Law and Criminal Justice

Note: There are many occupations in this industry that require extensive background checks, U.S. citizenship, and state licensures.

Meet Your Industry Advisor

Matt Myers

Matt Myers Law and Criminal Justice Industry Advisor 

The occupations that comprise this industry are quite varied, however one common theme is that workers help to maintain the security and stability of society. Professionals in criminal justice and law (including law enforcement) focus their energies on researching and analyzing crime and criminal behavior and on investigating, arresting, preventing, adjudicating, and/or ensuring justice for victims and those individuals who are accused of or commit crimes. 

Employers in this industry include federal, state, county, city, and town governments, as well as, universities, law firms, think tanks, and advocacy organizations.

Necessary Skills

Skills needed for a career in law and criminal justice

  • Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others
  • Deductive/Inductive Reasoning
  • Active Listening
  • Critical Thinking
  • Social Perceptiveness
  • Monitoring
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices and Firearms (Police)
  • Speaking
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Coordination
  • Persuasion
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Service Orientation
  • Judgment and Decision Making

Degrees and Certifications

Information about degrees and certifications for this industry

Many law enforcement/policing positions require only a high school diploma as police academy training is provided; however, a bachelor's degree in Criminology, Law Enforcement or Justice Administration may make candidates more marketable. A graduate/professional degree in Criminology, Public Administration, Psychology, Cybersecurity or Law would be necessary for senior level or specialized positions.

How to Get Started

6 steps to get you started in law and criminal justice

  1. Participate in the Clearance Ready Program
  2. Clean up your act! Do not do drugs. Establish good credit. Stop downloading music or videos illegally. According to Mason recruiters, up to 75% of job candidates for criminal justice/law enforcement jobs cannot pass the background investigation
  3. Establish or rebuild your GPA. A strong GPA (preferably 3.5+) will help, particularly if you are interested in doing national security work (e.g., CIA, FBI) or going on to law school
  4. If you are interested in applying to Law School, speak with a pre-law advisor here at Mason right away
  5. Connect with alumni and employers during Government Week which takes place on campus every September
  6. Use Handshake to help you find ways to add experience to your resume before you graduate through an internship or volunteer position with a federal, state or local agency


Research, get experience, and get connected to contacts in law and criminal justice

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Job Functions

Police Officer and Detective

Police officers and detectives pursue and apprehend individuals who break the law and then issue citations or give warnings, write reports and maintain records of incidents encountered.

Special Agent

Conduct sensitive and high profile inquiries into possible violations of federal laws/regulations such as mismanagement; gross waste of funds; abuse of authority; or substantial and specific danger to the public health and safety.

Adjudicator / Hearing Officer

Adjudicators and hearing officers conduct hearings to decide or recommend decisions on claims concerning government programs or other government-related concerns and prepare decisions. Determine penalties or the existence and the amount of liability, or recommend the acceptance or rejection of claims, or compromise settlements.

Security Officer

Security officers act to protect property by maintaining a high visibility presence to deter illegal and inappropriate actions, observing for signs of crime, fire or disorder; then taking action and reporting any incidents.

Forensic Science Technician

Forensic science technicians collect, identify, classify, and analyze physical evidence related to criminal investigations. May serve as specialist and testify as expert witness on evidence or crime laboratory techniques.

Intelligence Analyst

Intelligence Analysts analyze process and distill known information about situations and entities of strategic, operational, or tactical importance to assess risk to provide leaders with critical information they need to protect our nation.

Correctional Officer

Correctional officers maintain order among jailed inmates and enforce set rules and regulations to maintain safety and security for all.

Probation / Parole Officer

Probation officers monitor and provide guidance to convicts who are released from confinement before the official end of their sentences or those on probation in lieu of a prison or jail sentence.

Paralegal / Legal Assistant

Paralegals assist attorneys before and during trial. Prepare for court dates such as closings, hearings and trials. Identify laws and judicial decisions to help lawyers build cases. Analyze / organize data and write summaries.

Polygraph Examiner

Polygraph examiners administer lie detector tests, analyze results and write reports often used in court.

Victim Advocate

Victim advocates are first-responder after crime. Attend to physical and emotional needs of a victim, witness and their immediate family, and help them navigate judicial system.


Lawyers apply knowledge of the law to advise and represent individuals, businesses, or government agencies on legal issues or disputes to advance their interests.

Criminal / Forensic Psychologist

Criminal and forensic psychologists analyze behaviors of criminal offenders to help law enforcement solve crimes and provide expert testimony in court.