How to Become a Pre-Trial Officer
You may think that the criminal justice process starts when defendants walk into the courtroom, but in truth, the process starts long before that. When someone is booked into a jail cell and prepared for their trial, a pre-trial officer is responsible for taking them in, processing their items, and verifying that their legal rights are being protected. If you are ready to learn more about criminal justice programs near you, use our directory to contact schools in your area today!
If you're looking for a career that allows you to work in the courtroom and the jail system while putting your knowledge of the legal system to work, you may be a great fit for a pre-trial officer position. Pre-trial officers must be extremely detail-oriented, able to work quickly, and interested in working with people of differing personality types. You may also need to work well as part of a team, since you may work with a variety of other criminal justice professionals throughout the course of your career.
Of course, it's important to uphold one's legal rights when you're working in a criminal justice system. To avoid lawsuits and improper treatment of prisoners, it's important for pre-trial officers to get the right training and be completely confident in their knowledge of legal procedures. If you're considering becoming a pre-trial officer, keep reading to learn about what you need to do to get started!
Education Requirements for Pre-Trial Officers
Jumping into the criminal justice field as a pre-trial officer can require you to take on quite a bit of responsibility, so you may need to meet some fairly stringent education and experience requirements before you qualify for a job. Pre-trial officers are typically hired by city, county, or federal justice departments, so you may want to get familiar with hiring requirements in your area.
Some smaller justice departments only require an Associate's degree for those who want to become pre-trial officers. However, across the board, a Bachelor's degree is commonly expected. A Bachelor's degree in criminal justice may be sufficient at providing you the background knowledge and experience you need. This four-year degree may include courses like Criminology, Introduction to Criminal Procedures, Courtroom Procedures, and Juvenile Justice. These courses may include quite a bit of classroom time, but they will likely also require lots of practical experience. You may complete a practicum or internship in an area of criminal justice that holds your interest. If you want to become a pre-trial officer, consider working in a research department or courtroom to get relevant experience.
If you do not have a degree in criminal justice, you may be able to substitute a Bachelor's degree in another field to meet employer requirements. For example, a degree in the social sciences or a behavior field may suffice. This includes fields like psychology and sociology.
Some justice departments only hire applicants that have a certain amount of experience in the criminal justice field, particularly in the areas of research and investigation. You should also have a strong grasp of the criminal justice system in your county. Some of these requirements may be met by in-school work experiences like internships and volunteer work. Working in the fields of substance abuse and mental health may also help you meet work experience expectations.
Career Salary Potential
The job outlook for pre-trial officers and other investigative criminal justice jobs is relatively stable when compared to other professions. From 2016 to 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 7% increase in police detective jobs, which works out to over 53,400 new jobs per year in this time period. In some areas, you may find that the job outlook for pre-trial detectives is more positive. The states that employ the most detectives are Texas, California, New York, Florida, and Arizona.
Salaries for this type of job vary widely across the country and across experience levels. Overall, the average salary for a pre-trial detective is $62,960. Detective salaries vary by state. For example, California pre-trial officers earn an average of $103,810 per year. Those who work in Kansas, on the other hand, reported an average salary of $60,110 in 2017.
Working as a Pre-Trial Officer
When you work as a pre-trial officer, you have to expect lots of different responsibilities and duties to be assigned to you. At any given time, you may have several cases on your docket, all of which require intensive work and dedication. Upon being assigned a case, you may have to look into the circumstances of the case, try to gather evidence to make the state's decision easier, and compile evidence in an easy-to-read manner.
In addition to looking for evidence, you may need to work with those who have been accused of crimes. You may be required to book defendants, inform them of their rights, and otherwise assure that they are being treated appropriately during their time in the correctional system.
Dedication and perseverance are two important traits to have if you want to work as a pre-trial officer. In many cases, the cases you work on may never go to trial. However, that doesn't mean that you can work any less diligently on your cases. For example, the Advocate reported on pre-trial events for a man who was driving drunk and killed a pedestrian. The pre-trial work eventually led to the defendant pleading guilty. Regardless of the outcome of your cases, you must be willing t ogive your all to every case that is assigned to you.
Becoming a pre-trial officer can be very professionally rewarding if you want to play a significant role in how court cases are handled. Contact schools with campus or online criminal justice programs to learn more today!
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