Careers in criminal justice
Interested in becoming an attorney? How about a law enforcement officer? Maybe working with victims is your thing.
The field of law enforcement and criminal justice offers many different opportunities to suit a range of interests. Some require a law degree, some don't. Whatever you choose, however, all of these careers provide an opportunity to really help people.
More careers in criminal justice:
Judges listen to both sides of a case and make decisions about which side is correct. Because of the many different kinds of cases and the sheer number that must be heard, there are different levels of judges and courts. A justice of the peace, for example, decides relatively minor matters. District judges handle more serious criminal and civil cases, many of which involve a jury trial.
The Court of Criminal Appeals has the final say in criminal cases, such as murder, assault or crimes as defined in the Texas Penal Code. The Texas Supreme Court, meanwhile, is the final authority in the state in civil matters. Civil cases involve disputes between two or more persons or businesses.
Attorney General Abbott was a judge before he was elected to his present office. To become a judge, you must first finish college and then get a degree from a law school. Typically, a person also works as an attorney before becoming a judge. For more information on judges, see:
Law enforcement officer
Whether you're interested in becoming a police officer, a state trooper or a federal officer, the field of law enforcement offers a wide array of exciting ways to protect and serve the public. As the term suggests, law enforcement officers are tasked with making sure that the laws are followed and cracking down on those who break them. To find out more:
- Texas Department of Public Safety
- U.S. Marshals Service
- FBI Youth Web site
- Texas Police Depts. & Sheriff's Offices
An attorney, or lawyer, is someone whose job it is to know the laws of a city, county, state or the nation. Attorneys advise others about what the law says and means, and often represent them in court. Because there are so many laws, an attorney typically focuses on a particular area, such as criminal or family law. To become an attorney, you must first finish college and then get a degree from a law school. For more information on attorneys:
A prosecutor is an attorney who represents the government in cases where someone is accused of committing a crime. Examples include a district attorney or a U.S. attorney. While the Office of the Attorney General primarily handles civil matters, it does employ prosecutors to handle some criminal cases. For more information on prosecutors:
- Texas District and County Attorneys Association
- Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law
- Texas Tech University School of Law
- University of Houston Law Center
- University of Texas at Austin School of Law
Many of these careers - lawyer, judge, forensic scientist - require a college degree:
A defense attorney represents a person or persons in court who has been accused of a crime. If an accused person cannot afford a defense attorney, the court will appoint one to represent that person for free. For more information:
Investigators examine a case in detail and collect evidence for use by attorneys when they try a case in court. They collect this evidence in a variety of ways, including interviewing witnesses or suspects, examining documents, and gathering DNA material. Investigators are also often referred to as detectives. College graduates are preferred in this field, but a law degree isn't necessary. For more information:
Victim assistance coordinator
A victim assistance coordinator, also called a crime victim liaison, works directly with victims of crime to access the services they need during their recovery. Services often include applying for crime victim compensation funding to cover expenses related to the crime; arranging counseling for the victim; transporting the victim to and from court; and working with the victim to develop his or her testimony. A coordinator often works in a district attorney's office. This is another career that doesn't require a law degree. For more information:
Law schools in Texas
Criminal justice programs