How to Build a Better Criminal Justice or Criminology Resume

Why You're Not Getting Hired and What You Can Do About It

criminal justice resume
You may need a solid resume to get hired in criminal justice. PeopleImages.com/Getty Images

There's a pervasive myth out there suggesting that if you earn a college degree, you'll be guaranteed a job in the field of your choice after graduation. I can't begin to tell you how many times I'm asked something along the lines of "I've got my bachelor's in criminal justice; why can't I get hired?" It might be because your criminal justice résumé just doesn't dazzle potential employers.

Build a Better Résumé for Criminal Justice Careers

The thing is, any good job is going to take some work on your part. A degree alone isn't going to cut the mustard. You've got to build a résumé that demonstrates you're exactly the person that your prospective employer is looking for.

By "build a résumé," I'm not talking about learning how to write a résumé - there's plenty of advice out there for that - but rather putting together the body of work that shows you've been prepping for a particular job. This means starting as early as possible to get the education and the experience you'll need for the career you want.

So how do you build a better criminal justice résumé? First off, decide what you want to do.

The education and experience that you gain should be tied to your career goals. If you want to be a crime analyst, you'll need to gear your education toward research, analytics, and statistics.

Fine Tune Your Education for Jobs in Criminal Justice

If you want to become a forensic firearms expert, you want to have an education that incorporates physics, chemistry, and biology, as well as knowledge of the criminal justice system.

You'll also want to be able to demonstrate that you have some experience with firearms, perhaps through hunting and recreation or, better yet, police training.

Speaking of police training, its value can't be overstated. While there are plenty of great non-law enforcement criminal justice and criminology careers out there, a certificate from a police academy, along with some past work as a police officer, can go a long way toward demonstrating unique skills and experience you won't find anywhere else.

Get Experience in Criminal Justice

If you're constantly being told you lack experience, then somehow, some way, you're going to need to get that experience, right? You may need to consider going back to school to take some classes specific to the field you're trying to break into, or spend time volunteering in a laboratory environment - even if it's not a forensics lab - to start learning the ropes.

Once you've got the experience and education that employers in your field are looking for, then it's time to put it together in a résumé. Here, too, it's important to tune your criminal justice résumé to the job you're looking for. It should communicate to your potential employer - quickly, clearly and concisely - that you are exactly who they're looking for.

Patience is a Virtue When Looking for Criminal Justice Jobs

Patience, too, is a virtue. Many criminal justice and criminology careers require background checks and involve lengthy hiring processes. It can take months or longer to get hired - or to even hear back from an employer.

Just because you don't have an answer today doesn't mean all is lost. Keep your chin up and keep applying for jobs, all the while working to bolster your experience through volunteering, internships and continuing education.

Persistence and Learning Will Help Your Job Hunt

Every job application is an opportunity to learn. If you get a rejection, take it as a way to learn more about what you can do to improve for the future. There's nothing wrong with asking an employer to tell you how you can better your chances of getting hired.

It's often easier said than done, but the fact is that persistence is crucial if you know the job you want and are determined to go get it.

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