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Criminal Justice in the Military

By University Alliance
Criminal Justice in the Military

Whether you’re still serving in the military or transitioning to civilian life, a career in criminal justice can offer plenty of opportunities for individuals with the right combination of education and experience.

The field of criminal justice and public safety attracts people who are interested in serving their communities, testing their abilities, and making the world a better place. Criminal justice professions require self-discipline, responsibility, intelligence, physical fitness, quick decision-making and sound judgment.

In the armed forces, such positions can build skills and provide valuable real-world experience that serve military personnel well during their enlistment, as well as after they leave the service.

Military Legal Careers

Each branch of the military offers training for law enforcement positions. Typically, a preliminary test is required to determine if law enforcement is a good fit for a servicemember. Once that’s determined, there are numerous options. For example, the U.S. Army employs military police officers who are responsible for conducting surveillance, keeping sites and personnel secure, enforcing the law, conducting intelligence operations, and processing military prisoners and enemy combatants.

Other military legal careers include:

  • Criminal Investigations Special Agent: Investigate criminal activities, and interview witnesses and suspects
  • Paralegal Specialist: Provide legal and administrative support to judges, lawyers and others involved in legal matters

The foundation of military law is not state or federal law but rather the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which supports the branches of the military in enforcing order and discipline. The law was enacted by Congress, and covers areas such as jurisdiction, right to trial by courts-martial, apprehension of deserters, confinement, allowed and prohibited punishments, and trial procedures.

Many of the rights and protections granted by the UCMJ are similar to those enjoyed by civilians, including protection against self-incrimination and rules regarding confinement prior to trial.


Law enforcement is more complex and technical than ever, both in the civilian and military arena. For many agencies and departments, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is a minimum requirement for job applicants. Other candidates may attain an associate’s degree and seek an entry-level position. Military experience is typically considered beneficial for criminal justice positions.

For military personnel who must juggle the demands of deployment and relocation, online degree programs can provide the flexibility and convenience they need in order to achieve their educational goals.

The qualities that make a successful servicemember – such as discipline, self-confidence, and the desire to serve and protect – translate well to the criminal justice professions. Military personnel who are transitioning to civilian life may seek to leverage their experience and education, such as a criminal justice degree, to launch careers in one of a number of areas, including:

  • Police Officer
  • Paralegal
  • Attorney
  • Bailiff
  • Information Technology Specialist
  • Specialties such as Crime Scene Investigator, Community Relations officer and SWAT team member

Applicants for criminal justice jobs are typically subjected to multiple tests of intelligence, mental health and physical ability. Those who pass often enter training programs at a local, state or federal academy.

Criminal justice can be an excellent career choice, with room to move up in the ranks or specialize in an area of particular interest. With options for educational programs that combine foundational knowledge and in-demand skills, military personnel can position themselves for a satisfying career. Because government rulings and regulations change, prospective students are encouraged to conduct their own research and consult an Education Services Officer (ESO) for details and current information.

Category: Military Education Resources