In the state of Pennsylvania and throughout the United States, opportunities abound for qualified criminal justice professionals. Many people, however, have the completely wrong idea about training and/or schooling for such jobs. Far too many people think that they can just get some general degree in criminal justice or complete a brief training program and then qualify for any job that they want.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way. Since all criminal justice jobs are so very different from one another, there exist different qualifications and different necessary training and educational requirements for each of them.

As such, it is extremely important that you spend a fair amount of time researching and familiarizing yourself with the field of criminal justice. Spend some time reading up on the legal systems and the criminal justice system in general and their purposes.

Then, once you are familiar with that, read about the many different jobs, such as police officer, paralegal, investigator, and more that you can have in the field. At this point, it is a good idea to write down those jobs that you would be seriously interested in pursuing.

From there, you can begin reading up on the different qualifications and requirements for each job. Make sure that, as you do this, you are honest with yourself. If you do not really think you would be willing or able to endure four years of school, don’t choose a job that requires a bachelor’s degree.

Furthermore, if you have made mistakes in the past and thus have a somewhat shady criminal background yourself, don’t aim for jobs with the central intelligence agency (CIA) or the federal bureau of investigation (FBI). The more honest you are with yourself at this point, the more likely it is that you will find success in the field.

Also, make sure that you don’t just think about education. Think also about your own personality and your own strengths and weaknesses and how they would work within the context of a particular job.

For instance, if you do not enjoy dealing with the general public, then a job in law enforcement would probably not be the best fit for you. Conversely, someone who enjoys paperwork and office work would likely find pleasure in a job as a paralegal. It’s really just about finding the job that you are best suited to.

Once you’ve done your research, thinking, and planning and know what you want to do and what it will take to get there, then and only then, should you start looking at educational and training programs in the state.

Pennsylvania is full of educational opportunities for those serious about careers in criminal justice. You can also choose an online education for some careers, allowing you to earn your degree or certification without leaving the comfort of your own home.

Just as you didn’t enter into a decision about working in the field lightly, however, you must not enter into any educational or training program without careful planning and research. In addition to making sure that a program fulfills the requirements for the job that you would ultimately like to have, make sure that any school or program you attend is accredited, that it is within your price range or that you can secure funding for it, and that it has a good reputation in the area and throughout the United States if applicable.

Doing this hard work now will save you disappointment and wasted time, money, and effort in the long run.

Obviously, there is a lot to think about, do , and plan as you embark on your new career path. However, nothing of value comes without a little bit of work on your part. For this reason, you should look at the work you are putting in now as a real investment in your future, not as wasted time.

The more carefully you plan now, the more satisfied you will be in the long run and the more smoothly things will go once you actually do start your training and/or your formal education. Preparation and planning are the two big keys to success.