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Advice Needed on Which Path to Take


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  • Advice Needed on Which Path to Take

    Hi all,

    Could really use a bit of advice as I'm coming to something of a crossroads. For starters, I'm set to graduate with my BA at the end of March (it's not a foreign language, hard science, or comp sci degree - liberal arts, unfortunately). With my GPA, I qualify for SAA. I also have a year of experience as an intern with a federal law enforcement agency and a year of experience as a research assistant on campus. My ultimate goal is to wind up as a criminal investigator with a federal agency (I have a few I really like, but I know you pretty much have to apply everywhere at first). I also have applied to a few things on USAjobs, but always get the eligible but not referred message.

    I guess what it boils down to is this: I also applied to law schools and have received a few scholarship offers. If my ultimate goal is to become an agent, however, would it be looked upon better to spend three years getting a law degree or three years as a local police officer/sheriff? (I have no desire to join the military).

    Thanks for any advice, I could really use it.

  • #2
    If you are getting a full ride scholarship that is not dependant on keeping a high GPA, and you have nothing else going on, then I would go.

    Otherwise, the only reason to go to law school is because you think you would really love being a lawyer. If not, you are wasting 3 years and $120,000. More debt is not the answer.


    • #3
      Well if you are not interested in the Military, than you might as well either go with local police or law school. Even with law school taking three years, you are going to have to wait at least that long before they start hiring other than vets.....probably going to take even longer than that. Even with the experience you'll get in local LE, a vet is going to get ahead of you in the hiring process. These days you need those vet pref points to even get pass the intial stages.


      • #4
        I agree, if law enforcement is your ultimate goal, then I would keep away from the "legal" side of things, that side of the fence is not enforcement. I would highly recommend you get a job with a local PD or SO. This will teach you everything you need to know about law enforcement, this is the meat and potatos of the job. What you learn there you can take with you wherever you go, and be far ahead of the "pencil pusher" applicants that want the same jobs as you. Plus, worst case scenario, you might love it and never want to leave.
        I originally got a job in local to use as a stepping stone to federal, and then I loved it so much I stayed for 11 years. As a matter of fact, I would have never left if it weren't for the low salary and crappy retirement I was looking at. Federal LE will never be as good as local level, period, only the money is more attractive.
        In the end, you have to decide what is best for YOU.
        Last edited by jtl323; 02-06-2013, 12:38 PM.
        USMS Region 3
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        __________________________________________________ ______________________________
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        • #5

          What about your internship with the federal agency? Do you still keep in touch with your contacts? Are there any entry-level jobs available with them? Another avenue would to try to get hired with them and work your way up to a law enforcement gig with them or another agency. Plus it is another great way to gain status. Have you checked out the PathWays at all? Maybe go for your masters while working for them and then get hired when your done. Just a thought.
          Exam: Retook exam: 11/2010
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          FLETC: Good Question lol
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          USMS- Region 8
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          All clear as of 11/2010
          FCIP Over, all applicants scrapped. (GAME OVER) 3/2011 :'(


          • #6
            What part of California are you in? Generally speaking CA Peace Officers receive better benefits and working conditions than the Feds.

            Most of the larger (500,000 residents or more) cities/counties offer tuition reimbursement, so you can get your law degree on the agency's dime. There is also loan forgiveness program in CA if you go to law school and work for ANY public agency (read: school districts, cities, counties, transportation districts-as ANY type of public employee) for 10 years, a portion up to half or all is forgiven.

            Several places in CA are in ridiculous hiring binges right now. If you want to go Federal, be prepared to wait if you are not a veteran, those veteran preference points even apply here, but there isn't the mandate to hire like at the Federal level.
            Last edited by RGDS; 02-06-2013, 09:49 AM. Reason: Additional info
            semper destravit


            • #7
              Thanks for the helpful and fast replies. My line of thinking is that while my primary goal would be to do something investigative, I wouldn't mind (and queue the groans) working for a DA or US attorney's office and that having a law degree could be a decent backup if, say, I got into accident or couldn't pass a poly (not that I can think of any reason why I couldn't) etc.

              I still keep in contact with the people from my internship, but they're doing essentially zero hiring now, as they just had a push before I came on.

              I'm located in Los Angeles, but wouldn't really mind moving anywhere (I might even prefer to give a new location a shot).


              • #8
                Many DAs offices in California hire entry level, thought that is VERY rare! Most of the time, they hire officers with some LE experience. There are 58 County District Attorneys in California. Los Angeles being the biggest, try them, there is always a chance. Also, try looking at the State. There a handful of Agencies that do some pretty good investigative work.

                The law degree may help as a back-up, but remember, if you are disabled enough to not be come a peace officer, life is going to pretty difficult for you.
                semper destravit


                • #9
                  Sorry, I meant as a prosecutor for a DA or US attorney's office.


                  • #10
                    Just so you know, i had 3 interviews this year for criminal investigator positions (fed) and all of the canditates surrounding me had: Military time (5pt and 10pt), bachelor's and Master's, and all were currently either local or fed law enforcement officers. I have all three (minus masters) and got dropped out by two of the three agencies. This is just so you have an idea of what you will be competing with. So mil+degree+LEO= a chance. But again, there are those who slips through the cracks. Good luck.


                    • #11
                      I am former military with law enforcement experience and I am now attending law school. I am your competition for federal employment.

                      Getting a law degree to enter the law enforcement field is not a good idea unless you have prior experience. You will be over qualified and burdened with debt, and honestly most agencies for entry level positions would rather see a masters in accounting or something computer related.

                      Go to law school if you know that you WANT to be a lawyer, every thing else should be secondary to that desire. Also, only go if the law school has decent employment prospects and can guarantee you an almost free ride. What schools are you looking at going to and why? Also what is your LSAT score if you don't mind me asking?


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by TriumphST View Post
                        Just so you know, i had 3 interviews this year for criminal investigator positions (fed) and all of the canditates surrounding me had: Military time (5pt and 10pt), bachelor's and Master's, and all were currently either local or fed law enforcement officers. I have all three (minus masters) and got dropped out by two of the three agencies. This is just so you have an idea of what you will be competing with. So mil+degree+LEO= a chance. But again, there are those who slips through the cracks. Good luck.
                        I've wrestled with the question of whether or not prior LEO is really going to get you ahead in the process or not. If you think about it, being just a patrolman and having a bachelors or masters in CJ is not going to put you ahead of someone who speaks a foreign language, has computer skills, was an accountant, or was a lawyer. You will be able to pass the interview/poly/fitness test easy, but they can't train someone to speak Spanish or be an accountant. I really think specializing in one of those above fields is better for someone to do in the long run. If you can do both by being a LEO, then do it. But if you can do one of those specialities and get a lot of experience in the private sector or gov, it maybe the better option. Agencies really want detectives/TFOs, and who knows how long that could take when you maybe able to pick up a speciality in 2-3 years which includes work experience.

                        I'm not sure if agencies hire a certain number from each category or just lump them in together (think the FBI does the former), but if they hire from within those categories, you are going to be going up against a lot less competition in the foreign language group then in the LEO+bachelors group.


                        • #13
                          I'm a law school graduate. I want a career as a FLEO. Do not go to law school, it was a three year waste of time for that goal. 120k in debt didn't help either. Get your foot in the door another way. Become a reserve deputy, join the military, do anything else but law school unless you want to be a lawyer. Do not fall into the trap of law school. You should only attend law school with you have a full ride scholarship that is not academically qualified for renewal. It's taken me two years after graduating to start get anywhere on my life goals. Law school didn't help me get there.
                          Good luck.
                          Last edited by astolfo83; 02-15-2013, 07:42 PM.


                          • #14
                            I would do law school, only if it were at zero cost to me. Not worth taking out loans with no guarantee of employment on the back side.

                            Being a local cop will not help you particularly in the fed leo hiring arena. That is filled with 5 and 10 point vets now. You will need a special skill and an agency that emphasizes those qualities in their hiring to make it out of the general pool. Think JD, MPA, critical language, etc. The FBI's phase 1/2 testing is one that comes to mind.

                            I would shoot for one of your bigger CA agencies. The work is fun- and if you do get in, you'll work with a number of feds and wonder what the fuss is about. Not many are comfortable with the street-level side of being a cop. Plus the bennies are likely better at the state level- unless you happen to work in the midwest or deep south. They pay cops terribly.

                            I guess it's what you are looking for. The military would give you a leg up, but I don't blame you for not being particularly interested. I went in 20 years ago, got out after OIF1, and have been in local LE since.

                            I'd jump at a JD on the department's dime, but only as a feather in my cap- it's not something I would like to do professionally.


                            • #15

                              I have 15 years LEO experience (some FED the rest in a metro area), dual masters degrees, and I am a vet. Like a few others have said, you are competing against us. You should consider your position on the military. You don't have to go into combat arms, you could go into the JAG corps if they will take you and maybe assist financially with law school. If you have a significant scholarship take it then go to the Bureau. Aside from that, go to a big city PD and get some experience


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