career in criminal justiceWhat do patrol officers, legal assistants, probation officers, criminal investigators and legal secretaries all have in common? Well, not only do they all have careers in criminal justice1, they have jobs that require interaction with many people.

According to an article on, “Criminal justice professionals work closely with team members, clients, partners and other individuals every day. To be successful, it is necessary to have a solid foundation in interpersonal skills such as listening, empathy, conflict resolution and flexibility.”2

If you want to start a successful career in criminal justice, here are five qualities you should master:

1. Focusing on People More than Other Things

People who communicate and connect well with others have an authentic interest in those around them. They don’t spend much time thinking about themselves because they’re too busy focusing on the people they are with. It’s what makes their ability to communicate well seem so effortless.

To adopt this habit, try putting aside any distractions and instead focus on the people you’re with. Focus on listening, not hearing.

2. Being Authentic

Avoid making people question your motives or agenda. Be transparent with what you say and how you communicate with others. If you want your career in criminal justice to be successful, use your words and actions to prove to others that you can be trusted.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “to have leadership presence, others need and want to know where you stand — they don’t want to have to guess or be blindsided midstream. While there isn’t a quick fix or a one-size-fits-all solution to increasing one’s authenticity, there are several focus areas that will certainly help.” These focus areas include:

Point of View: Articulate your point of view on issues, challenges and disagreements to become more comfortable speaking your mind.
Positioning: Position yourself in a way to get support for your initiatives, but be transparent about why you are positioning yourself a certain way.
Personal history: Be able to identify the key people and events that shaped who you are today. Explore your personal history to better understand yourself and become the best leader you can be.

People gravitate toward authentic individuals because they are trustworthy. You’re likely to resist working with someone if you don’t feel you can trust them.

3. Being Open to Discussing Deep Topics with People

There’s no surer way to prevent an emotional connection from forming during a conversation than by limiting yourself to small talk. When you only make yourself available for small talk, you can prevent people from having any real affinity for you. Through good communication, you can create a connection with colleagues and those your position serves. Your career in criminal justice will require you to take a genuine interest in others, so allow people to be open with you about the important aspects of their lives.

4. Treating Everyone with Respect

Whether you are interacting with your boss or working with an offender going through a hard time, it is important to be unfailingly respectful.

In an interview with Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, juvenile probation officer Victoria Harris stressed the importance of moving away from “scared-straight” tactics when working with juvenile offenders.

“I think it’s all about my approach with them,” she said. “I’m not someone who yells or makes threats or anything. I try to tell them they can be more than what they are right now.”

5. Recognizing the Difference Between Fact and Opinion

If you want a job in the criminal justice workforce, know that you don’t have to avoid sharing your opinion, but be sure to make it clear that they’re opinions, not facts. A career in criminal justice requires you to have a clear sense of facts: facts about your clients’ situations and facts about how the law works.

The average person is not responsible for the enforcement of laws; whether you choose to break or follow the law is up to each individual person, and enforcement falls into the hands of the criminal justice system. If you are part of the criminal justice workforce, it’s important to be knowledgeable so you can then help enforce the law properly.

Before You Start Your Career in Criminal Justice

Receive your education at Grantham!

Use your qualities to find a job that improves your local community – earn your online Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from Grantham University. This 100% online degree program gives you the knowledge you need to succeed in the criminal justice workforce.

Contact us today to learn more.

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