If you want to use your criminal justice degree
to land one of the best entry-level law enforcement jobs, you may have the most success job hunting at the federal level. Those chasing police, safety or law enforcement jobs at the state and local levels may experience more difficulty snagging positions, advise the experts.
Many state and local governments are strapped for cash and are not hiring new police officers at least for the next two years, says Jason Abend, executive director of the National Law Enforcement Recruiters Association
in Arlington, Va.
However, Abend believes there are some real bright spots in the entry-level justice and law enforcement job market.
Consider the following federal government positions that allow newly-minted college grads to gain valuable policing skills as well as a foothold in the government hiring system:
- Border patrol agent
- Customs enforcement officer
- Immigration enforcement officer
- Transportation security specialist (TSA officer)
- U.S. Capitol police officer
- General Services Administration police officer
Abend is particularly enthusiastic about the U.S. government’s Border Patrol program, which he says provides both rigorous military instruction and Spanish language training. These entry-level jobs pay in the $36,000 to $46,000 range (not counting overtime, which can be significant).
For more information about entry-level justice positions with Border Patrol, visit the U.S. government’s Border Patrol page.
Beyond the Best Entry-Level Law Enforcement Jobs
If your goal is to become an FBI agent, Secret Service agent or federal air marshal, says Abend, you will need experience; simply possessing a criminal justice degree will not land you such a position. It may also be difficult to get hired by the government for a higher-grade position if you are not already in the system as an entry-level employee.
Working in the fields mentioned above will provide you with that necessary experience as well as entree into the federal employment system.
If you wish to become a police officer for a local or state government, Abend says current hiring difficulties should abate in about two years. Then, he predicts, a “binge in hiring” might occur.
Abend advises people who wish to become police officers to also get degrees in business, computers, history and international affairs as a way to set yourself apart from the competition and become "more hirable in criminal justice."