Criminal Justice Programs in California

‘Liberty and Justice under Law’

This is the motto of the Attorney General’s office for the state of California. As one of the most populated states in the US, the California Department of Justice employs more than five thousand employees. Its annual budget exceeds $800 million and it consists of a number of divisions and bureaus.

With opportunities available in a number of sectors, the state of California employs 12% of the total criminal justice professionals working in the United States. To accommodate this demand, there are around 190 accredited schools offering criminal justice programs in the state.  So if a student is interested in pursuing a career in law and public service, the following are some of the career opportunities.

The Available Options

The California Department of Justice includes the Bureau of Firearms and Gambling Control. It also includes civil law, criminal law, law enforcement, public rights and information services divisions. All these departments require professionals who have an academic background in criminal justice.  To get an idea of what sort of educational programs are available, here are a few examples.

Criminology – This concentration usually includes topics on criminal justice and society, criminal courts, policing and judicial processes.

Forensic Studies – By integrating theoretical perspectives with different disciplines, this concentration focuses on criminal investigations.

Emergency Services Administration –By building leadership and critical thinking skills, students learn how to respond to disasters and emergencies.

Homeland Security – With an introduction to criminal justice, this concentration deals with terrorism (domestic, international, cyber, bioterrorism) and constitutional law.

Law Enforcement Policy – This concentration typically includes social psychology, modern social problems, police and law enforcement, criminal law and corrections.

For the above mentioned concentrations, courses can be pursued at associate, bachelor and master level.

Criminal Justice Programs in California

Even though schools in California may offer associate, bachelor and master level programs in criminal justice, it is important to note some schools may have different names for these concentrations.  Their curriculum may also differ from others. To get an idea of what topics and courses are covered in criminal justice programs, here is a rundown of associate, bachelor and master degree programs in criminal justice.

Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

An Associate of Science in Criminal Justice typically includes core, general education and general elective courses. The core courses may include topics such as:

  • Introduction to Criminal Justice – Criminal Justice as a tool for law enforcement. Understanding of rights vs. public order debate and the relationship between drug abuse and social problems.
  • Criminal Investigation – Understanding rules of evidence and arrest. The process of basic investigative leads and crime scene investigation.
  • Forensic Science – This course will help students identify common types of physical evidences and qualitative and quantitative analysis.

After the completion of this qualification, students will be able to identify the relationship between social problems, crimes and drug abuse. Also the principles of criminal investigation, terrorism and various theories related to criminal behavior.

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

This degree will give students a deeper understanding of how criminal justice has become a multi- faceted field that deals with a number of factors. Here are some general education courses students will be required to take.

  • United States Government – This course deals with the history of the American Revolution and how the constitution of the United States has evolved.
  • Psychology of Adjustment – A social sciences subject, this course will cover psychological disorders and its consequences, if left untreated. Also the course helps students understand technology and the effect of social change.
  • Introduction to Humanities – A humanities topic, this course will identify themes and systems in the history of philosophy. It also covers the history of art and its affect on society at large.

By the end of this degree, students will have a theoretical understanding of the criminal justice field. They will also understand the theory and practice of corrections and law enforcement and have knowledge of the history of terrorism.

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

A graduate degree, Master of Science in Criminal Justice degree deals with advanced courses in public policy and the philosophical reasons behind criminal behavior. Here is a mention of some of the core courses included in the program.

  • Multicultural Issues in Law Enforcement – This course includes the evaluation of various racial, cultural and ethnic groups in the United States. It also covers how law enforcement agencies in the US respond to different demographics.
  • Deviant Behavior – This course determines what falls in the realm of deviant behavior and what is considered normal. This course also discusses the stigma attached to mental disorder in the society.
  • Correctional Counseling – This course covers the stages of the treatment planning process. Also, students learn what rights of an offender are involved in the correctional counseling process.

By the end of this degree, students will have an in-depth understanding of the threat of both domestic and international terrorism.

The Employment Outlook for Criminal Justice Professionals

As the field of criminal justice is extensive, students can find themselves working with different employers. Not all professionals work for the federal government. Criminal justice majors can also find themselves working for private organizations; self-employment may also be an option.

Here are a couple of criminal justice professionals, their salaries and employment projection for the next decade.

Police Officers – These professionals could be federal, state or city employees. They are responsible for protecting lives and properties of citizens. They are also entrusted with the task of upholding the law.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that police officers in the United States made $56,980 in 2012. The salary for these professionals in the state of California was around $87,400 in 2013 according to O*NET OnLine. The projected increase in their job numbers over the next few years is expected to be around 5% (BLS).

Paralegals – These professionals assist attorneys with drafting documents, research and organization. They could also be sometimes referred to as legal assistants.

In 2012, the median annual salary for these professionals was $46,990 according to the BLS. The salary for these professionals in the state of California, in 2013, was around $56,400 as reported by O*NET OnLine. The demand for these professionals over the next few years is expected to increase by 17% (BLS).

Corrections Officers – They oversee individuals who have been convicted or are awaiting trial. These professionals are a big part of the rehabilitation process.

The BLS reported that the annual median wage of these professionals in 2012 was $38,970. However, their salary in the state of California was much higher than the national average. These professionals earned $72,600 in 2013 according to O*NET OnLine. Jobs for these professionals are expected to increase by 5% over the next few years (BLS).