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criminal justice internship
The internship series

Top 10 internships for criminal justice majors

Discover the best internships for criminal justice majors with our comprehensive guide. Gain hands-on experience and boost your career today.

Top 10 internships for criminal justice majors

If you’re obsessed with shows like “Law and Order” or can’t get enough of detective novels, you may consider a career in criminal justice. A criminal justice major is a good starting point. You can get a degree in a field like criminology, forensic sciences, law, or criminal justice. Certain liberal arts degrees, like sociology or social work, can also be useful for areas like victim services.

While a college degree is a good starting point, hands-on experience is necessary for a competitive candidate in the job market. Enter criminal justice internships. Below, we highlight internship opportunities to pave the path.

1. Law enforcement intern

Criminal justice majors can apply to internship programs with local, state, and federal agencies, such as municipal and state police departments and sheriff’s offices.

For example, the Delaware State Police offers an internship program that includes exposure to practical policing tasks. You’ll shadow a state trooper on the job and go on a ride-along experience.

Future employment opportunities

A law enforcement internship experience can lead to a job title like city or county police officer or state trooper. It’s possible to become a detective or criminal investigator with additional experience.

Salary outlook

The median range for police officers and detectives is $66,020 per year. Detectives and criminal investigators earn $83,640, while police and sheriff’s patrol officers earn $64,610.

Skills needed

If you want to thrive as a law enforcement intern, these skills can help:

  • Communication. Great verbal communication can help you effectively speak with other law enforcement professionals and everyday citizens.
  • Teamwork. Law enforcement professionals work in teams.
  • Legal code knowledge. A knowledge of local, state, and federal law can give you an edge.

2. Correctional intern

A corrections intern may support professional corrections officers working in prisons, jails, courtrooms, and probation services.

For example, the Minnesota Department of Corrections offers probation officer internships. Interns work directly with parolees (under supervision) and learn how to assess risk levels, provide referrals, and check compliance with parole terms (like administering drug testing).

Future employment opportunities

A correctional intern can become a correctional officer, bailiff, or probation officer. These jobs oversee and protect people who might be incarcerated, in transit, in temporary holding, or on probation/parole.

Salary outlook

The median salary for correctional officers and bailiffs is $47,920 per year. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists earn a bit more, with a median pay of $60,250 per year.

Skills needed

These skills will help you excel in the corrections field:

  • Ability to remain calm under pressure. Working in corrections can be stressful, so resilience and keeping cool under pressure are essential skills.
  • Physical fitness. Corrections roles may require long periods of standing, walking, and physical interaction.
  • Good people skills. Corrections officers may interact with incarcerated criminals, their families, and members of the general public, as well as lawyers, judges, and social workers.

3. Legal intern

You can find legal internship opportunities with law firms, public defenders’ offices, district attorneys’ offices, and nonprofit organizations.

For example, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office offers legal internships where interns work with staff to help investigate and prosecute criminal cases, provide victim support, and research legislation.

Future employment opportunities

This internship experience can lead to a job as a lawyer. You could work for a law firm, for example, or for the state as a public defender. Additional experience can help you become an assistant district attorney or even a district attorney.

Salary outlook

The median salary range for lawyers is $127,990 per year. State and local government lawyers earn about $100,000, while the top 10% of lawyers — usually those employed for private law firms — earn more than $208,000.

Skills needed

Legal interns can benefit from these skills:

  • Research skills. Working in the field may involve researching legal codes and doing investigative research on cases.
  • Critical thinking. Many law jobs require problem-solving abilities, as you have to determine how to best serve the client.
  • Legal knowledge. Relevant legal knowledge is a must. For example, those working in the Manhattan DA’s office should know New York’s laws.

4. Victim services intern

Victim services interns work in organizations supporting victims of crimes, including nongovernmental and not-for-profit organizations, public law enforcement agencies, and governmentally funded crisis centers.

For example, the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance offers a victim services internship program. Under supervision, interns support crime victims through crisis intervention, advocacy, and referrals to community resources.

Future employment opportunities

A victim services internship can pave the path to a career in victim services, either in the public or private sector. Additional training could also help you work in witness assistance programs like the U.S. Federal Witness Protection Program.

Salary outlook

The salary range for victims advocates generally ranges from $48,335 to $66,650. The average salary is $56,365.

Skills needed

Working with victims requires a unique skill set, such as:

  • Compassion. You must empathize with victims.
  • Listening skills. Active listening skills help victims feel seen and heard.
  • Resilience. Working with victims may mean hearing about trauma, which requires resilience.

5. Advocacy intern

Advocacy interns work in organizations involved in criminal justice reform. Examples include the Innocence Project, Citizens for Juvenile Justice, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

For example, the ACLU offers advocacy internships that involve researching legislation, lobbying decision-makers, and raising awareness.

Future employment opportunities

An internship experience in advocacy could lead to job opportunities as a lobbyist, communications officer, policy adviser, or advocacy specialist. These jobs are usually with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), like nonprofits.

Salary outlook

The average salary for advocacy and human rights organizations employees is $63,000 per year.

Skills needed

Working in advocacy requires skills like:

  • Persistence. You must be patient when trying to push change.
  • Excellent communication abilities. Communicating arguments in writing and speech will make you a better advocate.
  • Teamwork. Change is never achieved by one person alone. Be ready to collaborate with other advocacy workers, legislators, and the public.

6. Forensics intern

A criminal justice student wanting internship credits in forensics can check out opportunities with local crime labs and national forensic science organizations, like the FBI’s Forensic Science Research and Training Center.

For example, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation in Oklahoma City offers investigative, intelligence, and forensic services — and internships.

Future employment opportunities

A forensics internship can lead to a job like forensic science technician. In this role, you collect and analyze evidence. Like many criminal justice jobs, this job’s application process may include a background check.

Salary outlook

The median salary for forensic specialists is $61,930 per year. The highest 10% of earners make more than $103,430.

Skills needed

These traits can help you excel in a forensics role:

  • Detail oriented. You have to abide by strict lab protocols. Every detail counts.
  • Independent. A lot of forensics work means working in a lab independently.
  • Good record-keeper. Keeping accurate records of testing procedures, results, and consequent analyses is essential.

7. Research intern

If you love research, consider a research intern role with a criminal justice research institution, think tank, or government agency dealing with criminal justice policy and implementation.

For example, criminal justice agencies like the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) offer research-based internships.

Future employment opportunities

A criminal research internship can lead to future roles in criminal justice research, such as researcher or program officer. You might also work as an advocate or policy-maker to support legislation development.

Salary outlook

Criminal research roles pay from $54,863 to $66,362, on average. The median salary is $58,453. Some organizations (like the UN) post their pay scales publicly.

Skills needed

Working in research obviously requires keen research skills. Here’s what else you’ll need:

  • Attention to detail. Research roles mean going through dense texts, like legislative documents, without missing key points.
  • Great communication skills. Communicating research results in writing and verbally makes your research meaningful.
  • Analytical mindset. Researchers may also have to analyze their work to draw conclusions.

8. Cybercrime intern

Cybercrime is on the rise, and law enforcement agencies are growing to tackle these issues. Examples include the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), the FBI’s Cyber Division, and private cybersecurity firms — all great places to look for internships.

Municipal bodies may also have cybercrime initiatives, like the City of Tacoma.

Future employment opportunities

A cybercrime internship can lead to job titles like cybersecurity analyst or information security analyst. You might work for public or private agencies at the national or international level. Even INTERPOL has a cybercrime unit.

Salary outlook

Cybercrime jobs are in great demand and pay well. The median salary is $102,600 per year, with the top 10% of earners netting more than $165,920.

Skills needed

Cybercrime is a unique field requiring technical skills. Other useful skills include:

  • Good time management. Cybercrime experts may tackle multiple projects at once, making multitasking a must.
  • Superior problem-solving. Critically thinking about crimes like hacks and data breaches and coming up with solutions is useful.
  • Work well under pressure. Cybercrime can be a stressful field.

9. Juvenile justice intern

If you want to help young people as a criminal justice major, look for internships with juvenile detention centers, probation offices, and youth advocacy groups. ​​

For example, the Coalition for Juvenile Justice offers internship opportunities in areas like communication, policy, and legal research.

Future employment opportunities

These internships can lead to future career opportunities in the juvenile justice system. You might work as a probation officer helping youth offenders stay on track, for example, or do advocacy work.

Salary outlook

The average juvenile justice officer earns $43,416 per year, with salaries ranging from $37,076 to $50,964 annually.

Skills needed

If you’re going to work with children and adolescents, it’s important that you like young people. Other skills you need are:

  • Great listening skills. Actively listening and communicating with people like juvenile offenders will take you far.
  • Empathy. Having compassion for the youths you work with is a must.
  • Patience. Working with young people can be stressful. Patience helps.

10. International crime intern

If you want to tackle crime beyond U.S. borders, look at internationally oriented internship positions with agencies like the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) or INTERPOL.

You can even gain work experience abroad. For example, while INTERPOL has U.S. offices in Washington, D.C., it also has in-person internship sites in Singapore and Lyon.

Future employment opportunities

A successful internship application to a body like UNODC or INTERPOL could mean a career in international criminal justice. These agencies offer specialized roles like criminal intelligence officer, IT disaster recovery manager, and legal counsel.

Salary outlook

Salaries for international agencies like UNODC and INTERPOL are regulated based on a payscale. These are publicly accessible.

For example, you can view INTERPOL’s salary scale on its website. Salaries range according to grade, step, and location. For example, an NYC salary could range from $5,719 per month to upward of $10,000 per month.

Skills needed

Working for international criminal justice organizations may require some additional talents. Necessary skills include:

  • Language skills. French is a must-have skill if you want to work abroad in a place like Lyon, France, for example.
  • Collaborative mindset. International criminal agencies collaborate with law enforcement bodies worldwide.
  • Excellent research abilities. Conducting investigative research into various legal codes, criminal case files, and more is part of the role.

Find criminal justice internships on Handshake

One look at the above list leaves no doubt: The criminal justice field has various opportunities, including part-time and full-time options. Handshake can help you find the perfect match.

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