What Are the Requirements for a Career in Criminal Justice and Law?

While many industries have minimal requirements for workers who want to get their foot in the door with an entry-level job, that’s not usually the case in Criminal Justice and Law. Most employers in these fields have extremely high standards for their employees at all levels.

Even jobs that don’t have specific education prerequisites can have strict employment requirements. That’s because, for people in these roles, unethical behavior or poor training can have serious negative consequences.

So, what will you have to do to prepare for your career in Criminal Justice and Law? On this page, we’ll give you an idea of what to expect for several common specializations in the field.

You can also read more on the homepage for Criminal Justice & Law.

Background Checks

A clean background check is often required in Criminal Justice and Law careers. And don’t be surprised if you are expected to pass a drug test as well!

For some jobs, this is mandated by the government. In others, your employer might require background checks and drug testing in order to protect them from liability. This scrutiny is also meant to ensure you are someone who can be trusted with serious responsibilities.

What to Study in High School

If you’re still in high school, subjects that help you understand human behavior will be super helpful. Be sure to take courses in psychology, history, and political science if they are available at your school.

Subjects that will help you develop your analytical skills, like science and math, will help set you up for success.

And if you want to eventually become a lawyer or college professor, writing skills are key. For lawyers in particular, this is a fundamental skill for the profession.

Undergraduate Education or Career Training

Many great jobs in Criminal Justice and Law are available to graduates of associate and bachelor’s degree programs, or other professional training programs.

For example, while many locations require police officers to have a college degree, some only require a high school diploma and completion of training at a police academy.

Standardized Tests

If you are planning to apply to law school, or to pursue a master’s degree or Ph.D., it’s likely that one or more standardized tests will be part of the admissions process.

The Law School Admission Test, or LSAT, is the standardized test that is almost always required for admission to law school. If you are planning to apply for another advanced degree in Criminal Justice or Law, the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) will likely be required. It’s a test of general knowledge, and it’s similar to the ACT and SAT that many students take as they are graduating from high school.

When you are preparing to apply for a graduate degree, be sure to carefully review the admissions requirements for each of your target schools to find out which standardized tests are required, if any. Then, get a study guide and give yourself plenty of time to prepare!

Graduate Education

A graduate degree is almost always required for a career as a lawyer. If you want to be eligible to practice law, you should attend law school and attain your Juris Doctor (JD) degree.

Or if you’re looking for a career change or a leadership role in Criminal Justice and Law, a master’s degree could help you to reach your goals. These programs offer specialized study in a specific concentration, so you’ll graduate with a solid area of expertise.

A Ph.D. could be right for you if your career goals include teaching or research. This degree is often required for teaching at the college level, and it could also prepare you for consulting work or employment with businesses, nonprofits, or government agencies.

Certifications & Licensure

If you want to be an attorney, you’ll have one more exam to take after you graduate from law school. It’s called the bar exam, and you must pass it in order to practice law.

Passing the bar exam is part of the process of admission to the bar, which has a few other elements, depending on the state in which you will be practicing. Then, you may have to complete a certain amount of continuing education in order to renew your license in the future.

Judges also must maintain a law license, and federal judges must pass an exam from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.