Criminal justice is an exciting career field, with many options ranging from working as a police officer or security officer to getting a position with a federal law enforcement agency, such as Border Patrol or the Transportation Security Administration. In this career field, you can enjoy meaningful work that contributes to public safety while helping others.
A great advantage in this field is the job security it provides. Now more than ever is a great time to enter the field of criminal justice. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, several related career fields are growing and adding new positions periodically: police, detectives, probation officers, corrections officers, private investigators.
If you’re interested in a career in criminal justice, you will need the right education. This is a field that requires you to start out with some training and basic knowledge prior to learning more skills on the job. The training and basic knowledge that is needed will require you to find a school with a criminal justice program. All the options available might make you feel a bit overwhelmed, but with these six simple steps, you can be sure you’ll have a better strategy of finding the right school for you.
1. Determine Your Deal Breakers: What You Actually Need in a School for Criminal Justice
One of the most important things you can do when choosing a school for criminal justice is to get down to the basics. Ask yourself what you absolutely need in a school and what your deal breakers are. For example, is relocating a possibility or do you need to find a school that is a reasonable commute from where you live now? Knowing what your must-haves are and your deal breakers will eliminate a lot of possibilities. Here are some other factors to consider and to decide if they are deal-breakers or if you have some flexibility:
- Tuition and extra costs.
- Online class availability.
- Courses offered on weekends and evenings.
- The ability to choose your class schedule.
- Financial aid assistance.
- The choice of an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree.
- Requirements for being accepted to a program.
2. Narrow Down Your Options for a School for Criminal Justice.
Step 1 should have done this for you to some extent. If you have non-negotiables, like a tuition price tag you can afford without a loan or the exact degree you want, you can eliminate some of your possibilities. There are many schools offering degrees in criminal justice, but they are not all the same. You may still be left with several choices, so if you were not able to eliminate many schools with the first step, now is the time to find out what sets the better schools apart.
Look for what makes a school desirable for other students. For instance, is the school for criminal justice accredited? If it is, you should be able to easily find that information on the school website, and if it’s not, you have no guarantee that it provides a quality education. Also look for the schools that offer you the most services at no extra cost: career skills education, job placement, job fairs and assistance with financial aid.
3. Make Campus Visits to Each School for Criminal Justice That Spark Your Interest.
This is the fun part. Now that you have a manageable number of schools on your shortlist, you can visit each campus and see for yourself what it’s like. You can learn plenty of important details by researching online or even talking to staff on the phone or through email exchanges, but physically being on campus will tell you so much more about what the school is like.
The schools you are interested in should make it easy for you to visit and even take a tour. Ask if you can sit in on classes from the criminal justice department in order for you to make an even more informed decision. Look for things like small class sizes, students who are engaged and interested during class and faculty members that are really concerned with teaching students and giving them valuable skills and knowledge. And if campus life is important to you, spend some time with students and find out what kinds of student groups there are recreational activities and clubs.
4. Compare the Faculty at Each School for Criminal Justice.
You’re going to a school for criminal justice because you want to learn, but also because you want a career-focused education. You want a degree and a program that will give you the skills you need to actually get a job in law enforcement, security, or government agency and to succeed in your new career. One of the most important factors in getting the education you need to meet these goals is the faculty.
You need to choose a school that is staffed by knowledgeable instructors, but there is more to it than that. With a career-driven education, you need teachers who have actually done the work you want to learn how to do. Find out which of the schools you’re interested in have faculty who have worked in the field of criminal justice. Many career schools are staffed by career professionals, but some are more consistent about hiring experienced teachers than others.
5. Apply to Your Favorites, but also have a Backup Plan.
By this step, you should have a pretty solid list of great schools to choose from, and it’s time to take more concrete action. Start the application process for the few schools you now have on your condensed list. However, make sure that beneath your favorites you have one other school that could potentially work as a backup plan. There is always the possibility that something may go wrong with your few favorites and you come to realize that the backup plan will probably suit you best.
6. Make Your Final Choice of a School for Criminal Justice.
Now, with all the leg work done, you are ready to make your final decision. You know your absolute needs in a school for criminal justice, like the option of a bachelor’s degree, as well as your deal breakers, like a commute that is too long. You’ve narrowed down your list and weighed some of the pros and cons of the schools that meet your list of necessities. You visited the campuses to get a feel for what classes and instructors are like. You have applied to those schools on your short-list and with acceptance letters in hand, you have a final choice to make.
If you have done all of this work, and you have come down to two choices that seem equal, go with your gut. Choose the school that just feels better, the one that you felt comfortable at when you did a campus visit. Either way, you are probably making the right choice and you can feel confident that you have ultimately selected a school that will give you everything you need and put you on the path to your career in criminal justice.
And, if that final choice happens to be Florida Technical College, you really are on the right path. FTC has a school for criminal justice that includes two great degree options: an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree with a focus on Homeland Security. Either degree will get your foot in the door for careers in local law enforcement, security or corrections, while the bachelor’s degree is a great choice for careers with federal law enforcement agencies. With campuses in Lakeland, Kissimmee, Orlando, and Pembroke Pines, you also have convenient location choices, along with experienced instructors, flexible course schedules, financial aid assistance and career placement for graduates. To find out more, contact FTC’s school for criminal justice.