I was a former police officer before I became an academic advisor, so I think I can provide some insight as to what I learned through my process, which enabled me to pursue a career in this field.
I agree there are many fields that you can potentially focus on in this particular area. The individuals who pursue forensics are normally the ones who have a strong science background, especially in the areas of chemistry, biology, anthropology, and other STEM courses.
You are going to encounter a variety of subjects in the area of criminal justice. These are meant to provide you with a background of the subject and enable you to discover which concentration you are the strongest in, and one in which your skills will be the most useful in a future career. There will be many introductory courses, including ones on criminology and criminal theory, where you will learn the behavioral aspects of the field and various social theories and due process models. You will also encounter courses involving the types of crimes committed in society, the various public agencies that enforce crime (local, state and federal), the legal aspects of criminal justice (which include classes on criminal law, the court systems and the United States Constitution), and classes on the corrections system in the United States.
As you see, you can potentially select several different paths. One includes the science path, which will take you into subjects like forensics and DNA science. The enforcement path, which includes careers as a police officer, detective, and police administration. The legal path, which can lead to a career as a prosecutor, investigator, legal defense attorney, or judge, and the corrections path that can lead to a career in the prison system, criminal rehabilitation or prison administration.
I would examine each one of these potential career paths and determine which one peaks your interest, and which one best fits your skills and passion in life. It is true that criminology involves a large number of social science courses, especially ones on the areas of Psychology and Sociology. When I was determining my path in the area of criminology, I decided upon the police officer because it involved a subject area which best fit my strengths and abilities. As time went progressed, I actually developed a secondary interest in the legal subjects and ended up taking a course, which led to a paralegal certificate. This not only prepared me for a career in the legal area of law enforcement, but it also led to the development of another skill (writing), which led to a career as a writer and publisher of articles on legal and law enforcement issues. Therefore, I would definitely review each one of the concentrations in criminal justice, determine which ones is the best fit, and then pursue this option. I would definitely consult with a career advisor at your local college and meet with an academic advisor to see which courses you would like to pursue in your path. One thing I also recommend is meeting with individuals in the criminal justice community. I actually did several ride along with various officers in police agencies and went to the regional superior courts, to view and see the processes and procedures involved in the various careers and jobs.
Paul recommends the following next steps:
- Review the various options in the field of criminal justice and determine which one best fits your interests and skills.
- Visit with an academic advisor and determine which academic classes and courses you will need in that career path
- Visit a local college job center and see what majors and skills are required for each one of the career paths.
- Visit with various criminal justice agencies. Talk with police officers, corrections officials, administrators, prosecutors and judges, to determine what is required for successful achievement in these careers, and what academic courses they took in order to complete the requirements for successful admission into these occupations.