Guide to College Majors in Justice Administration
What Is Justice Administration?
Those students who choose to pursue a college degree in justice administration will find that many exciting and vital career opportunities await them following graduation. The criminal justice system in the United States is structured in a way that provides various and appropriate ways of administering justice for people who commit crimes and for people who are victims of crime. Citizens rely on justice administrators to uphold the country's justice system in many different capacities.
College degree programs in justice administration are designed to provide enrolled students with a solid general background of knowledge about the workings of the justice system in the United States. Students will gain a broad base of information about many specific aspects of the justice system, about many different investigative techniques, and about many different forms of crime.
Career Education in Justice Administration
Students who choose to enroll in a college degree program in justice administration come from all kinds of educational and experiential backgrounds, especially in online programs, which can accommodate the schedules of working professionals or parents. While some justice administration students are just out of high school, others are already justice administration professionals who have been working in the field and wish to obtain a higher degree in order to take their careers to the next level of pay and responsibility.
Justice Administration Degree Program Curriculum
No justice administration college degree program is exactly like the next. Each program has its own unique strengths, and its own unique philosophy, mission, and academic focus.
Still, most programs have some academic overlap. For instance, most degree programs emphasize an integration of the fields of criminology, criminal justice, and sociology. Students will be required to engage in extensive and intensive research and to learn about and make use of various research methods.
It also common that students enrolled in a justice administration degree program will be required to conduct in-depth studies of various theoretical perspectives in the fields of criminal justice and the study of criminology. Students will also most likely be required to complete coursework in the areas of international criminal justice, domestic and international criminal justice policy, and social control systems.
Beyond classroom course requirements, it is also common that in order for a student to successfully complete a college degree program in justice administration, he or she will need to complete fieldwork within his or her chosen concentration. The particular fieldwork requirements will vary, but they often can be fulfilled through an internship program and subsequent research and writing.
Student internships provide extremely valuable practical experience that will help the students learn about the day-to-day life of working in their chosen area of concentration within the field of justice administration.
The focus of any college degree program in justice administration is to provide graduating students with the skills, knowledge, and experience they need to successfully enter the workforce. The nature of the jobs that students are eligible for after graduation from a degree program will be largely dependent upon the level of college degree they have earned.
Students who graduate with a bachelor's degree in justice administration may be eligible for entry-level employment in criminal justice agencies at the local, state, or federal level. They may also be eligible for jobs in security at private businesses or public institutions. Students who obtain a bachelor's degree can also continue their education in justice administration at the graduate level.
Students who earn a master's degree in justice administration may be qualified for jobs in the field at many levels and in many capacities. These graduates may enter the workforce at the management level. They may also concentrate their careers on research, planning, and evaluation of justice systems in both public and private agencies. They may be involved with the assessment, creation, development, and implementation of public policy.
Master's level graduates may also wish to teach in a justice administration academic department of an educational institution such as community college, or they may go on to continue their own education at the doctorate level. Overall, students who complete the graduation requirements for a master's degree in justice administration will be eligible for greater advancement in the workforce.
Many agencies in the field have begun to encourage prospective employees to complete some level of postsecondary education with a focus on justice administration. Some courses that prospective justice administration employers encourage job applicants to have completed are finance, computer science, foreign language, electrical engineering, and physical education.
There are many agencies that are willing to pay a portion, if not all, of the cost of college degree program tuition for employees. These employers usually offer salary increases to those who earn a college degree in the field.
What Can You Do With a College Degree in Justice Administration?
A graduate of a justice administration degree program might go to work in a variety of work settings, including the military, U.S. embassies abroad, the prison system, and social service agencies. They might work as security directors, law enforcement officers, parole officers, child welfare caseworkers, or in other related occupations. The following are descriptions of some jobs that one might be eligible for with a college degree in justice administration (some may required advanced degrees):
- Uniformed Police Officer
Police Officers who work in municipal police departments of towns, villages, rural areas, and other small communities must usually maintain general duties of law enforcement. They must patrol regularly and respond to calls. Police officers who work in larger police departments are usually responsible for more specified duties in more specified locations. In a large urban area, for example, a police officer may be assigned to a particular neighborhood where he or she is expected to build relationships with local residents. A police officer may also be specifically assigned to a business district of a major urban center. While on shift, police officers may need to identify, track, and arrest people suspected of engaging in criminal activity. Police officers at all levels and in all locations must maintain written reports and records about their job activities.
- Police Detective
The job of a detective is to collect evidence in response to a criminal case. Some detectives are part of a larger taskforce with the job of fighting particular kinds of crime and criminal activity, such as homicide or fraud. Detectives are plainclothes investigators who must examine a case until it is solved or dropped. General duties of a detective might include conducting interviews, examining written reports, conducting systematic observations of suspected criminals, and participating in arrests.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent
Agents of the FBI investigate all kinds of crime and criminal activity such as civil rights violations, organized crime, bribery, copyright infringement, kidnapping, air piracy, espionage, terrorism, drug trafficking, and others. FBI Agents are the major investigators for the Federal Government and are also responsible for conducting investigations having to do with issues of national security. They must conduct investigative activities such as examining records, exploring white-collar crime, monitoring wiretaps, tracking the location of stolen items, working undercover, and others.
- United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent
Agents of the DEA enforce laws and regulations that are designed specifically in relation to illegal drugs and the trafficking of illegal drugs. The DEA enforces drug laws on domestic soil and also conducts drug investigations on foreign soil. DEA agents may be called upon to exercise complex investigations into criminal drug activity, survey criminal activity, and work undercover in order to infiltrate illegal drug operations.
- United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) agent and inspector
Agents of the INS monitor the immigration activity in the United States. They are responsible for facilitating the legal entry of immigrants to the US and for detaining and deporting illegal immigrants. Agents and inspectors of the INS might work as US Border Patrol agents, immigration inspectors, immigration agents, detention and deportation officers, criminal investigators, and others.
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives agent
Agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives regulate laws and investigate potential violations of Federal laws regarding firearms and explosives. These agents also uphold laws regarding tax regulations on tobacco and alcohol. An agent of the Bureau might be a Customs agent, investigating the smuggling of narcotics, the laundering of money, the exchange of illegal pornography, and customs fraud, among other forms of criminal activity. They enforce the Arms Export Control Act.
- Customs Inspector
Customs inspectors examine, weigh, measure, and otherwise monitor commercial and noncommercial materials that enter and leave the United States. Customs inspectors must inspect the personal baggage and belongings of people entering and leaving the United States. They also must examine the items on vehicles, airplanes, trains, or vessels that cross the US border. Customs inspectors have the authority to seize smuggled items and arrest violators of United States law.
- United States marshals and deputy marshals
US marshals and deputy marshals have the job of safeguarding the effectiveness of the US judicial system and of protecting the Federal courts. They protect the Federal judiciary and Federal witnesses and they transport Federal prisoners. They also are sometimes required to track and arrest fugitives of Federal law.
- Bureau of Diplomatic Security special agents
Special agents of the United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security are some of the primary players in the fight against terrorism. These special agents advise overseas ambassadors and manage complex security systems and programs that are designed for the protection of people, places, and information. Domestically, these special agents are responsible for the protection of the Secretary of State. They investigate immigration fraud, conduct security investigations, and issue clearances.
Many people enjoy the high level of challenge and vitality of a job in the field of justice administration. Aside from the emotional benefits of pursuing a career in the field, many people in the justice workforce discover that many agencies offer a pension after 20 to 25 years of devoted service. This arrangement allows many workers in the field to pursue a new career while still in their youth.
Because the benefits associated with a career in justice administration are so attractive to so many people, the job market is quite competitive. This means that employers exercise high levels of selectivity when hiring new workers. This selectivity and competition is especially present in agencies at the state and Federal levels and in affluent communities. The competition relaxes slightly at the local level and in urban areas with high rates of crime. Job applicants with college education in the field have the best chance of being selected for desirable positions.
The career opportunities for criminal justice employees, police, and detectives, are expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2018.
The amount of job opportunities for police and detectives is dependent upon government funding. For this reason, the number of job openings in the field can change yearly and by location. Job security in the field is high, however, with lay-offs being unusual.
Justice Professional Associations
For more information about pursuing a degree and a career in the field of justice administration, you may wish to contact the following organizations:
- Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences
- American Academy of Forensic Sciences
- American Correctional Association
- American Criminal Justice Association
- American Probation and Parole Association
- American Society of Criminology
- National Association of Investigative Specialists
- American Society for Industrial Security
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