There has been a notable increase in the number of college students seeking majors in the area of criminal justice. In universities and colleges that offer law enforcement/criminal justice/police science degrees, many students find the instruction appealing and the subject matter interesting. Some of the interest is artificially enhanced by the entertainment media with shows such as CSI, NCIS and Law and Order. That said, a relatively small portion of those who seek a criminal justice degree actually pursue law enforcement as a career.
In many instances, probation, parole and the counseling of juveniles seems to be the intended purpose for obtaining a degree in law enforcement. For others, they see the degree as a way of “rounding out” their academic experience as they go on to pursue a law degree. It is becoming more common for academic professionals with Jurist Doctorate (J.D.) degrees to compliment their JD with either law enforcement experience or a degree in criminal justice.
It should be understood that in pursuing law enforcement as a career goal there is no requirement for a criminal justice degree to become a police officer. Although an applicant with a degree is more highly received and considered than one without; in many instances it is to the student’s advantage to have a degree in a complimentary field, such as psychology, sociology, or anthropology. Students with a degree in a “hard science” such as chemistry, biology, biotechnology or computer science are even more desirable to many hiring agencies. While not depicted in the entertainment media, CSI’s and laboratory scientists typically hold baccalaureate and master level degrees in their field.
A fast growing sub-set within the academic degree field of law enforcement is the crime analyst. This individual typically possesses a specific skill-set absolutely clamored for by law enforcement agencies at every level; Tribal, Local, State and Federal. This skill set is such high demand that many agencies find maintaining persons in the position of crime analyst as a special challenge due to the scarcity of valid, school-trained, educated and or experienced analyst. This field, while new, offers several options for practitioners and those seeking to enter this career path including; Crime Analyst, Criminal Intelligence Analyst and Criminal Investigative Analyst (Psychological Profiler).
The opportunities to attend accredited institutions of higher learning and obtaining a degree in this high-skilled area are increasing. A simple Internet search will yield hundreds of colleges and universities offering varying degree plans to achieve criminal analyst status. When pursuing such a goal the seeker is cautioned to always ensure the educational institution has a valid accreditation and some care should be taken to examine the credentials of the faculty presenting the course, the curricula and any certifications that can result from the course. Interested persons should contact the International Association of Crime Analysts (www.iaca.net) or the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts (www.ialeia.org).
While the criminal justice administration or police science degree may not guarantee a position, in the final analysis with all other factors considered equal, the applicant with a degree, is the one most likely to be given the position or at least an opportunity to apply. One final piece of advice for anyone seeking a position in law enforcement; get in to and maintain good physical condition and consider incorporating jogging or running into your fitness regimen. A leading cause of police recruit training failure can be directly attributed to poor or inadequate physical fitness and general health. Contact the training academy well in advance of your application and determine what the standards are and tailor your fitness regimen to exceed those standards by at least 20%. Once that goal has been accomplished, the likelihood of success in the area of fitness for that academy is increased by at least 20%!