Myths and Facts from Real-Life CSIs
You've seen the actors on CSI: Miami use high-tech gadgets to solve crime. Now, meet the real-life experts of Miami criminal justice.
"Television certainly makes things very simple," Dr. Joanne Leoni tells South Florida Times, "solving a crime just by collecting a bit of evidence. There is much more to it than that." The reality of a criminal justice degree may not be as glamorous as what you see on television, but training for one of these lucrative, challenging careers has its own rewards.
Working in Criminal Justice
On a recent visit to a Miami youth center, Detective Ignacio Vila tried to separate television myth from the reality of working in the Broward County Crime Scene Unit. "On an education level, it gives them career orientation to criminal justice, forensics and criminalistics, as they see that police work is more involved than the common police officer driving down the street." In reality, working in the criminal justice field means choosing among careers in private investigation, security, crime scene investigation, correctional treatment, and more.
Popular Criminal Justice Careers
Check out some of the jobs for criminal justice graduates, with degree and salary information provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Crime Scene Investigator
Your attention to detail and knowledge of the law comes in handy at the crime scene, where a single fingerprint can make or break a case. Real-life CSIs, also known as forensic scientists, traditionally work long hours and may specialize in ballistics, fingerprinting, handwriting, or biochemistry.
• Recommended Training: Most forensic science technicians need a bachelor's degree in addition to specialized criminal justice training.
• Median Annual Salary (2007): $50,310
As a private investigator, you use your skills and training to locate lawbreakers, track missing persons, and collect information for your clients. Your reputation of success can help earn you new business, and you can have the satisfaction of a career that rewards your quick-witted skill.
• Recommended Training: Targeted coursework leading to an associate's or bachelor's degree in criminal justice.
• Mean Annual Salary (2007): $42,660
Security guards monitor armored cars, casinos, and businesses to prevent theft and damage. Industries paying above average for private security include natural gas distribution, couriers, and oil and gas extraction companies.
• Recommended Training: Criminal justice coursework or certificate programs relative to your specialization.
• Mean Annual Salary (2007): $24,840
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists ensure that prisoners on parole are completing the terms of their release. Many parole officers meet with offenders in their homes, increasing the level of personal accountability.
• Recommended Training: A bachelor's degree in criminal justice or social work is suggested by the BLS.
• Mean Annual Salary (2007): $47,980
While no career training program may guarantee a particular career or salary in the criminal justice industry, competitive careers and those with high growth potential are typically targeted by graduates of criminal justice degree programs. If you hope to enter the rewarding world of criminal justice, formal training in the area may be your most logical first step.