Crime scene incestigation tape plus a separate image of a Criminal Justice student studying.

Criminal Justice

Your career guide

The Criminal Justice System consists of law enforcement agencies, the courts service, and agencies responsible for detaining and supervising offenders, such as prison and probation services. The Ministry of Justice oversees the work of these agencies.

Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service (HPPS) - until April 2017 known as the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) - delivers offenders services: prisons, youth custody, and probation with the objective of protecting the public and reducing reoffending. This agency is responsible to the Ministry of Justice.

The Home Office has responsibility for the 43 police forces in England and Wales and the Attorney General has responsibility for the Crown Prosecution Service.

There have been a number of changes to the delivery of services with a reorganisation of the probation service and increased involvement of private and third sector organisations.

There has been an increased focus on issues to do with anti-social behaviour and youth offending, which has led to increased opportunities in these areas, but the sector has also been affected by cuts in public spending.

Where do I start?

Within the Criminal Justice sector you could be looking at a wide range of occupations. Prospects has a useful list of job profiles each containing relevant information about key responsibilities, skill requirements, starting salaries, entry requirements and career prospects, with links to major employers and current graduate vacancies.

Job roles

Job roles in this sector include (but are not restricted to):

Finding opportunities

As part of your job-hunting strategy you will need to keep up to date on developments in this sector and keep track of any vacancies that are coming up. Below are some key resources to help you research opportunities available. The knowledge gained through your research may help you to target your applications and will help when preparing for interviews.

  • College of Policing - The College of Policing is the professional body for policing and offers more information on intelligence analysis training, routes to becoming a police officer including fast-track and direct-entry and details of professional standards and practice.
  • Skills for Justice - Skills for Justice is a not-for-profit organisation offering information, advice and guidance on jobs within the criminal justice and community safety sector.
  • Police.UK - Information on crime and policing including a list of UK police force websites.
  • The Chartered Society of Forensic Scientists - The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences' site provides information on careers, jobs and sector standards.
  • HMPPS - Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service offers information on the recruitment process, eligibility, application process and current vacancies for Prison Officers.
  • National Probation Service - National Probation Service web pages, including the Probation Directory of National Probation Services and Communication Rehabilitation Companies.
  • Community Justice Learning - The University of Portsmouth's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice is contracted by the Ministry of Justice to deliver the academic component to Probation Officer training. Find out more by reading the Want to train to be a Probation Officer? guide.
  • Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company - Regional Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) for Hampshire.
  • Criminal Justice Alliance - A coalition of 120 organisations committed to improving the criminal justice system.
  • The Forensics Library - Information resource detailing the different areas and specialisms within forensic science.

Getting experience

Competition for jobs in this sector is fierce and work experience could be the deciding factor to securing a graduate job. Undertaking work experience is invaluable in developing expertise and the all-important transferable skills, which will help you demonstrate your motivation and commitment to this area of work.

However finding experience will take time and effort; employers receive many CVs every week so you will have to work hard to stand out from the crowd. You can find out more about how to create a targeted CV through the Careers and Employability Service website.

The key to success is to prepare thoroughly, do your research and organise your experience in good time. There are an increasing number of organisations supporting offenders both within and outside the judicial system and by getting involved you can gain valuable experience of working directly with offenders, victims or other client groups.

To become a Police Officer, volunteering as a Special Constable will be advantageous as it will help you gain experience and the Certificate in Knowledge in Policing. Individual police forces advertise volunteering opportunities within their constabulary, such as Victim Liaison Volunteers, Police Support Volunteers and even some administrative volunteer roles where volunteers can be trained on Police specialist IT systems. Hampshire Constabulary welcomes applications for its Observer Scheme allowing volunteers to experience first hand operational policing over three shifts. Generally police force volunteering opportunities are advertised on the area constabulary vacancies webpages, e.g. Hampshire Constabulary.

Look at job advertisements and the job profiles on Prospects, listed above, to help you identify your gaps and the kind of knowledge you need to develop.


Work placements can provide you with an invaluable insight into working life and offer you an opportunity to apply the industry knowledge you are learning as part of your studies. Placements will also enable you to develop transferable skills in the workplace, such as communication, teamwork and time management, in addition to finding out more about a specific job role or industry, which will lead to more informed decisions upon graduating.

On some degrees work placements are part of the programme, whilst on others you can choose to complete a placement as one of your modules. Many courses at the University of Portsmouth enable you to complete a year’s work placement or self-employment placement should you choose to. Opportunities for gaining relevant short and/or long-term placements are sometimes offered by Crown and County Courts, Law Firms, Charities and Non-Governmental Organisations.

Your first point of contact to arrange this will be your placement office in your Faculty.


There are fewer internships offered in the criminal justice sector than in other areas as many organisations either focus on volunteering or are unable to offer work experience at all due to the confidential or classified nature of the work.The organisations listed below will give you an idea of the type of opportunities that may be available; you will need to do thorough research to identify further specific opportunities:

  • Catch 22 - A social business that designs and delivers services to build resilience and aspiration in people and communities.
  • Dstl - An executive agency sponsored by the Ministry of Defence that develops innovative science and technology to contribute to the defence and security of the UK.


There are many volunteering opportunities across the criminal justice sector and when deciding on a role it is important to ensure that the organisation you volunteer through has a robust safeguarding structure in place.

MyCareer offers current students and graduates access to a Virtual Volunteering Bank which provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies. Similarly you can access these opportunities through the paper-based bank located at Careers and Employability, particularly relevant opportunities are the StudentWatch and STEM Learning schemes as well as a range of not-for-profit organisations working across the sector.

Find out more about how Careers and Employability can support you with your voluntary work experience. If you wish to begin voluntary work experience during the vacation periods please refer to the 'External sites' information on the voluntary work experience section of our website.

  • The Fairbridge Programme - As part of the Prince's Trust, the Fairbridge Programme offers opportunities for 16 to 25-year-olds to develop skills and confidence through a wide variety of activities.
  • Victim Support - An independent charity that provides support to people affected by crime or traumatic events.
  • NACRO - A social justice charity offering information, advice and guidance, courses, consultancy and interventions to vulnerable people within communities.
  • Youth Justice Board - A resource hub for those working or looking to work in youth justice, with a learning and skills matrix, a library of effective approaches and a question and answer forum amongst other resources.
  • Police.UK - Provides a list of UK police force websites, on which you can find Special Constable and Police Support Volunteer roles.
  • Clinks - Represents the voluntary sector within the sector, providing a directory of organisations working with offenders and listing both paid and unpaid training and volunteering opportunities.
  • Individual police forces generally advertise volunteering opportunities on their websites, for example, Hampshire Constabulary advertise opportunities for Police Support Volunteers and for some administrative roles (where volunteers may have the opportunity to train on police specialist IT systems) as well as how to access their Observer Scheme allowing volunteers the opportunity to gain first hand experience of operational policing over three shifts.

Key considerations before starting your search for work experience

  • What are your career goals and aspirations? How might the opportunity help you work towards these?
  • Think critically about gaps in your skillset that need to be addressed. How might an opportunity enable you to fill this gap?
  • How much time can you commit to work experience? How will you fit it in with your plans and other commitments during term time or over the summer period?
  • What type of organisation would you like to gain experience with? An organisation working with victims or with offenders? A preventative role (police, intelligence, youth intervention) or a reactive role (crime scene forensics, probation, rehabilitation)? Would you prefer to work in the private sector, public sector or for a charity or non-governmental organisation?

Tips for success when looking for experience

  • Research organisations offering summer internships, vacation placements, taster experiences or volunteering opportunities (roles in forensics and intelligence will be few and far between).
  • Explore the various areas within the criminal justice sector before you apply for work experience; knowing what you want to specialise in will help you focus your research and ensure you gain the relevant skills.
  • Get involved in University extra curricular activities related to your interests such as with the Students' Union or with University clubs or societies; here you can develop transferable skills and experience such as communication and teamwork.
  • Create a LinkedIn profile to network with sector employers - see our Networking and Social Media section for further guidance.
  • Speak to your tutor or other members of Faculty staff to identify potential networking or research opportunities that could lead to work experience.
  • Make the most of opportunities to meet sector professionals at events both within the university and externally to build your network of contacts.
  • Be proactive and make direct contact with organisations that interest you and apply speculatively; send a targeted CV and a cover letter focussed on why you are interested in them and why they should be interested in you.

Finding a job

There are three key areas within the Criminal Justice sector: client-facing support roles; intelligence and investigation, law enforcement and custodial roles and forensic roles. There are various types of employer and different sub-groups within these areas, such as: youth offending; substance and addiction; criminal analysis; laboratory based forensic science; digital forensic analysis; fraud investigation, so some thought as to which area(s) you are particularly interested in will help you to target your job search.

Client-facing support roles

These roles will involve working directly with offenders or victims on a one-to-one or small group basis. In addition to roles with statutory organisations such as the Probation Service and local authorities, a wide range of not-for-profit organisations have both employment and volunteering opportunities in this field. A range of organisations provide support often working with the same clients but focussing on different challenges and barriers; these could include client's offending behaviour, substance misuse, housing or employment.

  • Probation Services: following a reorganisation in 2014 Probation Services are provided by the National Probation Service (NPS) and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs). The NPS oversees all pre-sentence reports and conducts all initial risk assessments, the service also manages offenders deemed to be high risk of harm to the public. CRCs are responsible for the management of offenders assessed as low to medium risk of harm to the public.
  • The National Probation Service run the Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP), a 15 month training programme where graduates are employed by the NPS and earn £22,039 - £27,373 plus a London weighting allowance of £3889 where this applies. Graduates from any degree are eligible provided they have completed the four required knowledge modules: Criminal Justice System; Understanding Crime and Criminal Behaviour; Penal Policy and the Punishment of Offenders; Rehabilitation of Offenders. If you have not covered these modules during your degree course you can undertake them, prior to your PQiP training, at one of the three universities contracted to deliver the PQiP training: De Montfort University; University of Portsmouth; Sheffield Hallam University. If you have completed three out of the four modules then you can complete the fourth during your PQiP training. You also need to have relevant experience of working with challenging behaviour.
  • Unqualified roles are available in both the NPS and CRCs - e.g. Probation Service Officers.
  • In addition to roles within the NPS and CRCs a wide range of not-for-profit organisations have both employment and volunteering opportunities working with offenders and those with other barriers, e.g - Project Worker, Support Worker.
  • Relevant client-based experience will be needed for client-facing jobs (see the 'Finding experience' section for help with this).

Intelligence and investigation, law enforcement and custodial roles

Roles in this area could involve working out in the community or in an office based environment, working with the general public or behind the scenes. The majority of roles will be working for statutory organisations such as the Police Force, Prison Service, Intelligence and Security Service or the Armed Forces.

  • Intelligence Analyst/Researcher roles utilise analytical, planning and project management skills to, for example, identify crime trends and patterns, develop strategies to reduce criminal activity and coordinate projects designed to work with communities to reduce offending behaviour. These roles would be a staff role within a police service. Crime analysts would also work directly to support police investigations, analysing for example, communications between suspects. The job profile available on the National Careers Service website provides useful information on working as a Criminal Intelligence Analyst.
  • Trainee Intelligence opportunities, suitable for graduates, are sometimes available with organisations such as the Security Services (MI5 and SIS); the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC); and the National Crime Agency (NCA).
  • PoliceNow offers a Graduate Leadership Programme (see below), recruitment takes place on an annual basis in the autumn term to start the following year.
  • Standard Police Officer recruitment occurs when needed by Police Forces. For some Police Forces the Certificate of Knowledge in Policing may be required before you can apply for jobs. This can be undertaken at local colleges or can be gained while working as a Special Constable. Competition for Police Officer recruitment is very high and many forces seek to recruit candidates with relevant experience - e.g Special Constables or Community Support Officers. Prospects Joining the Police webpage provides up-to-date information around applying to join a police force.
  • Fraud Investigation roles may be available in a range of government departments e.g HM Revenues and Customs, Department for Work and Pensions and the Serious Fraud Office. Local authorities and commercial organisations including finance and retail organisations may also employ fraud investigation officers.
  • Unlocked Graduates runs the Unlocked Graduate Programme (see below), providing a fast-track route into prison leadership roles. Recruitment for the programme usually opens in October/November to start the following year.
  • The Youth Custody Service, under the umbrella of HMPPS, offer a fast-track programme for those wanting to work with 12 to 18 year olds in custody. Whilst not exclusively a graduate programme (candidates need to have at least a Level 4 qualification in a specific subject area) the programme is aimed at developing future leaders.

Forensic roles

Forensic scientists undertake the scientific analysis of samples taken at crime scenes. For these opportunities a relevant science background is required. Other roles in this field, such as Scenes of Crime Officers, who are responsible for collecting and recording samples at crime scenes, may come from a variety of backgrounds. There has been a growth in opportunities related to digital forensic analysis, and these opportunities may require a related degree, e.g. computer science.

  • Following the closure of the Forensic Science Service, individual police forces are responsible for managing their own scientific analysis. Most forces will outsource this work to a range of commercial providers, such as Cellmark and LGC.
  • For forensic science jobs, gaining laboratory based experience in another environment will be beneficial.
  • Scenes of Crime Officers will often be employed by police forces, but may also be outsourced.
  • A wide range of organisations employ specialists within the field of digital forensic analysis. Police forces may directly employ people within these roles, or outsource the work to commercial service providers. Opportunities may also exist within the security services and with commercial organisations, for example within the financial sector.

Employers who recruit in these areas

  • National Probation Service
  • Community Rehabilitation Companies
  • Charities and NGOs
  • Police Services
  • MI5 and MI6
  • Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)
  • National Crime Agency (NCA)
  • Government departments including HM Revenues and Customs and the Serious Fraud Office
  • Commercial scientific analysis providers such as Cellmark and LGC

Useful websites to help you start your job search

  • Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences - The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences' site includes sections on careers and jobs.
  • Red Snapper Group - Staffing services provider for law enforcement, offender supervision, regulatory enforcement and counter-fraud work communities.
  • Unlocked - The organisation offering a fast-track graduate programme to leadership roles within prisons.
  • HMPPS - Information about roles within HM Prison Service, including prison officer, operational support and instructor roles.
  • National Probation Service - Offers specific information on Probation Officer training opportunities.
  • jobsgopublic - Jobsite for public sector jobs.
  • Community Care - The Community Care website includes a job section with opportunities in social care and social work.
  • The Guardian - The Guardian features a jobs section which includes categories on social care, charities and government.
  • Sanctuary Personnel - Sanctuary Personnel is an accredited and award winning recruitment consultancy. They recruit to social care, probation, youth offending and substance misuse roles and offer ongoing career support.

Tips for finding a job

  • Keep up to date with criminal justice news and trends by following the professional bodies on Twitter and Facebook, this information might help you identify opportunities to network and tap into the hidden jobs market.
  • Keep your online job search flexible as some employers might use different titles to describe the same job role.
  • If you are keen to focus on a specific sector within criminal justice check out the specialist websites for these areas for current vacancies.

Useful social media feeds

Check out the following Twitter and Facebook feeds for news and information about current projects and to tap into the hidden jobs market.

Twitter feeds:

Facebook feeds:

Contact us

The Careers and Employability Service offers support to students throughout their studies and provision for graduates up to five years after graduation, with advice and guidance on:

  • Career options
  • Further study
  • CV and covering letters
  • Application forms
  • Job search
  • Interviews

We have an online jobs board advertising a variety of graduate jobs across different sectors and locations. We also have a dedicated in-house Graduate Recruitment Consultancy that delivers a personalised job matching service.

You can also access our services by calling or emailing us:

Email us:

Phone us: +44 (0)2392 842684