In the U.S., "criminal justice" has traditionally encompassed three components: law enforcement, courts and the legal system, and corrections. Now counter-terrorism and homeland security have become a larger part of our system for maintaining the rule of law and providing for citizen safety. Criminology examines the social and scientific aspects of criminal behavior and its effects on our society, right down to the field of victimology.
Pursuit of a Just and Fair Society: Criminal Justice
Jobs or careers in the criminal justice system usually require specialized education, training or experience. Police and detectives are normally a part of the civil service system of State and local governments, and an Associate degree or military service may provide the proper background. For Federal level agencies, a college degree is usually required, but the range of degrees and experience in demand are quite surprising to most people. The FBI needs chemists and accountants as well as field agents, for example.
Counter-terrorism and homeland security jobs are often found as specialized positions within other law enforcement organizations or security companies. The SWAT teams within a large metropolitan police force, for instance, may now have specific anti-terrorism duties and training.
Even with the proper educational background, most careers in the law enforcement segment of the criminal justice system begin with on-the-job training. A patrol office may have 12 weeks of training at the regional police academy to learn about laws specific to the State; an FBI agent will undergo 16 weeks of training at the FBI academy.
Law enforcement jobs such as police officer and detective are forecast to grow at a rate higher than the average for other jobs through 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Local patrol officers had median annual earnings of $42,270 in 2002. Median annual earnings of detectives and criminal investigators were $51,410. FBI agents enter Federal service with a base salary of $39,115, yet on average in 2003, they earned about $48,890 a year with availability pay.