Although recent budget cuts in city and county governments statewide have dampened criminology job prospects, the major is still in high demand at Fresno State.

Dilemma for crim students after college

Although recent budget cuts in city and county governments statewide have dampened criminology job prospects, the major is still in high demand at Fresno State.

“To be perfectly honest, this is the only reason I came to Fresno State,” said Raul Reyes, a third-year criminology major. “It was either here or [CSU] Northridge, and I chose Fresno State because [it has] a forensic science building here.”

Fresno State is home to the largest Criminology Department in the CSU system and remains an area of intrigue for prospective students.

Ruth Masters, chair of the Criminology Department, said the program hasn’t seen a change in enrollment.

“We’ve not reduced the number of students coming in,” Masters said. “It’s a strong major.”

The Criminology Department offers four options: law enforcement, corrections, victimology and forensics. Of those four, law enforcement is the choice of more than 55 percent of students.

But a 10-year projection by the California Employment Development Department found that only 2,380 job openings are available statewide for police and sheriff patrol officers.

“The job market out there, especially here in the Valley, is not looking too good,” said Scott Serpa, a senior law enforcement student. “There’s a huge freeze now and they’re actually laying some people off.”

Getting accepted to work in law enforcement with a degree from Fresno State can be hard for other reasons.

“A lot of students have an interest in getting into law enforcement, but you can’t just have an interest,” said Dr. Harald Schweizer, coordinator of the law enforcement option at Fresno State. “There are qualifications that have nothing to do with the degree that ultimately determine if you can get in.”

Schweizer said that law enforcement job applicants are often required to pass a background check and drug test.

Some criminology students plan to go to graduate school to make themselves more marketable and wait out the current job market.

“My goal is to try to find a job right after graduation, but the likelihood of that is very slim,” said Reyes. “If I can’t find a job, I’ll come back for my Master’s in social work.”

Reyes said he’s always been interested in helping victims go through rehab.

A criminology student is required to do a 120-hour internship relating to their major during their final year.

“This internship program helps you get your foot in the door, see what’s out there and network,” Serpa said.

Serpa is fulfilling his internship requirement at the Fresno Police Department, where he mainly does office work for a detective.

Overall, Serpa is satisfied with his education in the Criminology Department.

“Fresno’s [Criminology] Department here at Fresno State is one of the nationally ranked best criminology departments,” Serpa said.  “We have some great professors and it’s one of the strongest departments on the campus.”

Although Serpa said he is happy with his education at Fresno State, but understands that he might have to make some compromises, such as leaving the Central Valley to find a job in his field.

“I’ll have to relocate to get a job, to pay those bills,” he said.

  • See Xiong

    Getting a job in the law enforcement field is difficult with a degree from any undergraduate criminology/criminal justice program, not just from Fresno State. No one needs a crim degree to be a peace officer. Apparently many students were not taught about that early in their college career. It may be helpful and would advance oneself as a better candidate in the police academy, but it is not necessary. Crim degree is not required for law school or non-profit work either. Sure, it might look fancy on a resume but the crim degree is more theory than practical. Good luck on getting a job as a paralegal with this degree! Students need to take into account that because of the theory-based structure of this degree, they will have to work more at making themselves marketable in the work force. Passing classes and a 120-hour internship doesn’t shine anymore in this economy.