When someone mentions the words “law enforcement” or “criminal justice,” many people envision a local cop patrolling the streets or a state officer walking from his cruiser to collect the license and registration of the individual he or she just pulled over. These two types of officers are the criminal justice professionals we typically see, but they do not represent the only professions in the criminal justice field. In fact, an individual actually can pursue a number of different criminal justice careers, and each of these careers can be placed into one of four main groups depending on the area of the justice system the individual serves. These four main groups include state and local law enforcement, federal law enforcement, the court system, and the scientific community. The careers in each of these groups require specific tasks. Since each of these four areas focuses on a different set of tasks, you should know about each area in order to pursue a career in the field of criminal justice.
As mentioned previously, each area of the criminal justice system focuses on a specific type of activity. This is important because you need to make sure that you will be able to perform the duties necessary for your chosen career. For example, local law enforcement focuses on those activities required of criminal justice professionals in order to protect the public from criminals. Local law enforcement officers, as a result, are required to interview witnesses, investigate crimes, and arrest suspects within the town or city that they serve. On the other hand, criminal justice jobs within the scientific community focus on activities concerned with collecting and examining evidence. As a result, forensic scientists and other criminal justice professionals gather evidence, review evidence, or explain the meaning of evidence to other individuals.
Secondly, it is important to remember that different skills are required for different areas of the criminal justice system. The required degrees, certifications, or training programs will depend on the area in which you are pursuing a career.