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Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do with a Criminal Justice Certificate?

The Criminal Justice Certificate Program (CJCP)is used like a minor in addition to your selected major field of study. The course work is interdisciplinary and certificate students come from many majors including, Legal Studies, Sociology, Political Science, Psychology, Social Work, History, Counseling Psycholoyg and others. The result is an exciting mix that brings an appropriately diverse approach to the study of criminal and juvenile justice.

Additionally, the internship requirement (Group 6), allows a student to work alongside a criminal justice professional and experience some of the challenges of the work within the field of criminal justice. Internships typically takes place during the junior and senior year. Goals of the internship include; familiarity with criminal justice system as a whole, comprehending the function of a specific setting or agency, understanding and appreciating the strengths and challenges of the clients, and acknowledging professional and culturally competent practice. The student is evaluated and may gain career or graduate school recommendations from the supervisor.

Criminal Justice Certificate Program students generally use their education and experience as a building block to their future. Many students go on to Law School or Master's and Ph.D.. Programs with an emphasis in criminal justice. Past, UW-Madison, CJCP students are represented in many local and regional agencies and are often intern supervisors for current students.

How does the internship work?

Please see our Internship Process page for details.

Can I find my own internship?

All students must be participants of CJCP before an internship placement can be approved. Attempting to obtain an internship without contact with the CJCP Advisors generally results in confusion on the part of all parties. It is strongly recommended that students contact the CJCP advisors before contacting agencies.

When do I get my Certificate?

The final requirement to obtain the Certificate is graduation. When we obtain notice of graduation from the Registrar's Office, we then do an academic audit and complete the Certificate and mail it to your permanent home address. If you need verification of completion, prior to obtaining the official Certificate, then we are willing to provide a letter of completion.

Can I learn "forensics" through the Certificate Program?

The answer is yes and no, depending on your expectations. "Forensics" can be a course of study pertaining to the criminal law. United States Criminal Law, the Criminal Justice System and it's related practices are the focus of the Certificate Program.

However "forensic science" or "forensic lab work" is not our focus. To explain further I have included some information from a Forensic Toxicologist, who is working for the State of Virginia Crime Lab.

"In reference to your question, it a pretty tough field to get into.
First of all, most people in forensics work for a county, state or
federal laboratory system. As you can guess, based on the economy, no
one is really hiring government employees right now. In addition, we
get lots of applications for each position we post. Unfortunately,
without any experience, it is unlikely the person will even get an
interview because there are so many people right now who want to get
into the field (you know, that TV show CSI makes it seem so glamorous).

So, the people need to get some experience. However, that is tough to
find since most labs are hesitant to take interns because we all have to
undergo a background investigation. In addition, doing 500 cases/month,
I don't have the time to bother training an intern especially since we
don't have a job available for that intern. I don't mean to sound cold,
but that is reality in our field.

I recommend a few web pages, one from the American Academy of Forensic
Science, Society of Forensic Toxicologists and the American Society of
Crime Lab Directors. All have information regarding meetings and job
openings. All have links to other forensic sites.

Regarding what type of education you need, it all depends on what field
you want to go into. I'm a forensic toxicologist, my Ph.D. was in
toxicology and my undergraduate was biochemistry and chemistry. The
people that work for me all have degrees in chemistry, biochemistry or
other related field. I do not hire people into my section who have
degrees in criminal justice because they do not have the fundamental
training in chemistry that is required to work in this section. In
addition, I would prefer to hire someone with a masters degree in
chemistry versus a MS in forensic science. The reason I have not been
impressed with MS forensic scientists is because the programs are very
broad and provide some background in each forensic discipline but none
are covered with much depth. In addition, many forensic programs have
very relaxed entrance requirements and will accept students who have
never taken any college level science courses.

However, there are other disciplines in the field, i.e. DNA, latent
fingerprints, firearms, trace evidence and crime scene work. DNA is
quite particular and requires staff to have degrees in biology,
biochemistry, genetics or molecular biology. Many have MS degrees as
well. The other disciplines actually hire a lot of graduates out of MS
forensic science programs. Keep in mind, that with only a college
degree and no experience, salaries will start at the bottom of the pile
so start between 35--50,000/year. As a forensic scientist you will
probably never make more than 75,000/year unless you are a supervisor.
So you don't do the job for the money.

Let the students know that forensic science is not like CSI it is more like
Discovery Channel. There are particular people who process crime scenes
(crime scene techs), police (who investigate and interview witnesses)
and forensic scientists (who process and analyze evidence once it has
been submitted to the laboratory). Some lab systems will help with
crime scenes, but it is not their primary responsibility. In addition,
as a forensic toxicologist, I work toxicology cases (i.e. analyze blood
for drugs). I cannot run across the hall and analyze a gun for
fingerprints or analyze clothing for DNA because I am not trained in
those disciplines. Training means learning how do the analyses and
demonstrating proficiency at those analyses. Depending on the
discipline, that may take 1-2 years. Yes, that is right. You will not
work a case until you have been on the job for almost a year if not
more. In addition, we all must do proficiency tests every year to
ensure we are capable of doing the work. If you make a mistake on a
case, your career is pretty much over. So there is a lot of pressure to
be methodical and very precise. People's lives are at stake with what
we do so we must be perfect at all times. Also, I don't drive a Hummer
to a scene, I actually take a piece of crap state Chevy Cavalier. No
glamour in that."

More on Forensic Sciences:

More on Crime Scene Investigations:

For additional ideas about law enforcement related careers in Criminal Justice, look at this website: