It’s a Great Time to Be You

Education is key as job opportunities grow in the criminal justice field.


Careers in criminal justice are many and continue to grow. Growth among careers in law enforcement and investigation is reported at 22 percent, an above average gain, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The same published report projects 9 percent growth among probation officers and corrections personnel. This projection represents an average growth rate, but growth just the same.

To give you an idea of the options available in this growing industry, Cheryl Banachowski-Fuller, program director for University of Wisconsin- Platteville Online’s criminal justice program, offers her advice.

“In the current economic climate, law enforcement positions in most big cities are tough to get. They tend to look for people with a military background and prefer a candidate with a master’s degree,” she said. “Colleges like UW-Platteville prepare students to take full advantage of these opportunities.”

As a new class enters the criminal justice program, instructors often ask students what they like to watch on TV to gauge their desired career direction within the field. The numerous popular forensics dramas sometimes prompt students to enroll with unrealistic expectations.

“We train students for supporting roles in a forensics unit; however, it generally takes at least a bachelor’s degree to understand the science required to become a crime scene analyst,” says Banachowski-Fuller. “The majority of our students say they have come to us for training so they can help people in trouble. Most want to help kids.”

A criminal justice degree or certificate provides a foundation in human service fields, such as probation and parole work, child protection services, or victim services. Human service workers provide assistance to adults and children coping with difficulty issues. Students can pursue opportunities as a probation officer, case worker, or even working with a school or hospital to support those in need.

Another avenue of employment opportunities lies in the security industry. A multitude of businesses hire security guards and surveillance officers to guard people, merchandise, money or equipment. Students can inquire about these positions at museums, department stores, banks and hospitals, to name a few.

“Training also provides entry level opportunities as a private investigator,” Banachowski-Fuller says. “It’s amazing how much of the approach to criminal justice comes from understanding society. Who’s in the system, how the system works,” Banachowski-Fuller says.

A career in one field can transition into the other. As students broaden the scope of the search for employment, they now look into open positions at both the public defender’s and prosecutor’s offices.

“In this economy, I encourage students to think broadly outside of traditional places,” says Banachowski-Fuller.

Find your niche
The master’s degree in criminal justice program at UW-Platteville Online offers three areas of emphasis:

1. Criminal Justice Management – for students seeking promotion to supervisory or administrative positions.
2. Criminal Justice Theory – for students who want to continue graduate education in a PhD program, teach at a two-year college, or embark on a career in government research.
3. Victim and Offender Services – for students interested in working with crime victims, juveniles, probation and parole clients, or providing services in institutional or community-based settings.

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