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Major for law enforcement

Discussion in 'Life After the Academy' started by 34KING18, May 15, 2015.

  1. 34KING18

    34KING18 Member

    Apr 15, 2015
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    Hey guys. So I was speaking to a grad of the citadel a couple days ago and he told me that if I wanted to go into law enforcement and also be an officer in whatever branch, he had heard from many people like this friends that went into the FBI and CIA that they are looking for people with STEM degrees, not law enforcement or criminal justice degrees. That kind of seems contradictory to me but I'm guessing that they know better than me. What would you guys say? Thanks
  2. NavyHoops

    NavyHoops Super Moderator 5-Year Member

    Jul 13, 2011
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    You can technically have any degree and apply for Federal Law Enforcement and the CIA. I applied for all of the Federal Law Enforcement positions and CIA when I got out and the most desired degrees at that time were those associated with accounting. Majority of the applications actually had a spot for applicants to list how many accounting credits someone had. I have tons of friends who work for both areas. Those who went Federal Law seemed to go faster in the process with accounting degrees, language skills that were in demand or law degrees. Those who work for the CIA all had diverse backgrounds, but many of them had spent a great deal of time overseas either while growing up, on missions, jobs, etc. I am not saying this holds true for today's agencies/organizations or this is how everyone got there. It is just those that I have seen and what I experienced when going through the process. Best thing you can do is take a look online and if you meet anyone in those fields ask. STEM degrees are in demand alot of places, I can see how these places want those. They need folks who are technically savy as they are chasing smart criminals who use technology to their advantage.
    Lawman32RPD likes this.
  3. USNA 19 DAD

    USNA 19 DAD Member

    Mar 10, 2015
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    As someone in LE for the last 20+ years I can say with gusto......DO NOT spend your hard earned money on a LE/ CJ degree. Initial training (Police/ Federal training academies) as well as field training will teach you all you need to succeed as a rookie. Earn a degree that will be beneficial for advancement as well as post LE life. My $.02
    Lawman32RPD and Wishful like this.
  4. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ 5-Year Member

    Sep 27, 2008
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    Of our sponsored USNA mids:
    Oceanography major, surface warfare officer, FBI. Now doing major seaport anti-terrorism duty.
    Pure science major, officer, CIA. Was bilingual. Being deliberately vague on that one.

    They were taught everything they needed to know about criminal justice and law enforcement. What they brought to the table was SA background and that competitive history, small group leadership, proven success as a military officer, athleticism (one was all-American in SA sport, the other a multi-discipline black belt), orientation to service, discipline and an ethical code.
    Lawman32RPD likes this.
  5. Wishful

    Wishful "It's not stalking if it's love..."

    Dec 12, 2012
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    I am in the same position as USNA 19 DAD and heartily second his post. He is spot on.
    Lawman32RPD likes this.
  6. Lawman32RPD

    Lawman32RPD 5-Year Member

    Jan 29, 2011
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    I saw the "headline" of the thread and had to respond.

    I am a former police officer in New Mexico and Texas. I've been a federal prosecutor since 1987. I have investigated and prosecuted cases with agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); the Secret Service; Homeland Security Investigations (HSI, formerly Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Investigations, which subsumed the Customs Service, Office of Investigations); Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigations Division (IRS/CI); the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS); the Fish and Wildlife Service; the National Marine Fisheries Service; a variety of Office of Inspector General agencies; the Postal Inspection Service; and others. The posters above me have it pretty much on target. You'll get taught how to use a gun (each agency does it a bit differently), and their idea of how to write reports, what are the offenses they principally investigate, etc. In other words, what you need to know to get started - most of it you'll learn by doing. I've worked with an FBI agent who had a PhD in aeronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and, to be charitable, agents who didn't. The skills one needs to be effective as an undercover officer are different from the skills one needs to be an effective case agent managing a multi defendant multi count indictment spanning criminal conduct over many states and years. The skills one needs to be an effective agent on a tactical response team are different than the skills one needs to be a good group supervisor, or a second or third level supervisor. I agree with the other posters, knowing how to look at ledgers and such is important - that is what makes the IRC/CI agents so valuable. While the fun part of law enforcement gets the major focus, knowing how to assemble, process, and review documentary evidence in such a way that it can be used in Court - now that is priceless to a prosecutor. Local law enforcement is, in general, more episodic in nature - did "X" drive drunk, steal "Y" item on "Z" date; shoot "A" on the date in question, etc. When done at its highest level federal law enforcement tends to focus more on organizations and longer term more criminally sophisticated targets. Again, that is in "in general" and one can point to exceptions on the state and local side, and on the federal side; after all FBI and ATF agents are often involved in violent crime initiatives, the FBI is responsible for felony cases arising from many components of Indian Country, etc. Understand as well that federal civilian hiring is hit or miss and tends to be feast (they are hiring a lot) and famine (years go by with no hires). One work around, if federal enforcement is what you want to do and the FBI, or others aren't hiring, start with the Border Patrol and wait until your agency of preference is hiring. Good luck.
    bruno likes this.
  7. BigBillNY

    BigBillNY Member

    Jun 27, 2014
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    So, here is my two cents. First, I retired as a Lieutenant from the NYPD after 22 years of service. I've been with DHS for the last 8 years and I am a regional manager of an investigative unit. In addition, I am an adjunct professor teaching CJ, Emergency Management, and related courses. So, I feel qualified to comment.

    My oldest son is entering his senior year in college and wants to follow in the family business. He is a Public Policy and Management major. I refused to pay for him to have a CJ degree since it is useless for most cops.
    CJ degrees focus on social issues (Why does little Johnny steal?) that go beyond the realm of the average cop. The issues are relevant for parole/probation officers, social workers, etc...that are engaged in the rehabilitation of offenders.

    Focus on a degree that promotes writing and analytical skills. A strong working knowledge of computers is helpful in today's setting. For an elective, take an acting or public speaking course to make you more comfortable when giving presentations.
    payitforward, Lawman32RPD and Wishful like this.
  8. Mom_CHgn

    Mom_CHgn Member

    Jul 5, 2015
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    My Brother is the Major for the AST. He has No military background and only has an AA. He has climbed the ranks over the last 17 years with grace and respect. He was selected #21 of 21 cadets for their academy. He beat out over 2000 other potentials. He graduated Top cadet, rookie of the year his first year. Brought down a black market fish organization his first year (7 years of previous fails).....2013 he was nominated and won Trooper of the US, and in 2014 nominated and won Supervisor of Law Enforcement of the Us and won. He is possibly a complete exception but also an example of dedication and hard work. Work Hard and Follow your dreams and you can do whatever you heart desires!
    Boozebin and Wishful like this.
  9. LongAgoPlebe

    LongAgoPlebe 5-Year Member

    Jul 25, 2010
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    I teach at a SLAC that sends a relatively high proportion of our graduates into public service: ATF, FBI, quite a few to CIA and NSA, DHS, diplomatic corps and Peace Corps. The recruiters for intelligence tell us they are emphasizing languages, mathematics and accounting majors and courses of study. Law enforcement likes our history and public policy graduates. ALL of them, however, tell us (professors and placement experts) that they really want young people who can find patterns in large noisy data sets, communicate clearly about what they find, and make arguments supported by evidence. They also look very closely at people who have any research experience, although these opportunities are not just in STEM. In my lab, I currently have an English major/biology minor (I teach biology) working on a citizen science project. She is going to the diplomatic corps. I also have a history major doing research co-sponsored with one of my colleagues in history and another in geography & geology on the history of agricultural land use in Ecuador, and when he graduates next May, he already has a job waiting at CIA. Two of my students doing summer research with me plan on FBI.

    Take courses that teach you to find and collect data (specimens, documents, numbers - doesn't matter so much, I don't think), then seek and describe patterns in the data. Take courses that cause you to stretch your thinking. Take a variety of courses - don't be a one-horse show! Take courses that ask you to write, a lot, and revise what you write. Finally, consider initiating and completing an original research project, whether in a STEM field or another field (even some English professors are doing some really cool research). Make sure you plan to have actual products that demonstrate your abilities to seek and find patterns and to describe them to a variety of audiences - such as a publication in a journal, or conference proceedings, or the national Undergraduate Research Conference, a magazine, a campus newspaper, or a senior thesis (these are just some examples).
    navymomwannabe and Lawman32RPD like this.
  10. majstlo

    majstlo Member

    Mar 27, 2015
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    The FBI has long preferred folks with backgrounds in law, accounting, business and more recently languages. Because the federal LE agencies are extremely competitive they also prefer people with a military background. CJ is now one of the most popular majors at The Citadel and they have an excellent track record of graduates going into various LE agencies, it doesn't guarantee you a job or better success but it always helps to have the right background.

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