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What are the Different Criminal Justice Careers?

Criminal justice careers cover a wide range of disciplines over many types of law enforcement and judicial services. While popular television shows have made forensic science and crime scene investigators very popular, that is only one possible path. Those who serve in these different careers often are required to get a college degree, and perhaps additional specialized training. At the very least, one or the other is required in nearly every case.

The U.S. government offers many choices in the way of criminal justice careers. Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Marshal Service or with Immigration and Customs Enforcement are all employed by the U.S. Federal Government, as are those in the Secret Service. Within these various organizations are specialized disciplines, including forensic investigations, field agents, and special agents who may have training in weapons of mass destruction or counter terrorism, counter espionage, or many other fields.

In addition, other criminal justice careers are through the military. The Coast Guard would be one example of these. Military police and the Judge Advocate General Corps are just a couple of the criminal justice venues to be found in a military setting. Both have civilian-world equivalents, and the skills transfer very easily from one setting to the other.

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At the state level, there are still other disciplines to choose from. Criminal justice careers at this level include work in the court system, probation system, corrections system and state police. Many states also run a crime lab, responsible for much of the type of forensics work seen on television. Larger municipalities may also have a forensics crime lab. Being a crime scene technician, state police officer, corrections officer, and clerk of court all are state-level jobs.

The local level provides opportunities for patrol officers, criminologists, and detectives. These criminal justice careers are often the first line of defense when it comes to the vast majority of crimes. They are responsible for enforcing state and local laws, and investigating cases where those laws are broken, but Federal laws are not involved. This could be anything from traffic violations to murder.

With all the choices in criminal justice careers, it is up to the individual to find the one he or she is best suited for. Research, and talking to those who are working in the desired area, are good ways to learn more about these opportunities. For those in school, many law enforcement agencies will arrange a job shadowing opportunity. Once the information has been gathered, sitting down with a career counselor or academic adviser to plan that career path is often the next step.

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