Criminal Justice: Follow Your Dream Without Suffering From The ‘CSI Effect’ Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” When a person decides to work in the field of criminal justice, they make it their responsibility to protect and serve the public. It is one of the most important roles in our society, and is a noble career path for anyone tough enough to tackle the difficult work involved in criminal justice. Incredible as this field may be in reality, it is important to realize that criminal justice is not all it seems to be on television shows like CSI, Law & Order, and Bones. Criminal Justice Enrollment At the moment, criminal justice is one of the most popular degrees sought for at both online and traditional schools. This increased interest comes mainly from popular shows, which have sparked a never-before-seen awareness of the field. Our culture’s newfound interest in criminal justice is wonderful, since there is always a need for trained, skilled people to work in forensics and criminal investigation. Loyola University reported that in 2004 there were 100 students enrolled in their forensic chemistry program – compared to the 45 students who were enrolled in 1999 (the year before CSI was released). West Virginia University experienced a similar phenomenon, going from four forensics graduates in 2000 to 500 enrolled students in 2004. The continued popularity of these shows has kept these high enrollment rates in criminal justice programs for over a decade. What It Takes to be a Criminal Investigator Unlike the glamorous television shows, real-life criminal investigators don’t usually get to be a part of exciting, fast-paced adventures. Depending on your specific area of study, you’ll either be investigating crime scenes, interrogating suspects, analyzing facts and clues, or working in the lab to uncover missing links in crimes. Some of the different jobs and areas you might consider after earning your degree are: AFT Agent Bailiff CIA Agent Coast Guard Compliance Officer Computer Forensics Corrections Officer Court Clerk Court Reporter Crime Scene Investigator Criminalist Criminologist Customs Agent DEA Agent FBI Agent Forensic Psychologist Forensic Scientist Homeland Security Agent INS Agent Law Enforcement Lawyer/Attorney Paralegal Police Detective Police Officer Private Investigator Private Security Guard Probation Officer Secret Service Sheriff US Marshall While TV shows sometimes combine the tasks of several different careers into one character’s job, in reality, you will only work within your designated field. This means you won’t be analyzing data in the lab one minute, then interrogating a suspect the next – these are different positions. It’s important to figure out what exactly you want to do and what will be required of you. Challenges You’ll Face in Class According to many professors and criminal justice professionals, students are often misinformed about what to expect from a criminal justice classes. Many areas of criminal justice require a strong foundation in science, making either chemistry or biology a requirement. If you are not interested in scientific work, then a focus on psychology or law would be more beneficial. Depending on which career you choose to pursue, your specific classes will vary. Regardless of your career path, your work load will be large and demanding. Criminal Justice is a challenging field, which students quickly discover can’t be coasted through. There are many tedious and precise skills that need to be mastered so that evidence is not accidentally tampered with or damaged while being collected; attention to detail is an absolute must. Criminal investigation students need to make a very real and serious commitment to learning very specific skills needed for a criminologists to succeed. Challenges You’ll Face on the Job Working with any sort of criminal science, especially if you are on the police force, will mean dealing with some very real and gruesome crimes. The evidence to be documented, analyzed, and studied usually involves disfigured bodies and their various fluids. It is very important that you make sure you will be able to deal with the intensity of crime-related jobs. Seeing a crime scene in person is a very different experience from witnessing a staged crime scene on television. There is also a lot of psychological strain in criminal-related work. The intense on-the-job stress of dealing with violence and death on a daily basis should be considered before you enter a criminal justice degree. Even though it’s stressful, many people working in law enforcement feel a unique and empowering pride, and many state that they would not trade their roles in society for anything. How you deal with these stresses depends completely on your own experiences and views. Give a fair amount of thought to how you would handle the long days, high stress, and demanding work loads. This is not a matter to be taken lightly, but it is a worthy and admirable career if you are up to the challenge. Criminal Justice Online Programs As criminal justice increases in popularity, the availability of this degree online has also increased. Today, people who want to go into criminology can easily get their degrees at home at their own pace. Check the links below to find affordable, quality criminal justice programs online: University of Phoenix Rasmussen College Kaplan University University of Cincinnati Remington College LA College International Loyola University You’ve taken the first step toward your degree in criminal justice: You’ve become informed and educated on the subject. Now, it’s time to take yourself to the next level. Having a respected, admirable career is well within your reach – don’t let another day go by without taking steps toward achieving your dreams. Learn how to enroll in a criminal justice degree program today!