time to get started on your education. There are currently over 100,000 people employed in criminal justice in some compacity in the Sooner state, and in many areas the demand for more staff, such as social workers and rehabilitation specialists, is expected to grow faster than the average job growth rate. Police officers, security guards, and other protective service workers will also be needed. And although Oklahoma’s biggest industries are education, real estate, and other business ventures, this means that white collar crimes have to be investigated, people with prominent careers still have stress and emotional issues, children still need protected, and natural disasters occur. So, whether you’re interested in protecting children or helping the state when a disaster strikes, a career in criminal justice in Oklahoma could be right around the corner for you. We have provided some information for you below.

Many people who enter the criminal justice field do so without any formal education because many of the careers in criminal justice require specialized training offered by the respective fields. Also, many who enter the field might have received the required training to work in the field while they were in the military. But that does not mean formal training that leads to a degree is not a good idea. Below are some of the fields people can enter once they have attained a degree in criminal justice.

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Online Associate Degree in Criminal Justice (AS)

With a two-year degree in criminal justice, most people can work as police officers and prison guards. Police officers must go through the police academy, but the degree can make promotions happen more quickly.

A two-year degree in criminal justice can prepare a person to do a variety of jobs. It provides an advantage for those who plan to attend a police academy or become prison guards. A degree means that an officer can be promoted in a timelier manner than someone who does not have a degree.

Students enrolled in a two-year program will take courses in subjects such as:

  • Criminal investigation
  • Criminal justice
  • Criminal justice reform
  • Eyewitness testimony

Associate degrees typically take two years to complete and when, or if, the student chooses, the credits earned with the associate degree can transfer to a bachelor’s degree.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice (BS)

How a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice will help you depends on what you want to do. If you already work in the criminal justice field, moving through the ranks of your current job and being promoted is made either possible or at least easier with a bachelor’s degree. It’s also a step worth considering if you want to combine your criminal justice experience with another field, such as cyber security or forensic science. Teaching at the community college and technical school level is also a possibility with a four-year degree. And, if you want to become a detective or move into an administrative position in a law enforcement department, a bachelor’s degree is often required.

Some of the classes included in a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice include subjects such as:

  • Criminal Investigation
  • Criminal justice reform
  • Drugs and Addiction
  • Ethics
  • Forensics

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

Graduate degrees in criminal justice are often geared toward teaching and training other law enforcement personnel. Someone with a criminal justice degree that couples it with an MBA can move into forensic accounting or the financial data side of cyber security prevention. This combination is also ideal for someone who wants to open their own private investigation firm or take over a management position in the criminal justice arena.

These degrees usually take around two years to complete, whether you choose a master’s or an MBA program. These programs may cover subjects you’ve already touched on in an undergraduate degree, but they will be more in-depth.

Online PhD Degree in Criminal Justice (PhD)

Those who wish to teach often obtain this terminal degree. They can teach at colleges and universities as well as specialized academies for law enforcement trainees. These programs may take several years to complete, though nearly all are able to be completed through distance learning because they are designed for working professionals.

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Become a Criminal Justice Professional in Oklahoma

Criminal Justice is a very broad field, so there are several directions one can choose to follow to pursue a career in the field. It might help to narrow down the areas in which a person wants and does not want to work in. For example, if you want to work within the prison system or with current or former prisoners, you’ll want to pursue jobs such as parole or probation officers, prison guards, or even most law enforcement positions. If you prefer not to work with a population directly dealing with mental or emotional issues, then maybe avoid jobs in social work or choose a career in emergency management.

Most people who enter the field of criminal justice have an idea of what they want to do, so they are able to tailor their education around those goals. For example, a person who wants to become a police officer might get a degree in criminal justice and then apply for the police academy either on a city, county, or state level. For those who want to work in law enforcement at the federal level, a bachelor’s degree and work experience in law enforcement is often required to apply to federal agencies. Those who want to work in the prison system can check with their state for the requirements and choose their educational path based on those requirements. Other areas of criminal justice such as social work, forensic accounting, or crime scene investigating require specific degrees, licenses, and specialized training. It’s important to do proper research to find out what these fields require if you want to be successful.

Again, because the field of criminal justice is so broad, it is feasible that a person can start out in one area and then switch to another, sometimes without needed a lot of additional formal training. Attaining a degree in criminal justice will provide the needed foundation for most people, and they can pinpoint a specific area of the field after working within the profession for a period of time. For example, police officers might become forensic investigators, social workers could become probation or parole officers, etc. As long as their criminal justice education base is solid, a person with this knowledge can go in any direction they choose.

Careers for Criminal Justice Graduates

As was previously mentioned, there are many career options for people with criminal justice educations. Below are a few examples of the positions a person could pursue.

  • Psychometrists:
    Psychometrists run neurological and psychoneurological tests on people for a variety of reasons. In the criminal justice realm, these professionals test people for neurological anomalies that help criminologists built a psychological profile or help them to decide if they can use a specific plea in a trial. Outside of criminal justice, these professionals help people with traumatic brain injuries and other neurological issues so that treatment plans can be developed.
  • Emergency Management Coordinator:
    An emergency management coordinator takes charge after an emergency has been identified. The emergency could be weather related such as a tornado, forest fire or flood, or it could be something like a pandemic or other community situation. The coordinator puts together the appropriate people and agencies to help the community deal with and recover from the emergency. They work closely with other first responders and governmental agencies to make sure the needed resources are properly placed and that there is adequate manpower to assist with the distribution of items and information. They are also often the public face of recovery programs.

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  • Forensic Accountant:
    When law enforcement agencies need to find out where the money leads or where it has gone, a forensic accountant is often tapped for this task. This individual takes financial documents and records and puts together a financial roadmap for money that might have been part of illegal activities.
  • Social Work:
    Social workers help struggling individuals and families get the support services they need to improve their lives. They work with and for agencies that help children, families, the elderly, veterans, and other people who are in need of help. They may also diagnose and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral issues if they are properly licensed to do so.
  • K9 Officer:
    K9 officers are police officers that work with specially trained dogs to capture criminals and look for evidence. The officers train their dogs, and they work as a team.
  • State Trooper:
    State troopers are the police of the state. In most cases, state troopers patrol the highways that run through their state. They work to ensure that Interstate commerce laws are followed, that illegal substances are not brought into or through the state, and more. In some states, they are referred to as Highway Patrol officers.
  • Victim Advocate:
    A victim advocate advocates for victims of crimes. They assist victims with locating help for emotional assistance and often act as liaisons between victims and law enforcement, the court system, and any other legal entity the victim has to deal with. The advocate always acts on the victim's behalf and strives to ensure that the victims’ rights are protected and enforced at every opportunity.

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