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  • Education

    I apologize if this is the wrong place to post this, wasn't sure..

    Just wondered, in your experience with your own department and knowledge of how things work elsewhere, is a degree typically required when moving up in rank through the department? If I'm accepted into the academy, I was thinking about pursuing a bachelors in Criminal Justice but wasn't sure if it typically serves much value to an officer.

    Thanks for any insight.
    The loudest one in the room is the weakest.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Bauer View Post
    I apologize if this is the wrong place to post this, wasn't sure..

    Just wondered, in your experience with your own department and knowledge of how things work elsewhere, is a degree typically required when moving up in rank through the department? If I'm accepted into the academy, I was thinking about pursuing a bachelors in Criminal Justice but wasn't sure if it typically serves much value to an officer.

    Thanks for any insight.
    Think about what your goals are before you choose a degree. Do you want to be a street cop for 20-25 years? There's nothing wrong with doing that, thats what I did. It was very rewarding, and supported my family. I chose not to pursue promotion, because above Sergeant or Lieutenant, you're no longer a cop, you're a desk sitter/paper pusher/bean counter. Nothing wrong with that either, it just wasn't what I signed up for. You don't need to waste time and money getting a Masters to do that.

    In my state, you need 60 credits to be certified by the State LE standards board, or an Associates Degree in CJ Studies from a vocational school. A few agencies require a Bachelors degree to be considered for hiring, but they're beginning to back off on that. Nearly all require a BA/BS for promotion to Sgt or above. Depending on the size of the agency, they may require a Masters for promotion to Captain or above. The field of study for any degree is not a consideration. Psychology, Business Management, Communication, all good. I've got a coworker with a degree in Biology. A Teaching degree will help you land a spot working as an Academy Instructor. The FBI loves hiring kids with Accounting degrees. Pick a subject you like, so you'll do well at it.

    My advise is to avoid a CJ degree. It's pretty useless outside of this field. If you later find police work isn't for you, you'll be stuck with a degree no one else needs. In this job, a CJ degree won't get you any further than a degree in Basketweaving. A BA/BS is fine, but only if you're going to need it for promotion. If your goal is to be Chief, go with a degree in Public Administration, or Business Management.

    There is a student loan thread somewhere around here. The lesson there is, don't take out high-dollar loans to get an advanced degree you don't actually need.
    You can trust just about every officer you work with to risk their life to save yours, but don't ever leave your lunch in the breakroom refrigerator.

    Comment


    • #3
      I haven't gone farther than Detective, though I do have a BS in Med Lab Technology. My previous career. I agree w/ Curt5811. Depends on what you want to do w/ your career. Some depts. actually pay more for level of education. I only make $100 less a year than my SGT! He has an Associates, I believe.
      If CJ interests you, go for it, but know that those degrees are a dime a dozen. Find something that interests you. Public Administration, Management, Finance, anything really. I have a colleague that has a degree in Theater. Helps him in court on occasion. Whatever you choose, keep your GPA high enough so that graduate school is an option. Good luck to you.
      Judge me by the enemies I have made----Unknown

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      • #4
        My advise is to avoid a CJ degree

        I have a co-worker who thinks CJ degrees are useless. I asked him what his degree was in. "Psychology", he answered. Like that one is any better!

        We've kicked this topic around ad nauseum but I'll boot once more. The bottom line: education is a good thing. Having a broad understanding of larger issues is a good thing. Education is not a substitute for analytical skills, communication skills, and basic common sense. Having those skills and a degree in 18th century French Lit is better than not having those skills and a CJ degree.

        As far as marketability outside of LE, I offer this recent observation: I recently assisted with a CJ career fair. There were 80-90 booths, and about half were local/county/state/federal agencies. The remaining half were insurance companies, child protective services agencies, private companies with 'police authority', private security and investigations firms, and large retailers (Lowes, Target, etc). So much for saying a CJ degree is useless in the private sector....

        As far as moving up the ranks, I submit 1% has to do with education and 99% has to do with timing, luck, and ability to game the internal politics.

        I used to be a banker but I lost interest.

        -Steven Wright

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        • #5
          Oh crap, why do I write this long winded stuff?

          When you get to the rank of Captain and above, some larger departments (but not all) require a Bachelor's degree in anything, but rarely Criminal Justice. Often some will substitute service time or a combination of service time and education for a degree.

          As far as getting a degree in Criminal Justice, most experienced police managers will tell you not to do so. Here's why.

          1. In most departments, any degree bumps your pay, even one in basket weaving or art appreciation.

          2. Many discover police work is not for them and leave the profession. If that happens, a Criminal Justice degree is almost worthless when it comes to getting a job in the private sector.

          3. Because of the unusually high injury and stress rate, many cops wind up going out early on a disability retirement. The money is good for a while but inflation catches up and you will need to get a second job. Again, a CJ degree can be worthless when it comes to getting a job in the private sector.

          4. If you do make a lifelong career in law enforcement, you no doubt want to go up the ladder. When you do, you will be dealing with issues like labor relations, budgeting, marketing, public relations, communications, completed staff work, statistics, personnel management, research, grant writing, community outreach, accounting, logistics, fleet management, audits, and equipment acquisition just to name a few. (That's why when you make Lieutenant and above they call you a Chairborne Ranger). When this happens, you will be kicking yourself in the head because you got a CJ degree instead of one in Business or Public Administration.

          Consider going for a degree in Business or Public Administration. While you will take classes in core business subjects, you will have plenty of free electives you can use to take almost as many classes in criminal justice as your core subjects. Your degree will be in business but you will get a CJ education at the same time that will hopefully give you enough information to help you score higher on civil service exams for law enforcement jobs. Should things later go south (dissatisfaction with a law enforcement career, disability retirement, etc.) having a degree in business will open many doors to getting a meaningful job that pays well with a private company.

          FWIW, I spent 33 years in law enforcement before I retired. While I served as a Lieutenant within the state agency I worked for, they routinely contracted the services of their managers out to smaller state public safety and law enforcement agencies to serves as their Chiefs when they didn't have acceptable candidates in house to do the job. In that capacity I served as Chief of a smaller state agency for seven years. During that period, nothing I did would have been addressed by a CJ degree, but it was covered by curriculum found Business Administration and Public Administration programs.

          I would also add one more thing. Going up the ladder is not as sweet a deal as people think. The best time of my career was when I was a uniformed patrol sergeant working swing shift. I had a greatest crew of people working for me a sergeant could ever ask for. They worked hard and as a team, they looked out for each other and they kept each other in line. If one of them started to get off track, there was no need to come to me. Instead, they took him or her off to the side, had a Come to Jesus moment with them and straightened things out. Only when they couldn't fix things in house did they come to me. Productivity and quality were high, complaints were low and they knew how to get along with the community they served. They didn't make chicken s**t arrests and their stolen property recovery was high. I have never been prouder of my people than I was back then. The son of one of those officers is now a cop and active here on o.com

          OTOH, after making manager I brought work home every night - not papers and projects, but in my head. As I slept, I would wake up for a couple seconds every 15 minutes or so thinking about meeting mile marks, budget issues, why officer X can't get along with officer y and why it's threatening a major morale issue, planning for upcoming major events, dealing with political fallout over a nothing deal that has somehow turned toxic, etc. The first uninterrupted eight hour sleep I got was on my first day of retirement. So, don't be too eager to climb that ladder yet. The golden ring you're reaching for that will enhance your ego and pension may turn out be a giant lead sinker that will weigh you down more than you imagined.
          Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

          Comment


          • #6
            Wow, I really appreciate all of you taking time to answer first of all. I appreciate it. I’ll definitely take it all into consideration.

            for a quick run down on my situation: I’m a 30 year old academy hopeful. I’ve gone through the civil service exam, the fitness test, and am in the background check now. I have no doubts I’ll get through this portion which means I should have my interview in May according to my BI. This is my first time through the process. In my current career of 10 years, I’ve worked for the corporate headquarters of a large worldwide company starting as a mail clerk and working my way up to management. LE has always been a major interest from me and I’ve always felt like I made a mistake not going for it before I had a family to support. My local department (a department who would like to have 725 on staff at a time according the chief if you’re curious about the size) recently started forming academies again, so I figured this is my shot.
            The loudest one in the room is the weakest.

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            • #7
              It is a rewarding career, so go for it. As someone once said, you'll have ringside seats to the greatest show on earth.

              You are at an age where maturity and life experience has set in, so you have a better chance of making it than younger applicants. Don't be afraid. Take the plunge.

              ,
              Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

              Comment


              • #8
                As far as figuring out what I would like to do, I’m in the process of finding that out. My initial thought is that I would like to move up through the ranks... but I’m also ignorant to what exactly some of those ranks mean from a day to day working standpoint. I’ve researched fairly extensively was a sergeant is, since that would be the first step up and I’m fairly certain I would at least like to achieve that status some day. Beyond that, I am unsure.

                i know in this particular department, you must complete “1 year of job related college courses” before the end of your second year of employment to be retained, but outsid did that, you just need to have 3 years of service to be eligible to test for sergeant. Most other departments in my area require you to have at minimum an associates just to be a patrolman. (But they are small department in low crime, somewhat wealthy areas)
                The loudest one in the room is the weakest.

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                • #9
                  Most (but not all) sergeants still do police work, but they supervise. To be good at it, you need a lot of knowledge, experience and wisdom, things that are hard to come with.

                  Lieutenants and above start managing the business end of the department and are farther removed from police work. Here is where you will find yourself trying to serve the needs of several masters. First, you will be responsible for helping meet the needs (demands) of the community and politicians, some of which are contrary to the law, ethics and professionalism. But without the "good will"of the vocal groups, the acceptance of your department and its programs are shot. Next, you have to navigate your operation through ever changing laws, many of which make your work difficult if not downright impossible. Then you have to work within a budget, trying to figure out how to squeeze let's say $1 million worth of goods and services out of a $500,000 budget. Then you have to sell all this to your troops and convince them to "work happily" within all these constraints. You will constantly hear the troops say that you are making decisions where you've forgotten what it's like to work the streets. But that is a two way street, because they have no idea the about the totally conflicting responsibilities you have as a manager that sometimes works against their interests.

                  For that reason, if you go up the ladder beyond Sergeant, it is imperative that you make the time to spend one or two days a month working the field with your people, not only so that you have an understanding of how your management decisions will impact them, but so you can take the time to talk with them, one on one, and help them understand the conflicting obligations you have that impact them. Sometimes when both sides sit down and talk like that, a better understanding is reached and the two sides can come up with better solutions, or a better understanding and acceptance is achieved when the caca runs down hill.

                  .
                  Last edited by L-1; 02-16-2018, 11:56 PM.
                  Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Time in service is going to vary from agency to agency. The average time in LE will be about 5 years to be eligible for Sergeant. My agency requires an Associate degree for promotion but most of us have a Bachelor's degree. Being in management, you should know the challenges that come with being in supervision. Being in supervision in LE bring extra challenges because those you supervise have the authority to use lethal force when it is necessary. I will leave that there and let you dwell on that.

                    Once you're in the academy, focus on excelling in the academics and hands-on activities. Do your best. Once in the field (same as before). Learn the culture at your agency then when the time comes, ask yourself is promotion something you want and are ready for.

                    Best wishes to you

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Thanks fellas. First things first obviously, I’ve got to get in. Lol I’m definitely not trying to count chickens before they hatch, but admittedly I do have a fair amount of confidence that I will be selected and I’m the type of person who likes to stay 2 moves ahead whenever possible.

                      these replies have been great and given me a lot to think about. Once in, I’ll also seek out the council of certain people in my department I’m sure.

                      Education aside, I know there won’t be any substitute for hard work, learning my craft and putting in the effort everyday to earn consideration, so I will definitely focus on that first and foremost. With ZERO experience in anything LE related, I’ll be looking at this academy and even the first couple of years on the job with great detail. I’m definitely driven to get the most out of this experience as possible, and I’m sure that in itself will position me better than the guys who just want a shiny badge and to tell people what to do.
                      The loudest one in the room is the weakest.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Good luck and Godspeed but I do have to admit a couple of red flags are going up. You have several big hurdles to overcome and as well as some dues to pay before it's time to be thinking about sergeant stripes and gold bars. Put the big ambitions on a back burner and focus on what's immediately in front of you.
                        I used to be a banker but I lost interest.

                        -Steven Wright

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Definitely understand, as you can see in my previous post. Knowing this is what I’m planning on as my final career, I’m just trying to gather as much information as I can, so that I know what I want to get out of it should I make it and how to go about doing it. Being in my 30s now, I don’t want to get a late start on anything if I can help it is all.

                          im not trying to disrespect the process, get too far ahead of myself or approach it with arrogance.
                          The loudest one in the room is the weakest.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I get it. You're doing as much research as possible and soliciting advice from others. Like the saying goes, "An informed decision is a smart decision."

                            BUT, like another saying goes, "The best made plans of mice and men often go awry." Yes, some people are able to chart out their careers with great precision and always be a step ahead of the pack. For many others, however, it will be a roller coaster ride- lots of highs and lows, some unexpected turns, and the rails may even twist upside down a time or two....
                            I used to be a banker but I lost interest.

                            -Steven Wright

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Understood, and good food for thought. All Input is appreciated, whether it’s “what I want to hear” or not. I can’t be sure of what’s going to happen in the next 5 months, so you’re right, planning out the next 5 years is definitely not a sure bet by any means.
                              The loudest one in the room is the weakest.

                              Comment

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