Online Bachelor's Degree in Corrections

Day and night around the country, corrections officers and bailiffs serve on the frontlines of the criminal justice system. They help maintain order in detention facilities and keep our courts secure. While some professionals enter this field with a high school diploma or associate degree, these workers should consider earning a bachelor's degree in corrections to remain competitive.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that job openings in corrections will decline about 7% between 2016 and 2026. However, the BLS also notes that the country will always need jailers and bailiffs. As such, dedicated learners who want to stand out in a crowded field of applicants should consider corrections degrees that can help fill the growing demand. In these programs, students can choose from specialties like homeland security, social justice, forensics, crime mapping, and community-based corrections. These focus areas can further distinguish learners as they apply for jobs.

Online corrections degree programs can vary widely, so it's important for prospective students to understand the differences between schools. First, like traditional bachelor's degrees, online degrees in corrections take about four years to complete. Some programs offer accelerated eight-week courses, which can help part-time students earn their degrees in four years.

A second factor to consider are transfer credits. Students with associate degrees can choose online schools that allow for more transfer credits than others. A third factor in choosing an online program is cost. The student's residency, cost per credit hour, number of hours needed to graduate, available scholarships, and online availability can affect how much the student pays.

Finally, degree candidates should pay close attention to class format. Some programs offer asynchronous online courses, which allow students to control their schedules. Others may blend online and on-campus classes or have synchronous online courses. These formats give learners chances for real-time interaction, which can help some students learn.

Online Bachelor's in Corrections Concentrations

Sample Courses for a Bachelor's Degree in Corrections

An online bachelor's degree in corrections can prepare a student for a variety of professions, which means that programs must offer several courses. While each school offers a unique course structure and specialized classes, there are a few areas that most corrections students can expect to study.

Example Courses

Correctional Law This area of study gives students an overview of the current laws surrounding detention facilities. This foundational understanding can help professionals carry out their duties legally in the face of tough decisions.
Ethics in Criminal Justice Corrections professionals face ethical choices each day. These classes arm learners with the knowledge they need to act according to the profession's ethics.
Writing for Criminal Justice Professionals in the corrections sector often use vocabulary that others may rarely encounter and must ensure their writing holds up in a court of law. These courses help students write for this unique profession.
Abnormal Psychology Many people in detention facilities suffer from psychological illnesses that students may never have encountered. This course allows learners to understand these psychological disorders.
Community-Based Corrections Programs such as work release, furloughs, and residential supervision allow offenders to remain under supervision while serving in their communities. This course teaches students how to implement and manage these systems effectively.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Bachelor's Degree in Corrections?

The average correctional officer college degree will cost an in-state student about $280 per credit hour. For a high school graduate with no previous college credit, this can add up to approximately $34,000 for the entire program.

Several factors may affect how much a student will pay for an online bachelor's degree in corrections. First, some universities offer discounts for online students while others charge more. Second, many eBooks are cheaper than their printed counterparts, which can significantly reduce the overall cost of earning a degree. Third, private and for-profit institutions typically charge higher tuition rates than the average public university; however, public universities may charge higher tuition rates for students who are not legal residents of the state that funds the university.

Earning a correctional officer college degree online can save a student money in unexpected places. For example, flexible schedules can allow learners to work while they attend school. Furthermore, students can save cash by living in an affordable area as opposed to expensive traditional student housing. Finally, online degree candidates don't commute to class, so they save money on parking, gas, and car mileage.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Bachelor's in Corrections?

Students anxious to start or accelerate a career in corrections may want to research program lengths. Some institutions offer accelerated programs, which include course lengths of about eight weeks and fewer breaks between courses. These universities often have more starting dates throughout the year, so learners can get going sooner.

Some institutions require students to become part of a cohort, which keeps them from pacing their degree programs according to their needs. Students who already have some college credit may be able to transfer most of their courses and speed up graduation. All of these factors can influence the length of a learner's program.

An online bachelor's degree in corrections can prepare a graduate for a fulfilling career anywhere in the country. However, job growth and pay rates vary greatly depending on the professional's location. For example, the BLS reports that the highest-paying states for this sector are California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, and Alaska. Of these, California offers the highest average wage at $71,630 annually. Both California and New York also make the top-five list for employment numbers in this sector, accompanied by Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania (Texas tops this list with 48,600 professionals). It's no accident that the more populous states have more opportunity for corrections professionals, as rural areas have fewer detention centers.

Because entry-level corrections positions often require only a high school diploma or an associate degree, bachelor's degree graduates can be prepared to take on mid-level roles. An online bachelor's degree in corrections with a concentration can also prepare a graduate for a more specialized role. This allows the professional to make more money. For example, a leadership concentration can prepare a corrections graduate to take on a management position, which tends to come with a higher salary and more challenging responsibilities.

Online Bachelor's in Corrections Careers

Correctional Officer

Correctional officers oversee daily life for inmates who serve time in prisons and jails. These professionals ensure order and maintain routines within these centers. A bachelor's degree can set a candidate apart in this field as the number of open positions declines.

Community Corrections Officer

These professionals work with offenders through community-based programs that reduce recidivism, including work release and residential supervision. By decreasing the number of repeat offenders, community corrections officers keep communities safe. Those who want to pursue this career can benefit from completing corrections degree programs with community-related concentrations.

Police Officer

Some graduates go on to apply to police academies. These programs further prepare cadets to become police officers in the sponsoring jurisdiction. These officers serve in communities to enforce laws, respond to emergencies, and help those in need. Police academies can be competitive, but a bachelor's degree in corrections can show managers how dedicated an applicant is.

Corrections Specialist

These professionals connect social services and correctional departments to implement effective programs, ensure inmate and officer safety, and reduce recidivism. They may also help parole officers and parolees stay on track. The minimum education requirement for these positions is typically a bachelor's degree.

Youth Corrections Officer

Minors who commit crimes often end up in juvenile detention facilities. These young offenders have different needs than their adult counterparts. Youth corrections officers help ensure those needs are met while maintaining security in the facility. As with adult corrections officers, these professionals can stand out with a four-year degree.
Occupations and Salary for Online Bachelor’s in Corrections Graduates
Position Median Wage Projected Growth Rate
Correctional Officer $43,510 -7%
Community Corrections Officer $42,168 N/A
Police Officer $62,960 7%
Corrections Specialist $16.50/hour N/A
Youth Corrections Officer $16.50/hour N/A
Source: PayScale

When choosing a program, look at the school's accreditation status. It can affect a student's ability to transfer credits, and it determines the validity of degrees offered. Because there is no overarching organization that accredits corrections programs, prospective learners should consider the regional or national organization that presides over the school. While it may seem counterintuitive, regional is often more prestigious than national accreditation. National accreditation organizations primarily work with for-profit schools, and credits from these colleges rarely transfer.

Public and nonprofit universities typically report to regional accreditation bodies. These organization set and maintain rigorous educational standards that allow students to transfer between schools and gain respect in the professional world. Online students can attend schools all over the country, but they should ensure the institution receives accreditation from the organization that covers its region.

A bachelor's degree in corrections is an investment in a student's career and future. As such, many organizations provide access to financial aid that makes attending these universities possible.

All students should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This free form gives students access to federal financial aid, such as public loans and grants. While students must pay back loans over time, federal loans tend to have relatively low interest rates and income-based repayment options. Students may also apply for private bank loans, but these often do not have the same protections. Graduates never have to repay grants. State governments also offer aid programs for students who fill out the FAFSA.

Governments aren't the only organizations willing to invest in students. Nonprofit organizations fund scholarships for students with excellent grades, of various ethnicities, from other countries, for women in male-dominated fields, for working professionals, and for older students. Furthermore, many organizations award scholarships specifically for corrections students who show promise. Below are just some of the corrections-specific scholarships learners can use.

Corrections Scholarships

Scholarships are perhaps the best way to finance an education because it is essentially "free money" for school. Graduates never have to repay scholarships. These awards can help eliminate or reduce the need for loans, a relief for many students. Scholarships have differing requirements that may include GPA, age, residency, identity, and area of study. Below are some scholarships specifically for students pursuing a degree in corrections or closely-related fields.

Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Scholarships

The NABCJ Thurgood Marshall Scholarship $2,000

Applicants must identify as black, have at least a 3.0 GPA, pursue a college degree in criminal justice or corrections, and write an essay on the given topic. View Scholarship

Ben S. Meeker Academic Scholarship $1,000

Candidates must be at least a college-level junior in an accredited criminal justice program and have a family member who is active in the Federal Probation and Pretrial Officers Association. View Scholarship

Correctional Peace Officers Foundation Scholarships Varies

Applicants must have a parent or other "qualifying person" who has served as a member of the Correctional Peace Officers Foundation, prove financial need, have a minimum 3.0 GPA, and be enrolled in a corrections degree program. View Scholarship

ACA Martin Luther King Jr. Award $2,000

Candidates must be a current corrections student, part of an ethnic minority group, and submit an essay. View Scholarship

Susan C.Cranford Memorial Scholarship $1,000

Applicants must be women who are at least at the junior level of an accredited corrections or criminal justice program. View Scholarship
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