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5 Law and Criminal Justice Careers

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Do you have the attention to detail and meticulous record-keeping skills that it takes to make it in the law and criminal justice fields? Have you always dreamed about a career helping others and maintaining law and order in your community?

If so, there are hundreds of legal and criminal justice positions that might be right for you. Although some of these jobs do not require degrees, most reserve the top opportunities for candidates with some formal training under their belts. Here are just a few of the roles that are open to job seekers looking to break into the legal and criminal justice sectors.

1. Police and Detectives

With steady positions available in virtually every town and metropolitan center, the outlook for police and detectives is decidedly positive. According to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prospects are favorable for those pursuing municipal roles in this field, although the competition for coveted state- and federal-level positions is likely to be more intense. Some communities only require completion of state-mandated academy training for entry-level police roles, but advancement or eligibility for upper-level jobs is likely to require an associate degree, bachelor's degree, or master's degree in law enforcement or a related field. As of May 2013, the national median wage for police officers was $56,980 (BLS).

2. Paralegals and Legal Assistants

These legal professionals fulfill a wide array of support and logistical functions for attorneys, helping to ensure the smooth functioning of law offices, state and federal court systems, and other legal organizations. An associate degree program is the fastest way to qualify for paralegal and legal assistant positions, although those with previous experience or schooling may be able to obtain work upon completion of a paralegal certificate program. The annual median salary for paralegals in May 2013 was $51,170 (BLS).

3. Court Reporters

These legal professionals are charged with the responsibility of documenting everything that transpires during legal proceedings, using stenographic or transcription equipment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for court reporters is likely to be excellent over at least the next decade, particularly for those who have a degree and licensure in the field. In May 2013, the annual median salary for professionals in this field was $54,760 (BLS).

4. Detective and Criminal Investigators

Whether they seek out a detective role in a law enforcement organization or strike out on their own as private investigators, professionals in this field can look forward to a challenging, dynamic career. Although some investigators in private practice have managed to find success without formal training, law enforcement agencies are likely to require that candidates have an associate degree, bachelor's degree, or master's degree in hand. In May 2013, the median salary for investigators in the United States was reported as $79,030 (BLS).

5. Legal Secretaries

Although these roles are categorized as administrative work, most legal secretaries function as the nerve center of the office or legal agency in which they are employed, carrying out correspondence tasks, helping prepare briefs, organizing legal documents, conducting research, and maintaining schedules. Job seekers with a certificate, associate degree, or bachelor's degree in a related field are likely to land the most desirable legal secretary jobs. The median salary for legal secretaries in May 2013 was $45,030 (BLS).

If you'd like to learn more about professional opportunities in the law and criminal justice field, as well as the certificate and diploma programs that are most likely to help you break into the field, enroll in an introductory course. Online learning options make it easy to sample the field before you commit to a full degree program.