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How to Tell if Your Intended Career Path is Worth It

Q: I am 31 years old and have always wanted a career in the criminal justice field. I will be graduating next year and have plans to attend law school. I know I have a long road ahead of me in reaching that goal. My main question is it worth it?

A: Much goes into figuring out whether or not a particular career path is "worth it." Like any decision we have to make it will only be as good as the information we have on hand to base it upon. Even when all the important information is gathered there is never a guarantee. There is always an aspect of risk involved. However, if you do follow a sensible career planning process you will certainly cut down the risk and greatly enhance the possibility that your career choice and work experience will be "worth it."

When it comes to making a career decision, two key variables are your interests (what you like to do, have an interest in) and values (what's most important to you, specifically as it relates to career decision-making, what purpose would you like your work to serve, what contributions would you like to make to society through your work). When our career decisions are aligned well with our interests and values then we're on the right track.

It seems from what you stated that you "have always wanted a career in the criminal justice field" and have plans to attend law school, which indicates you have a pretty good idea of what your major interests and values are. Now it seems a little fine tuning may be needed. What specific career in the criminal justice field might you pursue? What particular practice areas in the field of law might you be most interested in?

A good place to start is with written resources, both books and the internet, in order to gather information about jobs in criminal justice and law. Two that I can recommend are;

  • Careers in Law, by G.A. Munneke (1997), McGraw-Hill/NTC Publishing.
  • Also, from the same publisher: Opportunities in Law Enforcement & Criminal Justice, by J. Stinchcomb (1996).


Once you've done some reading you should be getting a better focus as to the career you'd most like to pursue. Then it's time to get out and talk with people who are doing the type of work you're most interested in. During these "Information Interviews" two things are getting accomplished:

  • You're getting your questions answered. Usually reading the career-related materials will generate additional questions you'll want answers to (an example would be getting an updated perspective on the job market possibilities to better assess your job attainment odds); and
  • You continue to build your professional network by making these new contacts.


Simultaneously, as you research through written resources and contact new people, you'll want to continue talking with current members of your personal network including; family, friends, former and current employers and co-workers, and possibly instructors and classmates from school. Especially helpful can be those you know whose business has them in contact with many people. These service providers include; lawyers, doctors, bankers, insurance agents, clergy (remember they have an entire congregation of potential contacts), accountants, hair stylists and others. Ask these people if they know of anyone who is working in the type of jobs you're interested in and if so, could they help to put you in touch with them for a possible information interview.

It's through this type of solid career planning that you'll be able to better identify what career path best fits you and your possibility for attaining the type of job you most want, thus increasing the odds for satisfying employment and making it all "worthwhile."

This article courtesy of BCG Search.

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