Online Criminal Justice Degrees in Alabama

The job outlook for criminal justice professionals in Alabama is promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the unemployment rate in Alabama is 3.8% as of March 2018, slightly below the national unemployment rate. After earning an on-campus or online criminal justice degree, Alabama graduates take advantage of the state's expanding opportunities in criminal justice and law enforcement.

The Department of Corrections is the largest law enforcement agency in the state; the department employs more than 3,000 workers, including correctional officers, counselors, and supervisors. Alabama Dept. of Corrections

While the national crime rate trends downward, Alabama’s property and violent crime rates continue to increase, leading to increased demand for law enforcement personnel. Aside from jobs as police officers and detectives, professionals with criminal justice degrees in Alabama can also find opportunities in corrections, information security, and national defense.

The Department of Corrections, which manages Alabama’s prison system, is the largest law enforcement agency in the state; the department employs more than 3,000 workers, including correctional officers, counselors, and supervisors. The Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center disseminates vital crime data and is another large employer of criminal justice professionals.

After earning a criminal justice degree online, Alabama graduates often work for the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, which is the national training center for first responders and anti-terrorism specialists. Students pursuing criminal justice degrees in Alabama earn concentrations in areas such as corrections, forensics, and cybersecurity to prepare for specialized careers in the field.

Before pursuing an online criminal justice degree, Alabama students should look for programs that meet their personal needs and align with their educational and career goals. Online programs are ideal for learners who need additional flexibility or the ability to accelerate their studies. Many working professionals, parents, and individuals with personal obligations choose online learning. Distance learning is a convenient alternative to on-campus programs. Although students must meet due dates, asynchronous courses allow learners to complete assignments anytime, from anywhere.

To earn an online criminal justice degree, Alabama students pay tuition rates comparable to those of on-campus programs. However, distance learners often save money in transportation costs, housing fees, and on-campus expenses. Online programs generally offer competitive tuition rates and the same financial aid opportunities that are available to traditional students.

Alabama has several initiatives to promote and expand online education. The state has pioneered programs to improve access to education and provide funding for low-income students. As part of a consortium of schools in the southeastern states, Alabama institutions offer in-state tuition rates to out-of-state online students.

Prospective students researching criminal justice degrees in Alabama should pay careful attention to accreditation status. Accreditation ensures an institution meets established standards of quality. National accreditation is typically reserved for technical or vocational schools; these institutions typically have less stringent admissions policies and relatively inexpensive tuition rates.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges awards regional accreditation to Alabama institutions.

Regional accreditation is the most common and the most highly regarded type of accreditation. Most U.S. institutions recognize credits and degrees earned from regionally accredited schools. Many graduate programs require students to hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution, and employers often prefer graduates of regionally accredited schools.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges awards regional accreditation to Alabama institutions. Some criminal justice programs hold field-specific accreditation from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, but regional accreditation is the most important indicator of quality for an Alabama online criminal justice degree program. The U.S. Department of Education and the Council of Higher Education Accreditation maintain lists of accredited schools.

After deciding to pursue a criminal justice degree online, Alabama students can choose from a variety of options at the associate, bachelor’s, and graduate levels. Earning a degree in criminal justice opens career opportunities in local and state law enforcement and with government agencies. Graduates can also pursue careers in fields such as court administration, security, emergency preparedness, and victim advocacy.

Associate degree holders often secure positions as police or probation officers, security guards, or legal assistants. A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice qualifies graduates for specialized roles as detectives, forensic investigators, and DEA agents. A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice also prepares students for law school and graduate programs in related fields. Undergraduate programs typically include coursework in areas such as criminal and constitutional law; courts and corrections; juvenile delinquency; drugs and crime; race, ethnicity, and gender; and terrorism and global perspectives.

Specialized criminal justice fields, such as forensics, cybersecurity, and emergency management, often require a master's in criminal justice. Some graduate programs award credit for professional experience and training in the field, making graduate studies more accessible and cost-effective for professionals. Certain specialized careers in law enforcement, corrections, and emergency preparedness require further training, certification, and a state license.

Many criminal justice jobs require state licensure, and some careers require specialized certification. Federal, state, and local agencies grant licensure, which enables the holder to practice an occupation. Many states impose criminal penalties for working specific law enforcement jobs without a license. Periodic license renewal is also mandatory and often requires continuing education credits.

Many criminal justice positions require certification, including roles as corrections, probation, and parole officers.

Organizations award certification to individuals who voluntarily acquire training to advance in their professions. Certificates are typically valid for a set time period and must be renewed based on criteria established by the organization. Many criminal justice positions require certification, including roles as corrections, probation, and parole officers.

Most licensing and certification requirements are specific to each state. Job seekers should check with their prospective employer about required credentials and authorizing agencies. Police, corrections officers, security guards, and other professionals who carry firearms must undergo a criminal background check to obtain state licensure. Alabama private investigators must hold a license.

The Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission oversees credentialing in the state for police personnel. The American Correctional Association offers a Certified Corrections Officer credential for candidates with a high school degree and at least one year of work experience. Associate degree holders can pursue certification for supervisors and managers.

The job outlook for graduates with criminal justice degrees in Alabama is promising, reflecting national trends. Nationally, the employment of police officers and detectives is anticipated to grow by 7% between 2016 and 2026. Very high growth is projected for paralegals and legal assistants with increases of 15% through 2026. Careers requiring specialized training and advanced degrees are also expanding faster than the national average for all occupations. Positions for forensic science technicians, for example, are projected to grow by 17%.

These tables provide an overview of the job market and average salaries in Alabama. The annual mean salary for all protective services occupations in Alabama is $37,110 and the hourly mean wage is $17.84. Fire inspectors and investigators, detectives and criminal investigators and private detectives and investigators earn the highest salaries, with police officers in the middle range. In legal, court and corrections fields, the highest salaries are associated with lawyers and judges reflecting their post-baccalaureate degrees and years of experience. Legal assistants and paralegals earn an annual mean salary of $44,740.

Other specialized criminal justice careers in demand in Alabama include those in forensic science and education. Forensic technicians earn an annual average salary of $48,400 with higher income for those with advanced training. Postsecondary educators in criminal justice fields generally command higher than average salaries, with the current mean salary in Alabama at $66,800.

Protective Services Occupations in Alabama

Occupation Employment Average Hourly Wage Average annual Wage
Firefighters 4,700 $19.64 $40,850
Fire Inspectors and Criminal Investigators 130 $30.57 $63,590
Detectives and Criminal Investigators 1,280 $30.36 $63,140
Fish and Game Wardens 140 $23.97 $49,860
Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers 10,420 $21.39 $44,490
Private Detectives and Investigators 260 $26.72 $55,580
Security Guards 13,150 $12.11 $25,180
Transportation Security Screeners 220 $19.09 $39,710
Source: BLS, May 2017

Court and Corrections Occupations in Alabama

Occupation Employment Average Hourly Wage Average annual Wage
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists 1,010 $22.13 $46,030
Lawyers 5,64056.56 $56.56 $117,640
Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates 500 $27.99 $58,220
Paralegals and Legal Assistants 3,010 $21.51 $44,740
Court Reporters 280 $19.44 $40,440
Bailiffs 100 $15.59 $32,420
Correctional Officers and Jailers 5,140 $17.00 $35,370
Source: BLS, May 2017

Other Criminal Justice Occupations in Alabama

Occupation Employment Average Hourly Wage Average annual Wage
Forensic Science Technicians 180 $23.73 $48,400
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary 80 N/A $66,800
Source: BLS, May 2017

National organizations and private donors offer criminal justice scholarships that reward students for academic excellence, leadership, or service. Scholarships are often reserved for students from a particular racial or ethnic background and for those pursuing specific careers. Some scholarships are available only to Alabama residents or to students attending certain schools in the state.

Criminal Justice Scholarships

Captain James J. Regan Memorial Scholarship $2,500

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be high school seniors or undergraduate students in an accredited law enforcement program. The selection committee evaluates candidates based on their academic record, leadership ability, extracurricular activities, and personal statement. View Scholarship

The Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is available to high school seniors and college students of Hispanic or Latino ancestry. Applicants must submit a personal statement and must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and a record of leadership and service. View Scholarship

Martin Luther King, Jr. Criminal Justice Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: The scholarship supports minority undergraduate or graduate students pursuing a career in the criminal justice field. Candidates must submit a short reflection on the ideals and philosophies of Dr. Martin Luther King and how they attempt to emulate those qualities. View Scholarship

Crimcheck Criminal Justice Scholarship Award $500

Who Can Apply: Crimcheck awards this scholarship to college students studying criminal justice fields or to high school seniors or recent high school graduates planning to pursue postsecondary education in criminal justice. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA. View Scholarship

National Criminal Justice Association/Lambda Alpha Epsilon Student Paper Competition Varies

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be LAE members in good standing and must be enrolled at the undergraduate through doctoral level. Applicants must write an original paper related to issues in the criminal justice field. View Scholarship

Scholarships for Alabama Residents

Athens State University Academic Scholarship $4,000

Who Can Apply: Athens State University provides this scholarship for newly admitted students with a minimum 3.5 GPA. Applicants must be full-time students who demonstrate financial need. View Scholarship

Andrew J. Taft Endowed Academic Walk-On Scholarship $2,000

Who Can Apply: This need-based scholarship supports full-time undergraduate students who have completed at least three semesters on campus. Applicants must have entered the University of Alabama without scholarships or as recipients of low-value awards and must have a minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA. View Scholarship

University of Alabama Presidential Scholarship $44,000 over 4 years

Who Can Apply: This merit-based scholarship is available to high school graduates who have been admitted as freshmen for the upcoming fall term. Applicants must have a minimum 3.5 GPA and at least a 33 ACT score. View Scholarship

Auburn University Board of Trustee Scholarship $1,500

Who Can Apply: Applicants for this award must be attending Auburn as first-year students or transfer students and must demonstrate financial need. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA. View Scholarship

Auburn University Montgomery Transfer Student Scholarship $1,000-5,000

Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports transfer students who completed their sophomore year at an Alabama community college and hold at least a 3.5 GPA. View Scholarship

Law Enforcement Agencies in Alabama

Professional Organizations

Joining a professional association helps students in Alabama online criminal justice degree programs gain a competitive edge in the job market. National professional associations provide resources regarding available credentials and career paths. Student members connect with experienced practitioners and benefit from career planning and job placement services. Alabama’s state associations unite criminal justice specialists from various fields. Members expand their personal and professional networks and exchange information on current policies.

Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences

This organization's 2,800 members are interested in criminal justice education, research, and policy analysis. ACJS offers publications and oversees a certification program.

American Correctional Association

ACA promotes professional development, research, and education among corrections professionals. The organization establishes standards and grants accreditation for correctional organizations. ACA offers training programs and provides the Corrections Certification Program.

American Probation and Parole Association

APPA represents the interests of pretrial, probation, and parole practitioners and providers in the public and private sectors. The association provides training and technical assistance.

Alabama Peace Officers Association

This state association comprises more than 4,000 certified law enforcement officers. The organization offers professional development opportunities for members and sponsors legislation that improves public safety in Alabama.

Alabama Private Investigator's Association

This organization promotes standards of professionalism among licensed private investigators. APIA hosts conferences, continuing education programs, and networking events. The organization also monitors and lobbies for legislation affecting Alabama’s investigative industry.

Alabama Gang Investigators Association

Founded in 2010 to address Alabama’s gang problem, this nonprofit organization provides information and training to law enforcement and corrections officers, juvenile justice specialists, district attorneys, and educators.

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