Criminal Justice Careers for Veterans

ASO Staff Writers
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Updated September 20, 2023
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Education & Career Resources for Veterans Interested in Criminal Justice

Many veterans getting out of the military today choose to continue serving their country and communities by working in the public service sector. Afterall, it seems a natural fit to continue to make use of the skills and talents one gains during a career in the military. One such career field in which veterans can use their learned military skills is criminal justice. When people think about the criminal justice field, a job as a police officer usually comes to mind; however, this field of work is much more diverse than many others. It also includes jobs as bailiffs, paralegals, park rangers and in forensics to name a few. This guide can help you find ways to parlay your skills and land a job in the criminal justice field.

A Closer Look: Advantages of a Criminal Justice Education

Most criminal justice jobs require some sort of post-secondary education. At a minimum, on-the-job training or certification is required, while earning an undergraduate degree can open more job options, and advanced degrees can lead to supervisory or managerial positions in criminal justice. Most veterans can enter a criminal justice training program with some transferred credits from their military experience, not only reducing the time needed to earn a credential but also conserving GI Bill® entitlement for future education.

Criminal justice professionals work in almost every industry, both public and private, and job openings are on the rise and expected to continue growing. Veterans who earned a degree before serving in the military can move on to job-specific training to launch their criminal justice careers. Those who seek additional education post-military can use their GI Bill® benefits for college or job training such as police academies. The milestone map below outlines potential career and educational paths for veterans in various criminal justice careers.

 

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about educational benefits offered by the VA is available at the official U.S. government website.

To get a better idea of how to achieve a criminal justice career, below are four sample career fields and the six potential milestones for each one needed to achieve that career choice:

Criminal Justice Careers for Veterans

The criminal justice field encompasses many types of careers categorized broadly into five groups: law enforcement, corrections, homeland security, forensics and legal. Within each category, there are opportunities for entry-level applicants with education ranging from on-the-job training to advanced degrees. Many jobs favor candidates with degrees and experience in criminal justice or a related field, while some careers, such as information security analysts or forensic psychologists, require special training in their areas of expertise.

Skills, experience and training gained from military service will transition smoothly over to a criminal justice career. For example, a Military Intelligence Analyst could start working as a criminal investigator or private detective with minimal additional training. Veterans pursuing formal education or training programs in criminal justice may earn college credits for some of their applicable military training or Military Occupational Specialties (MOS).

Military service teaches its members the knowledge and abilities that cross over well into other non-criminal justice fields, such as:

#1 Criminal Justice Careers for Veterans

Union Institute & University

  • Location-markerCincinnati, OH
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$13,080
  • Out-of-state$13,080
  • Retention Rate100%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled860
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment99%
  • AccreditationYes

It is not hard to imagine how each of these military-learned skills could be used in the day-to-day work of criminal justice jobs. These are also great areas to highlight on a resume.

Resumes: Applying Your Military Skills to Criminal Justice

Veterans have advantages when applying for competitive jobs in the criminal justice arena. While a recent criminal justice graduate with no previous military experience might satisfy the education requirement for the technical part of the job, veterans have the added bonus of real-life experience (at times under austere and dangerous conditions) gained from their military service. Veterans should highlight these valuable skills and experience on their criminal justice resumes and during interviews.

The following depicts how a veteran might translate military skills to a civilian resume:

JOB
Military SkillsSpecial investigations officer – Air Force
Criminal Justice ResumeCrime scene investigator
SUMMARY
Military SkillsInvestigation experienceTeamwork
Criminal Justice ResumeTen years of experience in special investigations and security forces with the U.S. Air Force, working on teams in dynamic environments to investigate crimes and ensure the safety of military operations.
EXPERIENCE
Military SkillsSpecial investigations officerSecurity forces specialist – enlisted
Criminal Justice ResumeSpecial investigations officer in various international locations (2009-2014)Managed a counterintelligence team of nine membersCoordinated and directed criminal and special investigationsFormulated new plans to protect a base against cyber threats and criminal fraud, decreasing the frequency of these events by 33 percentSecurity forces specialist in various international locations (2004-2009)Ensured safety of all weapons, personnel and property on baseApprehended subjects and secured crime scenesTestified in judicial hearings
EDUCATION
Military SkillsCriminal justice degreesCourses related to crime scene investigation
Criminal Justice ResumeM.A. Criminal Justice from Ridge Mountain University (Expected Graduation: 2019)Relevant coursework: advanced criminological theory, cybercrime, federal criminal law and prosecution, information security seminarB.A. Criminal Justice from Green State University (2004)Relevant coursework: introduction to criminology, investigations, forensics and crime analysis
RELEVANT SKILLS
Military SkillsCourt experienceTeamworkMedical trainingComputer certifications
Criminal Justice ResumeThorough court preparation through written reports and testimonyEmergency medical responseExcellent with teamwork, planning and collaborative investigative workFirearms safetyComp TIA Security+, Comp TIA A+ and Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist certification
AWARDS & ACCOLADES
Military SkillsLeadership awards
Criminal Justice ResumeAwarded the following medals for leadership:Defense Meritorious Service Medal (2014)Joint Service Commendation Medal (2013)

Resume Writing Tips for Veterans

Veteran Benefits & Support: From School to Career

Transitioning from military service to the civilian workforce can be a major shift in life. However, the Department of Defense and the VA have resources available to help make the transition easier. From the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) training before discharge, to using the GI Bill to fund post-secondary education, to getting help from qualified counselors trained to work with veterans in school, there are numerous people and resources ready and willing to help veterans succeed in a post-military environment.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.

Online vs. On-Campus Criminal Justice Programs

Higher education learning formats are usually divided into three categories: online, on-campus or hybrid, which is a combination of the first two. Both online and on-campus criminal justice programs have their advantages, as well as notable differences. Use the table below as a guideline for determining which format is best for the given needs.

On-Campus Criminal Justice Programs

Structured

Students always know when their criminal justice classes will be held, making scheduling of other activities easier.

Social interaction

Students on campus have more opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities and network with professors and peers face-to-face.

Support

Veteran students usually have easier access to support and outreach programs and more opportunities to meet other veterans at a traditional campus.

Facilities

On campus students have better access to the school’s library, athletic and other facilities.

Eligible for GI Bill benefits

Both the Montgomery and Post-9/11 GI bills are good choices for on-campus criminal justice programs. Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, students receive the full monthly housing allowance and book stipend and get their tuition paid directly to the school.

More Information

For more information about on-campus degrees and the schools offering them, visit the criminal justice degree hub page.

Online Criminal Justice Programs

Flexible

With a fully online criminal justice degree program, the student controls scheduling. They can access classes whenever it fits into their day.

Accessibility

Students can access class coursework from anywhere as long as they have an Internet connection and a computer.

More degree options

Many online schools offer specialty criminal justice degrees that may not be offered at a local campus. This opens more options to tailor a degree to a specific focus, regardless of physical location.

Cost-effective

Many online criminal justice degrees have all the coursework online thus eliminating the need to buy textbooks or pay commuting costs.

Eligible for GI Bill benefits

Both GI Bills allow veterans to use their education benefits toward online criminal justice programs. With the Post-9/11 GI Bill, students receive a reduced monthly housing allowance (about half of the full amount) compared to taking an on-campus program.

More information

Online criminal justice degrees explores degree options and helps students choose an online school.

Scholarships for Veterans

While the Post-9/11 GI Bill generally pays for tuition and applicable fees up through the doctorate level at public schools, it is not enough in many cases to complete advanced degrees or pay for private schools. Scholarships allow veterans to continue pursuing higher education even after their GI Bill has run out. The list below highlights a few examples of scholarships specifically designed for veterans:

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