Can I Get a Job in Criminal Justice If I Have a Criminal Record?

Everyone with a criminal record worries about getting a job. You’re automatically excluded from some career paths if you have a criminal record, but what about the field of criminal justice?

If you have a criminal record, don’t just throw up your hands and give up. It matters what type of record you have. How long ago were these crimes committed? Where did they happen? How severe were they? 

If you’re interested in a career in criminal justice, in most cases you can safely start your online criminal justice degree knowing there will be an avenue for you to get a job. 

How Long Ago Was The Offense?

If you’re young and looking to embark on a career, your criminal record may be already sealed if it pertains to things you did before you turned 18. Not every offensive can be sealed, but if yours can, then you have a legal right to answer “no” to questions of a criminal record on a job application.

If you were an adult when convicted, you can still ask for certain records to be sealed. Class A felonies can usually never be sealed, but Class B felonies, like drug sales or burglary, are eligible for sealing after 10 years. Class C felonies are eligible to be sealed after five years. The process for doing this will vary by state, so talk with a legal professional in your area to get the details.

Where Did The Offense Happen?

If your criminal record is confined to county-level misdemeanors like vandalism or disorderly conduct, there’s a good chance your record won’t even show up in a background check. Most background checks are run on the state level, and since county-only crimes are almost always misdemeanors, many employers won’t consider it worth their time to look at the county level.

Your smartest move is to check your own background before you start your job hunt. By running a thorough background check on yourself with Go Look Up, you’ll see exactly what a prospective employer will see and will know how to plan your next step.

How Severe Were The Crimes?

The final important factor in your criminal record is how severe the crimes were. The more serious the crimes, the more difficult it will be to find a job in criminal justice. Also remember that if your criminal record means you’re forbidden to carry a weapon, this will automatically bar you from certain criminal justice careers.

The good news is that some states have laws now forbidding employers from even looking at your criminal record until they’ve made a decision otherwise. Once they’re interested in you, they can run a background check, but they can only reject you at that point if your crimes have a direct bearing on the job requirements. A bank, for example, could automatically reject someone with any history of financial crime, but a private security firm could not.

Keeping all this in mind, now you may wonder what you can pursue with a colorful record. Consider the following options: 

Become A Personal Security Guard

While you might be rejected for a private security position at a hospital or business, you could consider working in personal security. People hire extra security for all kinds of reasons: after a threat to their life before they go to testify in court, or even as a full-time bodyguard. In fact, some people will view your criminal past favorably if they see it as giving you an “inside track” on how to make security and alarm systems more effective.

Study At Law School

There’s no background check involved in getting a law degree or passing the bar exam. Once you have your bachelor’s in criminal justice, you’ll be ideally placed to go on and get a law degree. While you may have to pay your dues for a while in low positions, you’ll prove yourself through experience and can climb the ranks or even set up shop for yourself.

More Opportunities To Consider

Depending on the exact nature of your record, training in criminal justice could still make you eligible to work towards one of these positions:
  • Computer Forensic Specialist
  • Digital Forensics Examiner
  • Background Screening Analyst
  • Crime Prevention Specialist
  • Forensic Accountant
  • Forensic Scientist
  • Criminal Law Paralegal
  • Counter-terrorism Analyst
  • Loss Control Specialist