Criminal Justice careers in California are professional positions from various areas in the criminal justice field. Criminal justice is a diverse field that is dedicated to the study of laws in relation to criminal behavior. It’s an important area of study that focuses on the laws, arrest, and fair trial of a person suspected of criminal activities and the retribution for victims of crime.
If you are interested in criminal justice, you may be seeking a position as a police officer, lawyer with a special interest in prosecution or defense, social worker, forensic scientist, or pursuing a career with the FBI or CIA. It is essential to have a thorough knowledge of laws, rights, and privileges of both victims and suspects.
The study of criminal justice can be split into two focus groups: training and study. Job-related training is often associated with police and social work. Police officers are trained on how to legally administer criminal justice in the capacity of law enforcement. Social workers need a firm understanding on how the system works to better serve the community. Often their line of work deals with custody and abuse cases. Having a thorough knowledge of the system will help them with assigned cases. Career paths related to legal or forensic science is a study based path. There are tests and certain degrees required for each.
California is a large and diverse state. It relies on a strong criminal justice infrastructure to maintain safety for both residents and visitors. Crime rates in the state have steadily declined according to the Office of the Attorney General. This decline can be attributed to the increase of criminal justice positions held in the state. This increased focus on bettering the criminal justice system in the state serves to better the state’s appeal to those relocating or visiting the state.
Criminal Justice Work Environment
While this area of study has many similarities in the varying job opportunities, the one big difference between each type of career is the type of work environment. Outdoors, lab settings, court rooms, and offices are all standard work environments for criminal justice professionals in California. Often criminal justice professionals will find themselves visiting a crime scene or responding to a call. During many of those calls, the professional may be outside having to work with various types of weather conditions. Many criminal justice professionals in California may be exposed to chemicals, drugs, or bodily fluids that may pose a hazard to their health.
Lawyers mostly work in offices or the courthouse. There is some travel involved when needing to meet with clients in their home, at the hospital, or in prison. They are at risk of a motor vehicle collision during times of travel.
Police officers face risks daily. They are at risk of injury or death from motor vehicle collisions, firearms, violent attacks, or exposure to hazardous materials. Police officers are trained to handle different circumstances that they may encounter out in the field.
Forensic scientists often respond to crime scenes. They face risk inside the lab and on the scene. Forensic scientists work with different types of chemicals, handle firearms, and deal with bodily fluids or cadavers, in some instances. This puts them at risk by exposure to the different types of dangerous elements. In most criminal justice fields, the typical workday is 8 – 12 hours and often 40 or more hours a week, depending on the specific area of work.
Nationwide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one of the most commonly pursued fields of criminal justice are positions as police officers and detectives. Nationally, it is projected that from 2014 to 2024 this field is expected to see a 4% increase. Nationally, the median yearly income for police and detectives is $60,270 a year, which is an average of $28.97 an hour.
Criminal Justice Salary in California
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the following fields are reflected to have the below listed annual and hourly rates in California.
Forensic Science: Annual Mean Wage - $79,490, Hourly Mean Wage - $38.22
Police Officer: Annual Mean Wage - $93,550, Hourly Mean Wage - $44.98
Legal (Criminal Justice): Mean Wage - $163,020, Hourly Mean Wage: -$78.37
Social Worker: Annual Mean Wage - $37,600, Hourly Mean Wage - $18.10
A high school diploma, or equivalent, is required to pursue a criminal justice degree. Depending on your chosen career path, a certification in criminal justice up to a master’s degree in criminal justice can be achieved. In limited areas some schools offer a doctoral program in criminal justice. Most criminal justice fields in California require a 4-year Bachelor’s degree.
If you are pursuing a career in criminal justice through the legal field, you will have to meet the educational requirements to take the tests needed to pass the California Bar exams. According to The State Bar of California, applicants are required to have the following (or a combination of):
• J.D. degree – must be obtained from a law school approved by the State of California or an ABA approved law school
• 4-years of study – fixed-facility law school and a minimum of 864 hours at an accredited distance-learning (or correspondence) law school registered with the committee
• 4-years of study in the law office or judge’s chamber study program
A Master’s degree is required before applying for licensure as a social worker through the state of California. There are two types of social workers in California: Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and an Associated Social Worker (ASW). To obtain your licensure as a LCSW you must meet requirements set by the California Department of Consumer Affairs Board of Behavioral Sciences. Applicants must pass 2 required exams – California Law and Ethics exam and the clinical exam administered nationwide by the AWSB.
Special certification and training is required for those interested in becoming a police officer. A 2-year or 4-year degree is preferred. You must be able to pass a criminal background check. In addition, you must be able to pass a medical, physical, and psychological examination. A reading and writing ability test is required, as well.
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