What is the best path to work for the Department of Justice?

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What is the Department of Justice (DOJ)?

The Office of the Attorney General was created by the Judiciary Act of 1789 as a part-time position requiring only one person. The creation of the Office was the result of the First Congress meeting in New York in 1789. After several months of discussion and convening, the Judiciary Act was enacted. The Act stated that the Attorney General must be “learned in the law,” to fulfill these duties:

  • Prosecute and oversee all lawsuits in the Supreme Court, which concern the United States
  • Provide advice on legal matters and act as legal counselor upon request by the President
  • Address questions of law from heads of other government departments

The first Attorney General was Edmund Jennings Randolph, who served from 1789 to 1794. He was a former aide-de-camp of George Washington, Attorney General of Virginia, and Governor of Virginia from 1786-1788.

Almost another one hundred years would pass before the official establishment of the DOJ. When Congress passed the Act to Establish the DOJ on July 1, 1870, it empowered the department to handle all criminal prosecutions and civil suits concerning the United States.

Today, the DOJ oversees several law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, DEA, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Federal Bureau of Prisons, as well as the Environment and Natural Resources Division. In its crime-fighting role, it investigates cases of financial fraud, administers the federal prison system, and reviews the actions of local law enforcement agencies. In addition, the DOJ oversees the activities of the 93 U.S. Attorneys who represent the federal government in courtrooms nationwide.


The above statistics attest to the range of job possibilities within the DOJ. The best path is determined by where you want to direct your career aspirations.


The DOJ offers numerous career opportunities in a variety of specialties. An abbreviated list includes attorney, criminal investigator, correctional officer, budget analyst, intelligence researcher, contract specialist, information technology expert, and forensic scientist. Readers can find a complete directory by each state of the various field offices across the U.S. on the DOJ website.

For current or future law students, the study of this discipline may be one of the best routes. Your career path can begin while in school by applying for the Summer Law Intern Program (SLIP). SLIP is open to 50-70 applicants who have completed their second year. These are salaried positions. There are other internships as volunteer legal interns. Each year the DOJ offers volunteer jobs to approximately 1,800 law students, with 1,000 available during the summer break in classes.

Upon graduation from law school, you may apply to the DOJ as an entry-level attorney. The selection process is stringent, as it involves the elements of background, academic achievement, leadership, mock trial experience, clinical experience, and more.

Financial crime is under the purview of the DOJ. In this endeavor, the DOJ requires financial analysts to review and analyze financial and medical records for evidence of health care fraud. Other duties include testifying at trial regarding the analysis of business records and medical claims data. This particular job specializes in health care fraud. Interested individuals for this career path would need a degree in accounting, finance, economics, mathematics, or related discipline.

Registered nursing is an option as this training may qualify you to work in one of the federal correction facilities providing patient care. In this role, you may also need to assess and identify high-risk behaviors in incarcerated patients. This task may involve the determination of suicidal risk, homicidal risk, and risk for violent conduct.

You may also qualify for a position as an Education Technician within the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Those with experience and a degree in education might be eligible to work in the Education Department. The responsibilities include creating, maintaining the education records for inmates. There are also secretarial duties, which include typing certificates for program completions and corresponding with schools attended by inmates. Applicants with experience preparing spreadsheets, evaluating training programs, and assisting teachers may suffice in place of a college degree.

As with the job above, a Medical Records Technician is another career path into the BOP that does not demand a degree. The primary role of this position is the analysis of medical records for completeness, consistency, and compliance with the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), Bureau of Prisons, and medical staff requirements. Individuals who opt for educational qualifications would benefit from an Associate in Health Informatics. You would learn about the combination of maintaining health data with computer technology.


Your path into the DOJ and its various agencies are as diverse as the job titles. In addition to the above employment prospects, there are jobs as a materials handler, food services, cooks, correctional officers, health system administrator, secretary, physician assistant, and program analyst. Some require a degree in a field related to the job, and others prefer minimal experience to qualify.

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