Criminal Justice Careers for Those Freaked Out by Firearms
So, you have committed yourself to earning a criminal justice degree, you’re excited about your coursework and you’re intrigued by a life of public service … but there’s a problem … you’re not crazy about guns.
Well, that’s OK. If you’re fascinated by the idea of fighting crime but turned off by the prospect of packing heat as part of your daily routine, you’re not alone.
In fact, just seven of the top 200 police- and security-related jobs listed online in 2012 required employees to carry firearms, according to Burning Glass, a comprehensive database that provides statistics and insights about the current labor market.
In an effort to calm the anxieties of any future gun-shy gumshoes out there, we highlight eight popular crime-related careers that shun shootouts and frown on firearms. A pop culture reference is included to help you visualize yourself in the field and entry requirements are provided if you decide you're serious about a certain career path.
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists are primarily responsible for supporting, monitoring and managing offenders after they are released from a correctional facility. The aim of the job is to discourage offenders from committing new crimes.
- Pop culture point of reference: Travis (Tommy Lee Jones) in Double Jeopardy
- Breaking into the field: Qualifications vary by organization but most probation officers are required to have a Bachelor’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In addition, employees are required to undergo a government-sponsored training program and pass a certification test. There may also be a year-long probationary period before a permanent position is offered.
- Outlook: The field is expected to grow at an average rate (18 percent), with just over 17,000 new job openings projected through 2020.
Intelligence analysts gather data from a variety of sources including law enforcement databases, digital surveillance, intelligence networks or geographic information systems. The primary goal of an intelligence analyst is to use the data to predict and prevent criminal activity.
A considerable amount of work-related skill, knowledge and experience is needed to become an intelligence analyst, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*Net Online. Among the tasks performed daily are evaluating records, maintaining databases, preparing written reports and presenting findings to superiors.
- Pop culture point of reference: Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) in Criminal Minds
- Breaking into the field: An O*Net survey of employees in this field showed 75 percent of intelligence analysts have a Bachelor’s degree, compared to just nine percent who hold an Associate’s degree.
- Outlook: The field is expected to grow at a rate that is slower than average (3-9 percent), with just over 30,000 new job openings projected through 2020.
A correctional officer (CO) is tasked with guarding inmates in penal or rehabilitative institutions in accordance with established regulations and procedures, according to the BLS. COs will also generally guard prisoners while they are in transit between jail, courtroom, prison and other points.
- Pop culture point of reference: Keith Stolte (Christian Stolte) in Prison Break
- Breaking into the field: Correctional officers must attend a training academy prior to being hired. Once hired, COs are assigned to a jail, prison or correctional facility for on-the-job training. Qualifications vary by agency, but all agencies require a high school diploma or equivalent. Federal agencies require a college education in addition to work experience.
- Outlook: The field is expected to grow at a rate that is slower than average (5 percent), with 26,000 new job openings projected through 2020.
Police, fire and ambulance dispatchers answer emergency and non-emergency phone calls and, based on the information they receive from the caller, send out the number and type of rescue units needed.
Problem-solving, multitasking, listening, empathy and an ability to speak a second language are among the list of skills considered by the BLS to be crucial for success in the field.
- Pop culture point of reference: Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) The Call
- Breaking into the field: It is possible to enter the field with only a high-school diploma or GED, but to advance and earn higher wages dispatchers will need an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree, according to the BLS. In addition, many states require dispatchers to complete a 40-hour training program, pass a certification test and complete a year-long probationary period.
- Outlook: The field is expected to grow at an average rate (12 percent), with just over 12,000 new job openings projected through 2020.
Despite what you might have seen on CSI, forensic science technicians do not chase criminals or carry guns. The primary responsibility of an FST is to collect and analyze physical evidence at a crime scene or in a laboratory.
- Pop culture point of reference: Nick Stokes (George Eads) CSI: Crime Scene Investigation; Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) NCIS
- Breaking into the field: To work in a laboratory, FSTs need at least a Bachelor’s degree in forensic science, biology or chemistry, according to the BLS. Crime scene forensic technicians are usually sworn police officers that have received specialized training in crime scene investigation. FSTs often serve as apprentices to experienced investigators while they learn to properly collect and document evidence.
- Outlook: The field is expected to grow at an average rate (19 percent), with just over 2,400 new job openings projected through 2020. The BLS considers forensics one of the most competitive fields in the job market.
Put simply, loss prevention managers help retail outlets and insurance companies reduce their risk of losing physical or intellectual property through theft. People in these roles plan strategies and manage systems – including digital surveillance, inventory control and data analysis – to control a company’s risk exposure and potential liability, according to O*Net.
- Breaking into the field: An O*Net survey of employees in this field showed 58 percent of loss prevention managers have a Bachelor’s degree, compared to 13 percent who hold an Associate degree. A knowledge base including psychology, law and government, public safety/security and computers is listed by O*Net as crucial for success as a loss prevention manager.
- Outlook: The field is expected to grow at a rate slower than average (3-9 percent), with almost 250,000 new job openings projected through 2020.
Lawyers advise and represent individuals, businesses or government agencies on legal issues or disputes, according to the BLS.
There are several different types of attorneys but, with regard to the criminal justice system, the main ones are prosecutors and defense attorneys. The former brings charges against an individual or organization, while the latter defends those accused of a crime.
- Pop culture point of reference: Assistant District Attorney Casey Novak (Diane Neal) Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
- Breaking into the field: The road to becoming an attorney can be long and arduous – often requiring a four-year Bachelor’s degree, three years of law school and passing a written bar exam.
- Outlook: The field is expected to grow at an average rate (10 percent), with almost 74,000 new job openings projected through 2020. The BLS considers law one of the most competitive fields in the job market, as more students graduate from law schools each year than are available jobs.
Given the seemingly endless variety of classes taught in criminal justice programs across the U.S., a Bachelor’s degree is the first step toward allowing you to teach, conduct research and publish scholarly papers on crime-related subjects.
- Pop culture point of reference: Dr. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) Da Vinci Code (In the Dan Brown series, Dr. Langdon is a college professor and “symbologist” – which is a fictional occupation – who uses his knowledge and skills to fight crime)
- Breaking into the field: Typically, a postsecondary teacher must have a PhD but a Master's degree may be enough for some community colleges, according to the BLS. In addition, work experience may be required to teach postsecondary courses at technical and trade schools.
- Outlook: The field is expected to grow at an average rate (17 percent), with more than 305,000 new job openings projected through 2020.
So, here’s the deal: A criminal justice degree is simply a way to develop a solid understanding of many disciplines within the field of law enforcement. The choice about how to use that degree is yours.
Whether your forte is forensics, fraud or fishing for information, there’s a criminal justice career path for you after you finish your degree.
Just remember, you don’t need to carry a gun to help make the world a better, safer place.