Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership

Why Military Vets Should Consider a Career in Criminal Justice

For veterans and former military personnel looking for a second career after the armed services, a career in criminal justice often seems like a natural choice. Not only do many vets find law enforcement extremely appealing but employers are typically eager to hire former military personnel and will often offer incentives in order to attract them.

Why Veterans Make Good Police Officers

There are many reasons why law enforcement agencies actively seek veterans to employ within their ranks and why veterans are attracted to the field of law enforcement upon retirement. For one, the structure of a police force is very similar to that of the military. Secondly, many of the same traits that make a person successful in the military are also required for success in a law enforcement agency:

  • a high level of discipline
  • integrity
  • responsibility
  • the ability to use firearms safely and effectively
  • the ability to work with others as well as on one’s own
  • the ability to deal with difficult situations and problem solve
  • strong critical thinking skills
  • the ability to make good decisions, quickly under stress

Finally, attention to detail and the desire to serve are vital characteristics of a successful police officer that are shared traits by most members of the military.

In a recent Behind the Badge TPD article highlighting the upcoming Orange County Stand Down and Veterans Resources Expo, Tustin Lt. Bob Wright remarked, “I think law enforcement is an easy transition (for veterans). We find that they already have a sense of service and commitment, and they bring that with them when they come to the police occupation.” In fact, “nearly 20 percent of the Tustin police force has a military background and that’s, in part, because of how much these careers compliment each other,” according to the article.

Overall, the qualities one learns to embody in the military translate well to a career in criminal justice. An invaluable resource for vets considering a career in law enforcement is discoverpolicing.org, which was created to highlight the benefits of a career in law enforcement, communicate what a career in the field is really like and what it takes to get hired.

Incentives and Career Support

In order to attract the candidates with the skills they know they need, many law enforcement agencies offer incentives for former military personnel, such as:

  • Fast tracking applications
  • Waiving educational requirements
  • Offering incentive pay for reserve or national guard members

In addition to department incentives, there are a number of national programs that offer support to veterans looking for a second career post-military. These programs offer educational and job support along with literature and resources for vets with an aim of easing the transition back to civilian work. Such programs include:

For many vets, receiving additional education upon exiting the armed forces is an important step in beginning their next chapter. In order to support veterans looking to further their education some universities, such as the University of San Diego, participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program through the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). The Yellow Ribbon Program offers graduate students the opportunity to receive scholarship money that is then matched dollar for dollar by the VA. Additionally, the VA offers a $1,000 per year book allowance that is prorated based on credit hours taken. Many additional educational benefits are also available for veterans such as the Montgomery GI Bill and VEAP.

The University of San Diego (USD) has a long history of partnering with active duty military, veterans, and their families. Today, USD offers a 100% online Master of Science in Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership with a host of support options available to former and current military personnel. This multifaceted law enforcement degree examines leadership, management, organizational theory, critical issues, community assessment, budget and finance, public safety law, conflict resolution and additional criminal justice topics in a format that allows for collaboration with other law enforcement professionals from agencies around the country. If you are planning your transition from military to civilian life, contact us to speak with a University of San Diego admissions advisor today.

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