Thursday May 4, 2006

Double Majors Hurt Police Recruiting

An increasing number of criminal justice majors are combining interests to have more flexibility in career choices.

Nick Pavliga, Ross Nagy and Jessica Carter will graduate from the University of Dayton with criminal justice studies degrees but will follow divergent paths that leave police recruiters nationwide struggling to fill their ranks.

An increasing number of criminal justice majors are combining interests to take higher-paying, less-stressful law enforcement jobs. Tim Apolito, who heads the UD program's career services efforts, said only 25 percent of UD's criminal justice majors become police officers.

"I'm asked if I want to be a cop or probation officer when people find out criminal justice is one of my majors," said Carter who will graduate May 7 with a psychology degree as well. "It's frustrating because not everybody wants to be a cop. People don't understand that there is more to criminal justices studies than police work."

More "cross-training" is a recent trend UD program officials are seeing since the program began 40 years ago. UD criminal justice graduates have been employed by more than 40 local, state and federal agencies such as the U.S. Postal Service, county coroner offices and the Food and Drug Administration.

Carter has a job lined up as an organizational psychologist with the U.S. Air Force. Although the investigative part would appeal to her, she never felt police work was right for her because of routine patrols and handing out tickets.

Pavliga interned with the Centerville and Dayton, Ohio, police departments. He said filling out reports and dealing with people who he felt had no respect for human life took its toll. With a sociology degree also in hand when he graduates in December, Pavliga will work for a company that provides protection against chemical, biological and radiological warfare agents.

Only Nagy is headed for traditional police work, in Lexington, Ky.

"I've always been interested in becoming a police officer," said Nagy who also will graduate May 7. "Since making my decision to be a police officer a number of years ago, it's been my chief purpose and I've never wavered. There is nothing else I'd rather do."

Nagy said police work attracted him because he could make an impact on thousands of lives. In addition, the camaraderie found in police departments and the diversity of work appeals to him.

"Police work pays better than when I worked 30 years ago. But, there are other areas in which you can work and make more money without the risk," Apolito said. "Plus, today's police training is more complex and takes longer. In the 1960s, it was about 120 hours. It's more than 600 hours today."
Apolito added that just 6 percent of the nation's police forces want candidates to have a four-year degree. So, the appeal isn't there "for a job that has a minimum requirement of a GED when you've just spent close to $100,000 on an education."

Other criminal justice majors at UD have double majors giving them even more flexibility in career choices. For instance, an accounting major can work in the Internal Revenue Service's enforcement division, a zoology major can work with the U.S. Department of Interior, or a marketing major can work in corporate security management or the insurance industry.

"Students have far more choices than they had 40 years ago.," said Art Jipson, UD associate sociology professor and program director, who teaches a variety of new criminal justice classes on extremism, white collar crime and fraud, and comparative criminal justice. "Forty years ago, cyber crime, international gangs or domestic and international terrorist groups weren't occupying a lot of officers' time. Detectives now are posing as 14-year-old girls on the Internet to catch criminals. Criminal justice has changed and the students have changed with it. These double majors make students even more marketable to a variety of employers."