If you are looking for criminal justice careers after the military, the first thing you’ll notice is the diversity of options. There are careers directly associated with criminal justice but also jobs on the periphery such as security, private investigation, and more.
The criminal justice field can be subdivided into careers related to enforcing the law, security, incarceration, and much more. This article explores the options open to veterans seeking jobs in the law enforcement sector.
Resources to Help Veterans Find Jobs in Law Enforcement
As a military veteran, you have shown you have a strong work ethic and the ability to work in teams and challenging situations. These skills make many of you an ideal candidate for police work. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has a program committed to supporting military veterans to get jobs in law enforcement. The DOJ’s Vet to Cops program supports military veterans through the Community Oriented Policing Program (COPS), or COPS Hiring Program (CHP). CHP gives additional consideration to military veterans when they apply for openings. Agencies are also encouraged to hire and rehire veterans in law enforcement positions. You’ll find valuable resources on the COPS webpage that will help you transition from military to civilian life and into a law enforcement career.
Post-Military Criminal Justice Careers: Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement
The phrase “law enforcement” suggests a single, massive body responsible for serving and protecting the public. But one look at the number of options, and it’s clear that many career paths are open among the many federal, state, and local agencies.
Federal Law Enforcement Careers
Depending on a veteran’s training, education, and experience, a federal law enforcement job with the FBI, ATF, Treasury Department, or any other public agency is possible. What applicants need to know is that these federal law enforcement jobs will require agency-specific training.
For example, the official site of the Federal Bureau of Investigation says FBI recruits are required to take 800 hours of FBI coursework from the agency-approximately 20 weeks of intensive physical and mental challenges.
Federal law enforcement jobs often require in-residence training much like boot camp (especially the physical portion) but also include web-based learning and peer-supported activities in addition to formal instructor/student work.
The FBI is just one option. The U.S. Secret Service, Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Marshalls Service, Drug Enforcement Agency, and many other “alphabet soup” agencies all value and hire veterans in various capacities.
Applicants should expect to sit for an exam board, attend oral interviews, complete background checks and other requirements dictated by the individual agency.
Federal law enforcement jobs are advertised in a variety of places, including government and veteran job boards, plus the usual job sites such as Indeed or Monster.com. The first and best place to look for these types of careers? The official sites of the federal agencies themselves.
State Law Enforcement Careers
State Troopers enforce state laws and support local jurisdictions. They may also be used to coordinate among several enforcement agencies or facilitate inter-agency police work. State Trooper jobs will vary depending on the laws and needs of the state you work in, but most (if not all) have a minimum age and education standard. Some states only require a high school diploma or GED; others may require a bachelor’s degree.
Regardless of education, all Troopers will be required to attend some form of agency-specific training. The State of Illinois, for example, requires its’ recruits to attend a 26-week academy and pass two written exams. Background checks and even credit checks are par for the course in this career field.
These jobs have specific career paths one can follow depending on goals and career needs. Recruits may start off “on patrol” but can work their way up to Sergeant jobs and supervisory positions depending on time in service and other factors.
State Trooper jobs are often advertised via that state’s official website; you may also find state trooper jobs listed where other state government positions are listed. You may also find these jobs by doing a keyword search on “State Trooper recruiting” and the name of your state.
Local Police Forces
Applying for a local police force job is a lot like applying for State Trooper positions; applicants have minimum age, education, and background requirements. Most police forces will require attendance at a local or regional police academy. You may find that local police forces have preferential hiring and requirement standards for veterans in general, but especially those who have backgrounds in Security Forces or any other military equivalent to law enforcement.
Local police jobs can be found at the official site of your city’s police department, the city’s job boards, and other locally advertised job resources. Like state trooper work, these jobs feature clearly defined career paths in many cases, leading to supervisory work and more depending on the department and career performance.
Private Security Agencies
The size, mission, and professionalism of private security agencies vary greatly. Some private security agencies focus on the protection of construction sites, residences, and commerce. Brinks, the company many are familiar with because of their armored vehicles and secure transport of bank/commerce funds, is just one example of this type of private security.
Private security agencies frequently give hiring preference to veterans; some may actually refuse to hire anyone EXCEPT a veteran for certain types of work. Like public security and law enforcement, background checks and exams may be part of the application process. Private security is not standardized in hiring or job requirements, so your experience will vary depending on the company.
Some private security jobs involve patrolling a given area on foot or by vehicle; others may require the operation of video monitoring systems or more complex security platforms. Private security jobs may require the use of firearms, while others may be unarmed security at the lowest level of work. The career paths in this field are diverse. Those interested in upwardly mobile security jobs will need to discuss their career goals with the hiring manager/human resources department to see what is typical for that company.
These jobs may not be advertised as openly as other security or law enforcement jobs. It may require you to do specific searches based on a company name or job description. “Private security” is one phrase to search with, but you may also have luck searching with terms such as “bank security” or “secure transport jobs.”
Loss Prevention Jobs
Loss prevention is a type of work open to veterans in the private sector. The job is exactly what the name implies-veterans work for a private company or corporation to prevent loss from shoplifting, external theft, and even internal theft or misappropriation. Loss Prevention jobs may require applicants to work in a single store or company location or several sites in a local or regional jurisdiction.
Unlike many other enforcement-type jobs, loss prevention may not require any specific experience in military law enforcement or training in enforcement fields. You may find that on-the-job training is stressed in these careers rather than a formal school or academy.
Loss prevention careers often involve promote-from-within career advancement. Those who start at an entry-level position may find themselves groomed for management or trainer positions on a performance-based merit system.
But much depends on the company and the applicant’s experience. Like private security, there isn’t a standardized set of procedures; every company is different.
The companies that hire loss prevention agents (LP agents) include retail outlets such as The Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic. You may also find loss prevention jobs in warehouses or places with collections of retail inventory that need safeguarding.
Jim spent 22 years on active duty, climbing the ranks from Airman Basic to a decorated Air Force Major. Stationed all over the world, he held many high-level posts, including Chief of Foreign Military Sales at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Jim earned his Ph.D. through the Montgomery Era GI Bill and spent 13 years teaching African Studies in Pennsylvania. Jim is also an award-winning travel writer.