Criminal Justice: Do You Have What It Takes? Part 3

Education Required

A probation officers or correctional treatment specialist generally requires a bachelor’s degree in social work, criminal justice, psychology, or a related field. Some employers require a master's degree in a related field for candidates who do not have previous related work experience.

Most probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must complete a training program sponsored by their state government or the federal government, after which they may have to pass a certification test. In addition, they may be required to work as trainees or on a probationary period for up to 1 year before being offered a permanent position.

A graduate degree, such as a master’s degree in criminal justice, social work, or psychology, may be helpful or required for advancement.7 Schools like University of Phoenix frequently offer a full range of Criminal Justice degrees, from associate to master’s.

Spotlight: Private Detective or Investigator

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Detectives and investigators must be able to listen carefully and ask appropriate questions when interviewing a person of interest.

Honesty. Detectives and investigators must tell the truth to gain the trust of their clients and people they interview, as well as to establish credibility in a court of law.

Inquisitiveness. Detectives and investigators must want to ask questions and to search for the truth.

Problem-solving skills. Detectives and investigators must be able to think on their feet and make quick decisions based on the information that they have at a given time.

Resourcefulness. Detectives and investigators must work persistently with whatever leads they have, no matter how limited, to determine the next step toward their goal. They sometimes need to figure out what a person of interest will do next.8

Education Required

Private detectives and investigators usually have some college education, either online or on-campus at a community college like Jefferson Community and Technical College or a university like American Intercontinental University. Some jobs may require an associate or bachelor’s degree. Postsecondary courses in criminal justice and political science are helpful to aspiring private detectives and investigators.

Although previous work experience is generally required, some people enter the occupation directly after graduating from college with an associate degree or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or police science.

Corporate investigators need a bachelor’s degree. Coursework in finance, accounting , and business is often preferred.

Computer forensics investigators need a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as computer science or criminal justice. Many schools, including online colleges and universities, offer certificate programs in computer forensics; some offer a bachelor’s or a master’s degree.

Most states license private detectives and investigators. However, requirements vary by state. 

Your Criminal Justice Checklist

As you contemplate whether or not a career in criminal justice is right for you, run yourself through this quick checklist:

  1. Do you have good communication skills?
  2. Do you have good writing skills?
  3. Are you emotionally stable?
  4. Do you have good decision-making skills? 
  5. Is your prior record squeaky clean? (In other words, no felonies?)
  6. Are you committed?
  7. Are you empathetic?
  8. Are you in good physical shape?
  9. Are you comfortable being in the public eye?
  10. Are you able to be flexible with your schedule?

If you answer yes to most of these questions, there’s a good chance that a career in criminal justice is an excellent fit – and that you do indeed have what it takes make a difference in the criminal justice field.


7 Bureau of Labor Statistics, How to Become a Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist, 2012, p.1.
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/probation-officers-and-correctional-treatment-specialists.htm#tab-4

8 Bureau of Labor Statistics, How to Become a Private Detective or Investigator, 2012, p.1.
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Protective-Service/Private-detectives-and-investigators.htm#tab-4