Online Criminal Justice Degrees in California

The most populous state, California plays an enormous role in the United States economy. Accounting for more than 14% of the national gross domestic product, California far outpaces the economic output of any other state. While its economic growth is down from recent years, the state’s 2.5% annual growth forecast for 2018 is still stronger than the national average and is projected to grow even more over the next few years. Furthermore, the state’s unemployment rate is at its lowest point since pre-2000 levels and is projected to drop further in 2019.

With a projected growth rate in criminal justice fields at 12% in California, more than twice the national average, students procuring such degrees in California should be excited. In addition to representing one of the largest professional groups in the state, protective service occupations also provide professionals with lucrative careers, offering the fourth highest mean wages for the field in the nation. Moreover, many California colleges offer online programs in addition to on-campus classes, providing even more flexibility in your career pursuit.

Earning an Online Criminal Justice Degree in California

Earning a degree online is no longer a new frontier. Many colleges now offer degrees online and in various formats. These institutions spent countless hours perfecting online programs and discovering optimal methods for delivering the same on-campus education to online students. Whether taking individual courses or completing a full degree, online students generally appreciate the flexibility of online study.

In addition to flexibility and convenience, California’s online criminal justice degrees typically provide students with affordable study options. Online students from out of state can sometimes pay in-state tuition, and all distance learners save by paying reduced fees on program materials, transportation, and possibly housing costs as well.

Accredited Criminal Justice Programs in California

When exploring criminal justice degrees online in California, the most important requirement to seek out is regional accreditation at the institutional level. Throughout the United States, regional accrediting bodies oversee and govern the educational institutions within each respective region. The U.S. Department of Education designates each regional accrediting agency and provides it with the authority to accredit schools that meet required quality and standards. For online criminal justice degrees in California, the regional agency is the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). The WASC is divided into two levels: WASC, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges and WASC, Senior Colleges and University Commission. When in doubt, students should verify their school’s regional accreditation status on the U.S. Department of Education’s database.

In California, the regional agency is the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

Aside from confirming a quality program, studying at a regionally accredited institution is important when you are seeking financial aid and transfer credits. Nearly all forms of financial aid demand that students attend an accredited school. Furthermore, most institutions only grant transfer credits and/or prerequisites for accredited study.

Although there are nationally accredited schools, the most common form of national accreditation is typically found at the program level. With respect to criminal justice programs, national or specialized accreditations are rare and agency recognitions are more common. These typically appear in the form of a specific law enforcement agency, which recognizes a program that meets standards set forth by certain agencies. Though these recognitions are rarely mandatory, they help graduates obtain employment.

Education and Training Requirements for Criminal Justice Professionals in California

An associate criminal justice degree online in California provides a solid foundation for students who are undecided on their long-term career goals. Upon graduation, associate degree holders generally enter the workforce in entry-level positions or continue their education in more advanced degree programs.

Bachelor’s degree programs in criminal justice provide additional options for aspiring protective services professionals. These include careers that require social services training, such as probation officers and treatment specialists, as well as special agents professions like the FBI, which require applicants to hold at least a bachelor’s degree.

Regardless of education level, most protective services professions require the completion of training courses and exams.

While a bachelor’s degree provides access to more advanced and typically higher-paying professions, it also opens the door to a master’s degree in criminal justice. Protective service professionals with a master’s degree can qualify for supervisor positions within law enforcement, as well as positions that require additional education, such as criminal psychology and forensics.

Regardless of education level, most protective services professions require the completion of training courses and exams. Graduates of criminal justice degrees in California typically enter one of the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) programs. These programs, such as the Police Training Program, the Warden and Resources Academy, and the Correctional Peace Officer Standards and Training, prepare students for careers with advanced and specific training.

Licensing, Registration, and Certification Requirements in California

Due to the nature of many criminal justice professions, the state of California requires different licenses, certifications, and registrations as proof of adequate training and knowledge. Requirements vary by state and position, and they are prone to frequent change and amendments. Students should check with local and state departments to ensure they meet the proper qualifications at that time.

The state of California requires different licenses, certifications, and registrations as proof of adequate training and knowledge.

Licenses, certifications, and registrations provide value to criminal justice degrees, and requirements for each depends on the field. For many criminal justice professions, a registration with the state is required, particularly if this job profession, like that of a security guard or a surveillance officer, involves carrying a firearm. Registration enables the government to track and control who holds these positions.

Many criminal justice positions also require adequate licensure. Licensure is typically granted upon the completion of a training course. A license to carry a firearm, for example, is provided as part of POST programs. State licensure proves the carrier understands how to handle and operate a firearm safely. The Bureau of Security & Investigative Services issues other licenses, such as a private investigator’s license and a security guard license.

Another requirement for some positions is certification. Like a degree, certification demonstrates a graduate has met the issuer’s standards. Certification courses typically cover more specialized learning. For example, in California, POST issues several certifications in advanced areas for professionals who have already completed basic peace officer training. Certificates range from intermediate training to a coroner certificate.

For out-of-state students, it’s important to verify state transfer laws for licenses, registrations, and certificates. Regarding gun licenses, many states have reciprocity agreements with other states, but California has stricter gun laws than most. Similarly, out-of-state students with certificates and/or criminal justice training may transfer into California if they complete the waiver process.

Career and Salary Expectations

California provides more jobs for criminal justice professionals than any other state. In total, California hosts more than 375,000 positions in protective service, nearly 80,000 more than the next-highest state, New York. California boasts an annual mean wage of $58,860 and an hourly mean wage of $28.30, fourth-highest in the nation. In fact, California is home to the five highest-paying metropolitan areas for protective services in the entire country.

The outlook is similar for legal services professions. In addition to hosting nearly 130,000 legal professionals, the most in the U.S., California boasts the third-highest annual mean wage in the country at $129,140. Moreover, California is home to five of the top seven highest-paying metropolitan areas in the country for that field. Add in the 12% growth in protective services and 13.2% growth in legal services through 2024 in California, both considerably higher than the national average, and both the short- and long-term picture for criminal justice professionals looks even more promising. The following table highlights average wages and salaries for some of the most common career options for these aspiring professionals.

Protective Services Occupations in California

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Fire Inspectors and Investigators820$45.57$94,790
Detectives and Criminal Investigators11,700$49.91$103,812
Fish and Game Wardens360$37.00$76,970
Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers73,000$48.12$100,090
Private Detectives and Investigators4,240$32.35$67,300
Security Guards151,110$15.17$31,560
Transportation Security Screeners4,610$20.66$42,970
Source: BLS, May 2017

Court and Corrections Occupations in California

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists11,890$40.80$84,870
Judges, Magistrate Judges, and MagistratesN/A$91.61$190,560
Paralegals and Legal Assistants30,790$28.71$59,720
Court ReportersN/A$38.22$79,500
Correctional Officers and Jailers36,730$34.44$71,630
Source: BLS, May 2017

Other Criminal Justice Occupations in California

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Forensic Science Technicians2,050$39.73$82,650
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary830N/A$92,120
Source: BLS, May 2017

Scholarships and Financial Aid

In addition to federal financial aid options, students seeking a California online criminal justice degree have access to program-specific scholarship opportunities. California also provides many in-state scholarships to encourage the state’s brightest minds to stay and study in the Golden State. In some cases, scholarship opportunities are available specifically for students enrolled in an online criminal justice degree program in California. These program- and state-specific scholarships offer a smaller competition pool than other awards.

Criminal Justice Scholarships

Irlet Anderson Scholarship Award $2,500

Who Can Apply: The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives presents this scholarship award to a graduating high school senior pursuing a criminal justice field. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and post a 3.8 GPA. View Scholarship

Criminal Justice Scholarship Award $500

Who Can Apply: provides this scholarship award to a student enrolled (or enrolling) in a criminal justice field and is committed to the profession. Applicants must demonstrate leadership, a 3.0 GPA, and submit a 1-2 page essay related to criminal justice. View Scholarship

My Alarm Center Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: My Alarm Center offers this scholarship to a graduating student planning to study criminal justice or the law. Applicants must submit a 500-1,000 word essay that answers one of the application questions. View Scholarship

Brian Terry Foundation Scholarship Program Varies

Who Can Apply: The Brian Terry Foundation offers awards to students pursuing an education in criminal justice. Applicants must be accepted by or attend a criminal justice program (or a related program) and submit a personal essay. View Scholarship

The Harold Johnson Law Enforcement Scholarship Up to $5,000

Who Can Apply: The Silicon Valley Community Foundations offers up to seven awards to students pursuing a career in criminal justice. Applicants must graduate from a San Francisco Bay Area high school and earn a 2.5 GPA minimum. View Scholarship

Scholarships for California Residents

Cal Grant High School Entitlement Award Varies

Who Can Apply: The California Student Aid Commission awards scholarships to California students who are graduating or who recently graduated high school and are pursuing a college education. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and a 2.0 GPA minimum. View Scholarship

Cal Grant Transfer Entitlement Award Varies

Who Can Apply: The California Student Aid Commission offers awards to California students who plan to transfer from a community college into a California university program. Applicants must be under the age of 28, demonstrate financial need, and post a 2.40 GPA from community college. View Scholarship

Middle Class Scholarships Up to 40% of tuition

Who Can Apply: Middle-class California students who attend or plan to attend a California state college or university are eligible for these awards. Family assets must not exceed $171,000 per year. View Scholarship

College Success Program $500-5,000

Who Can Apply: The TELACU Education Foundation presents many awards to students in California who demonstrate financial need, are first-generation college students, and post a 2.5 GPA. In addition to financial support, the program provides workplace preparation assistance, guidance, and internship opportunities. View Scholarship

Dorothy and Robert DeBolt Scholarship $2,000-3,000

Who Can Apply: Lilliput Families presents this scholarship to a California student enrolled in a California college program. Applicants must be adopted from a state program, be under the age of 25, and demonstrate financial need. View Scholarship

Resources for Criminal Justice Students in California

Law Enforcement Agencies in California

Professional Organizations

Students in an online criminal justice degree in California gain access to invaluable employment tools, scholarship opportunities, and industry resources. For experienced professionals, these organizations offer networking opportunities, access to conferences, and career support and development. By joining a professional organization, criminal justice professionals surround themselves with like-minded people and stay up-to-date with their respective field.

California Law Enforcement Association

The CLEA provides support, benefits, and various resources to law enforcement members. More than 30 years ago, the CLEA established a self-funded long-term disability plan that ensures all injured officers are provided with full support.

California Correctional Peace Officers Association

The CCPOA provides leadership and advocacy for its members. By granting access to industry resources, training programs, and benefits, the CCPOA helps improve the lives and careers of its members.

California Association of Licensed Security Agencies, Guards & Associates

The CALSAGA advocates for better wages, job conditions, and opportunities. The association provides access to training programs, resources, and networking opportunities.

California Fish and Game Wardens Association

Since 1937, the CFGWA has ensured that quality of life and work are always improving. The association provides both education and outreach opportunities for its members.

California Association of Licensed Investigators

CALI is the world’s largest private investigator association, providing members with a voice in state legislature, job referrals, health benefits, training opportunities, and access to networking events.

California Statewide Law Enforcement Association

The CSLEA represents members across many different law enforcement positions. Members receive training opportunities, legal support, health benefits, and statewide discounts.

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