Criminal Justice Major: An In-Depth Look

criminal justice office

If your favorite movies and TV shows follow crime-solving characters as they strive to keep their communities safe, then you may have considered majoring in criminal justice. It’s true that real life is vastly different from the fictionalized world of law enforcement you see on the screen. However, the intent is the same: to protect and serve one’s community. A criminal justice degree can provide the path for you to pursue a rewarding career in this dynamic and demanding career field. Before you make a decision, consider the following information.

Exploring a Typical Criminal Justice Degree Program

The curriculum of a criminal justice degree program will vary from one school to the next. In general, however, you can expect to gain a broad understanding of the three main areas of criminal justice: law enforcement, corrections and the court system. By studying all three of these areas, you can more readily determine exactly which career path might be best suited to you.

Some of the topics you can expect to study may include the following:

  • The fundamentals of criminal law and its enforcement.
  • The pathways for resolving civil law matters through the court system.
  • The development and implementation of public policy and its effect on crime control.
  • The identification and mitigation of natural, man-made and accidental threats within a community.
  • The fundamentals of criminal behavior and victimology.

When looking for a criminal justice program, consider choosing one that emphasizes professional ethics in the curriculum. While professional ethics are important in any occupation, they are particularly crucial in the criminal justice field. Individuals who work in this field often hold a great deal of authority in their communities, and it’s essential to understand that no one is above the law. Cultural sensitivity, moral judgments and the appropriate use of public resources are key topics for criminal justice students.

Understanding the Important Skills and Traits of Criminal Justice Majors

When deciding whether a career in criminal justice could be right for you, another thing to consider is the skills and traits needed for this type of work. Note that your criminal justice degree program should guide you in acquiring these skills, so don’t worry if you don’t yet possess all of them.

  • Communication skills: Regardless of which specific criminal justice career you choose, communication skills will be important. For instance, if you choose to pursue a career as a police officer, you will need to clearly communicate with members of the public and your fellow officers.
  • Empathy: Many individuals decide to major in criminal justice because they wish to serve others. It’s important to maintain empathy even in the face of difficult circumstances. Police officers, for example, need to listen carefully to every side of the story in order to figure out what’s truly going on.
  • Cultural awareness: Criminal justice professionals work with diverse populations, and so it’s essential to develop cultural competencies. A culturally sensitive professional is more likely to have effective interactions with other individuals. Furthermore, cultural competency is a means of earning the public’s trust and removing barriers to clear communication.

These are just a few of the important skills and qualities for criminal justice majors. Of course, the specific traits you will need to be successful will depend on your particular career choice within this field. Other important skills and traits can include physical fitness, research skills, interpersonal relationship skills and attention to detail.

Considering the Types of Criminal Justice Careers

When you think about the criminal justice field, the first profession to pop into your mind is likely that of law enforcement. However, within law enforcement, there are many specific career choices to consider, including the following:

  • Uniformed officers: Patrol officers are responsible for patrolling a specific area, enforcing traffic laws and responding to calls for help.
  • Detectives: Detectives interview witnesses and suspects, evaluate evidence and strive to solve crimes.
  • Fish and game wardens: These officers patrol hunting and fishing areas, enforcing related federal and state regulations, participating in search and rescue operations and responding to accidents.
  • Air marshals: Federal air marshals investigate potential aviation-related threats and go on flights in an undercover role to protect the crew and passengers.

These are just a few examples of law enforcement careers you might consider. Other options include probation officer, private investigator, correctional officer and public safety officer. Alternatively, some students who earn a criminal justice degree may decide to apply to law school and become lawyers.

You can prepare for a rewarding career by earning your criminal justice degree at Grand Canyon University. The College of Humanities and Social Sciences is pleased to offer the Bachelor of Science in Justice Studies for students who are passionate about the court system, law enforcement and the corrections system. Explore how you can make a positive difference in keeping your community safe by clicking on Request Info at the top of your screen.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.

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