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Justice Careers

Introduction

This text has been developed as one of many tools to be used in your effort to secure a position in the justice system or other areas. As we know, the first job can be the most difficult to attain. You may be in competition with many other applicants, some of whom have work experience that exceeds that of a recent college graduate. It is important that you present yourself in a favorable light and are able to effectively communicate the reasons for selecting your application over that of others. With this text, and a process of career research facilitated by the following links, you can begin to make informed choices about your career.

In addition to hundreds of links chosen to help you learn about career options, this text also provides information about the mechanics of the job search process. This process, although similar for many positions, may be confusing at first. The fact that you may go through this process many times before finding your ideal career path may not be particularly comforting. The good news is that this process becomes less intimidating with experience and although one can hope for quick success with a job search, in many cases the cliché about “looking for a job being the hardest job” is true. Armed with knowledge, and a relatively clear idea of where you want to be, the initial job search and the continual process of career planning can be a rewarding, and perhaps even enjoyable, experience.

Career development is a process that can take many years. The process has already begun as you select your major and courses. The process is active as you strive for the grades needed to help your application find its way to the top of the pile. The process of career development is also active as you imagine yourself as a justice system professional. For example, do you plan on a career in policing? If yes, where do you plan to begin and end? Will a career as a traffic patrol officer provide the level of career satisfaction you need, or do you intend to become the Chief of Police? Do you want to remain in your community or are you interested in a career that would involve relocation? Do you imagine a career working with youth who become involved with the juvenile justice system? Did you, like many others who major in criminal justice and related fields, choose your major because “it sounded interesting?”

The career planning process continues as you choose a position, in or out of the justice system, which allows continual career growth, advancement, and transferability of skills. Once that first position is gained you have the opportunity to learn, assess your goals and needs, and develop skills that will benefit you, your current employer, or other future employers. Work is an unavoidable reality for most of us. Those who are happiest in their career report that they are lucky to be paid to do something they enjoy.

The justice system includes a variety of career options and offers the opportunity for challenging and rewarding work. Clients of the justice system are often facing very difficult times and a caring criminal justice professional can play an important part in the individual’s future. While justice professionals learn to take the good with the bad, many are driven to try to “make a difference” and receive many rewards from their careers. Many justice professionals have discovered that their careers are demanding while offering many rewarding experiences.

The process of choosing a career path can be very difficult, and can become quite stressful. Taking the time to learn about, and reflect on, a range of career options can reduce this stress. This text is intended to provide many opportunities to learn about careers. This text can be helpful for those who have narrowed their choices and those who are interested in the justice system but have not chosen a career path. In addition to traditional justice careers, the links and descriptions that follow will help you learn about many careers that include contact with the justice system, although many may not initially define these as “justice system careers.”

Take the time to learn about career options. Even more important, take the time to learn about yourself. Actively consider your interests, research career choices, learn about the application process, and learn about the expectations associated with a variety of justice system careers. And finally, before we move to a discussion of career planning, think about the justice system as you move through various educational experiences. The negative, “nothing works” mentality of criminal justice education is one of our most significant failures. It can be challenging to imagine being a positive force in a system that has a good deal of momentum, not all of it positive. Those who are most troubled by the failures of the system, and who struggle with the idea that they can make a difference but will try anyway, are exactly the type of professionals our justice system needs.

Career development is a lifelong process that involves continual and consistent maintenance. Your interests, skills, and preferences change throughout your life. Of course, it is important to get that first job, but we know that most people change jobs, even careers, several times in their lives. Successful career planning is a continual process of self-assessment, occupational research, decision-making, working, and reevaluation.

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