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The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) - What Is It? What are the Career Opportunities?

published October 21, 2021

By Author - LawCrossing
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Established in 1870, the Department of Justice represents citizens of the United States by enforcing the law in the public interest and by protecting them from criminal activity. There are 32 offices, boards, divisions, and bureaus in the Department with a wide range of functions.

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ), also known as the Justice Department, is a federal executive department of the United States government charged with enforcing federal laws and administering justice. It is an official government organization. In other countries, it is equivalent to the justice or interior ministries. During Ulysses S. Grant's presidency in 1870, the department was created in its current form. U.S. Marshals Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Bureau, Drug Enforcement Agency, and Federal Bureau of Prisons comprise the department. The Department of Justice primarily investigates white-collar crime, represents the federal government in legal matters (such as in court cases before the Supreme Court), and operates the federal prison system. As directed by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the department is also responsible for reviewing the conduct of local law enforcement.

It is headed by the U.S. Attorney General, a member of the Cabinet who is nominated by the president and confirmed by the US Senate. In 2021, Merrick Garland was sworn in as attorney general.

What Does the Department of Justice Do?

In addition to enforcing United States laws, the DOJ represents its citizens in legal proceedings and protects them against criminal activity. According to its official website:
  • Enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law.
  • Ensure public safety against threats both foreign and domestic.
  • Provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime.
  • Seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior.
  • Ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.

There are six legal divisions and 94 U.S. Attorneys' Offices in the Department of Justice. In addition to criminal law, civil law, civil rights, tax law, antitrust law, and the environmental law division are all included within the legal department. Departmentwide policies are formulated by these divisions in their respective subject areas. Federal district courts are where U.S. Attorneys' Offices prosecute criminal offenses and defend the United States government in litigation.

Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and U.S Marshals Service (USMS) carry out the primary operational functions of the Department. Using counterintelligence and counterterrorism measures, the FBI investigates more than 200 categories of Federal law violations, identifies and neutralizes the activities of foreign powers and their agents, and assists other Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies. DEA investigates major violators of controlled substance laws on the interstate and international levels and operates a national narcotics intelligence system in cooperation with Federal, State, and foreign law enforcement agencies. In addition to facilitating the entry into the country of those legally allowed, the INS grants benefits to those who are entitled to them and prevents entry and benefits from being granted to those who are not. To ensure that Federal inmates are treated humanely, secure, and safely, the BOP operates correctional institutions. USMS gives protection to Federal courts and judges, executes Federal court orders and warrants, and handles Federal prisoners, and provides them with security and transportation to correctional facilities.

The Department also houses the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), the U.S Trustees' Offices, and the Community Relations Service (CRS). In addition to collecting, analyzing, and disseminating statistical sensitive information on crime and the criminal justice system, the OJP manages criminal justice research and other grant programs. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation cases, the U.S. Trustees establish, supervise, and maintain panels of private trustees, supervise standing trustees in Chapter 12 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, and play an active role in Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases. Disputes, disagreements, or difficulties related to discriminatory practices can be resolved by conciliation and mediation services provided by the CRS.

See Also: What It's Like To Be A Special Agent

Official Government Organization in the United States Department of Justice

  • Office of the Attorney General
  • Office of the Deputy Attorney General
  • Office of the Associate Attorney General
  • Office of the United States Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General
  • Office of the Solicitor General of the United States

Career Opportunities in the United States Department of Justice

The DOJ offers a wide range of career opportunities. The list includes attorneys, criminal investigators, correctional officers, budget analysts, intelligence researchers, contract specialists, information technology experts, and forensic scientists. A complete list of each state's field offices can be found on the DOJ website.

Studying this discipline could be a good choice for current or future law students. Apply for the Summer Law Internship Program (SLIP) while in law school to begin your career path. The SLIP program is open to 50 to 70 applicants who have completed their second year. Stipends will be available for SLIP participants. The Law School also offers other internships to volunteers. About 1,800 students work in the DOJ's volunteer program each year, with 1,000 positions available during summer break.

The DOJ offers entry-level attorney positions to graduates of law schools. There is a stringent selection process, which involves background information, academic achievement, leadership experience, mock trial experience, and clinical experience.

The Department of Justice has a wide variety of careers in a number of offices throughout the country. Some of these occupations include:
  • Attorney
  • Criminal Investigator
  • Correctional Officer
  • Financial Management
  • Contract Specialist
  • Accountant/Auditor
  • Paralegal Specialist
  • Human Resource Specialist
  • Budget Analyst
  • Legal Assistant
  • Information Technology
  • Intelligence Research
  • Forensic Scientist
  • Safety and Occupational Health

See Also: Cardozo Law Student Benula Bensam Sues Federal Marshals After Getting Booted From Gupta Trial

Career Opportunities for Law Students and Experienced Attorneys in the United States Department of Justice

In order to attract a highly qualified and diverse pool of attorneys, the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management (OARM) leads the department's outreach and recruitment efforts.

Opportunities For Law Students & Entry-Level Attorneys

Volunteer Legal Intern Opportunities

Each year, the Justice Department selects about 1800 volunteer interns. The total number of interns who volunteer annually is 800, and each summer there are roughly 1000 interns. Due to the responsibility and experience they offer, these positions are not compensated but are very sought after.

See Also: The Ins And Outs Of Legal Internships

Summer Law Intern Program

The Attorney General's Summer Law Intern Program is Justice's centralized, competitive recruitment program for summer internships.  Students who work at Justice between their second and third year of law school are among the majority of SLIP hires.  In addition, the SLIP is available to recent graduates between graduation and the start of a judicial clerkship or full-time qualifying legal fellowship.

The Attorney General’s Honors Program for Entry-Level Attorneys

The Attorney General's Honors Program is Justice's competitive, centralized program, which is the only way for third-year law students and students who enter judicial clerkships, graduate law programs, or fellowships within 9 months after graduation to become attorneys in Justice.

See Also: Legal Internship Job Description

Opportunities For Experienced Attorneys

Attorneys with experience can work on many significant and complex issues that face our nation at the Justice Department. Almost all areas of law are covered by our attorneys.

An attorney who is a member of any U.S. bar and has at least one year of post-J.D legal or other relevant experience is generally eligible for an experienced attorney position. However, certain attorney positions require more experience.

Application Process

America's commitment to justice for all its citizens is at the core of the Department of Justice, and each of its organizations has its own unique mission in meeting that commitment. Considering the unique nature of each organization's work and the differences in attorney positions available, Justice maintains a decentralized system for selecting experienced attorneys. Therefore, experienced attorney candidates must apply to each DOJ organization in which they are interested separately.

A search function on the official websites enables individuals to search for current experienced attorney openings by hiring organization, geography, and practice area. Lawyers can respond to specific openings by submitting their responses. In order to apply for a specific DOJ organization, you must submit an individual application and meet the detailed requirements set out in the relevant vacancy announcement.

Security and Suitability (Background Investigation)

The FBI conducts a "full-field" investigation on all candidates who accept employment offers. For its investigation, the FBI interviews or checks references, close associates, former spouses, employers and co-workers, neighbors and landlords, higher education institutions, court and financial records, and military and police records. During the background investigation, most suitability issues are found in past unlawful drug use, failure to fulfill tax obligations (including filing all tax returns even if you expect a refund), failure to register for the Selective Service, and misrepresentations or omissions on the security form. It can take seven months or more to complete this process. Many attorneys join the Department on a temporary basis while their background investigation is completed and adjudicated.

What Do DOJ Organizations Look for When Hiring a Legal Intern or Attorney?

The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking highly qualified candidates from a diverse pool. In the DOJ, organizations look for commitment to public service, a strong academic and professional record, enthusiasm, and an interest in their work. Every DOJ organization, including the U.S. Attorneys' Offices (USAOs), has a unique mission and seeks different types of experience and skills. Selections are based on a variety of criteria at each DOJ organization. The Merit System Principles are followed throughout the selection process. A candidate is not assessed on the basis of color, race, religion, national origin, political affiliation, marital status, disability (physical or mental), age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, genetic information, or membership or non-membership in an employee organization.


There are as many routes into the Department of Justice as there are job titles within it. As well as the above positions, there are positions as a materials handler, food services worker, cook, correctional officer, health system administrator, secretary, physician assistant, and program analyst. A degree related to the job is a requirement for some, while a minimum experience requirement is required by others.

See Also:

published October 21, 2021

By Author - LawCrossing
( 5 votes, average: 3.8 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.