Starting out is often a very difficult time for a career. You may not have any idea where to start or what you want to do and it is difficult to figure out where to start, you may not even be done high school. The most important piece of advice you can get it to be persistent, ie. don’t give up, and ask for help if you aren’t sure. If you keep that in mind and follow these tips, you’ll be well on your way to a new criminal justice job in no time.
Get Experience Early
Many jobs in the criminal justice sector are available for those with a high school diploma and don’t require a college degree. Regardless of whether or not you plan to expand your studies in higher education, experience will be an extremely important part of finding a job. If you are in high school, volunteering can help you a lot.
Speak with a career counselor for help setting up a position within the right branch. Police departments are a good choice for law enforcement and your adviser may even be able to find opportunities within the corrections system or local courts. The practice of volunteering or interning doesn’t change if you are in college either, look for opportunities, even those that might not be directly related to your field will still set you on the right path.
Once high school is over if you want to seriously raise your chances of landing a job, get invaluable experience and get paid, you can join the military. Though a military life may not be for everyone, a few years of duty with an honorable discharge will be something that will shine like a beacon on your resume, saying “Hire Me!”. Military service is one of the most highly sought after experience for potential hires in law enforcement and many corrections jobs and is a good indicator of your trustworthiness, dedication and all around good character, it is really a plus for most jobs.
Learn a Second Language
After English, Spanish is the second most widely spoken language throughout the country, being the second most spoken language in over 90% of states, with a few being dominated by French and German being the #2 in North Dakota. Since most jobs involve dealing with the public in some way, knowing how to speak someones preferred language can give you an instant rapport with them, put them at ease and help them trust you, all important to the job.
Even though Spanish is the most popular it is not necessarily the only useful language to know. Every state is different and even communities have differences. If you live in a community with a large population of Russian speakers (Russian is the third most spoken language in Oregon), knowing Russian will be much more useful to you and therefore will stand out more to employers who also know the local landscape.
So which language should you learn? That is really up to you but you should learn a language that you will have a good opportunity to actually get to use and which you think you might enjoy. Some good choices are German, French, Vietnamese, Portuguese or Swedish which all have significant populations of speakers across the country as well as local Native American languages such as Navajo or Cherokee.
Widen Your Net
Each state, county, municipality or city has different requirements for jobs and different hiring practices. Some may be hiring right now, in a few months or farther down the line. You may need to do some outreach beyond just your most local offices to find a job. There are usually areas where your desired profession is usually in demand and if it is possible to move you may be able to find a job much more easily, possibly even for better pay and benefits.
Make Sure You’re Looking for the Right Job
If you are young and/or inexperienced, you must accept that you are looking for an entry level job and be aware of what that means. Many entry level jobs are tough and might not be your ideal choice, however they are important stepping stones to other opportunities, check the chart to understand more. Also realize that an entry level job in the FBI is different than an entry level job as a sheriff’s deputy.
Each branch of criminal justice has a hierarchy, for example, in law enforcement you may start out as a police officer, after a few years experience and a few ranks you could be eligible for entry tier jobs in other law enforcement agencies like a Game Warden or a DEA agent, or you might consider going back to school to complete a degree after a few years if your desired career path requires it.
As a paralegal, you may start off at a job for a smaller branch office or at the lower rung of a private practice for experience, keeping an eye out for job openings that interest you or other opportunities for advancement. This is an example of a more open entry level situation when compared to the law enforcement track which is much more rigid and has a “put in the time to advance” mentality. Remember that even though you might have a goal in mind, things often change with time and experience. You may find that you are drawn to a new path after some time.
The Final Word on Entry Level Criminal Justice Jobs
When it comes to a new job there are lots of things that can affect where you look and what you will like. Even though you might enjoy being a social worker, you may not enjoy your field, your boss, co-workers or clients or any other number of things. As entry level jobs are important experiences it is important that you stay positive and first try to find ways to minimize or solve any issues you come across in a constructive way.
As a new employee it is likely that you may be stuck with the “new person tasks” but realize that eventually that will change and if you stay upbeat you’ll improve the situation, if not you can use the experience you’re gaining to look for a new job. The criminal justice system relies on good people like you to keep everyone safe and secure and to protect the freedoms we enjoy, so stick with it and remember that people appreciate you even if it doesn’t feel like it everyday.