Just a Career? Make Yours a Just Career!
For the socially conscious individual, there are few jobs that are more satisfying than a career that relates to criminal justice. Whether that job pertains to solving crime, protecting citizens from crime or defending alleged criminals with a sound legal defense, it is almost always the case that these jobs significantly benefit our society. Indeed, many people that have pursued these noble career paths state that they do so because they want to make a difference, serve their community and help others along the way.
These are incredible goals to be sure and there are many ways in which these goals can be achieved within the criminal justice system. All too often, people watch a good episode of Law and Order and conclude that the criminal justice system primarily revolves around police, lawyers and judges, but the criminal justice system offers many other exciting career opportunities! While altruism and caring for the community can be primary goals for entering into this line of work, money still needs to be made to make any job a realistic career choice. Also of importance is how essential the job itself is in regards to criminal justice, as some jobs in the criminal justice system are too isolated from the justice aspect that so many find desirable.
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For a job in the criminal justice system to be a great one for a career it needs to satisfy essential criteria. First, the job must promote a significant amount of social good and help others. Second, the job must pay a decent salary and be a good option for choosing a career. Finally, the job must be closely related to criminal justice and not merely tangentially related. It should go without saying, then, that all of the jobs in the following list of top 10 entry level jobs in criminal justice fit this criteria.
Of course, these are entry level criminal justice jobs, so don’t be expecting to find that dream FBI job on this list. Those jobs, and the higher salaries that come along with them, require years of experience in the field. The jobs on this list still pay decent salaries and give the tools and necessary experience to eventually transition into that dream criminal justice job! It should be noted, however, that this list is not ordered in terms of most to least desirable entry level criminal justice jobs. Rather, this is simply a list of 10 incredible jobs that satisfy the criteria as described above. Given the wide range of jobs and even wider range of motivations that lead individuals to these positions, a general list is preferable rather than an ordered one. Without further ado, here are 10 incredible jobs to get started in a fulfilling criminal justice career!
10. Border Patrol Agent
For those that wish to pursue criminal justice as a career, there are few better entry level options than working as a border patrol agent. These jobs are incredibly important socially, as these agents work to prevent illegal aliens from entering American territory unlawfully. Further, a border patrol agent is tasked with monitoring the borders and waters of the United States. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is a border patrol agent’s duty to detain those that have entered the country unlawfully.
The application process for one of these positions is lengthy. On average, an application takes anywhere from a year to 18 months before it is completed. As a result, there are numerous job openings available. Even better, border patrol agents earn a median income of around $70,000 and salaries top out in the six figures range. While entry level pay is lower, these jobs offer very livable wages for recent college graduates. It should be noted that being over the age of 40, poor credit or previous convictions on your file will likely be enough to prevent an application from being successful.
Still, this job opens up the doors to many other criminal justice careers. Given that this position can be obtained with a simple bachelor’s degree, it is one of the best entry level criminal justice jobs available. Admittedly, enforcement of the borders is a hot button issue politically, but it is important to remember that these agents have caught numerous violent criminals. In some cases, border patrol agents have even given their lives serving their country in these positions. In short, no matter what anyone’s political opinions might be regarding the border, this is a job that any socially conscious individual interested in criminal justice should be proud to have.
9. Criminal Defense Paralegal
While many enthusiasts of watching television shows about criminal law believe it is all about the lawyers, rest assured that the lawyer would never get his or her moment to shine without a good paralegal at the ready. Many criminal defense firms hire paralegals at the entry level, provided that they make a commitment to work at the firm for a specified time period. Usually, this period is around two years. The pay of a paralegal is also quite good for being an entry level position, as pay usually hovers between $50,000 and $60,000 a year. Obviously, this could be smaller if the criminal defense firm is a much smaller firm. Generally speaking though, the pay is quite good.
Further, a job as a criminal justice paralegal is incredibly close to the heart of the justice system. Criminal justice firms involve zealously representing and defending their clients. In essence, criminal defense involves the lives of other human beings that are hanging in the balance. A defense firm should always be seeking proper application of the law, and most importantly, fair and proportional treatment to their clients in an ethical context. A paralegal will lay much of the groundwork for this incredible pillar of the justice system to do its job properly. While it is true that the lawyer will reap most of the glory when that big “not guilty” verdict is handed down, he or she will know that the paralegal was an integral part in making it all happen.
A career as a paralegal will also prepare anyone well for other popular criminal justice fields in law. Many of the best judges and lawyers started out as paralegals gaining valuable experience before continuing their legal training in law school. Put simply, this is one of the most rewarding and essential entry level criminal justice jobs out there!
8. Fish and Game Warden
It is far from contradictory to say that an individual that values social justice would also love animals and nature. In fact, if anything, these notions are often complementary! For individuals that have this kind of outlook, a job as a fish and game warden would be an ideal entry level job in criminal justice. This is truly an ideal job for anyone that loves the outdoors, and the pay is certainly livable as the median pay is over $40,000 per year. Also, these jobs are often in more rural areas where the cost of living is lower, which would make that salary go even further.
This job is also very important to the justice system, as preserving wildlife and nature’s beauty is an invaluable benefit to society. Too many movies that poke fun of these types of jobs leave the general public with the impression that these jobs leave authorities powerless and helpless when individuals infringe on established laws. However, that could not be further from the truth. Fish and game wardens do have the authority to fine or arrest those that are in violation of the law when it occurs within their patrolling area. So not only does this job promote a great deal of social good while preserving nature, it also is directly related to criminal justice since you are preventing crime and arresting suspects if criminal activity occurs! This is one more of many great ways to start a career in criminal justice.
7. Child Protective Services Worker
Few jobs are more socially relevant than the job of a child protective services worker. These employees provide services that assist and aid the social and psychological well-being of families and their children. These incredible people ensure that neglect and abuse will be dealt with when they have taken place in the lives of children. Further, they often counsel families when parental decisions endanger children and help to identify beneficial resources for these troubled families. In extreme cases, these workers save children by removing them from unfit homes when they are in danger and place them in loving foster homes. In short, the social utility of these jobs is hard to find anywhere else.
The trade-off of having a job with such incredible value is that the pay is usually a bit lower than some of the other entry level jobs on this list. Their salaries are usually around $35,000 a year. This wage is still livable or it would not be on this list. Even so, do not expect to be getting rich any time soon.
This position is also crucial to the justice system as these workers are often a first line of defense for helpless children in the justice system. Further, their expertise is often counted on in family law courts when certain facts around abuse and neglect may be at issue. These jobs also open up great advancement opportunities for anyone that is hoping to work in the juvenile justice system to help rehabilitate troubled young people.
6. Parole Officer
Speaking of rehabilitation, one of the most socially beneficial jobs in the justice system is that of a parole officer. These officers are the first point of contact for recently released inmates. Usually, these inmates have been released for good behavior and it is the parole officer’s job to make sure that this good behavior continues.
In our society, we value the rehabilitative aspects of prison, since it is a general precept of the human justice system that human beings can change and be rehabilitated back into law-abiding citizens. The parole officer, then, plays an essential role in this system, since he is in effect the person that reintroduces the parolee back into society. He is tasked with finding the released individual employment and helping them to get back on their feet so to speak. This can even include helping them find required schooling to further their education when necessary. The fact that these officers both keep society safe while performing much of the rehabilitative functions for released inmates makes this an incredibly desirable job for socially conscious individuals.
The pay is also more than respectable. With the median salary hovering around $40,000 a year, this is a very livable wage that will allow someone to get great experience in the criminal justice system that can help them catapult to bigger positions down the road.
5. Correctional Officer
Few entry level criminal justice jobs are as challenging or as rewarding as the duties of a correctional officer. Entrusted with maintaining order and controlling rowdy inmate, this job is one of the most difficult jobs to perform on this list. Making sure that criminals follow the rules of the prison is an incredible challenge given the fact that inmates are typically imprisoned because they do not care about society’s rules in the first place.
The primary job functions of these officers involve supervising and searching the inmates and their respective sleeping areas. While doing this, officers are careful in searching for any drugs or dangerous objects such as shivs that could compromise the integrity and safety of the prison. Further responsibilities include regular reports on the conduct of the inmates and they are also responsible for enforcing facility regulations. Put plainly, prisons would not function without correctional officers. As such, it should come as little surprise that these jobs are directly tied to the success of our criminal justice system.
The salary for these positions is also a livable wage, with the median income for a job as a correctional officer hovering around $35,000 per year. This job is also one of the easiest ways to get job experience within the criminal justice system. Typically, the minimum education is a high school diploma, making these jobs one of the easiest entry level jobs to secure if they do not have an intention of pursuing higher education.
4. Customs and Immigration Enforcement Officers
When considering a criminal justice career, keeping citizens safe is often the primary reason why people want to pursue this type of work. Usually, government jobs offer some of the most meaningful ways to find employment while ensuring the safety of American citizens. The jobs of customs and immigration enforcement officers are no exception to this rule. Further, these jobs are found with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is the largest investigative agency in the Department of Homeland Security. Needless to say, these jobs are of crucial importance then to maintaining the security of our country.
As the primary investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, these officers are tasked with enforcing federal laws regarding the borders, trade laws, customs and immigration. Suffice it to say, the particular duties any one officer might be assigned in these fields of work are too broad to cover for the purposes of this general article. However, with security around the globe continuing to tighten, demand for these exciting jobs will continue to grow!
The salary for these positions are also competitive. Starting salaries usually hover in the $40,000 range, though the salary can climb much higher if assigned to a higher cost of living area. Further, these jobs can lead to even greater opportunities within the Department of Homeland Security, including specialized agent positions. This is yet another job that anyone interested in a criminal justice career should add to their short list of potential starting jobs.
3. Non-Profit Organization Advocate
In the United States, we pride ourselves on having a system of justice that is both fair and just. Inevitably, however, our system is not perfect. Like any system, injustice is occasionally done and people sometimes fall through the cracks so to speak. A non-profit organization advocate is an essential piece in the justice system that looks to prevent these injustices. These incredible jobs are as broad in work duties as they are in their intents, but typically in one of these positions an individual will find themselves working on behalf of victims of the justice system or individuals that have been wrongly accused. Sometimes, the work will involve working on reducing overly harsh sentences when the punishment that was handed down by a judge does not fit the crime.
It should go without saying, then, that this job is indispensable to the justice system. While most of the jobs on this list involve enforcing the law, arresting criminals or helping criminals that have already served their time rehabilitate their lives, this job serves as a balancing act against these other jobs. This is not to say, once again, that these other jobs are harmful. In fact, those jobs are far from harmful! It is merely to say that sometimes the flawed human element can corrupt the justice system and the jobs that these organization advocates do act as a necessary balance against these injustices.
Despite the immense social utility of these jobs, it is difficult to specify a pay range. For some of the most desirable non-profit organizations the pay can be quite good. For others however, the pay can be incredibly low, even going under $30,000 sometimes. For this reason, it is difficult to emphatically state that the salary for these positions are easily livable wages, but in many cases they can be. Therefore, it is recommended that individuals interested in this line of work do their due diligence of understanding the pay structure of various organizations as well as understand the potential financial sacrifices that may or may not be necessary to take one of these rewarding jobs.
2. Private Detective
What should a socially conscious person do if they want to bring criminals to justice and help with social good if they want to be their own boss at the same time? One way to answer that question by thinking outside of the box a little bit is to become a private detective.
This job will allow for the social good that you do to be as much or as little as you prefer. Indeed, a private detective can investigate just about anything provided that the intrepid detective has the needed client base to do the work that he or she wants. Admittedly, that is the difficulty of being a private detective. That is why constant networking will be as essential to performing this job as the essential detective skills are. However, once the right clientele is established and the work that the detective does is fantastic, then it should become an incredible source of income and pay.
Speaking of income, like the non-profit organization advocate positions described earlier, this is not an easy job to figure out in terms of what the expected income will be. So much of that depends on the detective’s rates and the amount of clients that are willing to pay it. It is not altogether dissimilar from hanging a shingle in any line of business, whether that is an internet start-up or a new law firm. In short, the determination of the social good and the pay largely comes down to the individual that is starting out his detective business. With the right attitude, the right price and the right networking strategy, this could be the most rewarding job of all listed on this page. After all, it is hard to complain about being your own boss!
1. Police Officer
Last, but certainly not least, is the job of police officer. This is probably the first and foremost job that comes to mind when the general public thinks of the criminal justice system. Even better, these desirable jobs do not require a college degree, so those that wish to serve the general public in this capacity can jump in straight out of high school! Almost all entry level police officer positions will start out at the patrol officer level. This job salary will vary based on the location of where the officer’s job is, but suffice it to say that the pay is quite good. Usually, pay will start out around or slightly above $45,000. The best part about these positions is that police officers are always retiring and moving into new lines of work. Coupled with the fact that practically every county in the country has police officers, hopeful future officers can rest assured that this job will always be in demand!
Regarding the social utility of these jobs, it is hard to think of many jobs that are more service-oriented and give back to a community more than the job of a police officer. These officers stand in the gap and are the first line of defense against crime harming the citizens that they are sworn to protect. The crimes and infractions that these officers help enforce and prevent can range from the smallest of infractions to the most serious of community threats. They will investigate the minor crimes, patrol community areas and they will absolutely be on the job when it comes to apprehending serious suspects and chasing down criminals. Finally, and probably everyone’s least favorite aspect about police officers, they are more than willing to issue traffic citations!
At any rate, it should be noted that while these jobs are absolutely entry level, they do require their fair share of training at the police academy. Also, while a college degree is not absolutely required, it is often preferred. This is particularly the case in areas where police officer positions are in higher demand and are more competitive. However, all of this training pays dividends. A job as a police officer can lead to specialized detective jobs, positions with the FBI, CIA and so many other wonderful job opportunities in criminal justice. In essence, for those dedicated to service and their communities, the job of police officer is a true honor and one that any socially oriented and courageous individual should look into.
Pursuing a Career in Criminal Justice
This article has outlined a good assortment of quality jobs and ideas to help get the ball rolling for anyone that has thought about an exciting career in criminal justice. While not all of these jobs will be for everyone, the list is broad and expansive enough that there should have been some job that was appealing if someone is truly interested in criminal justice. For those that love to make a difference, pursuing a career in criminal justice is a decision that will never be regretted!