Criminal justice involves the practices and systems of upholding social control, deterrence, and the mitigation of crime. Those employed in the field of criminal justice may apprehend and impose penalties on those who violate the law. The criminal justice system also seeks to rehabilitate repeat offenders and to protect criminals from those who abuse their investigative and prosecution powers. There are many different roles within the larger criminal justice system, including the following career options.
A judge preside over and listens to the arguments of opposing parties in cases ranging from individual traffic offenses to the infringement on corporate rights. Judges perform numerous duties related to each case, including research legal issues, read and evaluate information from documents, and determine if the information supports each side of the opposing party. Judges hold the responsibility of deciding if the court hearings adhere to the current rule of law. In addition, they analyze and apply laws, regulations, and precedents over each case. Judges are also required to provide instruction to each party regarding the court proceeding.
In order to become a judge, prospective students must possess a law degree and work experience as a lawyer. A law degree usually requires seven years of full-time study, including four years of undergraduate study and three years at an accredited law school. Law degree programs usually require students to complete courses in contracts, property law, civil law, civil procedure, legal writing, and constitutional law.
In addition, most judges and magistrates must have been appointed or elected into their position. In order to get elected as a judge, the nominee must launch a political campaign to gain public support. Many judges can serve renewable terms that range between four and fourteen years. Other judges may remain in their position for life. Local and state judges usually enter the judicial system by gaining the popular vote and then leave their position after serving four years.
Lawyers advise and represent individual clients, business establishments, corporations, and government agencies on matters regarding the law. Lawyers perform a broad range of duties, including advising and representing clients in the court of law, communicating with their clients and other people, conducting research, and analyzing legal problems. Lawyers interpret laws, rulings, and regulations for individual clients, business establishments, corporations, and government agencies. In addition, they present documents to their clients that explicitly state the details of the case. Lawyers must prepare and file legal documents, such as deeds, contracts, lawsuits, and appeals.
As advocates of the law, they represent one of the opposing parties in criminal and civil trials by actively presenting the evidence and arguing to the court on the behalf of their client. As advisers for the client, they provide sound counseling that addresses the legal rights and obligations that the client must take to win the case. Lawyers also suggest a reliable course of action in business and personal matters. Lawyers research the previous cases and apply the intent of laws and judicial decisions made to the specific circumstances of their client’s case. Over the years, lawyers have incorporated the Internet in their research of legal cases, which include legal databases and online law libraries.
Prospective students interested in becoming a lawyer must complete seven years of full-time study after high school, including four years of undergraduate study and then three years of law school at an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited institution. Most state and local jurisdictions require prospective graduates to obtain a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree. Undergraduates must obtain a bachelor’s degree for entry approval into an approved law school, which may include majors in English, history, economics, and mathematics. In addition, prospective students may be required to pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) to prove the student’s aptitude for law.
Paralegals and legal assistants perform numerous duties that help provide the necessary support to lawyers, including the act of organizing files, conduct the necessary legal research, and drafting legal documentation. Paralegals and legal assistants usually prepare cases for lawyers; however, their duties may vary according to the size of the firm. For instance, paralegals employed at smaller firms may review and organize information, prepare written reports, prepare legal arguments, and draft documentation supporting their case. In large firms, paralegals work on one specific issue with the case. In general, law firms use technology and other software to manage documents and prepare trials, which requires the paralegal to become adept at using computers and its processes.
To become a legal assistant or paralegal, candidates must enroll into a paralegal program or its equivalent at a college or university. Some universities offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in paralegal studies; however, the majority of students will complete their education at a local community college. Candidates who already possess a bachelor’s degree can obtain a certificate in paralegal studies, or apply at a local law firm for an entry-level position. Candidates may also complete an accredited paralegal training course at a local trade school to earn their credentials in this field.
Court reporters attend court hearings and public events to create transcriptions of the dialogue exchanged at the meeting. A small subset of reporters provides captioning for television and other public events. Court reporters usually attend these events, record the spoken dialogue with covered microphones and other special equipment, record gestures and miscellaneous actions, review notes for the names of various speakers and technical terminology, and prepare, edit, and submit transcripts to the overseeing authority. Court reporters are responsible for providing a complete, accurate, and secure legal document of the spoken dialogue at a court proceeding.
Those interested in becoming a court reporter can enroll into a local community college or technical school that offers a transcriptionist program. Many U.S. states require court reporters to obtain a license to work in legal settings. Other court reporters may receive adequate training at an accredited educational institution. Depending on the program and the equipment used, the court reporter may be required to complete between six months to four years. Most programs require English and typographical proficiency.
Police officers vow to protect the lives and property of the citizens in their jurisdiction. Uniformed police officers usually enforce laws, respond to calls, patrol designated areas, conduct traffic stops, and prepare written reports. Police officers actively pursue and arrest people who violate the law. They administer warnings, citations, and apprehend violators with brute force if necessary. Police officers respond to calls, issue traffic citations, and investigate domestic disputes. Others may perform first aid on the victims of accidents. Police officers must have the ability to multi-task, communicate, empathize, and exercise good judgment. They must also have excellent perceptiveness of their surroundings. In addition, they must have the necessary strength and stamina to subdue violators of the law.
Police officer candidates must obtain a high school degree or its equivalent. In addition, they must complete the agency’s training academy. A good portion of agencies require their applicants to obtain a college degree in a course of relevant study. Others must have sufficient knowledge in a foreign language. Candidates must be U.S. citizens, 21 years old, possess a driver’s license, and must meet the physical qualifications. Some agencies preferably look for candidates with a military background.
Many criminal offenders must see a probation or parole officer on a regular basis. A probation or parole officer monitors offenders to determine the best course of action to keep them out of trouble. They provide offenders with the necessary resources to aid in their rehabilitation, discuss further treatment options, and arrange enrollment into treatment programs. Probation and parole officers must supervise offenders and monitor their progress, conduct regular meetings, and decide whether the offenders have reached their goal of rehabilitation.
Probation and parole officers must exercise adequate communication, critical thinking, decision-making, and organizational skills. In addition, they must have the ability maintain their emotions when faced with troubling times. Prospective probation and parole officers must obtain a bachelor’s degree in social work, psychology, or criminal justice. Some employers require a master’s degree or its equivalent. The majority of probation and parole officers must complete an accredited training program sponsored by their state agencies. Some probation officers may be required to complete a one year probationary period before obtaining a permanent position.
Correctional officers must oversee convicts contained in prison or currently awaiting trial. Offenders may include those serving time at a county jail or federal maximum security prison. Correctional officers must enforce prison rules, restore order in jails and prisons, supervise inmates, inspect the conditions of the facility, search inmates for contraband items, and report inmate conduct. Correctional officers must complete a training program at the local policy academy. Correctional officers must complete on-the-job training to qualify for a permanent position. They must at least possess a high school degree or its equivalent. Some state agencies require some college credits; however, the majority prefer prior military experience. Correctional officers of federal prisons must have completed a bachelor’s degree, three years of counseling experience, assistance, and supervision of criminal offenders.
Please follow these links to learn more about careers in the law:
- Working for the Federal Judiciary
- The Federal Magistrate Judges Association
- The Bureau of Labor and Statistics: Judges, Mediators, and Hearing Officers
- What Can I Do with a Degree in Criminal Justice? (PDF)
- Careers in Public Interest Law (PDF)
- Non-Lawyer Jobs for Lawyers (PDF)
- Avoiding Lawyer Burnout
- The National Association of Legal Assistants and Paralegals
- What Does a Paralegal or Legal Assistant Do?
- Legal Assisting / Paralegal Career Outlook
- Court Reporting as a Career
- Court Reporting (PDF)
- The National Court Reporters Association
- How to Become a Police Officer (PDF)
- A Police Officer’s Job Description (PDF)
- Westwood College: How to Become a Police Officer
- The Duties and Responsibilities of Police Officers (PDF)
- Community Policing and the Police Officer (PDF)
- What Should I Expect While on Probation? (PDF)
- What Does it Take to Become a Probation and Parole Officer?
- The Role of the Probation Office in Intake (PDF)
- Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
- Parole Officer Core Training Manual (PDF)
- Parole Officer Requirements
- The Principles of Community Justice (PDF)
- Code of Ethics for Juvenile Probation Officers (PDF)
- Why Be a Corrections Officer?
- Corrections Officer (PDF)
- Summary Report for 33-3012.00 – Correctional Officers and Jailers
- Correctional Officers in a Changing Environment (PDF)
- Civil Service Commission: Job Specification: Corrections Officer (PDF)
- Addressing Correctional Officer Stress: Programs and Strategies (PDF)
- A Guide to the Written Test for the Entry-Level Correction Officer Series (PDF)
- Careers With The Federal Bureau of Prisons
- Careers in Criminal Justice (PDF)
- 101 Careers in Criminal Justice
- Careers in Criminal Justice and Public Service (PDF)
- Preparing for Criminal Justice Careers (PDF)
- Criminal Justice Today (PDF