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The Hiring Process in Criminal Justice Careers

What You Need to Know About Getting Hired in Criminology


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Landing a job in a criminology field can seem overwhelming at times. Even after you've decided what you want to do and where you want to work, you still have to get hired. Despite the abundance of jobs available in criminal justice careers, the large applicant field allows most agencies to have very high employment standards. Due to the sensitive nature of the information that will be available to you, and the level of authority you will have, a thorough background investigation will be required. Here's a rundown of what you can expect during the hiring process.

First Steps

The first step in the process is the job application. Most initial law enforcement-related job applications are very basic and only cover the bare minimum amount of information needed to determine whether or not you meet the minimum qualifications. Most states set minimum standards you must meet before you can even be considered for employment.

In Florida, for example, you must be at least 19 years old and have a high school diploma in order to become a police officer. You must also have either 30 semester hours of college credit, 2 years active military experience, 2 years of prior law enforcement experience, or 2 years of work experience in which contact with the public was a part of your day-to-day duties. Jobs that involve public contact might include customer service jobs, waiting tables, or even working as a cashier.

These are the bare minimum standards prescribed by the state. Each agency is free to impose stricter standards, and many do. Some agencies may require you to be 21 in order to be able to apply, whereas some may require an associates or bachelor's degree to be considered.

Digging Deeper

After your application has been reviewed and it's been determined you meet the minimum requirements, you will probably be asked to complete a supplemental application. This is a far more comprehensive application, which is designed to give a more complete picture of your employment history and character. It is also designed to make it easier for the background investigator to locate pertinent information. The supplemental application will usually require you to divulge your driving history and complete employment history, as well as past drug use and arrests, if any. It will also likely ask you to submit to a credit check.

The Best Policy

This is the part of the process where many applicants get nervous. The key is honesty. While all agencies are different, many will forgive past minor indiscretions. Falsifications, however, will very quickly get you removed from the hiring process. If it is found out later that you were dishonest on any part of your application, you will be subject to termination.

After the supplemental application, you may be required to participate in an oral interview or assessment. The best way to prepare for this is to ask people within the agency you are applying for about the process. Again, above all else, honesty is the key. You will be far better able to answer questions smoothly, intelligently and enthusiastically if you are honest about your answers. A little self inventory is in order here. Ask yourself exactly why you want the job you are applying for, and what exactly you believe you can contribute to the department.

You may also face a polygraph exam. Better known as a lie detector, the main purpose of a polygraph is to evaluate an applicant's honesty and to determine just how truthful she was in her supplemental application.

Upon Further Review...

Another key component of the law enforcement application process is the physical abilities test, where departments will gauge your capacity to perform core job tasks.Many departments also require applicants to undergo medical and psychological evaluations.

The psychological evaluation is not designed to find out how "sane" you are; rather, the purpose is only to determine whether or not you have personality traits that would assist you or cause problems for you as a police officer, given the amount of stress you will likely encounter. The medical evaluation is conducted to ensure you are physically capable of performing the job.

During all of this time, a background investigator will be looking into your past history. He may ask your neighbors about you, call your previous employers, and run a criminal history check. He will also likely come to your house to speak with your spouse, roommate, or parents.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Be prepared to wait. In most cases, this is a relatively lengthy process. Don't expect to get hired right away. In many instances, you can expect to wait up to 6 months or more from the time you apply for a job to the time you are actually offered employment. The long wait is worth it in the end, though. Working in criminal justice can be both exciting and fulfilling, and you will gain the pride in knowing what a tremendous accomplishment it is to be hired and to have the privilege of serving your community.

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