Online Criminal Justice Degrees in Iowa

Iowa is among the safest states in the nation. To maintain and improve Iowa’s safety, the state’s law enforcement, courts, and corrections agencies work together to protect the state’s three million residents. After earning an online criminal justice degree, Iowa graduates can find plenty of career opportunities in a state dedicated to public safety. In 2018, the Department of Public Safety extended its deadline for new recruits, and Floyd County voters approved a measure that set aside $13.5 million for a new law enforcement center and improvements to the courthouse.

Jobs in law enforcement and the legal sectors are projected to grow nationally at an average to above-average rate through 2026. BLS

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs in law enforcement and the legal sectors to grow nationally at an average to above-average rate through 2026. Additionally, the BLS projects positions for forensic technicians, paralegals, and postsecondary teachers to increase by 17%, 15%, and 15%, respectively, by 2026. Many criminal justice jobs require a four-year degree and a graduate degree for advancement. Students can earn criminal justice degrees in Iowa in on-campus, online, and hybrid formats.

Earning an Online Criminal Justice Degree in Iowa

Many entry-level criminal justice jobs require an associate or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, law enforcement, criminology, or behavioral science. Students choose from on-campus and online criminal justice degrees in Iowa. The number of students who choose distance learning continues to grow. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 14% of postsecondary students took online courses exclusively in 2014.

Distance education affords students the flexibility to learn from home while avoiding long commutes. Many instructors deliver online courses asynchronously, meaning students can complete coursework at their convenience. Working professionals can earn their degree online without sacrificing work hours, and distance learning helps students fulfill personal obligations while balancing their studies.

Additionally, distance education expands students’ educational options. Students can attend schools in another city or state without relocating. Online learning is also generally more affordable than on-campus programs; online learners may pay a reduced tuition rate, and they save money on expenses such as transportation, campus housing, and textbooks.

Accredited Criminal Justice Programs in Iowa

Accreditation is a crucial factor when choosing a college. Accreditation ensures an institution meets or exceeds set standards of quality and that students will be eligible for transfer credit and receive federal financial aid. To receive federal assistance, students must attend a school accredited by an agency with recognition from the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The ED recognizes all regional accrediting agencies, but not all national accreditors. The ED maintains a database of all accredited postsecondary institutions and programs.

The Higher Learning Commission grants regional accreditation to Iowa schools.

Accreditation is a voluntary process that requires a rigorous self-assessment followed by a peer evaluation. The two main types of institutional accreditation are regional and national. Regional accreditation is typically awarded to nonprofit, degree-granting institutions. The Higher Learning Commission grants regional accreditation to Iowa schools. National accreditors typically review for-profit and single-purpose schools, such as career and vocational colleges. Programs, departments, and schools within an institution may also hold specialized, field-specific accreditation.

Education and Training Requirements for Criminal Justice Professionals in Iowa

Entry-level criminal justice positions require different levels of education. A high school diploma or GED qualifies professionals for positions as police officers, security guards, court bailiffs, and emergency dispatchers. However, professionals need further education to advance in any of these careers. An associate degree considerably improves job prospects and qualifies holders for jobs as paralegals or legal assistants.

Forensic science technicians, correctional treatment specialists, fish and game wardens, and special agents must hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Professionals must often earn a master’s degree to advance in the fields of forensics, investigation, or corrections. For example, probation officers who want to improve their job prospects may earn a master’s in social work, criminal justice, or behavioral sciences. A crime scene investigator, on the other hand, may pursue an advanced degree or certification in toxicology, DNA analysis, or digital forensic science.

Lawyers and judges must hold a law degree, and postsecondary teachers generally need a Ph.D., though some state community colleges hire candidates with a master’s degree. Most criminal justice jobs also require additional training, such as police academy training.

Licensing, Registration, and Certification Requirements in Iowa

Many criminal justice positions require state licensure. For example, private investigators must typically hold a PI license. In Iowa, individuals who provide bail enforcement, private investigations, or security services must obtain a license from the Department of Public Safety. Additionally, any professional who carries a weapon must pass a firearms training program.

Unlike licensure, a certificate is not typically state-specific.

A license is a state-issued credential that authorizes the licensee to practice a profession within a designated scope. A license is mandatory in fields such as law and education. A certificate, on the other hand, is an optional credential that demonstrates an individual’s proficiency or skill. Unlike licensure, a certificate is not typically state-specific. For example, private investigators who move must register with the new state. Similarly, Iowa lawyers must pass the state bar exam or the Uniform Bar Exam.

Certain positions, such as forensic science technician, do not require a license or certification. However, obtaining additional credentials may help professionals advance their careers. Forensic science technicians can specialize in a particular area, such as toxicology or crime scene investigation. Police officers and detectives can obtain certification in an area of expertise. Police officers transferring to Iowa who have served as sworn officers in another state within the last year may qualify for certification through examination and forgo academy training.

Career and Salary Expectations

As Iowa approaches full employment, the state continues to strengthen its workforce. The Future Ready Iowa Act develops Iowa’s talent pipeline for the present and future. In line with the national trend, Iowa’s economy increasingly demands that workers achieve postsecondary education and training. The goal of Future Ready Iowa is for 70% of the state’s workforce to have education and/or training beyond high school by 2025. In the criminal justice sector, additional education and training increases job opportunities and earning potential.

According to the BLS, Iowa’s hourly mean wage for protective service occupations is $20.91, and the annual mean wage is $43,500. As the table below demonstrates, the majority of criminal justice jobs in Iowa have above-average annual mean wages. While the number of positions decreases as required training increases, there is less competition for these advanced positions. In a 2014 study, the state government projected that Iowa would add 612,000 jobs from 2010 to 2025.

Protective Services Occupations in Iowa

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Fire Inspectors and Investigators30$31.57$65,670
Detectives and Criminal Investigators400$35.79$74,440
Fish and Game Wardens120$39.40$81,960
Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers4,980$27.22$56,620
Private Detectives and Investigators70$25.23$52,470
Security Guards6,010$13.31$27,670
Transportation Security Screeners170$18.21$37,880
Source: BLS, May 2017

Court and Corrections Occupations in Iowa

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists730$33.35$69,370
Judges, Magistrate Judges, and MagistratesN/A$39.67$82,510
Paralegals and Legal Assistants2,160$23.14$48,130
Court Reporters260$31.91$66,370
Correctional Officers and Jailers3,150$23.67$49,230
Source: BLS, May 2017

Other Criminal Justice Occupations in Iowa

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Forensic Science Technicians80$33.85$70,410
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary130N/A$84,920
Source: BLS, May 2017

Scholarships and Financial Aid

To reduce the financial burden of higher education, students should consider all available scholarships and awards. Before pursuing a criminal justice degree online, Iowa students should research awards reserved for Iowa residents and criminal justice students. To maximize their chance of receiving an award, students should begin by applying to local scholarships before pursuing state and national awards. Scholarship season traditionally begins February 1, but students can begin researching opportunities up to a year in advance.

Criminal Justice Scholarships

Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Award $1,000

Who Can Apply: The American Correctional Association offers this award to minority students who intend to pursue a career in criminal justice. Applicants must have been accepted into a four-year college and must submit an essay about how they apply the ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr. View Scholarship

LivSecure Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: This essay contest rewards the best answer to one of two questions on security. Applicants must be graduating seniors who are not related to any My Alarm Center staff. View Scholarship

Crimcheck Criminal Justice Scholarship $500

Who Can Apply: This merit scholarship supports students planning to work in criminal justice, including those pursuing an online criminal justice degree in Iowa. Applicants must be high school seniors with a minimum 3.0 GPA who are entering college full time in the fall. View Scholarship

Paula Grady Memorial Scholarship $500

Who Can Apply: This annual scholarship supports future paralegals. Applicants must be Iowa residents, active in the Iowa Paralegal Association, and plan to study paralegal studies. View Scholarship

NOBLE National Scholarships $1,500-2,500

Who Can Apply: Students interested in careers in law enforcement or criminal justice submit one application to be eligible for three scholarships: the Irlet Anderson Scholarship Award, the Charles Fonseca Scholarship Award, and the Bernard/Sylvia Davis Thompson Scholarship. Applicants must be high school seniors with a minimum 3.8 GPA who are planning to pursue a degree in the social sciences. View Scholarship

Sheryl A. Horak Memorial Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: This merit-based award is available to law enforcement Explorers who are at least high school seniors. Applicants must demonstrate leadership skills and extracurricular involvement. Applicants must also earn certification from the post adviser, the head of the participating organization, and a Learning for Life representative. View Scholarship Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement Scholarship $500

Who Can Apply: This annual award supports graduating high school seniors who intend to pursue an undergraduate degree in criminal justice or law enforcement, such as an Iowa online criminal justice degree. Iowa applicants must submit a statement regarding their goals. View Scholarship

Scholarships for Iowa Residents

Horatio Alger Association State Scholarships $10,000

Who Can Apply: Horatio Alger assists college-bound students who have faced adversity and overcome hardship. Applicants must be high school seniors who are entering college in the fall and who have at least a 2.0 GPA and a history of community service. View Scholarship

Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship $2,000

Who Can Apply: This award goes to 30 high school students in Iowa. Applicants must complete a Student Loan Game Plan, an ROCI Realty Check, and a related assessment. View Scholarship

Robert D. Blue Scholarship $500-1,000

Who Can Apply: This award recognizes literary and scholastic ability and is available to high school seniors in Iowa. Applicant must submit two letters of recommendation and an essay on an individual who has demonstrated leadership and community service. View Scholarship

Andeavor Youth Leadership Awards $2,500

Who Can Apply: This award supports 20 young leaders per year. Applicants must be graduating high school seniors and residents of one of 19 states in which Andeavor conducts business. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and must submit an answer to a question on leadership challenges. View Scholarship

Resources for Criminal Justice Students in Iowa

Law Enforcement Agencies in Iowa

Professional Organizations

After earning an online criminal justice degree, Iowa graduates often pursue careers in law enforcement, law, or corrections. Joining a professional organization provides opportunities for professional development and personal growth. Members expand their professional networks and gain access to job boards, continuing education programs, mentors, and annual conferences and meetings. Professional organizations also offer resources that keep members updated on industry updates, trends, and news.

Iowa State Police Association

Founded in 1932, the ISPA fosters camaraderie among law enforcement professionals. The organization comprises peace officers from municipal police departments, the Iowa DOT Law Enforcement Division, and the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

Iowa County Attorneys Association

This nonprofit corporation supports coordination efforts among county attorneys and fosters cooperation with state law enforcement agencies. ICAA promotes uniform prosecution standards and provides members with training and continuing education.

Iowa Association of Private Investigators

Founded in 1985, IAPI provides resources to help members advance their careers. Member resources include continuing education and training, legislative monitoring, and networking opportunities. IAPI helps the public locate private investigators and investigative firms.

American Academy of Forensic Sciences

AAFS is a multidisciplinary organization committed to the advancement of forensic science within the legal system. The organization promotes professionalism, educates the public, and fosters research.

Iowa Corrections Association

Since 1957, ICA has addressed correctional issues in Iowa and the nation. Members receive access to training, workshops, and two annual conferences.

Iowa Paralegal Association

Established in 1981, IPA provides members with tools, industry knowledge, and job opportunities within the legal profession. While earning an online criminal justice degree, Iowa members receive scholarship opportunities and career assistance.

Find Criminal Justice Jobs in Iowa

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