The Criminal Justice System is delivered by a range of agencies each responsible to a government department. The Ministry of Justice oversees the work of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), including prison, probation and HM Courts Service.
The Home Office has responsibility for the 43 police forces in England and Wales and the Attorney General has responsibility for the Crown Prosecution Service.
There have been a number of changes to the delivery of services with a reorganisation of the probation service and increased involvement of private and third sector organisations.
There has been an increased focus on issues to do with anti-social behaviour and youth offending, which has led to increased opportunities in these areas, but the sector has also been affected by cuts in public spending.
The information below provides an overview of some of the opportunities available in the sector.
Where do I start?
Within the Criminal Justice sector you could be looking at a wide range of occupations. Prospects has a useful list of job profiles each containing relevant information about key responsibilities, skill requirements, starting salaries, entry requirements and career prospects, with links to major employers and current graduate vacancies.
Job roles in this sector include:
- Forensic psychologist
- Forensic scientist
- Intelligence analyst
- Police officer
- Prison officer
- Probation officer
As part of your job-hunting strategy you will need to keep up to date on developments in this sector and keep track of any vacancies that are coming up. Below are some key resources to help you research opportunities available. The knowledge gained through your research may help you to target your applications and will help when preparing for interviews.
- College of Policing - The College of Policing is the professional body for policing and offers more information on intelligence analysis training, routes to becoming a police officer including fast-track and direct-entry and details of professional standards and practice.
- Skills for Justice - Skills for Justice is a not-for-profit organisation offering information, advice and guidance on jobs within the criminal justice and community safety sector.
- Police.UK - Information on crime and policing including a list of UK police force websites.
- The Chartered Society of Forensic Scientists - The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences' site provides information on careers, jobs and sector standards.
- National Offender Management Service - The National Offender Management Service offers information on the recruitment process, eligibility, application process and current vacancies for Prison Officers.
- National Probation Service - National Probation Service web pages, including the Probation Directory of National Probation Services and Communication Rehabilitation Companies.
- Community Justice Learning - The University of Portsmouth's Institute of Criminal Justice Studies is contracted by the Ministry of Justice to deliver the academic component to Probation Officer training. Find out more by reading the Want to train to be a Probation Officer? guide.
- Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company - Regional Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) for Hampshire.
- Criminal Justice Alliance - A coalition of 120 organisations committed to improving the criminal justice system.
- The Forensics Library - Information resource detailing the different areas and specialisms within forensic science.
Competition for jobs in this sector is fierce and work experience could be the deciding factor to securing a graduate job. Undertaking work experience is invaluable in developing expertise and the all-important transferrable skills, which will help you demonstrate your motivation and commitment to this area of work.
However finding experience will take time and effort; employers receive many CVs every week so you will have to work hard to stand out from the crowd. You can find out more about how to create a targeted CV through the Purple Door website.
The key to success is to prepare thoroughly, do your research and organise your experience in good time. There are an increasing number of organisations supporting offenders both within and outside the judicial system and by getting involved you can gain valuable experience of working directly with offenders, victims or other client groups. An excellent resource for exploring your work experience options in the criminal justice sector is 'What can I do? Your guide to volunteering and achieving change in the criminal justice system' produced by the Prison Reform Trust. It can be difficult to gain work experience in intelligence and forensics but if you think broadly then you can gain transferable skills within other sectors through administration, project management, data analysis and project research. To become a Police Officer, volunteering as a Special Constable will be advantageous as it will help you gain experience and the Certificate in Knowledge in Policing. Look at job advertisements and the job profiles on Prospects, listed above, to help you identify your gaps and the kind of knowledge you need to develop.
Different opportunities to gain experience
Work placements can provide you with an invaluable insight into working life and offer you an opportunity to apply the industry knowledge you are learning as part of your studies. Placements will also enable you to develop transferable skills in the workplace, such as communication, teamwork and time management, in addition to finding out more about a specific job role or industry, which will lead to more informed decisions upon graduating.
On some degrees work placements are part of the programme, whilst on others you can choose to complete a placement as one of your modules. Many courses at the University of Portsmouth enable you to complete a year’s work placement or self-employment placement should you choose to. Opportunities for gaining relevant short and/or long-term placements are sometimes offered by Crown and County Courts, Law Firms, Charities and Non-Governmental Organisations.
Your first point of contact to arrange this will be your placement office in your Faculty. Find out how to contact your Placements Office here.
There are fewer internships offered in the criminal justice sector than in other areas as many organisations either focus on volunteering or are unable to offer work experience at all due to the confidential or classified nature of the work.The organisations listed below will give you an idea of the type of opportunities that may be available; you will need to do thorough research to identify further specific opportunities:
- Catch 22 - A social business that designs and delivers services to build resilience and aspiration in people and communities.
- Justice - An all-party law reform and human rights organisation working to strengthen the justice system within the UK.
- Dstl - An executive agency sponsored by the Ministry of Defence that develops innovative science and technology to contribute to the defence and security of the UK.
There are many volunteering opportunities across the criminal justice sector and when deciding on a role it is important to ensure that the organisation you volunteer through has a robust safeguarding structure in place. Take time to read through the guide mentioned above, 'What can I do? Your guide to volunteering and achieving change in the criminal justice system', as it includes a list of organisations that may offer current volunteering roles. The guides Volunteering Experience and International Volunteering also contain links to relevant resources. In addition Purple Door offers current students and graduates access to a Virtual Volunteering Bank which provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies. Similarly you can access these opportunities through the paper-based bank located at Purple Door, particularly relevant opportunities are the StudentWatch and STEM Learning schemes as well as a range of not-for-profit organisations working across the sector. Please be aware that some international volunteering opportunities may have costs attached so it is important to check all details thoroughly. Find out more about how Purple Door can support you with your voluntary work experience.If you wish to begin voluntary work experience during the vacation periods please refer to the 'External sites' information on the voluntary work experience section of our website.
- The Fairbridge Programme - As part of the Prince's Trust, the Fairbridge Programme offers opportunities for 16 to 25-year-olds to develop skills and confidence through a wide variety of activities.
- Victim Support - An independent charity that provides support to people affected by crime or traumatic events.
- NACRO - A social justice charity offering information, advice and guidance, courses, consultancy and interventions to vulnerable people within communities.
- Youth Justice Board - A resource hub for those working or looking to work in youth justice, with a learning and skills matrix, a library of effective approaches and a question and answer forum amoungst other resources.
- Police.UK - Provides a list of UK police force websites, on which you can find Special Constable and Police Support Volunteer roles.
- Clinks - Represents the voluntary sector within the sector, providing a directory of organisations working with offenders and listing both paid and unpaid training and volunteering opportunities.
Key considerations before starting your search for work experience
- What are your career goals and aspirations? How might the opportunity help you work towards these?
- Think critically about gaps in your skillset that need to be addressed. How might an opportunity enable you to fill this gap?
- How much time can you commit to work experience? How will you fit it in with your plans and other commitments during term time or over the summer period?
- What type of organisation would you like to gain experience with? An organisation working with victims or with offenders? A preventative role (police, intelligence, youth intervention) or a reactive role (crime scene forensics, probation, rehabilitation)? Would you prefer to work in the private sector, public sector or for a charity or non-governmental organisation?
Tips for success when looking for experience
- Research organisations offering summer internships, vacation placements, taster experiences or volunteering opportunities (roles in forensics and intelligence will be few and far between).
- Explore the various areas within the criminal justice sector before you apply for work experience; knowing what you want to specialise in will help you focus your research and ensure you gain the relevant skills.
- Get involved in University extra curricular activities related to your interests such as with the Students' Union or with University clubs or societies; here you can develop transferable skills and experience such as communication and teamwork.
- Create a Linkedin profile to network with sector employers - see our Networking and Social Media section for further guidance.
- Speak to your tutor or other members of Faculty staff to identify potential networking or research opportunities that could lead to work experience.
- Make the most of opportunities to meet sector professionals at events both within the university and externally to build your network of contacts.
- Be proactive and make direct contact with organisations that interest you and apply speculatively; send a targeted CV and a cover letter focussed on why you are interested in them and why they should be interested in you.
Finding a job
There are three key areas within the Criminal Justice sector: client-facing support roles; intelligence and investigation, law enforcement and custodial roles and forensic roles. There are various types of employer and different sub-groups within these areas, such as: youth offending; substance and addiction; criminal analysis; laboratory based forensic science; digital forensic analysis; fraud investigation, so some thought as to which area(s) you are particularly interested in will help you to target your job search.
Key information on the three areas:
Client-facing support roles
These roles will involve working directly with offenders or victims on a one-to-one or small group basis. In addition to roles with statutory organisations such as the Probation Service and local authorities, a wide range of not-for-profit organisations have both employment and volunteering opportunities in this field. A range of organisations provide support often working with the same clients but focussing on different challenges and barriers; these could include client's offending behaviour, substance misuse, housing or employment.
- Probation Services: following a reorganisation in 2014 Probation Services are provided by the National Probation Service (NPS) and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs). The NPS oversees all pre-sentence reports and conducts all initial risk assessments, the service also manages offenders deemed to be high risk of harm to the public. CRCs are responsible for the management of offenders assessed as low to medium risk of harm to the public.
- The National Probation Service run the Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP), a 15 month training programme where graduates are employed by the NPS and earn £22,039 - £27,373 plus a London weighting allowance of £3889 where this applies. Graduates from any degree are eligible provided they have completed the four required knowledge modules: Criminal Justice System; Understanding Crime and Criminal Behaviour; Penal Policy and the Punishment of Offenders; Rehabilitation of Offenders. If you have not covered these modules during your degree course you can undertake them, prior to your PQiP training, at one of the three universities contracted to deliver the PQiP training: De Montfort University; University of Portsmouth; Sheffield Hallam University. If you have completed three out of the four modules then you can complete the fourth during your PQiP training. You also need to have relevant experience of working with challenging behaviour.
- Unqualified roles are available in both the NPS and CRCs - e.g. Probation Service Officers.
- In addition to roles within the NPS and CRCs a wide range of not-for-profit organisations have both employment and volunteering opportunities working with offenders and those with other barriers, e.g - Project Worker, Support Worker.
- Relevant client-based experience will be needed for client-facing jobs (see the 'Finding experience' section for help with this).
Intelligence and investigation, law enforcement and custodial roles
Roles in this area could involve working out in the community or in an office based environment, working with the general public or behind the scenes. The majority of roles will be working for statutory organisations such as the Police Force, Prison Service, Intelligence and Security Service or the Armed Forces.
- Intelligence Analyst/Researcher roles utilise analytical, planning and project management skills to, for example, identify crime trends and patterns, develop strategies to reduce criminal activity and coordinate projects designed to work with communities to reduce offending behaviour. These roles would be a staff role within a police service. Crime analysts would also work directly to support police investigations, analysing for example, communications between suspects. The job profile available on the National Careers Service website provides useful information on working as a Criminal Intelligence Analyst.
- Trainee Intelligence opportunities, suitable for graduates, are sometimes available with organisations such as the Security Services (MI5 and SIS); the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC); and the National Crime Agency (NCA).
- PoliceNow offers a Graduate Leadership Programme (see below), recruitment takes place on an annual basis in the autumn term to start the following year.
- The Metropolitan Police have recently become the first force to offer a direct entry route to the role of Detective Constable. Graduates and students who would graduate before the commencement of training can read information on the programme and apply through https://beta.met.police.uk/careers-at-the-met/police.officer.roles/detective-constable/overview .
- Standard Police Officer recruitment occurs when needed by Police Forces. For some Police Forces the Certificate of Knowledge in Policing may be required before you can apply for jobs. This can be undertaken at local colleges or can be gained while working as a Special Constable. Competition for Police Officer recruitment is very high and many forces seek to recruit candidates with relevant experience - e.g Special Constables or Community Support Officers.
- Fraud Investigation roles may be available in a range of government departments e.g HM Revenues and Customs, Department for Work and Pensions and the Serious Fraud Office. Local authorities and commercial organisations including finance and retail organisations may also employ fraud investigation officers.
- The Ministry of Justice runs a NOMS Graduate Programme (see below), providing a fast-track route into prison leadership roles. Recruitment for the programme usually opens in October/November to start the following year.
Forensic scientists undertake the scientific analysis of samples taken at crime scenes. For these oportunities a relevant science background is required. Other roles in this field, such as Scenes of Crime Officers, who are responsible for collecting and recording samples at crime scenes, may come from a variety of backgrounds. There has been a growth in opportunities related to digital forensic analysis, and these opportunities may require a related degree, e.g. computer science.
- Following the closure of the Forensic Science Service, individual police forces are responsible for managing their own scientific analysis. Most forces will outsource this work to a range of commercial providers, such as Cellmark and LGC.
- For forensic science jobs, gaining laboratory based experience in another environment will be beneficial.
- Scenes of Crime Officers will often be employed by police forces, but may also be outsourced.
- A wide range of organisations employ specialists within the field of digital forensic analysis. Police forces may directly employ people within these roles, or outsource the work to commercial service providers. Opportunities may also exist within the security services and with commercial organisations, for example within the financial sector.
The range of employers who recruit in these areas includes:
- National Probation Service
- Community Rehabilitation Companies
- Charities and NGOs
- Police Services
- MI5 & MI6
- Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)
- National Crime Agency (NCA)
- Government departments including HM Revenues and Customs and the Serious Fraud Office
- Commercial scientific analysis providers such as Cellmark and LGC
Below is a list of useful websites to help you start your job search:
- Police Now - Offers a fast-track, two year Graduate Leadership Programme for those graduating with a 2:1 or above.
- Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences - The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences' site includes sections on careers and jobs.
- RedSnapperGroup - Staffing services provider for law enforcement, offender supervision, regulatory enforcement and counter-fraud work communities.
- National Offender Management Service - Provides further information on the recruitment process, eligibility, application process and a link to current vacancies for Prison Officers.
- National Offender Management Programme - Ministry of Justice run fast-track programme to leadership roles within prisons.
- National Probation Service - Offers specific information on Probation Officer training opportunities.
- Backstop - Specialist recruitment agency with jobs within probation, youth offending and social work.
- Criminal Justice Skills - Probation, prison, youth offending and third sector rehabilitation specialist.
- jobsgopublic - Jobsite for public sector jobs.
- Community Care - The Community Care website includes a job section with opportunities in social care and social work.
- The Guardian- The Guardian features a jobs section which includes categories on social care, charities and government.
- Sanctuary Criminal Justice - Sanctuary Criminal Justice is part of Sanctuary Personnel Limited, an accredited and award winning recruitment consultancy. They recruit to social care, probation, youth offending and substance misuse roles and offer ongoing career support.
Tips for finding a job
- Keep up to date with criminal justice news and trends by following the professional bodies on Twitter and Facebook, this information might help you identify opportunities to network and tap into the hidden jobs market.
- Keep your online job search flexible as some employers might use different titles to describe the same job role.
- If you are keen to focus on a specific sector within criminal justice check out the specialist websites for these areas for current vacancies.
- Ministry of Justice
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office - UK International Law
- Metropolitan Police
- Terrorism Police
- HM Prison and Probation Service
- Forensic Science
- Forensic Access
- College of Policing
- Skills for Justice
- Ministry of Justice
- HM Prison and Probation Service - Prison Jobs
- Forensic Science
- College of Policing
- Skills for Justice
Need more help and information?
How can Purple Door help you?
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- Career options
- Further study
- CV and Covering Letters
- Application forms
- Job search
- And more......
Please visit services for you for more details about our support and services.
Purple Door has an online Jobsboard advertising a variety of graduate jobs across different sectors and locations. We also have a dedicated in-house Recruitment Consultancy team that delivers a personalised matching job service.
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