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What’s the Point of a Criminal Justice Degree?

I am often asked by students what they can do with the Criminal Justice degree they earn here at Florida Tech Online.   I had a successful career in law enforcement with degrees in business and public administration, but at that stage of my life I thought I was headed elsewhere.  I got turned on again to CJ late in my career, did some graduate work, and ended up here teaching and running the program.  Still, I am no expert or career advisor, so maybe a graduating Florida Tech Online student can explain things better than me.  Jeremy graduates in May, 2013, and recently sent a nice letter of appreciation to us.  With his permission I will share some of it.

My story is pretty simple.  I was too immature and irresponsible to achieve academic success when I graduated high school.  I tried college, but it just didn’t work out,… so I put my education on hold while I transitioned into the world of the Internet.  I worked in various Internet and tech roles over the years…. Fast forward a decade to … a wretched economy and a toxic work environment and I was ready for a change.  I decided to pursue my lifelong interest in Criminal Justice and was all too happy to find Florida Tech had a distance program.

As I worked my way through the degree program, I began looking into potential job opportunities….  I also remarried while pursuing this degree.  Nothing says “honeymoon” like a statistics class!  But class doesn’t stop just because I went on vacation, so there I was doing statistics on the plane and in the hotel in Vegas. And again on Spring Break with my wife and then 6 year old son and another family.  And again last summer while vacationing with the same family once again.  Homework has been an ever present feature in my life for the last 3 years, but it was just an accepted reality.  It was something that had to be done and I did it, no matter what else was happening in our lives.  So now I’m done and my wife and I don’t know what to do with the sudden free time.  We watched a movie last weekend.

Similarly, being in a job I like, I have no idea what the future holds as far as my degree in Criminal Justice.  I discovered an extension of the International Association of Chiefs of Police that focuses on Social Media. That would be right up my alley, a good mix between my new degree and my professional experience.  Who knows?  The problem I currently face is …I am almost 40 and rather established in my career in marketing.  Do I start over completely in a criminal justice career?  I’d like to, but I don’t know.  That would almost certainly mean taking a huge pay cut.  So, here I am . . at the crossroads.  I have a job, so I am fortunate to be able to wait until the “right thing” comes along.  For now, I will keep my eyes open for Criminal Justice opportunities and keep on trucking in my current role.

Even if I never get a job in the field of Criminal Justice, I can say that earning this degree was one of the best adventures of my life.  It was equal parts hard and rewarding.  I hope to put it to good use at some point, but, for now, I simply enjoyed being able to learn more about a subject that has always interested me.  At the same time, it has helped me understand that I can do pretty much anything I put my mind to.   (Emphasis added)

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to succeed. 

Jeremy, thank you for sharing your story with us.   Many of your peers and every potential student wonders if this is the right choice, if it can ever pay off.  I believe it can, because I hear from people like you, who made it work for them and can now see an unlimited future.

Picture credit: Florida Tech Files

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Jim Reynolds

Jim Reynolds holds a Master of Public Administration degree and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree from the University of Central Florida. His Criminal Justice educational background includes the Graduate Studies in Criminal Justice program at UCF, the 104th Administrative Officers Course at the Southern Police Institute, University of Louisville, the Chief Executive Seminar of the Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute, and over 1000 hours of advanced and specialized training in a 27-year law enforcement career. Jim is a retired Deputy Chief of the Melbourne Police Department, where he served in every rank, including Interim Chief of Police. He was the Director of the Brevard Police Testing Center, a county-wide law enforcement selection program, for four years, and currently is the Academic Program Chair for the Florida Tech Online Criminal Justice Program.

(1) Reader Comment

  1. That was a very heartfelt story! I am planning to pursue criminal justice myself, your story truly intrigued me.

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