Online Criminal Justice Degrees in Georgia

Now is the right time to pursue a criminal justice career in the state of Georgia. According to state government projections, positions in protective services will expand by almost 10% by 2024. Some positions, including fire inspectors, police officers, sheriff's deputies, and transit officers, may expand by even more. Graduates who earn criminal justice degrees in Georgia qualify to work as traditional police officers and firefighters, game wardens, correctional officers, court officers, crime scene investigators, transit cops, forest investigators, and security guards. Georgia boasts more than 60,000 certified law enforcement officers, and those numbers should continue to grow.

In Georgia, positions in protective services will expand by almost 10% by 2024. Georgia Labor Market Explorer

Georgia is also home to more than 70 accredited degree programs in criminal justice. These include associate programs at technical colleges, bachelor's tracks at large public universities, master's degrees at private schools, and doctoral programs at some of the most prestigious institutions in the state. Students can opt to pursue on-campus degrees or online programs, although many distance programs feature some in-person requirements. Prospective law enforcement officers can also simply study at the state's Public Safety Training Center.

The number of online programs in criminal justice has increased dramatically over the past decade. More and more students have elected to earn their degrees through the internet due to the more convenient format. Online programs allow you to work from home, negating the need to commute. Many individuals continue to work while pursuing a degree online. They can also be home for other family and life commitments, studying and completing coursework at their convenience. This is especially true of asynchronous online programs, which let learners watch online lectures at any time without having to log on or “attend” class at a specific time.

Another advantage of many web-based degrees is their relative affordability. Schools often charge less for their distance programs or offer online learners in-state rates, regardless of where they live. Online programs also let individuals enroll in some of the nation's best colleges without forcing students to relocate. An aspiring police officer from Maine, for example, can choose to pursue an online criminal justice degree in Georgia. These days, very little separates online and on-campus curricula; students complete the same courses taught by the same faculty and earn the same diploma.

Students everywhere should be aware of the importance of accreditation in the college selection process. When earning an online criminal justice degree in Georgia, it is vital that your institution holds accreditation from a reputable agency. Most universities, employers, and federal aid sources only recognize a college program if it holds this quality assurance.

Georgia schools carry regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

In the Peach State, the best schools carry regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. This association is one of six regional accreditation agencies that accredit the best colleges and universities in the U.S. Other schools may hold national accreditation, but this designation is generally viewed as less prestigious and tends to be awarded to vocational and technical institutions.

The U.S. Department of Education oversees the accreditation process. This federal organization makes sure the agencies responsible for accreditation hold schools to appropriate standards. The department maintains a database of accredited postsecondary schools and programs, making it easy to scroll through or search to see if a Georgia online criminal justice degree program holds the proper credentials.

The state of Georgia does not require its police officers to hold any college degree. Most officers in the Peach State go through basic training at the Georgia Police Academy -- a division of the state's Public Safety Training Center. Applicants only need a high school diploma, a clean criminal background, and the ability to pass some basic academic and physical exams. Individuals who meet these basic standards can then fulfill the requirements of the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Council.

However, graduates who earned a criminal justice degree online in Georgia can often climb the ranks more quickly and qualify for more advanced positions. An associate degree gives you a leg up on the competition, while bachelor's and master's degrees can propel you even further. Some careers in Georgia law enforcement do require a degree. For example, if you want to work as a game warden you need to hold an associate degree in criminal justice or a similar field. If you aspire to become a special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation you need a bachelor's degree. The same is true if you want to get a license for your own private detective agency or work in a private security firm. Additionally, most high-ranking administrative positions in law enforcement, such as chiefs or superintendents, require a bachelor's or master's degree.

Every state sets its own standards for licensure and registration of criminal justice professionals, and Georgia's requirements vary by profession. The ability to carry a firearm, for example, comes as part of the POST that law enforcement professionals receive at the police academy or at other colleges and training sites. Security guards and other armed personnel need to sign up for weapons training and meet certain standards on their own before they can get a license to carry. Unlike other states, Georgia does not register bounty hunters or bail recovery agents at the state level; instead, this process is passed down to local sheriff's departments. Due to the variability between positions, make sure to carefully research the standards and licensure requirements of the positions that interest you.

Georgia's POST certification covers many of the state's law enforcement positions.

Georgia's POST certification covers many of the state's law enforcement positions. For example, POST certification is applicable to campus police, county police, sheriff's deputies, state arson investigators, forestry commision investigators, and even communications officers and detention officers.

When looking at job-related requirements, it is important to understand the differences between licensing and certification. Typically, the state issues licenses while private agencies provide certifications at the professional level. In Georgia, the state issues POST certification to cover law enforcement workers, and peace officers can add additional certification and endorsements by completing courses at Georgia's Public Safety Training Center. These include certificates in crime scene and arson investigation, drug recognition, traffic accident reconstruction, and crime and intelligence analysis. Administrative or supervisory personnel can also add advanced credentials. Earning these types of certification require many more hours of training beyond POST certification.

Georgia regulates many quasi-law enforcement civilian agencies, like Security guards services, through separate channels. Private detectives must pass state-administered exams to earn their licenses. The same is true of individuals who work at private security firms.

Some states allow law enforcement licenses to transfer across state borders, but not all do. In Georgia, residents who held law enforcement positions elsewhere can take an Equivalency of Training test to see if they qualify for POST certification.

Because so many professions fall under the protective service umbrella, career opportunities and salaries vary widely. For example, the state of Georgia only employs 200 game wardens and even fewer law enforcement park rangers, making those jobs hotly contested and difficult to secure. Alternatively, police, sheriff, and security guard positions all number in the tens of thousands, making it is easier to find an opening. Almost 60,000 individuals work in Georgia and make a living with their POST certification.

Professionals in law enforcement and protective services earn a broad range of salaries, and these numbers tend to follow the same rules of thumb as wages in other professions. Workers with more experience who hold advanced positions typically earn significantly higher salaries, and entry-level jobs in police, sheriff, fire, and corrections departments all pay less than more specialized positions with higher training requirements. The annual mean wage for some protective service jobs can fall below $30,000. However, earning an online criminal justice degree in Georgia can help you secure more advanced positions, such as detective or fire investigator, leading to an increase in your salary. The highest wages in criminal justice go to lawyers, judges, and other individuals who hold high-level positions in the courts; these professionals can take home three or four times the wages that rookies in the field earn.

Protective Services Occupations in Georgia

Occupation Employment Average Hourly Wage Average annual Wage
Firefighters 12,230 $17.71 $36,830
Fire Inspectors and Investigators 400 $27.93 $58,090
Detectives and Criminal Investigators 3,370 $31.79 $66,130
Fish and Game Wardens 200 N/A N/A
Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers 23,730 $20.29 $42,190
Private Detectives and Investigators 940 $24.56 $51,080
Security Guards 30,220 $13.81 $28,730
Transportation Security Screeners 1,340 $19.20 $39,940
Source: BLS, May 2017

Court and Corrections Occupations in Georgia

Occupation Employment Average Hourly Wage Average annual Wage
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists 2,830 $20.51 $42,660
Lawyers 18,160 $65.48 $136,190
Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates 1,420 $49.46 $102,880
Paralegals and Legal Assistants 8,460 $25.54 $53,130
Court Reporters 570 $17.78 $36,980
Bailiffs 810 $18.97 $39,450
Correctional Officers and Jailers 14,840 $16.33 $33,960
Source: BLS, May 2017

Other Criminal Justice Occupations in Georgia

Occupation Employment Average Hourly Wage Average annual Wage
Forensic Science Technicians N/A N/A N/A
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary 130 N/A $63,960
Source: BLS, May 2017

Paying for college is seldom easy, and many students rely on scholarships and grants to help them afford the cost of tuition. Individuals exploring criminal justice degrees in Georgia may qualify for awards specifically reserved for criminal justice degree candidates and/or for residents of the Peach State.

Criminal Justice Scholarships

Constitutional Officers Association of Georgia Scholarships $500-1,500

Who Can Apply: This association sponsors three grants for Georgia undergraduates seeking to earn a degree in criminal justice, law, political science, business, or another field related to government and law enforcement. Candidates must attend an accredited university in Georgia. View Scholarship

Crimchek Criminal Justice Scholarship $500

Who Can Apply: Crimchek offers an annual award to an academically outstanding student who intends to study criminal justice at the undergraduate level. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher and submit an essay describing the their ambitions and goals in the criminal justice field. View Scholarship

Alphonso Deal Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: The National Black Police Association offers scholarships to students of color studying criminal justice and law enforcement. Candidates must be entering their first year of a criminal justice program at an accredited U.S. university and intend to pursue a career as a police officer. View Scholarship

National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) Scholarships $1,500-2,500

Who Can Apply: NOBLE distributes three scholarships to high school seniors entering an accredited university to study criminal justice who plan on pursuing careers in the field. Applicants must demonstrate need and hold a GPA of 3.8 or higher. View Scholarship

Women in Federal Law Enforcement (WIFLE) Scholarship $2,500-15,000

Who Can Apply: In an effort to promote gender equality in law enforcement, WIFLE sponsors a scholarship program to help women with high academic potential enter the field of criminal justice. Applicants must be U.S. citizens enrolled in their second year in a criminal justice program at an accredited university. Students should have a background in community service and a 3.0 GPA or higher. View Scholarship

Scholarships for Georgia Residents

Georgia Tuition Equalization Grant Program $475/semester

Who Can Apply: These grants help residents of Georgia attend eligible private universities in the state. Students must be enrolled in an undergraduate program leading to a college degree and maintain satisfactory academic progress. View Scholarship

Public Safety Memorial Grant Cost of Attendance

Who Can Apply: Georgia Futures awards these grants to the dependent children of Georgia public safety officers disabled or killed in the line of duty. Funds go toward the cost of an education at eligible colleges or universities in the state. View Scholarship

Greenhouse Scholars Scholarship $5,000

Who Can Apply: Residents of Georgia, North Carolina, Illinois, and Colorado who demonstrate financial need, maintain an unweighted GPA of 3.5 or higher, possess leadership qualities, and show a commitment to their communities may apply for these awards. View Scholarship

Georgia Future Champions Scholarship $1,500

Who Can Apply: Sponsored by the Champion Firm, these scholarships go to U.S. residents enrolled at a two-year or four-year institution in the state of Georgia. The organization judges applicants not on their GPA but on the strength of a video detailing the most inspirational figure in a student's life. View Scholarship

Charles Harbin Memorial Scholarship $1,000-1,500

Who Can Apply: These awards help Georgia residents earn an undergraduate degree at any accredited U.S. institution. Applicants must demonstrate financial need, hold a GPA of 2.75 or higher, and be enrolled as a high school senior. View Scholarship

Law Enforcement Agencies in Georgia

Professional Organizations

Professional organizations offer many services to recent graduates who earned an online criminal justice degree in Georgia. Membership can lead to networking opportunities, professional development training, and the chance to take continuing education credits. These organizations also facilitate mentoring and host job boards, and many sponsor conferences and publish magazines. Georgia is home to several professional organizations for criminal justice workers.

Peace Officer Association of Georgia

The POAG was established to promote cooperation, training, and information exchange between law enforcement officers. The organization provides professional development, publications, networking opportunities, and advocacy for Georgia's law enforcement community.

Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police

The GACP exists to provide more effective and efficient police protection to state residents through the exchange of information, best practices, and community efforts to reduce crime-producing conditions. Membership is open to any police officers who hold the rank of captain or higher.

Georgia Association of Women in Public Safety

The GAWPS is dedicated to providing professional development and opportunity to women in law enforcement, fire departments, and emergency communications. The organization offers mentoring, networking, and training programs.

Police Benevolent Association of Georgia

Georgia's chapter of the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, this organization is a union of peace officers that provides benefits, legal help, advocacy, and training opportunities.

Georgia Jail Association

Dedicated to improving the state's jails, the GJA is an association of professionals that hosts conferences, promotes information exchange, and provides networking opportunities.

Georgia Criminal Justice Association

This nonprofit organization represents students, faculty, and professionals in the field of criminal justice. The GCJA disseminates information, sponsors a conference, and hosts resources for students.

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