What is Criminal Justice?

In essence, Criminal Justice is a career field that describes a system of governance and procedures that assist in controlling crime and criminals, as well as the prison system. At the end of the day, a criminal justice professional is a person who upholds the law in whichever way their job requires them to.

The History of Criminal Justice

The current form of the field was first shaped in 1967 with the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice. The commission created a report called “The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society,” and addressed the concerns on a nation which was experiencing a spike in crime that would go on to last for the better part of the next two decades. The report made 200 recommendations regarding law enforcement and incarceration procedures and how they can be implemented in order to reduce the crime problem. In the end, the report mandated that a set of “systems” must be created in order to foster communication between the various branches of law enforcement- from the federal level all the way down to the local level. It was a groundbreaking mandate and created the criminal justice system as we know it today.

Jobs Within the Field

There are a variety of jobs available within the justice system, which is now more like a bureaucracy than anything else. Jobs include police officers, parole officers, probation officers, detectives, investigators, correctional treatment officers and specialists among many, many others. Many criminal justice professionals actually go into teaching after they get burnt out or retire from the field.

The duties that are required from these jobs are numerous and the responsibilities are gigantic in scope. In the end, you pretty much have the duty of upholding law and order, without abusing your power, which is a tightrope to walk on and many people in the field have failed to do this in the past. On top of all that, the job can be very dangerous at times, as it is hard to tell what might happen in any given situation. As a criminal justice professional, it is your duty to deal with people that may be mentally ill, desperate and have nothing left to lose- and when you put all of those elements into one tense situation, then you can understand why criminal justice is important for the betterment of society, and how difficult it actually must be.

Degree Requirements

The degree requirements will vary from position to position, but most of them require at least a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field of study. Probation officers and correctional officers/ specialists typically require at least a bachelor’s degree, with a higher degree preferred. But, police officers and detectives in the police agency may only be required to have a high school diploma or 2-year associate’s degree or technical certificate, as most of the training for the job will be provided by the police department. Higher degrees are always preferred, but are not necessarily required for most professions that fall under the criminal justice umbrella.

Job Growth and Salary

● Probation officers, Correctional Officers, Probation Officers and similar specialists get paid around $47,000 a year, which is just about the average salary in the United States. But, while the job may not pay you as well as it should, there are many benefits and retirement packages available to these professionals. These jobs are also expected to grow at a rate of about 19% per year for at least the next few years, which is slightly higher than average.
● Police and Detectives get paid about $55,000 a year on average, which is slightly higher than the average worker makes in the United States. This is one of the few areas that is not growing as much as the other jobs in the field, at a rate of only 7% growth, which is less than average.