Step on to the (Crime) Scene with a Degree Forensic Psychology

Forensic Psychology degreesDo you love shows like CSI? Would a career working closely with a team of brilliant people, in exciting, ever-changing settings, appeal to you?

Make no mistake, a career in forensic psychology is not exactly like those crime investigation TV shows, but it is an exciting and financially rewarding career. To compete in the top of the field as a forensic psychologist requires a doctorate in the field.

Those with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the field can work as a psychological assistant, and earn their doctorate while they work. A number of online graduate and post-graduate degree programs exist in forensic psychology.

A forensic psychology degree combines an education in law with a clinical or counseling psychology degree program.

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In Charge with Law Enforcement Administration

Law enforcement administration professionals have key jobs within the law enforcement career sector. Working as a law enforcement administrator is a vital function to the smooth operation of a law enforcement agency or department. Lending guidance to employees that routinely put their lives on the line carries an enormous amount of responsibility. The administrators occupy the supervisory and leadership roles within law enforcement agencies.

Law enforcement administration personnel have often come up through the ranks as police officers or have earned the management-focused educational degrees necessary to lead their employees. These administrators have positions within public organizations on a local level as police chiefs, superintendents and sheriffs, on the state level within agencies like the state highway patrol or corrections sector, in federal law enforcement departments such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and also in private entities specializing in security and public safety matters.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement administration is usually done through the criminal justice departments of colleges and universities. Coursework may include law enforcement theory and history, labor relations, legal and regulatory requirements, public relations, organizational leadership, budgeting, cultural and racial diversity, community relations and operational command leadership. Related classes with a management focus might include psychology, sociology, management principles, team leadership methods and fiscal administration.

Those wanting to advance to the next level may opt for a master’s degree in law enforcement administration. Master’s degree programs usually require that you have earned a bachelor’s degree in the area of criminal justice, law enforcement or related field in addition to having worked within the law enforcement field or in a related management position. Like bachelor’s degree programs in law enforcement administration, master’s programs are found within the criminal justice university departments or law enforcement concentration in business administration areas. Both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs are offered through college and university campus-based platforms and online learning formats.

Some law enforcement administration master’s degree earners continue into Ph.D. programs or take a law degree path. A doctorate program might also prepare candidates for teaching careers at law enforcement academies, college criminal justice programs or other applications.

The career outlook for law enforcement administration jobs is good. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, similar occupations like police or detectives,  job growth is projected at 14% from 2010 to 2020 with median annual pay in 2010 of $55,010. Obviously management positions within the sector would be higher as reflected in the Bureau’s statistics for administrative services managers. Job growth outlook in these careers is 15% for 2010 to 2020 with median pay in 2010 of $77,890 with the top 10% earning over $135,300.

If parlaying your law enforcement career experience into a leadership role sounds exciting, pursuing a degree program in law enforcement administration might be the path to take. Additionally, your management expertise in another industry, supplemented with a degree in criminal justice or law enforcement administration could be the new direction your career needs.

Research a Career as a Legal Assistant

With the complexity of today’s laws, legal assistants and paralegals are even more of an integral component of delivering legal services. Legal assistants have specialized legal formal education and training, a broad knowledge-base of the law and work in many different environments assisting attorneys. In all U.S. states, legal assistants are prohibited from giving legal advice to clients. Legal assistants execute their duties under the supervision of an attorney to make the practice of law much more efficient and cost effective. Many organizations besides law firms use legal assistants, including corporate legal departments, real estate companies, title insurance companies, general insurance companies, non-profit organizations and banks and other finance institutions.

In the course of their work, legal assistants conduct interview with clients, witnesses and other people involved in a legal matter. There is a large research function in a legal assistant position such as finding documents, locating individuals or doing background investigations. It is the legal assistant’s responsibility to draft accurate legal documents and correspondence, attend real estate closings and summarize court documents for the attorneys involved in cases.

For a career as a legal assistant, completion of an education program is necessary. These programs are offered at community colleges, business schools and also four-year colleges and universities. There are associate’s and bachelor’s legal assistant degree programs available. The coursework in an associate degree program is usually comprised of half paralegal-focused and half general education and business classes.

A bachelor’s legal assistant degree program is often provided through a paralegal studies program or a concentration area of another bachelor’s degree program such as criminal justice or business administration. Coursework includes general degree requirements such as math, science and English and classes that focus more in-depth in legal writing, research and litigation.

Get Certified for the Best Career Options

Certificate programs are also a means to begin working as a legal assistant and those who’ve acquired an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a legal assistant program should make certification a priority. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) is a professional advocacy group for the profession, outlining standards of practice and awarding certification. One respected credential is Certified Paralegal (CP). The American Bar Association (ABA) has a program that approves legal assistant training programs. Consider enrolling in an ABA-approved program for your future career success.

Legal assistants have a promising career growth outlook. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of legal assistants is expected to grow 18% from 2010 to 2020, which is a higher percentage than all legal occupations combined. Median annual pay for legal assistants was $46,680 in 2010 with the top earners making more than $74,870.

If working in a fascinating and diverse career that utilizes your excellent communication and research skills sounds enticing, working as a legal assistant might be the perfect job for you.

Reshaping Careers in Corrections

Many changes in our laws and the field of corrections and rehabilitation have created an evolving career outlook for those interested in entering the industry. The passing of laws dictating mandatory sentencing for some violators has necessitated building new corrections facilities to accommodate an increase in inmates. There has also been a move towards privatizing the corrections component due to the costs associated with housing prisoners at both the state and federal level.

Renewed focus on rehabilitation of criminals has introduced the need for specialists in the corrections field that can deliver services to criminal offenders, such as counseling and drug and alcohol treatment programs. Positions within prisons include correction officers and supervisory or allied jobs up to the level of prison warden. But corrections employees don’t just work in jails or prisoners. The field can also include probation officers, parole officers and even pretrial service officers.

Correctional officers must have a high school diploma and usually go through a training academy that includes on-the-job training. For further education in corrections, there are several options. Students often go through a criminal justice-focused bachelor’s degree program, such as a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice with a concentration in corrections. Coursework might include sociology of corrections, psychology, juvenile delinquency, conflict resolution, parole and probation procedures.

A bachelor’s degree in corrections opens career options that can include supervisory jobs onsite in prisons and jails or as a half-way house manager or administrator. Degree programs in corrections can be accessed easily online or through colleges and universities offering programs on campus.

Master’s Degrees in Corrections for Administrative Role

If the idea of running a corrections facility is appealing to you, obtaining a master’s degree (Master of Criminal Justice – MCJ) in corrections is one route to that position. Master’s degree level coursework includes criminology, crime control strategies, criminal law and the judicial system, security measures, emergency and crisis management training and assorted administrative-focused business classes like principles of leadership. Some graduates of master’s in criminal justice or corrections go on to enter law school or teach criminal justice. Master’s degree programs are available online from respected online universities and colleges.

The job outlook in all areas of corrections is fairly good, although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports only a 5% job growth projection for corrections officers from 2010 to 2020. Corrections officers’ median annual pay was $39,040 in 2010. But overall projections that include other corrections jobs show growth at 14% from 2010 to 2020. Payscale.com shows prison warden salaries at between $56,055 and $89,560 as of January 25, 2013.

Because corrections facilities have recently begun to be built and run by private companies instead of state and federal departments, salary data will differ from the averages reported on those operations. These privatized operations are designed as for-profit enterprises and tend to offer higher wages to be competitive. This new direction for the corrections field is also very attractive to cash-depleted state and federal programs.

Criminal Justice Fields Serve and Protect

Crime today has changed. It’s more sophisticated than ever with criminals using high powered weaponry and computers. The online world has given way to identity theft, cyber scams, hacking and more, meaning that those in criminal justice careers must have a wide breadth of knowledge and skills to keep their communities safe.

This high-demand field is dangerous, demanding and very stressful. Those in criminal justice fields have an above-average rate of injuries and illness. The physical and mental demands are high as well.

But careers in criminal justice are also very rewarding as they allow individuals to protect and serve their communities.

Degrees in Criminal Justice

Criminal justice degrees prepare students for careers in law enforcement and related fields. Those who obtain degrees can use them in jobs as police officers, detectives or criminal investigators, among others. However, police jobs don’t always require a degree (some departments do – others do not).

Law enforcement careers are more than just traffic stops and directing traffic. A degree in criminal justice can prepare students to work in crime detection and case solving through gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses and suspects, putting together facts and more.

It’s a field where no two days are ever the same.

One exciting career path for those interested in criminal justice is as a forensic science technician. Forensic science technicians investigate crimes by analyzing evidence and using science to determine facts. This may be done in a laboratory or as a crime scene investigator – somewhat like you may have seen on television shows like CSI (though it must be noted that those shows take great liberties with the time frames of actual investigations).

Those who work at crime scenes will determine what evidence needs to be collected and catalog it, photograph the scene, keep notes about what they see and find and also transfer evidence to a crime lab.

In the crime lab, forensic science technicians use scientific analysis to sort evidence, consult with experts about the findings and reconstruct crime scenes based on what they learn.

For those who obtain master’s degrees, there are additional opportunities to become college professors or instructors, teachers or research assistants. An advanced degree in criminal justice may also position those in law enforcement for higher ranking jobs such as chief detective or police chief, though the degree may not be required.

A Vastly Growing Field

There is great demand for individuals in criminal justice. This growing sector is in need of smart, critical thinking people who are interested in solving and preventing crime. And the pay? It’s not so bad either.

Forensic science technicians earned a median income of $51,570 per year in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The field is expected to grow by 19 percent between 2010 and 2020 from 13,000 jobs.

Police and detectives earned a median income of $55,010 per year in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This field is expected to grow by seven percent between 2010 and 2020.