Teach Criminal Justice

Criminal justice classes prepare students for work in law, policing, or corrections.[1] As a teacher, you can share your passion for the field with students while also fulfilling a love for teaching. To become a teacher, you should obtain the necessary education and work experience. Then search for jobs and interview effectively.


Obtaining the Necessary Education

  1. Decide where you want to teach. Criminal justice courses are taught at two-year and four-year colleges. A few high schools also offer criminal justice classes, but most people will teach in a post-secondary institution, such as a community college or university.
    • Jobs in four-year universities tend to pay more than at community colleges. However, you will also need more education.
    • There are slightly more jobs in two-year colleges than at universities. In 2014, community colleges employed 7,600 teachers whereas universities employed about 7,000.[2]
  2. Earn a bachelor’s degree. You should probably get a bachelor’s degree in criminology, criminal justice, or another closely related field. Also take coursework in Become a Criminal Psychologist and sociology, which will be helpful.[3]
    • Attend an accredited undergraduate program. You can find colleges and universities accredited here:
  3. Obtain a graduate degree. The degree you get will depend on where you want to teach criminal justice. If you want to teach at a four-year university, then you’ll need a doctorate. However, some people can get jobs teaching at two-year colleges with a Master’s degree in criminal justice, which should take two years to obtain.[4]
    • A doctorate can take four or more years to complete. You’ll need to perform original research and write a dissertation, which is a book-length manuscript.
  4. Keep up in the field. Once you begin teaching, you must continue to stay abreast of new research and theories in the criminal justice field. You should subscribe to scholarly journals and read new books.
    • If you want to teach at a four-year university, you should also begin publishing articles in scholarly journals.[5] If you begin publishing in graduate school, then you may be at an advantage when looking for jobs.
    • You can also present papers at scholarly panels, such as the meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justice Studies.
  5. Earn the necessary experience. On-the-ground experience in policing, law, or corrections can help set you apart from other candidates. You should begin getting experience from the moment you start your undergraduate education.
    • Intern with an agency. As an undergrad, you can intern with local criminal justice agencies, such as the police.[6] This is a great way to get experience in the field and see if you like it. If you don’t like criminal justice, you can switch your major to something else.
    • After you earn a bachelor’s degree, you can work for a year or two as a police or corrections officer.
    • Graduate school should also provide you with opportunities to teach undergraduates. Take advantage of this opportunity so that you will have teaching experience when you apply for jobs.

Getting a Teaching Job

  1. Create a curriculum vitae. You need a CV to apply for academic jobs. It is a more detailed version of a resume. Whereas resumes are generally a single page, CVs can run to four or more pages.[7] You should include the following information:
    • name and contact information
    • educational experience
    • employment
    • publications and conference presentations
    • research interests
    • reference lists (may be a separate sheet)
  2. Visit academic job websites. The website HigherEdJobs lists new openings in the criminal justice field. Go here: https://www.higheredjobs.com/faculty/search.cfm?JobCat=156. You can search through criminal justice jobs by date posted, institution, or location.
  3. Search other job websites. Many websites collect job openings. You can search them for criminal justice teaching jobs. These websites might mix in teaching jobs with other criminal justice jobs, such as police officers or parole officers. However, you can still scroll through and find academic jobs. Look at the following websites:
    • Indeed.com
    • Monster.com
  4. Call local colleges. If you want a part-time (adjunct) teaching job, think about calling local colleges and asking if there are any job openings. Talk to the chair of the department and send a copy of your CV. They can keep it on file in case an opening pops up in the future.
    • The hiring process is generally less formal for adjunct teaching jobs. You might only meet with the department chair or with a small group of faculty.
  5. Obtain letters of recommendation. If you are applying for a university job, you’ll need to present several letters from your professors. Letters are critical and can certainly help you stand out. A complimentary letter claiming you are one of the strongest young researchers in the field can be a great asset.[8]
    • Only ask people who can write detailed letters. The more detailed and personalized the letter, then the more credible your recommender will appear. Choose a detailed letter from a lesser-known professor over a generic one from a celebrity academic.[9]
    • Also think about getting a letter from a scholar outside your institution. For example, ask a professor who teaches at a different school to write a letter for you. They might have heard you present on a panel or be familiar with your research.
  6. Prepare for your campus visit. After receiving your application, the faculty will probably bring onto campus a few of the finalists. You can prepare for your visit (and interviews) by taking the following actions:[10]
    • Look at the department’s website as well as at individual faculty web pages. Identify their specialties and research interests.
    • Find and read recent publications by the faculty.
    • Prepare to answer common questions. For example, you will probably be asked about your current research and why you think it is relevant. You can also expect questions about your teaching style, such as how you handle academic misconduct or how you will serve as a role model to students.
    • Put together a presentation. Ask ahead of time who you will make the presentation to—whether faculty and/or students—and tailor your presentation to the expected audience.
    • Remember to bring with you extra copies of your CV, recent publications, and current course syllabi.
  7. Interview for the job. The interview process will differ depending on the college or university where you apply. However, the interview process might go something like this:[11]
    • Have one-on-one interviews with certain people, such as professors.
    • Sit for one or more group interviews with a group of faculty. Remember that going out to lunch with faculty is an interview situation, so always remain professional.
    • Meet informally with students.
    • Make a professional presentation to other faculty or to students.
    • Tour the campus and surrounding community.
  8. Create your syllabus. Once hired, you are ready to teach. Having earned two degrees in criminal justice or related fields, you should know what information to include in your classes. However, if you have never taught before, you might want to ask your department chair for a sample syllabus for the class.