Spotlight on Majors: Criminal Justice

by Ana Felce

As a criminal justice major, it’s important that your learning isn’t limited to the confines of the classroom walls. You should also get to learn in the field and see firsthand the everyday experiences of different professionals.

The major’s curriculum should prepare you for a variety of careers, such as detective, federal officer, victim’s advocate, lawyer, or even private security. Thus, a program with experiential learning built into its structure is far more beneficial for students pursuing this field.

Connecting Theory to Reality

Criminal justice professors bring a vast amount of experience to the classroom, and they share their experiences to help you learn. When you complement that with learning alongside faculty and professionals outside the classroom, you can see theory applied to real cases and better understand the challenges and rewards of working in criminal law.

These jobs require individuals who can empathize and communicate with people from many backgrounds in different circumstances. Going into the field and utilizing the theory learned in the classroom lets you see how and why people make the choices they do, and how you can best serve them.

Accelerate Your Learning

Deshonna Collier-Goubil, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at Azusa Pacific University, notes that “experiential learning is essential in this field,” because “students are exposed to information that they might not have known previously.”

Experiential learning means practicing the skills that you will need in your future career. By touring local prisons, volunteering in the community with at-risk youth, and interning with local police departments, courts, and law offices, you will have a good taste of what a career in criminal justice is like. Put these skills into practice now to be a better-prepared professional when you land your first job. Plus, you’ll feel more confident after graduation if you’ve already “test-driven” the career while learning.

Not only will the experience help you know if this is what you want (or don’t want) to do, but when you start applying to jobs, it will help prospective employers rest assured that you’re well-versed in the industry.

Expand Your Opportunities Through Networking

Collier emphasized that students in the criminal justice major have the opportunity to network with professionals in the field, “which can grow into professional mentoring, internship, or even employment outcomes.”

When working or volunteering in the field, you have the opportunity to learn from professionals with years of experience who can give you insight into their jobs and what makes them successful. Experience is especially important, so making contacts (during internship opportunities, for instance) will help you immensely once you graduate. Meeting professionals in your desired career choice, no matter what it is, can help you get your first job or decide what career path you want to pursue.

If you want to make a difference protecting the rights of individuals, a major in criminal justice might be the right choice for you.