Justice for All
“The opportunities in Criminal Justice or Law Enforcement are very broad”
By Jane Goldberg and Marcee Hartzell
Opportunities are broad, and people with a surprising array of interests find their niche in the criminal justice field.
North Central Texas College’s Criminal Justice program chair Dr. Cherly Furdge tells her students to get as much education as they can. “The opportunities in Criminal Justice or Law Enforcement are very broad,” she explains. “So I encourage my students to go on for four-year degrees once they finish here, and their opportunities will be wide open.”
NCTC’s offerings in Criminal Justice are a good place to start, she adds. The College program is organized with several steps, each leading to the workforce and/or on to the next level of education. For example, a student can earn a certificate in one year and go directly into entry-level Criminal Justice jobs. Since the certificate is one-half of the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree, they can also continue on, either part-time while working or as a full-time student. Students can actually complete the Criminal Justice certificate and degrees online or face-to-face.
The two-year AAS program actually provides students with 45 credits or the majority of classes in Criminal Justice topics. This degree leads to jobs in law enforcement, corrections, juvenile justice and detention staff. With an AAS in hand, students frequently transfer on to pursue their Bachelor’s degree. Several Texas universities offer degree pathways for NCTC Criminal Justice students, including University of Texas-Tyler, University of North Texas, Texas A&M Commerce, and Texas Woman’s University.
A third option is NCTC’s Associate of Arts degree, also in Criminal Justice, which transfers directly to any four-year Texas college or university[DH1]. Employment in probation or parole and with law enforcement agencies at the federal level, require a Bachelor’s degree.
In addition to the job opportunities listed above, Furdge mentions work with the various court systems, counseling agencies, domestic violence programs, 911 dispatching and many other avenues are available to Criminal Justice graduates.
Furdge’s own career demonstrates the variety of options. While working at the Mississippi Department of Corrections as a Correctional Officer and a Drill Instructor, she completed her bachelor’s degree. Upon completing her degree, Dr. Furdge was promoted to the position of Assistant to the Associate Warden. She later went back to complete her Master’s degree which granted her the opportunity to move to Texas and work as a supervisor with the Denton County Juvenile Detention Center and as a Program Coordinator for the SAMPET program with the YWCA in Dallas. In 2013, she completed her PhD in Sociology with a major in Criminal Justice and a minor in Family Studies.
All faculty in NCTC’s Criminal Justice program have real-life work experience in the field in areas such as police, investigation, probation and parole, and corrections. NCTC students can also expect to learn from Furdge’s wide variety of experiences. As seen by the make-up of the faculty within the criminal justice department, opportunities in this field continue to expand.
“People might not realize that there is police enforcement for housing, transit and park systems, plus the Homeland Security workers at airports, private investigators and a wide range of federal and state agencies. There is not only the State Patrol, but also liquor and gambling enforcement, wildlife agents, park rangers, attorney general investigators and campus police, even the Coast Guard which is considered a law enforcement branch,” she adds, “or students can become attorneys, judges, or work in community corrections.”
“Our students have gone on in all different areas.”
In addition to course work, Criminal Justice majors will sign up for internships with criminal justice agencies. This gives students some experience, a chance to be known by potential employers and also to get a good understanding of the system.
The NCTC Criminal Justice Program
North Central Texas College offers several options within the Criminal Justice Program, allowing students to specialize in law enforcement, correctional services, or juvenile justice. The Associate of Arts Degree (AA) in Criminal Justice prepares students for entry into their chosen profession, and is a transferable degree to four-year schools; the Associate of Applied Science Degree (AAS) in Criminal Justice also prepares students for entry into their chosen profession, providing for greater study of criminal justice subjects and is transferable into the Bachelor of Applied Arts & Sciences (BAAS) at many universities; and the Certificate of Completion in Criminal Justice is a program that provides students with a general knowledge of criminal justice and helps prepare students for entry-level positions.
Associate of Arts
The Associate of Arts Degree (AA) in Criminal Justice prepares students for entry into their chosen profession, and is a transferable degree to four-year schools. Most students planning to transfer to a college or university in Texas for upper-division work are advised to complete an Associate of Arts degree. Completion of a bachelor’s degree typically requires at least four years of study. The first two years are spent meeting general college or university requirements. The last two years are generally spent at a four-year college or university, majoring in a specific area of criminal justice.
Associate of Applied Science Degree
Associate of Applied Science Degree (AAS) in Criminal Justice also prepares students for entry into their chosen profession, providing for greater study of criminal justice subjects and is transferable to the many area universities through their BAAS programs . Students in this program have a unique opportunity to pursue an internship with a criminal justice agency. Students will experience various roles of criminal justice personnel while working with a supervisor in the workplace. This program provides knowledge and understanding of the criminal justice field in areas such as: crime and its prevention, criminal law, investigative process, criminal evidence, juvenile justice, police patrol procedures, traffic enforcement, and report writing and career preparation.
Some of the typical employment opportunities for graduates of this program include: City Police Officer; Juvenile Detention Officer; County Deputy Sheriff Border Patrol Agent; Deputy U.S. Marshall; State Patrol Officer; Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agent; Private Investigator; Park Ranger; and a School Enforcement Officer.
Criminal Justice Certificate of Completion
This program is designed to provide a basic knowledge and understanding of the criminal justice/law enforcement field and requires a minimum of 30 credits. Graduates will qualify for entry level employment at city, juvenile, county, and state law enforcement agencies. Other employment opportunities may include: Park Ranger, School Enforcement Officer or a Security Guard.
Job Outlook and Salary
Work conditions do vary considerably depending on the position chosen and the level of government service or area of private security. Starting salaries can range anywhere from the mid-$20,000 to the mid-$100,000, again depending on the position chosen and the level of service. In addition, government positions also offer job security and personal benefits. Positions available within the criminal justice profession are challenging and personally rewarding, giving practitioners a feeling of pride, accomplishment, and self-worth.
Who should consider a career in Criminal Justice?
An ideal candidate for a career in law enforcement has a real desire to help people and a feeling that they would like to make a difference in the world. Many positions require physical stamina, a clean background and a high tolerance for stress. But after that, the field is wide open to a long list of special talents so diverse almost anyone can find a niche.
If you’re a whiz at computing or accounting, the FBI might be interested in you. Park patrols and rangers spend most of their days out-of-doors and juvenile officers have the opportunity to make a difference in a young person’s life: So, if you have the inclination to serve the public in law enforcement or criminal justice, think first about your talents and interests. Then go ahead and find your niche.
For more information about NCTC Criminal Justice programs, contact Dr. Cherly Furdge, Criminal Justice Department Chair, at (940) 498-6238.