You know that you are interested in a potential career in criminal justice. Maybe you’re considering becoming a detective, maybe a parole officer, maybe a paralegal. Regardless of the exact career you are pursuing, how can you be sure that you’re taking the right steps towards success? Of course you’re ready to do whatever it takes to land your dream job, but here are some tips to help you pursue a successful career in criminal justice.
- Be open to learning
The criminal justice system is a lifelong learning process. Law enforcement is undergoing a significant evolution in the way it operates and interacts with the community. Additionally laws, policies, and technology are changing at a rapid rate. Therefore, it is essential that law enforcement professionals are constantly open to learning and developing their skills.
While it’s incredibly important to pay attention to your training in school and in your job, it’s arguably even more important to integrate outside reading and stay up-to-speed on trends in the criminal justice world to help add depth and other skills to your knowledge base. You should not only pay attention to current state statutes and policies, but also how those laws are being enforced on the ground level and tried in the courts. Also consider comparing information and articles from multiple sources, websites, and blogs from all different political backgrounds and viewpoints.
- Embrace technology
Technology is making it easier and easier for police and criminal justice professionals to ensure public safety and security. Not only does technology help free up resources, but it allows criminal justice professionals to focus on reducing crime. It’s not just “soft’ technology such as computers and tracking systems that are important to the field, but also “hard” technology including guns and other weaponry. Between facial recognition, body cameras, GPS, drones, and social media, amongst others, technology is changing the criminal justice industry. Being open to evolving technology and new ways of addressing crime will help you become a better criminal justice professional and will help you better enforce the law and ensure that every crime and case is addressed fairly and in the best interests of society as a whole.
- Hone your communication skills
By the very nature of a profession in criminal justice, those working in this industry must have strong verbal communication skills. This industry requires the ability to pose pertinent questions, conduct interviews, interrogate, lead discussions, and confer with colleagues. In addition, criminal justice can often be filled with confrontation. Strong communication skills will help you better communicate your position. Finally, communication skills are especially important when dealing with complex legal issues such as one would deal with in criminal justice systems. Laypeople don’t likely have the background knowledge to understand the legal intricacies of the criminal justice system. Instead, they rely on criminal justice professionals to help explain and enforce the laws.
- Determine your values
Those in law enforcement and other criminal justice professions are required to follow the law and act ethically and with integrity. A law enforcement or legal professional who is found to be acting unethically can face serious repercussions that can not only drastically affect their reputation and career, but also the integrity of the legal profession as a whole. By contrast, a criminal justice professional who performs under the strictest ethics and with integrity can propel their career and help create trust and understanding with the community as a whole.
- Practice your writing
Strong writing skills are a crucial skill for those in a criminal justice profession. As a part of the job, criminal justice professionals whether a detective, paralegal, parole officer, or one of a number of other positions, are required to do a lot of writing, mostly in the form of reports. From arrest, crime and incident reports to clearance reports, evidence collection reports, pleadings, and analyses. Criminal justice professionals spend a great deal of time documenting the goings on of crime. Since these reports are used in court and other legal proceedings, it is important that they are all clear, concise, well-written, and professional. Not only does a poorly written report give a bad first impression, it could even negatively impact a court case. In addition, these reports are the first place media outlets will look to determine the details of a crime. Without the ability to effectively communicate the event, there would likely be a misconception in what happens and media reports might color the incident and following work in a light that negatively affects the case as a whole.
- Earn your degree
For those who are serious about a profession in criminal justice and potentially moving into a leadership role, higher education is crucial. While there are definitely careers in criminal justice that don’t require a degree, pursuing your Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in criminal justice will open the doors to opportunities in leadership or other positions that require a higher level of training. Law enforcement departments of all levels are constantly looking for skilled and educated professionals who can step into leadership positions. Additionally, a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in criminal justice will teach you the analytical skills, critical thinking strategies, legal awareness, and communication skills crucial for success in the criminal justice industry.
- Gain experiences through an internship
It’s an age old adage, you can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job. So how can you get experience while pursuing your education? An internship is the perfect way to get credit as well as real-life experience. Internships are a proven way to gain relevant knowledge, skills and experience while establishing important connections in the field.
An internship is a great way to supplement the knowledge and skills you’ve learned or are learning in your degree program. Internships will also help you identify which of your skills will be most important in a real-life scenario and which you need to continue building. Finally, you might just find the exact position and/or location that you’d like to have a career in.
It’s no secret that it takes a special type of person to become a parole officer or other criminal justice professional. However, pursuing a career in criminal justice is far more than just taking a job. It’s all about making a commitment to keeping the community safe and ensuring the legal process is fair.