I Like to Watch Cops. Do You Want to Be One?

Beth Dumbauld

I Like to Watch Cops. Do You Want to Be One?

By Danielle KoonsHow Do You Become a Cop?

I once thought about going into Criminal Justice. Although, I think it was because I watched the show Cops a lot as a kid. The cool theme song “Bad Boys” and getting to work with trained attack dogs was incredibly alluring. (It still is.)

(Side note: My major isn’t in any type of legal field, but Intro to Criminal Justice did fill a credit requirement so I ended up taking it last year. It was either that or Intro to Jazz, which made the choice pretty easy. I was pleasantly surprised! The class was fascinating. Even if you aren’t going in that field, I’d suggest taking it. It changed the way I saw the legal system and got me thinking more about how important and special our form of government really is.)

As I got older, I realized that there are way more jobs in criminal justice than the boys in blue. Lawyers, paralegals, probation officers, bailiffs, members of the CIA, secret service, and the FBI, court clerks and reporters, forensic psychologists, forensic scientists, detectives, private investigators, DEA agents, criminologists, and U.S. marshals all have degrees in criminal justice. That’s right, Ethan Hunt (Mission Impossible), John McClane (Live Free or Die Hard), and Gracie Hart (Miss Congeniality) all had degrees in Criminal Justice. So if you want to save the world, I suggest you get a degree first.

Does that sound a little too “exciting?” Don’t worry, not all of the degrees in CJ will lead to a world of explosions and dry martinis, shaken not stirred. Perhaps you get your jollies simply from seeing justice prevail. I know I do! I get the giggles and clap my hands in joy when I hear the cop read the bad guy his rights and duck him into the patrol car. It feels like a win. That’s normal, right?

Here’s a super handy list of possible directions in Criminal Justice:

  • Bailiff: An officer, like a sheriff or deputy, employed to execute writs and processes, make arrests, keep order in the court, etc.
  • CIA/FBI: Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigations.
  • Court Clerk: Files and maintains court records, financial files, employee records, and copies of legal documents.
  • Court Reporter: Court personnel who record trial proceedings word-for-word. Reporters who use a stenotype machine must be able to write at least 225 spoken words per minute. Those who talk into a steno mask must be able to record 250 words a minute. If the case is appealed, the verbatim record must be transcribed promptly for the appellate court. This is a good job if you are a very fast typist!
  • Crime Scene Investigator: Responsible for processing a crime scene.
  • Criminologist: Studies social norms and the reasons why someone would deviate from that norm.
  • DEA Agent: Drug Enforcement Administration.
  • Forensic Psychologist: The person who makes sure the accused is not criminally responsible if his or her unlawful conduct was the product of mental disease or defect. Basically, make sure the “bad” guy isn’t just a “crazy” guy off his meds.
  • Forensic Scientist: Examines evidence from many angles to assist law enforcement officials in solving crimes. There are many different specializations in this field, which is why this definition is so vague. Some specialize in toxins, etc.
  • Detective: A police officer whose occupation is to investigate and solve crimes.
  • Private Investigator: Much like a detective, but is employed by a private client to investigate and solve crimes.
  • Secret Service: A branch of the Treasury Department dealing with counterfeiting and providing protection for the president.
  • US Marshall: The U.S. Marshals are responsible for the protection of court officers and buildings and the effective operation of the judiciary. The service also assists with court security and prisoner transport, serves arrest warrants, and seeks fugitives.

Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? No worries; let me help you narrow it down a little.

Jobs in Criminal Justice


There is no job in the field of criminal justice that is more important than the other. All of the players have a necessary part to play, from start to finish. Without the paperwork in the beginning, there are no rules or orders given out. Without the guys out in the field, no bad guys get caught. Without the scientists and lawyers, nothing can be proven in court. And without the paperwork at the end to document everything, well, the case can never be solved or closed.

Right now, all you have to do is think about what part YOU would like to play. What are your interests? What are your strengths? Weaknesses? If you truly have a passion for justice, take some classes and get started on the path. Whatever path that may be. It’s up to you.

Danielle Koons spends her time going to school for a stupid Bachelor of Science degree, smelling like wet dog (courtesy of her job as a groomer), and pretending to be a famous writer. But not a boring stuffy writer. A cool writer like Lewis Carroll, so she can ignore the “rules” of the English language and make up her own words.

Related Readings

Don’t Read This Unless You Want To Help People
Do You Want to Be a Private Investigator?
Is a Career in Forensic Psychology Right for You?
Criminal Justice: Do You Have What It Takes?
How to Get Started in Criminal Justice: Tips Every Criminal Justice Student Should Know
All about Going Back to School, Buying Books, Dropping Classes and Wishing I Had a Donkey
Why Superheroes Should Earn a Degree in Criminal Justice Online
Let Online Learning Open the Door to Your Career as a Police Officer

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