Fastest-Growing Careers in Criminal Justice

In the 2006 fiscal year, federal, state, and local government spending for police protection, corrections, judicial activities, and legal activities increased by 5.1 percent from the previous year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. As Americans grow to become more security and safety conscious, the demand for law enforcement officials and corrections units will increase, especially in areas of high population density.

Police officers and other law enforcement officials, such as police detectives, have different duties depending on their employment specialty, size of their organization, and the type of their organization. Uniformed police officers, for example, are the city-ordained officers who respond to calls as well as perform regular surveillance around neighborhoods. During patrols, the police officers are responsible for resolving any disputes they see and acting as figures of authority to uphold justice in general. Most police departments have different sections that handle specific areas of the city, such as outlying neighborhoods or the inner city. However, in a small police agency, like the kinds found in small towns, there may not be any subdivisions of enforcement areas. Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs act as police officers on a county level, and state police officers, also known as highway troopers, act as police officers on a state level. State police officers are often responsible for enforcing traffic laws and responding to vehicle accident scenes.

Applicants must have at least a high school diploma to be considered for a law enforcement position, although some police departments require a college degree as well. The competition for employment is predicted to heighten in the coming years, so those with a higher education are more likely to advance in the field than those without one. Many agencies will even pay for their employees to earn a degree in criminal justice. Law enforcement positions are expected to increase by 11 percent by 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Private detective and investigative occupations are expecting to see job opportunities increase by 18 percent in the next seven years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unlike uniformed police officers, private detectives assist companies, individuals, and attorneys in solving an issue rather than working with the local or state government. Jobs can range in topic anywhere from helping a business solve a case of computer fraud or theft to helping an individual track down a missing loved one. Although a government-employed official can also handle these issues, many individuals prefer to employ a private detective so that he or she may focus entirely on one specific case rather than concentrating on several cases at once, as government officials must often do. Yet, although not employed by the government, private detectives must still be mindful of privacy laws when conducting investigations to ensure that the evidence uncovered will be admissible, especially in cases that end up going to court. Most detectives have a college degree in criminal justice, though there is not a set requirement for the occupation.

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