Is an Internship Required to Complete a Criminal Justice Degree?

Criminal justice is a subject that looks at law enforcement and the legal world. While enrolled in a criminal justice degree program, you may have the opportunity to participate in an internship. An internship is a work experience, related to your coursework, that you complete during one or more semesters as a college student. These experiences give you an inside view at the legal world and show you more about the jobs available in that field. Though an internship is not required for graduation, many students know that it gives them some advantages over other students.

What is Criminal Justice?

The criminal justice system in America consists of lawyers, judges, criminals and many others. Police officers investigate crimes and find evidence that proves a suspect committed a crime. Defense attorneys look for ways to show that a suspect did not commit that crime, including showing that the individual had an alibi or refuting claims in court. The prosecuting attorney brings evidence and works with law enforcement to convict the criminal and justify sentencing. Criminal justice is a specialized topic that looks at all aspects of criminals and criminal activity.

How Can You Use Your Degree?

A degree in criminal justice can prepare you for law school or graduate school, but you can also use your degree to qualify for the police academy in your city. Neil Johnson identified the five highest paying jobs in the criminal justice field as attorneys, criminologists, forensic psychologists, police detectives and FBI agents. Though many of those jobs require additional study, your criminal justice undergraduate courses will help you learn more about the terminology used in the field and the importance of the criminal justice system. Some of the jobs you might find with your degree can pay as much as six figures a year.

Types of Internships Available

Before deciding to do a criminal justice internship, you might want to think about the types of internships open to students. Many law offices hire college students to file paperwork, answer phones and do other tasks similar to those that paralegals perform. There are also a number of internships available with the federal government, including those for the FBI and CIA. Most internships require that interested students complete an application process. The application might ask about your employment history, current address and the related coursework you have completed. Some internships may also require the successful passing of a background check and a drug test.

Why Complete an Internship?

There are a number of benefits associated with doing an internship during your undergraduate years. Even if you attend one of the top schools in the country, you can only learn so much in the classroom. An internship gives you the chance to try out different criminal justice fields and see which best suits you. An internship also provides the opportunity to develop professional relationships in the field. These relationships become valuable as you find and apply for jobs, solicit letters of recommendation, or have questions about the field.

Career opportunities in the criminal justice system include a variety of roles in law enforcement, the court systems and corrections.  To better understand the options and find the role that best suits you, it is beneficial to complete a criminal justice internship. Trying out some of the roles and developing professional relationships increases your likelihood of success after graduation.