Putting Experience and Education to Work

During his two decades with the U.S. Marshals Service, Esteban Soto (MPA ’08) has brought in fugitives from the law, tracked sex offenders, and even spent some time on the trail of Germany’s Josef Mengele, the infamous World War II Nazi doctor of Auschwitz.

While those experiences deepened his expertise (and make for good stories), he’s also had to learn to cooperate with a variety of state and federal law enforcement agencies, keep a balanced budget, and deal with the realities of criminal justice policy as it plays out in the field.

“There was a lot of prioritizing and making sure we had the right people to get the work done,” he says.

After retiring from the U.S. Marshals Service as the appointed U.S. Marshal for Puerto Rico, Soto took on new challenges, including as a commissioner for the District Court of Maryland. He also drew on his decades of experience to teach and help create a criminal justice program at the Community College of Baltimore County where he now serves as director of the college’s School of Business, Criminal Justice and Law Professional Development Center.

“A degree is valuable as you work toward a promotion, but also to help you combine theory and practice, which is the ideal skill set.”

Soto urges his students to keep an open mind about the field of criminal justice, and to think beyond the police department. “There are a vast number of state and federal agencies, as well as the court systems and the correctional field that all put an emphasis on a criminal justice background, as well as the area of risk management,” he says.

Among the trends Soto sees in the field are growing numbers of jobs in cybersecurity and homeland security. For these jobs, he says students need to be familiar with computers and programming, have emergency management training, place an emphasis on public safety, and on preparation for dealing with terroristic threats.

To be more competitive, Soto urges students to earn a college degree—that’s what he did, earning a bachelor’s degree after joining the Marshals Service and then a master’s of public administration from Strayer University in 2008.

“Once you start in this field, you realize you’re going to be competing with people who have degrees, even if you don’t have one,” he said. “It’s valuable as you work toward a promotion, but also to help you combine theory and practice, which is the ideal skill set.”