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Administration of Justice
Home » Academics » Departments » Administration of Justice » Choosing a Career

Choosing a Career

A wide range of options are available when you choose a career in the public safety field!

Most entry level jobs in public safety require a high school diploma or GED only. However, you will be competing with others for these jobs. The more you can do to enhance your "marketability," especially by demonstrating that you are sincerely interested in becoming a professional, the better you will do on civil service tests, background investigations and interviews. For most Federal agencies and some state agencies, you may also need a four year degree.

See "Required Courses" to learn more about our course work.

Students should be aware that prior felony or any misdemeanor or felony domestic violence convictions, and some psychological holds, are disqualifying. TROs (Temporary Restraining Orders) can also be a disqualifier.
Prior substance abuse (including marijuana) and other disqualifiers may apply in specific positions related to law enforcement or forensics.

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Facts about Criminal Justice Careers
  1. Public Service
    1. Police, corrections, court staff positions and others involve dealing with the public.
    2. People are not always at their best in an emergency.
    3. Authority figures seldom win popularity contests, but courtesy is required even under pressure.
    4. Usually good retirement, benefits, and salary increases.
    5. Good incentive pay for education, bilingual, special skills (K-9, SWAT, mounted).
    6. Confrontations occur; must be able to handle if unable to diffuse.
    7. Satisfaction in helping others, making a difference daily.
  2. Ethics
    1. Held to a higher standard than the general public, due to the higher degree of responsibility shouldered.
    2. Constant contact with crime and criminals can sometimes blur the lines, or create prejudice and cynicism.
    3. Must be a credible witness; testimony can help determine someone's life.
  3. Background / Working Conditions
    1. Closer scrutiny in personal life than other jobs
      1.  Polygraph / VSA (Voice Stress Analysis).
      2.  Home visits.
      3.  References from 15+ years ago.
      4.  Credit check for financial problems.
      5.  Drug use, criminal record.
      6.  Friends, family, affiliations.
      7.  Driving record (DUIs, speeding violatons, etc.).
    2. Hours and Shift
      1.  Night shifts, call outs, weekends, holidays, overtime, comp
      2.  Shifts not on the same rotation as school semesters, can
           interfere with education of employee, spouse, and children.
      3.  10-hour days, usually.
      4.  Shift differential pay.
      5.  Work in inclement weather (cold, rain, etc.)
Facts about Forensic Careers
1.  It takes more than one person to do what they do on CSI

     a.  Forensic Specialist
          1.  Photographs, collects, preserves evidence.
          2.  May do some processing in the lab.
          3.  Requires a two-year degree (in California).

     b.  Criminalist
          1.  DNA, ballistics, fiber comparison, toxicology.
          2.  Mostly in the lab.
          3.  Usually not an expert in all areas.
          4.  Requires a four-year degree in science plus forensic training.

     c.  Investigator
          1.  Questions suspects, victims and witnesses.
          2.  Carries a gun.
          3.  Police officer who has progressed to homicide detective.

     d. Latent Print Examiner
          1. Compares fingerprints manually and with computer
          2. Requirements vary, but typically 2+ years experience comparing and
              identifying prints, plus an Associate or Bachelor’s Degree, or 4+ years of

2.  Not police officers
     a.  Usually a civilian position.
     b.  May carry a gun; many departments encourage this.
     c.  Can be left at scene alone or with little protection.
     d.  Must be good in science: college-level chemistry & biology required for
     e.  Must still pass background (polygraph, references, credit, drug use).
     f.   Night shifts, call outs, overtime, holidays, etc.

3.  Crime scenes are not all indoors
     a.  Canyons, trash dumps, forest, beach, desert.
     b.  Bugs, flora and fauna of all sorts.
     c.  May require physical exertion: lift between 50-60lbs, access rough terrain.

4.  It’s not all done with computers
      a.  Computers help team members, they don’t replace them.
      b.  A person has to tell the computer things first
      c.  Fingerprint matches are verified by more than one examiner

Last Updated: 10/23/2018
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