Online Criminal Justice Degrees in Colorado

A criminal justice degree prepares graduates for careers in many growing professions, including protective services, legal services, and corrections. Colorado’s strong economy boasts a low unemployment rate and high projected job growth, making the state a great place to pursue a career in criminal justice. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), protective service professionals in Colorado earn above-average wages, with a median annual salary of $48,380 a year.

Protective service professionals in Colorado earn above-average wages, with a median annual salary of $48,380 a year. BLS

Professionals with criminal justice degrees work as firefighters, criminal investigators, and forensic science technicians. Criminal justice also covers a variety of legal careers, including lawyers, judges, and paralegals. With a variety of potential career paths, criminal justice majors can easily find a specialization that fits their interests and career goals.

Today, it’s easier than ever to earn a degree in criminal justice. More and more students are able to pursue an online criminal justice degree in Colorado. Online degrees from accredited institutions meet the same educational requirements as traditional degrees while offering more flexibility and affordability.

Earning an Online Criminal Justice Degree in Colorado

Many students prefer the flexibility and convenience of an online program. Unlike on-campus programs, which require set class times, many online degrees let students access class materials at any time from any location. Colorado online criminal justice degrees also appeal to working professionals and students with family obligations. Online programs often beat in-person degrees when it comes to affordability. Online students save on commuting costs and many colleges and universities provide a tuition discount for online classes.

Some of the top criminal justice programs in the country offer online degree options, allowing students in any state benefit from their resources, networks, and faculty. While some criminal justice degrees in Colorado operate on the semester schedule, only admitting students for fall or spring, others let new students start classes any time during the year. With so many options, prospective students can find the best criminal justice program for their career goals.

Accredited Criminal Justice Programs in Colorado

Accreditation serves as a marker of academic excellence. Colleges and universities voluntarily participate in the accreditation process through nonprofit accrediting agencies. The review process includes assessment of the institution’s academic quality, degree requirements, faculty evaluations, and improvement plans. Institutions must renew their accreditation on a regular basis.

In Colorado, the Higher Learning Commission confers regional accreditation to colleges and universities.

Accreditation also confers several benefits to students, including access to federal financial aid and the ability to transfer credits to other colleges or universities. Regional accreditation is the highest standard of institutional accreditation. In Colorado, the Higher Learning Commission confers regional accreditation to colleges and universities. Employers and other schools generally view national accreditation as less prestigious. Regionally accredited schools may not accept credits from nationally accredited schools, while all colleges accept credits from regionally accredited schools.

Specialized accrediting bodies evaluate specific programs such as business, nursing, or teaching. Criminal justice programs do not have one specific accreditation agency. However, law students should seek programs with accreditation from the American Bar Association. When researching schools, students can use the U.S. Department of Education’s database of accredited colleges and programs.

Education and Training Requirements for Criminal Justice Professionals in Colorado

Colorado criminal justice jobs carry a wide variety of education and training requirements. For example, Colorado police officers must hold a high school diploma or a GED, but many local police departments require a bachelor’s degree. Similarly, Colorado state corrections officers do not need an associate or bachelor’s degree. However, corrections officers in federal facilities may require a bachelor’s degree.

The education requirements vary in the legal profession as well. Paralegals can gain work with either an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree, depending on the position. Lawyers must complete a JD from a law school. Some criminal justice jobs also require additional training. Law enforcement officers, for example, must complete basic training through a certified program. As with many other professions, a master’s degree in criminal justice qualifies graduates for advanced positions in multiple fields.

Because the education and training requirements vary depending on the position, prospective criminal justice majors need to research their specific field. Learning more about bachelor’s programs in criminal justice and master’s programs in criminal justice can help prospective students find the best program for their interests and career goals.

Licensing, Registration, and Certification Requirements in Colorado

Some criminal justice jobs require employees to hold licensure for the state in which they work. These licensure requirements vary by state and position and the regulations may change. For example, security guards and other professionals who regularly carry weapons must typically register with the appropriate government authority.

Before pursuing a criminal justice job, students must research licensing, registration, and certification requirements. In Colorado, attorneys must apply for a license with the Colorado Supreme Court. Many other professions, including bail bonds agents and private investigators, must apply for a license with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. Each license requires applicants to meet specific guidelines and requirements.

In addition to licenses, professionals can pursue optional certifications.

In addition to licenses, professionals can pursue optional certifications. A certification acts as a marker of distinction, demonstrating the holder’s advanced skills in a particular area. The criminal justice addictions professional credential, for example, demonstrates advanced knowledge in addiction counseling skills. Applicants must demonstrate competency through experience, education, supervision, and an examination.

Law enforcement professionals in Colorado can also pursue the Colorado peace officer standards and training certification. The process involves undergoing a background check, completing a basic training course, and maintaining a clean criminal record. Legal service professionals can pursue a certified paralegal credential. Paralegals must pass a detailed exam from the National Association of Legal Assistants.

Some licenses and certifications may not transfer to other states. Criminal justice job seekers should verify the requirements in their local area as part of their job search.

Career and Salary Expectations

An online criminal justice degree in Colorado prepares graduates for a range of careers, including in protective services, law and corrections, and law enforcement. The BLS projects that many of these occupations will experience growth. For example, protective services occupations will likely grow 5% by 2026. Criminal justice jobs can also pay an above average salary. The BLS also reports that protective service professionals in Colorado earn a mean hourly wage of $23.26 and an annual mean wage of $48,380.

Colorado boasts an unemployment rate significantly lower than the national average. In March of 2018, Colorado’s unemployment rate was just 3% compared to the national average of 4.1%. The strong job market and positive employment outlook for criminal justice careers make pursuing an online criminal justice degree in Colorado a lucrative choice.

Because a criminal justice degree prepares graduates for so many occupations, students considering a career in protective services, legal services, or a related area should check the employment statistics for their specific field. The tables below provide detailed information on many Colorado criminal justice occupations, including police detectives, corrections officers, and court reporters. The tables also show average hourly wages and annual wages for every profession.

Protective Services Occupations in Colorado

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Fire Inspectors and Investigators180$35.07$72,950
Detectives and Criminal Investigators1,750$41.51$86,330
Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers9,440$34.27$71,270
Private Detectives and Investigators300$28.22$58,700
Security Guards15,330$15.54$32,330
Transportation Security Screeners1,080$19.63$40,830
Source: BLS, May 2017

Court and Corrections Occupations in Colorado

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists2,250$28.39$59,050
Lawyers1,145$ 67.89$141,200
Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates610$68.99$143,500
Paralegals and Legal Assistants5,420$28.05$58,340
Court Reporters330$37.92$78,880
Correctional Officers and Jailers6,900$22.87$47,570
Source: BLS, May 2017

Other Criminal Justice Occupations in Colorado

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Forensic Science Technicians300$29.80$61,980
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary430N/A$62,480
Source: BLS, May 2017

Scholarships and Financial Aid

Scholarships can help students with significant financial need earn criminal justice degrees in Colorado. Criminal justice students benefit from many scholarship opportunities, including through national and local organizations. Colorado residents qualify for additional scholarships through local governments and districts. Students earning an online criminal justice degree in Colorado can also receive thousands of dollars in federal aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Criminal Justice Scholarships

Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Award $1,000

Who Can Apply: The American Correctional Association offers the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship to minority applicants pursuing a degree in criminal justice or a related field. Applicants must provide a 250-word essay reflecting on the ideals and philosophy of Martin Luther King Jr. View Scholarship

Women in Federal Law Enforcement Scholarship $2,500

Who Can Apply: The Women in Federal Law Enforcement scholarship recognizes female students planning a career in federal law enforcement. Applicants must submit a 500-word essay and prove a minimum 3.0 GPA. View Scholarship

Out to Protect Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: The Out to Protect Scholarship awards funds to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students planning a career in law enforcement. View Scholarship

National Black Police Association Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: The National Black Police Association provides scholarships for students planning a career in law enforcement. The award is open to black men and women. View Scholarship

American Criminal Justice Association Scholarship Up to $400

Who Can Apply: The American Criminal Justice Association provides student scholarships for ACJA or Lambda Alpha Epsilon members pursuing a degree in criminal justice. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA. View Scholarship

Scholarships for Colorado Residents

Colorado Opportunity Scholarship $62/credit

Who Can Apply: The Colorado Opportunity Scholarship program provides a variety of financial and academic resources to Colorado students. Applicants must be Colorado residents enrolled at least part time in a bachelor’s program. View Scholarship

Greenhouse Scholar Scholarship $5,000

Who Can Apply: The Greenhouse Scholar program provides tuition support for qualifying students. Applicants must be residents of Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, or North Carolina who demonstrate financial need and earn a minimum 3.5 GPA. View Scholarship

Partner Colorado Foundation Scholarships Varies

Who Can Apply: Partner Colorado Foundation offers scholarships to Colorado residents who hold a minimum 2.0 GPA and enroll for at least nine credits a semester. The organization has awarded over 200 scholarships since 2006. View Scholarship

Boundless Opportunity Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: The Daniels Fund grants awards to nontraditional students returning to college. Recipients must attend school in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, or Wyoming. View Scholarship

Denver Alumnae Scholarship $1,500/year

Who Can Apply: The Denver Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority offers scholarships to young women attending a four-year college or university. Recipients can reapply for up to four years. View Scholarship

Resources for Criminal Justice Students in Colorado

Law Enforcement Agencies in Colorado

Professional Organizations

Criminal justice students and professionals benefit from professional organizations devoted to their field. From criminology to forensic science, these organizations cover every area of criminal justice and provide important resources for members. Most organizations offer annual conferences and data on new research in the field. The member benefits include networking opportunities, publications, and job opportunities. Criminal justice students can also find scholarship opportunities through these organizations.

National Criminal Justice Association

The National Criminal Justice Association represents state and local governments regarding criminal and juvenile justice issues. The organization promotes effective criminal justice policies.

American Society of Criminology

The American Society of Criminology brings together professionals working on the prevention, control, treatment, and measurement of crime.

American Correctional Association

Founded in 1870, the American Correctional Association provides professional standards, publications, and an annual conference.

American Jail Association

A nonprofit organization, the American Jail Association supports professionals working in the country’s jails. The AJA offers training, publications, and a conference.

American Academy of Forensic Science

A professional society dedicated to advancing science and its role in the legal system, the American Academy of Forensic Science promotes education, professionalism, and collaboration in the field.

American Criminal Justice Association

The American Criminal Justice Association operates chapters across the country. The organization offers an annual scholarship for criminal justice students.

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