WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A COLLEGE DEGREE IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM?
The President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (1967) and the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals (1973) both supported the 4-year degree as a prerequisite for employment in law enforcement. The President's Commission accurately predicted that the complexities of policing would require higher levels of education. The complexities of the Criminal Justice System today have never been greater.
The American Police Association lists over 45 law enforcement agencies that require a college degree at entry-level positions. Government statistics reveal that 10% of all police agencies mandate college degreed candidates, 7% mandate community college degrees, and 86% mandate a high school diploma for an entry-level position. Although the majority of these agencies only mandate a high school diploma for hiring, many of these same agencies award extra points or consideration for college degrees. The Los Angeles Police Department is an example. According to the 2003/2004 Annual Salary Range, entry-level officers with a high school diploma are hired at $47,710. These same entry-level officers entering the department with an Associates degree are moved to the next step at $49,631. Candidates with a BA/BS degree are moved to the third step at $51,573. Many departments also take into consideration college degrees when promoting their employees.
According to Dennis Stevens' article in Law & Order Magazine (1999), higher education produces a number of benefits for officers including:
- It develops a broader base of information for decision-making.
- It provides additional years and experiences for increasing maturity.
- It inculcates responsibility in the individual through course requirements and achievements.
- It permits an individual to learn more about the history of the country and the democratic process.
Research also seems to indicate that there is a positive correlation between higher education, fewer disciplinary actions, and fewer citizen complaints (Braunstein & Tyre 1992).
Other occupations in Criminal Justice that require a college degree include Prosecutors, Probation Officers, Forensic Specialists, and Victim Advocates.
The trend for Criminal Justice personnel to require education beyond high school will increase as laws, equipment, and society in general become more complex in the next century. Those who have earned college degrees and enter the Criminal Justice System will be at a greater advantage over others in securing employment and later promotions in their field.