Criminal Justice and Law-Related Programs: What You Need to Know


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Are you interested in the idea of working in a courtroom? Maybe you aspire to protect others by becoming a member of your local police force. From court reporter to law enforcement, enrolling in a criminal justice degree program will provide you with the tools you need to succeed in maintaining law and justice in society.

While in school, many students express a desire to make a difference. By earning a degree in criminal justice, you can play an active role in creating and implementing change within your community, as well as its individuals.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “employment of police and detectives is projected to grow four percent from 2014 to 2024.”  In addition, the BLS states, “Applicants with a bachelor’s degree and law enforcement or military experience, especially investigative experience, as well as those who speak more than one language, should have the best job opportunities.[1]

Criminal Justice Studies: Associate or Bachelor’s
Depending upon your level of prior experience in the field, you may decide to pursue an associate or bachelor’s degree. A criminal justice associate degree will prepare you for entry-level positions, as well as opportunities for promotion within the field. At Hodges, you will receive a more in-depth understanding of behavioral sciences, forensics, policing, courts and criminal procedure, and corrections.

Students who pursue a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice will receive instruction on the most comprehensive and contemporary methods and policies surrounding the criminal justice system. The bachelor’s program at Hodges is also beneficial to students who work as criminal justice personnel, as it prepares them for a career in middle and upper management positions.

Some of the additional benefits of enrolling in a criminal justice degree program include the accumulation of a variety of skills in analysis, application, comprehension, evaluation and synthesis. Students are able to apply law and procedure in practice; analyze theoretical perspectives in criminology; discuss the major institutions of criminal justice (policing, courts and corrections); propose and defend practical solutions to problems using the criminal justice system; and more.

“Students in the criminal justice Bachelor of Science program are encouraged to participate in an internship at a professional agency. These include a sheriff’s office or police department, a prosecutor or public defender office, a prison or jail, a center for at–risk youth, or the department of children and families,” said Daniel Pontzer, program chair and associate professor of criminal justice at Hodges. “This is an opportunity for students to gain insights into how to go about procuring employment in a specific field of criminal justice, to develop job-related skills and strengthen their network of professional contacts.”

Upon completing your degree program, after mastering appropriate skills and participating in experiential learning opportunities outside the classroom, your career options are many, some of which include:

  • Law Enforcement and Corrections:
    • Police officer, corrections officer, game surveillance officer, detective, law enforcement administrative positions and transportation security administration
  • Intelligence
    • Forensics, child protective services, intelligence analyst and criminologist
  • Courts and Private Industry
    • Court reporter, loss prevention specialist, probation officer, bailiff, private security and risk management

In addition to the criminal justice program, other related degree programs are beneficial in helping you pursue a fulfilling path and build your career. For instance, a degree in legal studies, paralegal studies or cybersecurity and forensics can provide you with the knowledge and tools needed to enter the field of law.

Paralegal Studies
By earning an associate degree in paralegal studies, you will receive the necessary instruction to pursue a career working with varying sizes of law firms. As a paralegal, you can go on to assist lawyers in trial preparation, perform legal research, work in private law offices or the federal government, as well as specialize in areas of real estate, family law, litigation and immigration.

Students who earn a paralegal studies degree may have the ability to take on additional roles within a law firm. As a result of the expected growth of paralegals and legal assistants, which is projected at eight percent, the BLS foresees paralegals “performing not only traditional paralegal duties but also some of the tasks previously assigned to legal secretaries or other legal support workers.”[2]

For individuals with a paralegal studies degree, another option is to continue the educational journey and obtain a bachelor’s degree in legal studies. This is the path Samantha L. Jones chose to take after earning her associate degree in paralegal studies in 2008. Jones graduated with her bachelor’s degree in legal studies in 2009.

Legal Studies
A legal studies degree offers a combination of business and legal knowledge and provides students with a solid foundation in how the legal system works. Students who have graduated from the legal studies bachelor’s program at Hodges explain how the curriculum prepared them for their next step of entering law school.

Hodges alumna Mary Cosmo explained, “My Hodges career gave me an advantage in preparing for each class and knowing how to prepare for a law school final exam. I also found myself conceptualizing a deeper meaning of newer concepts, which were familiar, rather than trying to learn a new concept upon a brief introduction.”

Technological Incorporation: eDiscovery/eLitigation
One area that is often forgotten when studying criminal justice, legal studies or paralegal studies is the idea of technology and its ever-changing role in law.

“The practice of law has historically been slow to change, as legal issues make their way through the court systems over the years, but advancements in technology and the way in which we communicate has changed the practice of law as we know it,” said Dr. Carlos Baradat, Hodges alumnus and adjunct faculty member.

Through the development of certificate programs such as electronic discovery (eDiscovery) and electronic litigation (eLitigation), you can discover how technology is becoming more integrated into the legal field. Created to benefit students who are looking to enter into the legal profession, a certification in eDiscovery and eLitigation provides advantages when starting a career, whether in criminal justice, as a paralegal or as an attorney.

In order to obtain a certification in eDiscovery and eLitigation at Hodges, you will need to complete the following components:

  • eDiscovery
  • eWorkshop
  • Social media usage and data privacy
  • eLitigation

“With technology at the forefront of nearly every business model, it is imperative that business owners as well as the legal community take the necessary steps to prepare for the technology, as well as the legal challenges, of tomorrow,” Baradat adds.

Cybersecurity and Forensics
For individuals who are interested in the technological side of law, another related degree program is cybersecurity and forensics, which can lead you to a career in specialties such as information security, forensic analysis or computer crime investigations. Students learn to plan and carry out security measures, which serve to protect an organization’s computer networks.

Textbook instruction and lectures are beneficial ways to learn more about criminal justice, legal studies, paralegal studies and cybersecurity and forensics; however, the professors who possess real-world experience provide an additional enrichment to a degree program. Through practical experience as law enforcement officers, judges, probation and parole officers, corrections and social service personnel, IT professionals and practicing lawyers, our professors enhance the learning experience and provide value to the students. Some examples of such Hodges faculty include:

  • Brian O’Reilly, criminal justice adjunct professor in Hodges’ Nichols School of Professional Studies (NSPS), has an expertise in law enforcement, violent crimes and investigations. When he is not teaching, he serves as a detective sergeant and supervisor of the homicide unit with the Fort Myers Police Department.
  • Char Wendel, NSPS program chair and professor of legal studies, has spent much of her professional career working as a psychotherapist, a crisis intervention/suicide assessment clinician, a rape crisis center director, a lawyer, a chief executive officer of a health care organization, an instructions designer and a college and university professor.
  • Timothy Hill, computer information technology adjunct professor in Hodges’ Fisher School of Technology, is an expert in computer forensics and IT security. His professional experience includes serving as an information security engineer and IT specialist with the U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM).

Now that you have a better understanding of the benefits of a criminal justice degree program, as well as its related degree programs, get started on your future career path today.

[1] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Police and Detectives, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm (visited July 25, 2016).

[2] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Paralegals and Legal Assistants, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm (visited July 25, 2016).