Criminal Justice is an ever-changing profession that demands knowledgeable, energetic professionals. Thus, as a student of the field you should start working to gain that knowledge. You can do that by exploiting resources that will help you achieve the career goals you currently envision. When you use every single tool available to you as a student, then you will be able to go above and beyond both in the classroom and later as a professional.
We put together this resource page as a way to help criminal justice students and professionals realize their potential. Below, you'll find resources for learning, finding professional fellowship, and even searching for your dream job. Make sure you bookmark this page for later, because it will continue to serve you as you pursue your degree, and then your first promotion.
Resources for Criminal Justice Students
When you research colleges with a criminal justice program, you'll want to consider many factors. First, make sure that the program has the sort of focus and philosophy that resonates with you. Then make sure that the criminal justice program is fully accredited. While specific accreditation for criminal justice programs is still in the early stages, if you find a program that has been accredited by the ACJS they should shoot to the top of your list. If you are specializing in forensic science, the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission, or FEPAC, is the accreditation to seek out.
Note that many great criminal justice programs do not have national accreditation, but they still offer a quality education. However, you should make sure that the university at least has regional accreditation from a recognized accrediting body.
Here is a quick list of accrediting agencies that are reputable:
- Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Higher Learning Commission
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
Questions About Financial Aid
College isn't cheap. Unless you are very fortunate, you will probably make good friends with the lovely people in your school's financial aid office. There you can explore the array of financing options. Often your financial aid office can make many options available to you once you fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, which is the standard financial form. They can use that form to help you find the scholarships, grants, and loans that will cover your educational costs.
You can also seek out your own criminal justice scholarships and grants, and you should. There are many criminal justice grants and scholarships that will be a great help to you in the long run. That's because they are essentially free money. You don't have to repay the money received from grants and scholarships. There are some grants that will cover your costs in return for your paid labor after you graduate, and if you decide to take a different job, you will be on the hook for the tuition payments, plus interest.
Prior to starting college and on each break, you should devote time towards applying for scholarships. While many awards are in the $500 range, if you are able to win multiple scholarships you can cut your total loan amount significantly. Plus, you never have to incur interest on that money, which is sadly unavoidable for most criminal justice students.
In fact, most students have to resort to some sort of loan. There are both federal and private loans available to cover your costs, but you should focus on federal loan programs first. The lending cap should be enough to cover your needs and federal loans have better interest rates and repayment options than that of private student loans.
Finally, criminal justice students should investigate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Since you will probably work for a government agency you may qualify. This program will help you cover your loans in full in return for your hard work for a government, tribal, or non-profit agency.
Important Associations for Students
It's never too early to join a criminal justice association. Whether you find a fellowship on campus or through a national association, the benefits will be immense. Associations offer students special resources that your peers might not be privy to. They can also provide the opportunity to attend conferences. On top of this, many offer scholarships only to their student-members and you might even find a fantastic mentor or internship. You will have to pay dues, but most associations offer memberships at discounted rates for current, full-time students.
- National Criminal Justice Association:
The NCJA offers members access to special research and news pertaining to the profession. They also host an annual conference.
- Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences:
The ACJS offers online subscriptions to two journals, access to professional mentors, and a focused job board specifically for CJ professionals.
- American Society of Criminology:
The ASC is an international organization that whose focus spans academic, scientific, and professional knowledge in the pursuit of enhancing the professional lives of their members.
- American Correctional Association:
ACA members will receive a special magazine and newsletter subscription, which may come in handy when doing research for class. You'll also be exposed to the full scope of the corrections industry and profession.
- American Probation and Parole Association:
Student members of the APPA will find great opportunities to network with fellow CJ students and professionals. Your membership also opens up savings opportunities from many national retailers and others.
- American Academy of Forensic Science:
There are many levels to this organization, which provides a membership section for a wide range of forensic specialties. As a student you'll love their career guidance resources.
Student or Open Access Journals
You're studying hard and reading a lot of material already, so why would you pick up more outside reading? When you take study breaks to read articles that pertain directly to your field, you will only enhance your learning. You might also come across interesting topics to introduce in classroom discussions or to write about in your next term paper. Further, if you make a regular practice out of studying the current research and thinking in criminal justice, you will surely impress any interviewer.
Peruse the list below and seek these journals out in your college library. If there are publications they are missing, discuss this with the periodicals librarian who may be happy to add to the collection.
Criminal Justice Study Resources
While your professors will provide solid materials for their courses, you can always augment your learning with outside materials. The internet has loads of great resources that allow you to enhance your learning at little or no cost. Seek out stimulating videos between classes or when you're on a break between terms. Who knows? You might find a topic area that you can explore in a self-directed course. The more you can take advantage of these learning opportunities, the more you will reap the rewards.
- American Bar Association:
This page is invaluable for criminal justice students. Here you'll find access to podcasts and up-to-date information pertaining to important Supreme Court cases.
- Harvard University CJ Research Guide:
Your education will rocket to new heights when you use these Harvard-curated resources.
- Criminal Law Lectures – Blackstone School of Law:
Though you're not in law school, these lectures are sure to bring new insights into your study of criminal justice.
- Getting Started in Digital Forensics - video:
Whether or not this is your field, cyber-crime is an increasingly important part of criminal justice.
- Criminal Justice 101 – video:
If you're getting started or interested in a recap of some key terms, this is an invaluable video.
- Yale University online lectures:
There are videos here that will inform your work in criminal justice and many other fields.
- Criminal Law Glossary:
This is a handy reference for any CJ student. Bookmark this page for easy access on your computer or mobile device.
The world is run on apps, it seems. As a student with a smartphone, you can take advantage of these tools to help keep you on track with assignments and your extra-curricular activities. There are also apps especially made to help augment your studies.
- Criminal Law Study:
This app is aimed at law students, but it will surely provide a valuable resource for your criminal justice studies.
- US Criminal Law:
If you want to delve deep into criminal law, this is the app you need. It provides short tutorials, flash cards for key terms, and even quizzes to tell how well you're doing. Note that this is not a mobile app but will run on a Windows computer.
- Flash Face:
Do you need practice creating police sketches of potential suspects? This app will help you generate police sketches of your friends.
- My Study Life:
You need to stay on track of upcoming quizzes, papers, study groups, and even your intramural sports league. This is a great app to help with a student's number one issue: time management.
The last thing you need is information overload. Feedly helps you sort the publications and topics you most want to see.
When you research criminal justice topics online you might find it difficult to sort it all, much less remember the sources. Pocket makes it easy to gather articles under specific key terms so that you can use them for later papers.
Internships are where you have the chance to get your toes wet in the real world. When you spend a summer or more working in a police department or for a federal law enforcement agency, you will not only have a wonderful addition to your resume, but you'll learn plenty. In fact, you should probably start your internship search with federal agencies. From that level, work your way down to the state level. A few states are listed below but seek out an internship in your own state. Lastly, you might find an internship with your local police department or even a local private investigator.
You can also try to gain experience by pursuing part-time jobs in your field. Some programs may offer a co-op program where you can work full-time for a term and then return to school for a term or two. This way you can integrate yourself with a CJ organization while working through your degree.
Resources for Students and Professionals
Temp or Recruitment Agencies
Temporary work can be a great way to get started in criminal justice. When you are able to complete short-term assignments in a variety of environments you not only build your experience level, but you may also find that you have a deeper insight into what you truly want in your career. There aren't many agencies that recruit specifically for law enforcement or forensics, but when you seek out opportunities, they will find you.
Resources for Criminal Justice Professionals
When you leave college and enter the workforce, there's a great temptation to rest on one's laurels. Instead, you should consider joining one or more professional associations that will help you advance your career in so many ways. Professional associations provide members with regular newsletters and journals, on top of educational opportunities and conferences. This way you can continue to learn and master your profession. Criminal justice pros who maintain the habit of lifelong learning are far more likely to shine and succeed.
- National Criminal Justice Association
- Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences
- American Society of Criminology
- American Correctional Association
- American Probation and Parole Association
- American Academy of Forensic Science
- International Association of Women Police
- National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice
Information is power. After all, that's why you pursued a college degree in the first place, right? When you graduate, you can continue to access career-focused information by subscribing to a myriad of CJ journals. Your professional association will likely be able to send you periodicals both in print and electronic formats. It is also a good idea to start a library in your workplace so that everyone can augment their knowledge with cutting edge ideas. Even a cop on the beat could use new insights into the populations they interact with on a daily basis, so a sociology or psychology journal might also help.
Industry Conferences for Criminal Justice Professionals
Conferences are a great way to get out of the office and immerse yourself in some deep learning about your profession. These events feature top speakers who are leaders in law enforcement, forensics, and law. Then you can split off to panel discussions where you can focus on specific topics and seek advice or knowledge from real-world practitioners, and academics, too.
These weekends also offer an opportunity to meet with colleagues from all over your state and nation. You may meet a stellar investigator whom you may have read about or undiscovered geniuses who might turn into lifelong professional friends.
- NCJA Forum on Criminal Justice:
This event is co-hosted by the International Community Corrections Association so you can gain exposure to a wider scope of the CJ world.
- NABCJ Annual Conference:
This conference is sure to expand your knowledge with its workshops and speakers. Wherever the next one is held, you’ll be able to engage local officers and learn more about how new research informs their police work.
- North Carolina Criminal Justice Association Annual Conference:
Lectures from noted North Carolina scholars and scintillating panel discussions might leave you reeling after this weekend.
- American Criminal Justice Association - National Conference:
The theme for the 2020 conference was drug addiction and its impact on criminal justice and law enforcement. You can even engage in competitive activities and perhaps bring a bit of pride back home no matter what future conferences focus on.