A job in the criminal justice field can be both rewarding and stressful at the same time, furthermore it takes a special person to succeed at the job. Depending on where you live in the country, you might need more education just to apply to an entry-level law enforcement job. Rural police forces might accept applicants with a high school diploma, but as you get closer to an urban development like Philadelphia you will need at least an associate degree just to apply.

(Photo Courtesy of John Maxwell)

(Photo Courtesy of John Maxwell)

A degree in criminal justice might teach you all you need to know when you start out on the streets, but after 40 years on the police force, John Maxwell, now a professor at Drexel University, knows exactly what type of education is important for a criminal justice official.

What type of education and skills are needed to secure a good job in the criminal justice field?

“Really two years of college or military service would be the educational requirement, but the more education the better.”

“Many departments have a requirement of at least a high school education, in order to be a supervisor you should have at least two years of college. To be a captain, commander or above, you would need a full bachelor’s degree.

“I feel strongly that one of the more important skills an officer needs is common sense and a sense of empathy for the human condition. Integrity and character are also very important.”

What are some advanced courses that would be beneficial for career in criminal justice?

“I feel that almost any course a student or officer takes would be beneficial for their career.”

“However a few do stand out: criminal justice courses, sociology, criminal law, terrorism (both domestic and international), theory course ( e.g. theories on deviant behavior and causes of crime), psychology, English, supervision and management, computer skills, ethics, decision-making and, communication courses.”

What is the most challenging aspect of being a criminal justice officer?

“Protecting citizens and at the same time ensuring everyone’s constitutional rights and privileges are not violated.”

Facing on a daily basis, the many social problems of our society, like illegal drugs, access to guns by criminal elements, mental illness, homelessness, domestic violence and child abuse. Being in law enforcement is the only social service agency available to address these issues on a 24/7 basis.”

“Officers realize that a major portion of their day is trying to help people with problems, which may result in a sense of helplessness and depression. The challenges of physical dangers and the potential for serious injury and even death is always there. You can only try to keep a balance in your life. Don’t let the job consume you.”

Christina Thompson is a freelance travel writer living in Philadelphia. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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