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  1. #1
    orangewetnap Guest

    Default Criminal Justice (CJA) Degree Advice

    I was wondering if anybody in here had Criminal Justice degrees. I'm wanting to major in criminal justice but being real discouraged by some with the degree, saying it is useless. Tell me what your experiences were like after you graduated and what career choice you took, and if you regret, or are satisfied, with your field of study.

    I have a military background and enjoy investigative type work. I do not want to join any state/federal agency or I might as well reenter active duty. I want to work in the CJ field as a civilian. Not just investigations, but anything. So my concerns are how limited are my career options and what is this degree really worth?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Criminal Justice (CJA) Degree Advice

    The value of a degree depends not just on its name, but also on the educational institution and your grades. But if you really want to be a private investigator you need to research the firms doing the type of work you desire and see what sort of qualifications they expect. Some investigative firms are heavy with Ph.D.'s and researchers, some are full of lawyers, some are full of former police officers.... You need to do your homework - the figurative type - before you enroll in a program that will take your money and a couple of years of your life but may not get you any closer to where you want to be.

  3. #3
    orangewetnap Guest

    Default Re: Criminal Justice (CJA) Degree Advice

    I appreciate your input, Mr. Knowitall, but I'm looking for personal experience from CJ graduates, not opinionated responses. You didn't tell me what I, or anyone, already knows.

    Also, where you get your degree is only as important as the interviewer who knows what to look for; which most don't. So I don't agree with you there. I know most people think that that little ole HR lady who interviews you is the company expert/owner with the utmost education, but shes not. And these little ole ladies are the ones most commonly tasked through companies/agencies for the hiring process. I'm not saying that a prestigious university will go unrecognized, but the most skilled/educated employee within a company assigned to the field in which you are applying for is usually never the one who hires you for that position.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Criminal Justice (CJA) Degree Advice

    A criminal justice degree has advantages as does having ANY degree. But, in the criminal justice field, many people have an AA or BA in CJ. Really, having a CJ degree does not benefit you any more than any other degree might have. A CJ degree will not make you stand out of the crowd, but it will give you a foundation in the fundamentals of how the criminal justice system works and why. If what you intend to do is remain in the private sector, or work as a civilian analyst or support in the CJ field, then you might consider some other degrees pertaining to forensics, public administration, business, even psychology.

    Having ANY BA will be good to get started. But, the CJ degree does not translate well into work outside the criminal justice system, nor does it always assist you within it. Today business and other skills are at least as important as a knowledge of the CJ system. If you wish to get involved in consulting or the support side of things, CJ might be useful. But, at the entry level it is no more useful than any other BA or BS and, to be quite honest, if you were trying to enter law enforcement it would not make you stand out at all because a good number of applicants already have such a degree.

    Note that my degrees are NOT in CJ, but I work with the local colleges, am involved in the hiring process and know a great many people who do have them.
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  5. #5

    Default Re: Criminal Justice (CJA) Degree Advice

    Mirroring the above, it really depend on what SPECIFIC job duties you anticipate. Personally, I think an AA or AS is basically useless, only usually sought (or requirements met) as a way to get the core courses out of the way for a BA or BS. If you're going to be investigating financial crimes or fraud, for example, a degree in accounting or finance will be much more useful and thus desirable. Joining ACFE (Association of Certified Fraud Examiners) as a student member or even just browsing their website might be helpful to get actual commentary from those within the field. They have multiple "routes" to accumulating the training and experience needed for certification, and these various skill trees mirror what public and private employers are seeking.

    Similarly, if you want to work in crime analysis, join the International Association of Crime Analysts as a student member, and you'll get access to the very rare and specific job opportunities nationwide - read carefully what SPECIFIC skills are being sought, and structure your degree accordingly.

    ACFE is also well known for having student mentors as well as local monthly chapter meetings, whereas IACA is known for having only a single big annual nationwide event. Having been a member of both groups, I can't stress how important it is to make the most of their websites and when possible, attending gatherings and trainings (even if you don't seek their certifications - you can always position yourself for employment first, and then let your employer pay for the certifications).

    Having worked in positions as varied as 911 operator, victim advocate, analyst, and auditor within the CJ system, it's MOST important to have a well rounded background (ie really applicable electives or even certificates/certifications) in ADDITION to just the base degree; criminal justice or otherwise. Most CJ degrees give very broad strokes (and really, when working a crime scene, do the credits in corrections required for the degree help you? No.) and it's the student who chooses to supplement the basics with specifics who end up with the edge.

    For me personally, my CJ degree wasn't that helpful - again, because the course material is SO broad (admin stuff, corrections, patrol configurations) - it's always been computer, research, and database manipulation sklls that have been my personal steps up, and obviously, due to the nature of the beast, one's report writing ability can make or break you. Even if not required for the degree, in almost any position within CJ, where you're a potential official statement looking for a place to happen, or the next witness to take the stand, one's spelling, grammar, and ability to communicate are often under appreciated yet incredibly vital to success within the field.
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