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Learning Center Experience
By Shane KelleyAcademic Chair, Public Safety Programs
Many children grow up wanting to be police officers, and who
can blame them? It’s an important profession where you can help the community
and offer emergency assistance to those in need.
As the chair of a criminal justice
degree program, I have heard students say many times that they want to get into
policing and criminal justice because it means they can help others. This is a
high-stakes profession that many people aspire to but few are able to achieve.
are a few strategies that could help as you strive
to pursue or advance a career within the criminal justice profession.* Though we will
discuss policing and corrections specifically, these strategies are valuable
tools for gaining entry into other areas of criminal justice as well.†
It is important to understand what a given job entails. For
example, if you’re interested in becoming a police officer, consider a ride-along
with your local police department. If you’re considering corrections, find out
if it is possible to shadow a local corrections officer for a day. Understanding
what the job requires helps you decide whether you want to pursue it. Your
career interests should help determine which criminal justice agencies and
professions you consider. It is easier to show dedication and passion in a
career that you enjoy and understand. Knowing what you’re getting into will
also help curb any anxieties that you might have about the profession you are
Each state and local agency has different requirements for
aspiring police officers and criminal justice professionals. Some agencies
require more education than others, and certain agencies may even require
previous criminal justice experience, at least for advancement. The most common
way to gain this experience is by completing your local police/corrections
academy training and becoming a police officer, corrections officer, or other entry-level
criminal justice professional.
To make it into the academy, there will
typically be some form of written exam, physical fitness check, background
check, and polygraph examination. Typically, you will be required to meet a set
of standards in these areas to be considered for entry into the academy. Some police agencies now require college experience—even a college degree.
When thinking about your career in criminal justice, you
should also consider your long-term prospects for advancement. What is your
ultimate career goal within this profession? If you’re looking to move beyond
the entry-level ranks, it is important to consider additional resume-building
qualifications such as a college degree. The highest ranking positions may require at least a bachelor’s degree for candidate consideration, so keep that
in mind as you plan your future. Some law enforcement agencies, such as the
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), will require at least a bachelor’s degree
in criminal justice or a related field to even apply. Plan for the job you want,
but remember that it’s never too early to start planning for your ultimate
goals as well.
Now that you know what it takes to land your dream job as a
criminal justice professional, it’s time to get started!
Shane Kelley is the Academic Chair at Kaplan
University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author
and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.
Getting Practically Passionate About A New Career
Criminal Justice Job Outlook
Did you find this article interesting? If so, share it!
And if you are considering pursuing higher education we invite you to find out more about Kaplan University’s programs and explore our undergraduate and graduate degree offerings.
* Kaplan University cannot guarantee employment or career advancement.
† Local, state, and federal law enforcement jobs may require additional training or education including additional state-approved higher education beyond Kaplan University's degree. You should fully research the requirements of any such position you intend to seek prior to enrolling in your program. Graduates of Kaplan University criminal justice programs are not eligible to attend police academies in Minnesota.
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