Why Should Social Workers Learn About Criminal Justice?
Criminal justice is an exceptional career discipline that has the capability to attract a wide range of learners from all backgrounds. The mix of students attending a criminal justice school embodies learners at various age levels, races and economic backgrounds. In fact, the career choice is so popular; pursuing an online criminal justice degree is becoming commonplace among people already established in a different career path. Those who decide to get a fresh start by making this change include established professionals in fields as diverse as sociology, psychology, and even social workers. For social workers, exploring the connection between social work and criminal justice offers a chance to directly impact the lives of individual’s in need while also working in a field that will continue to remain highly in demand.
The Basics of Criminal Justice
On the surface, it may seem that social workers and those in criminal justice may not have much in common. In actuality, however, both have the same core objective. Although the definition of social justice or criminal justice can differ somewhat depending on the source, the study areas both look at understanding, applying, and administering the law. One profession where a bachelors in criminal justice is typically found is among police officers, who work to maintain order and make arrests. Ever been enthralled by the many TV shows, books, and movies chronicling the life of an FBI agent as they work to catch dangerous criminals? Well many in this profession also hold a criminal justice degree.
The Basics of Social Work
Social workers perform one of the most important functions in society. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, social workers hold over 640,000 jobs around the nation. The need for additional workers is also expected to outpace the average for other occupations, highlighting a strong need for additional professionals. The traits emphasized in social work are about much more than theoretical knowledge and the ability to memorize laws or statistics. Social workers are typically required to interact with an assorted range of people and need to be emphatic, good listeners, and dedicated to protecting and advocating for those who may not have the power to make themselves heard. In addition to working with children and family services, social workers can be found in the government and nonprofit organizations. They are involved in various service related fields including services for seniors, mental health, homelessness, and substance abuse programs. Some social workers also work to affect policies by providing their voice to social justice issues in America and being a fundamental part of social justice organizations that advocate for change.
The Best of Both Worlds
Learners can also combine the two disciplines together and become a member of the specialized area of criminal justice social worker. Those in this area work directly in the criminal and juvenile justice system with parole and probation agencies, correctional facilities, and jails. According to the Pew Charitable Trust, over 2.3 million Americans were locked up in jail or prison in 2008. Being able to understand the motivations behind the thought process that leads someone to commit a crime is a valuable skill. As is having relevant and accurate understanding of crime definitions and changes to current laws that can affect someone dealing with the criminal justice system. This combined knowledge can help professionals assist their clients with rehabilitation, aiding them with finding counseling, gaining employment, and meeting parole requirements to avoid going back to jail.
Ultimately, social workers who incorporate criminal justice or social justice education into their learning can become more well-rounded in their particular career path. In fact, social workers will discover that there are very few negatives to earning an online criminal justice degree. Having this additional degree will give learners an expansive range of career opportunities to choose from. It will also help social workers remain competitive with newer graduates, transition into higher paying jobs as their experience grows, and allow them greater flexibility. For some this can mean switching to a different focus area of social work as their career objectives change. For instance, by using the skills learned while earning a bachelors in criminal justice a social worker may decide to become a victim’s advocate and work with human service agencies to help individuals who have been the victims of a horrific crime such as homicide or rape. They could also take part in a grassroots social justice movement and work towards the betterment of all society.