The criminal justice system is one of the biggest employers in the UK – from lawyers and policeman, to health professionals employed to treat offenders, probation officers and substance misuse jobs, down to the back room HR staff and procurement specialists who keep the whole edifice stocked up and running smoothly, there’s room for almost any skillset. Many roles are focussed on keeping people out of prison by treating addiction, ensuring compliance with probation orders and helping them build constructive lives away from the risk factors that get them involved in crime. For many, seeing someone go to prison – or worse, back to prison – is an absolute failure and must be avoided.
On top of the broad range of skills needed, the appeal of always being in demand and the job satisfaction of knowing that the effort you put in directly affects people’s lives and, ideally, makes them better, as a branch of government, criminal justice jobs come with robust pension arrangements and security that makes it easy to rest at night. In a chaotic world for employers and employees, you know that while it may be challenging, you are secure in it.
There are lots of different routes into working in this sector: many of the roles require specialist training, either as or equivalent to a university honours degree. Due to the demand for people in the most important roles, some more flexible routes in have opened, allowing people to train ‘on the job’, and getting both the experience and the qualifications they need.
On top of the qualifications you need for the specific job you’re interested in, it also helps to acquire experience. In interviews for your first jobs, and applications for training courses, you’ll need to demonstrate your practical commitment to the field without a long CV to fall back on. Taking volunteering and work experience opportunities, at weekends and during holidays give you not only material to discuss in interview and an edge on application forms and cover letters, but also a chance to make sure this life is really for you. Following the same route that aspiring social workers would follow, volunteering with charities and food banks give you the chance to gather this vital experience.
When the time comes for a job interview, make sure you’ve done your research. Go in knowing what the priorities the team facing you have and the challenges they are facing are and you can pick specific examples that show why you’re the right person to face those challenges with them!