Is a Criminal Justice Degree Useful if I Want to Work with Inmates?

Obtaining a criminal justice degree to work with inmates is beneficial for more reasons than simply meeting possible job requirements. Within a criminal justice degree program, students complete a number of courses and classwork to understand the various situations and considerations that are necessary to work with criminals and be successful in the criminal justice field.

Criminal Justice Degree Curriculum

corrections officerIn a degree program for criminal justice, students complete courses in general education, sociology, psychology, and social work in addition to criminal justice courses. Psychology courses are likely to include introduction to psychology, group dynamics, and abnormal psychology. Sociology courses might include formal organizational structure, and relationships between the majority and the minority. Social work courses often include social work and the law along with working with disadvantaged populations.

The criminal justice courses completed during the major area of study include courses such as community supervision, juvenile delinquency, penology, criminal justice administration, violent crime, ethics in criminal justice, criminal justice systems, and adjudication. Additionally, students often complete courses such as communication and culture, understanding racism, and introduction to U.S. law.

In addition to course work, students obtaining a criminal justice degree to work with inmates also have opportunities to gain practical work experience through internships. Many institutions work with the courts and penal system in order to place students in positions within a prison or jail, offering the opportunity to see beyond a case study and observe current professionals handle various situations and interactions with inmates.

Required Skills and Qualifications

Many of the available jobs that work with inmates are corrections officers. These positions require a diverse skill set in order to handle difficult or dangerous situations that might arise, as well as to contribute to positively to the environment. In these positions, corrections officers complete a number of tasks such as monitoring inmates, inspecting and searching cells, escorting inmates and personnel, interacting and communicating with inmates, and encouraging support between fellow staff members.

Along with a criminal justice degree, corrections officers can also become corrections certified.  The American Correctional Association have a variety of certifications available based on the role you have or aspire to.  These certifications range from typical corrections environments to corrections healthcare.  Earning corrections certification after graduating from a criminal justice degree program ensures that you are keeping up with changes in the industry.

Other Careers Working with Inmates

In addition to corrections officers, there are a number of positions within the penal system that require the ability to effectively communicate with individuals who are incarcerated. A background in social work, in particular, can be beneficial for entering into positions such as case aide worker, correctional case manager, corrections officer director, juvenile youth worker, pretrial services officer, and community liaison. Careers as a supervisor or warden are also likely to require a degree in criminal justice.

Careers in these areas continue to grow in demand, and the opportunities and positions are also expected to continue to increase. After obtaining a criminal justice degree to work with inmates, professionals in this field have the knowledge and skills to be effective in every type of job position.