I have been in the Career Services Department at Berkeley College since 2009 and started getting involved with our students majoring in Criminal Justice in 2011. The field can be fascinating but the question is often: what can I do with that degree? Where can I find employment? My first response is for students to look at the three sections where the degree will be helpful: public, private and non-profit.
Whether it is federal Marshal’s service, municipal police, school safety, court officers or any of the thousands of areas where sworn officers are on the job, a degree is a first step. Then, almost every position requires qualifying through a tough written exam; a comprehensive psychological screening and a rigorous physical test. Once qualified, people can expect in-depth training for the particular position and a fairly long probationary period. If you live in the metro area, here is a link where you can check for upcoming exams in NYC: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcas/html/work/exam_monthly.shtml
I recommend that people be patient. You might qualify on a list that takes well over a year before people are called for initial interviews and initial screening. I always ask that students listen to all the instructions provided and follow them to the letter. What you do or don’t do can delay the screening process and eventually there will be a new test, a new list and new candidates being considered.
It’s a $350 billion industry -larger than public law enforcement and probably more diverse in the assignments available. It goes well beyond a guard standing at an entrance way. You even find contract officers in charge of initial visitor screening at many government buildings!
The private sector has security professionals working in IT-related services and the majority of about 2 million officers serving in other aspects of the private domain. This includes operations, investigations, event and special venue security, financial institution protection, plant operations, transportation and manufacturing centers -just to begin! According to some recent studies, private investigation is one part of the private sector that will grow significantly in the next decade.
For a list of some of the largest private security employers and more opportunities, check the following website: http://www.securitydegreehub.com/30-most-powerful-private-security-companies-in-the-world/
In addition to your education, you will probably require your State’s security guard license and it is beneficial to also acquire a fireguard license for the municipality where you will be working. If you will be armed during your assignment, such as armored car operations, you will be required to qualify for the appropriate pistol license, taking the full training and refreshers related to that license.
For most private security positions there will be physical qualifications, some psychological tests and an in-depth background check focused on criminal convictions or pending litigation.
I separated out the non-profit sector because it doesn’t get as much emphasis as it deserves. We don’t always think of the shift supervisor over at The Salvation Army who collaborates with law enforcement over incidents at various locations or recruiting new clients at various jails/prisons for the Osborne Association.
Even being a Case Manager for the ‘Bridge Back to Life’ program can bring together what you learn in Criminal Justice with a wider perspective.
You will need more education than an Associate Degree in CJ. However CJ gives you a good perspective for careers in this area. Some titles include: Case Managers, Case Aides, Intake Coordinators, Career Coaches, Substance Abuse Counselors etc.
In addition to a CSW or MSW, non-profit work often requires developing some special skills. To become a Career Coach or Job Developer for Osborne Association requires experience interacting with employers who can hire candidates that are ex-offenders. In the non-profit area you may be helping individuals making the transition from jail and prison back into with workforce or focusing on youth programs, shelter security, substance abuse recovery centers, etc.
Finally and overall, for anyone seeking to open doors to a security or law enforcement career, in addition to your college studies it can be essential to network with others already doing the work you see in your future. Join, ASIS International; create a professional on-line profile on LINKEDIN (with a professional headshot photo so you “look the part” to anyone considering you for a job).
Also, use LINKEDIN’s resources for reviewing new job postings. To join LINKEDIN go to: www.linkedin.com. And, keep up to date on the latest technology in the industry; and stay in touch with former classmates and professors so you can ask for recommendations from them going forward.
Hope this helps.
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