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Texas Criminal Justice Programs

Working as a criminal justice professional in Texas offers a lot of promise, both in terms of current needs and future challenges. For instance, Texas maintains the largest prison population of any state, creating a need for qualified workers.

A whole raft of criminal justice colleges in Texas offer degrees at every level with specializations available in areas of corrections, homeland security, law enforcement, and forensic science. Read on to learn about top criminal justice schools in Texas and find your perfect fit.

Criminal Justice Careers in Texas

The criminal justice system in Texas is made up of three independent yet cooperative branches. These include law enforcement, the courts, and corrections. We take a closer look at each in the following sections.

Law Enforcement Careers in Texas

When you think of law enforcement, it’s natural that police officers first pop into your mind. These professionals work to keep individuals safe and enforce the law. Detectives investigate individuals suspected of criminal behavior, reporting their findings to bureau chiefs. Other common titles in this arena include police chief, training officer, and dispatcher.

Career Career Outlook Texas Median Salary
Police officers +16% $61,590
Private detectives and investigators +18% $46,720

All data from O*Net

Career Paths in the Texas Courts

After a law enforcement professional arrests someone for a suspected crime or issues them a citation, the court system takes over to ascertain the guilt or innocence of the suspect. They also hear from witnesses, accusers, and other individuals who can speak to the issue at hand. Paralegals work alongside lawyers to conduct research, take depositions, and manage the flow of a case. Lawyers, meanwhile, work with their clients to develop plans, seek plea bargains, and argue cases in front of the courts, if necessary. Other jobs in this arena include bailiff, judge, and court stenographer.

Career Career Outlook Texas Median Salary
Paralegals and legal assistants +22% $52,220
Prosecutors +15% $127,550

All data from O*Net

Texas Corrections System Careers

After the courts make a ruling as to the innocence or guilt of a defendant, corrections professionals take over. Some individuals, such as correctional officers, wardens, and jailers, may work with perpetrators as they serve out sentences in a jail or prison. Others, such as probation officers, mental health counselors, or substance abuse therapists, work with individuals who avoided jail time but must meet specific requirements to maintain their independence. Some of the most common jobs in this arena include:

Career Career Outlook Texas Median Salary
Correctional officers and jailers ­–1% $42,620
Probation officers +15% $44,810

All data from O*Net

Criminal Justice Education Resources in Texas

There are numerous resources available for those who are looking to pursue one of the wide range of careers in criminal justice. We can’t provide individual resources for each career, but the pages listed below offer details on more common careers, including application instructions, training requirements, and internship opportunities.

  • Corrections: Texas Department of Criminal Justice
  • Careers include parole officer, corrections officer, and Office of the Inspector General positions.
  • Website visitors can find information on upcoming recruiting events, application requirements, eligibility criteria, and benefits.
  • Police officers: Texas Commission on Law Enforcement
  • Careers include all types of police officers, jailers, peace officers, dispatchers, and animal control officers.
  • Information provided includes training requirements, licensing and certification steps, and job vacancies throughout the state.
  • Highway patrol officers: Texas Department of Public Safety
  • Careers include state troopers, sergeants, and agents.
  • This site provides steps for becoming a highway patrol officer in Texas, with additional information on salaries, benefits, and internship opportunities.
  • Justice system: Texas Attorney General
  • Careers include deputy attorney generals, child support officers, legal assistants, and bailiffs.
  • Visit this site to find out how to apply for a job in the Texas Department of Justice and search job vacancies.

Innovations in Criminal Justice in Texas

Several criminal justice initiatives are currently moving through the Texas State Legislature—thanks to the work of a bipartisan group of state representatives. Some of the issues they are addressing include:

  • Limiting offenses that result in jail, such as stealing $100 or less or violating traffic laws
  • Improving and expanding mental health services in prisons while also providing treatment for individuals with mental health issues who commit a crime rather than putting them in jail
  • Lessening criminal penalties for being caught with a small amount of marijuana

The challenge of incorporating mental health into the justice system is one that many states are focusing on. More and more, criminal justice professionals are being trained to understand and deal with mental health issues.

Search Your State

Main Criminal Justice Governmental Agencies and Entities in Texas

  • Texas Office of the Attorney General: The Texas AG’s office handles issues around consumer protection, supporting victims of crimes, managing child support, and ensuring the government stays open to the needs of its people. Other emerging issues of importance include human trafficking, cybersecurity, election integrity, and addressing the opioid epidemic.
  • Texas Department of Criminal Justice: The TDCJ is responsible for processing and managing all offenders in the state, including those in county, state, and federal prisons.
  • Texas Commission on Law Enforcement: TCOLE currently employs nearly 120,000 professionals who work to keep cities, suburbs, and rural areas safe.
  • Texas Judicial Branch: This branch of the Texas government concerns itself with running courts throughout the state. These currently include the Texas Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, and 14 Courts of Appeals, in addition to children’s, specialty, and trial courts.

Resources for Criminal Justice Students and Professionals in Texas

Joining a professional association can help you take advantage of invaluable resources, including industry contacts, scholarships, mentorship, career advice, and information on top schools in your area.

  • Texas Probation Association: Texas corrections professionals founded TPA in 1970 to provide support to workers throughout the state. Today the group offers members access to association and legislative conferences, award nominations, legislative updates, and resources.
  • Correctional Officers Association of Texas: COAT maintains affiliation with the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas to create a strong community among law enforcement officials. Members can take advantage of financial support during investigations, scholarships, and affinity services.
  • Texas Municipal Police Association: Members of TMPA, the largest law enforcement association in the state, can participate in training courses, conferences, and networking events while also gaining access to benefits support, legal assistance, and political lobbying.
  • Texas State Troopers Association: Joining TSTA ensures you can take advantage of industry news, legislative policy updates, legal representation, insurance, counseling, will and estate planning, scholarships, and death and disaster benefits for you and your loved ones.
  • Texas Justice Court Judges Association: Open to both justice court judges and clerks, this group supports members by providing education classes, seminars, scholarships, legislative updates, newsletters, and Judge/Clerk of the Year awards.
  • Texas Trial Lawyers Association: TTLA maintains an active calendar of networking events and continuing legal education courses alongside directories, political action committees, ListServs, webcasts, and legislative representation.