Online Criminal Justice Degrees in Mississippi

Mississippi is resilient, coming back strong from economic challenges and natural disasters over the past decade. The conditions have never been better for earning an online criminal justice degree in Mississippi. More than 20 schools offer criminal justice degrees in Mississippi, including seven online programs.

Mississippi is one of five states with the highest demand for police, sheriff's patrol and corrections officers.

With a current unemployment rate at 4.5%, criminal justice careers of all kinds are expanding in the state. Mississippi is one of five states with the highest demand for police, sheriff's patrol and corrections officers. In the public sector, police, sheriff patrol, and corrections officer positions are all growing. The Mississippi Department of Corrections administers three state prison and 20 regional and privately run prisons. The state also supports 62 probation and parole offices. Opportunities exist in the private sector as well.

As a result of the spread of casinos throughout the state, Mississippi ranks among the top five states for gaming surveillance and investigator positions. Paralegals and legal assistants are in demand in both the pubic and private sectors. A degree in criminal justice can lead to specialized employment in high-growth areas such as information security or forensic science. Earning a criminal justice degree online in Mississippi also provides a strong foundation for graduate work in many fields, including law, social work, and counseling.

For many students in Mississippi, online schools offer an appealing alternative to earning a degree from a brick-and-mortar institution. Many Mississippi residents live in rural areas far from colleges and universities. Some degree seekers are unable to take time off work to pursue full-time studies; others have family commitments that limit their ability to attend classes in a traditional on-campus program.

Convenience and flexibility are major factors in choosing an online criminal justice degree in Mississippi. Online students generally have access to course materials any time, day or night. Because students can take as few or as many credits each term as they can manage, online degrees can easily fit into already busy lives and they may provide a fast track to graduation.

One of the most appealing aspects of online learning is cost. Compared to campus-based options, Mississippi's online criminal justice degrees are competitively priced and offer the same financial aid opportunities to online and traditional students. Online learners spend less on transportation, housing and meals, and some programs offer free downloadable course readings instead of requiring the purchase of expensive textbooks.

In recent years, the state has championed initiatives to make college education more accessible through online learning. Through its membership in the Southern Regional Education Board's Electronic Campus, students residing in Mississippi may enroll in out-of-state online programs at in-state tuition rates.

Before deciding what online criminal justice degree in Mississippi is best for you, make sure the school you choose is accredited. Accreditation certifies standards of quality for colleges and universities, including those offering online degrees. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) provides a list of all accredited institutions. Accredited schools recognized by the ED are generally the only ones that can offer students federal financial aid.

Regional accreditation is the most respected and widespread form of accreditation, awarded to 85% of the nation's schools

Most schools offering criminal justice degrees in Mississippi or other states are either nationally or regionally accredited. National accreditation is associated with profit-oriented, vocational, or technical training schools. Their tuition rates are comparatively inexpensive and admission standards are lenient. Regional accreditation is the most respected and widespread form of accreditation, awarded to 85% of the nation's schools. Transfer credits from these schools are generally accepted at other colleges across the U.S.

Most graduate programs only admit students who have earned their bachelor's at regionally accredited schools, and employers sometimes favor applicants from these institutions. The regional accreditation agency for Mississippi is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission.

Earning a criminal justice degree online in Mississippi opens up all kinds of rewarding career paths. Whether you decide to earn an associate, bachelor's or graduate degree, opportunities in the state are expanding for trained professionals in every area of criminal justice, with particularly strong demand in law enforcement, forensics, juvenile justice, and cybercrime.

An associate degree, which can be earned in two years or less online, can land applicants entry-level positions as police officers, immigration inspectors, or security guards. It also prepares students to become bailiffs, court reporters, or paralegals. A bachelor's degree opens up broader prospects, including positions as detectives, fraud investigators, and corrections officers. A bachelor's is the minimum requirement for higher-paid correctional supervisory positions. The DEA, FBI, and Secret Service require a bachelor's degree as the minimum credential for its agents. This degree also enables students to waive the TSA's work experience prerequisite for a transportation security inspector position.

A bachelor's provides the foundation for law school and graduate work, and it prepares students for advanced study in social services leading to careers in addictions counseling or victim advocacy. A master's degree in criminal justice is advisable for moving into specialized positions and higher salaries in areas such as internet security, forensic science, and criminal investigations.

Students earning a Mississippi online criminal justice degree should become familiar with career-specific licensing and certification requirements. Although these terms have different meanings, they are sometimes used interchangeably, which can be confusing. Licensing grants permission to practice an occupation through a government agency. Law enforcement employees in particular must hold a valid license, and the state imposes criminal penalties for working without one. Once a license is granted, periodic renewal is required, based on a documented record of continuing education.

Unlike licenses, which are mandatory for certain occupations, certifications are usually voluntary and granted by independent organizations to individuals who want to pursue professional training for career advancement. Certifications are a means to distinguish different occupations and levels of competency. They are career-enhancing credentials that often lead to a higher pay scale and administrative status. As with license renewal, certifications are granted for a fixed time period and must be kept current according to criteria established by the certifying organization. Certification is an increasingly desired credential among corrections, parole, and probation officers interested in advancing to supervisory positions.

Many criminal justice fields require employees to acquire licensing, specialized certification, or other credentials. For example, police and corrections officers, security guards, and all other law enforcement personnel who carry firearms must be registered by the state after undergoing a rigorous criminal background check, weapons training, and drug testing. Licensing and certification requirements vary by the type of position and are usually non-transferable to other states.

Anyone seeking employment in a criminal justice field should check with prospective employers and relevant state agencies about required credentials for certain categories of employment. In Mississippi, the training of most police officers, sheriff's deputies, highway safety patrol, and state troopers is conducted by the Department of Public Safety's Board on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Training. The American Correctional Association offers several levels of certification for corrections officers seeking to advance in their careers.

Graduating with a criminal justice degree in Mississippi is well worth the investment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 5% growth nationally in protective services employment in the next decade. The average annual salary for protective services jobs in Mississippi is $32,600, and the mean hourly wage is $14.22. Mississippi employs the largest concentration of law enforcement officers in the nation. Police and sheriff officers earn an average salary of $35,520, and those in urban areas such as Jackson earn more. Detectives and criminal investigators, who typically have bachelor's degrees, garner the highest compensation in this category with an annual salary of $61,570.

The average annual salary for protective services jobs in Mississippi is $32,600, and the mean hourly wage is $14.22

The tables below provide useful information about salaries and jobs in Mississippi. Positions in court and corrections, including bailiffs, court reporters, and probation officers, are available for graduates with associate or bachelor's degrees. The comparatively high salary of $43,650 for paralegals attests to their expanding demand. Lawyers occupy the top of the salary scale, reflecting their professional school training beyond the bachelor's.

Careers in the growing field of forensic science often require graduate studies, resulting in higher salaries than positions for which advanced technical training is not needed. Postsecondary criminal justice teachers also command attractive salaries, and as the demand for criminal justice professionals continues to rise, educators with bachelor's or graduate degrees in many specializations are needed to train them.

Protective Services Occupations in Mississippi

Occupation Employment Average Hourly Wage Average Annual Wage
Firefighters 3,040 $14.76 $30,690
Fire Inspectors and Investigators 280 $22.84 $47,500
Detectives and Criminal Investigators 920 $29.60 $61,570
Fish and Game Wardens 40 $19.20 $39,930
Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers 7,520 $17.08 $35,520
Private Detectives and Investigators 160 $22.51 $46,820
Security Guards 10,070 $12.53 26,060
Transportation Security Screeners 170 $18.43 $38,340
Source: BLS, May 2017

Court and Corrections Occupations in Mississippi

Occupation Employment Average Hourly Wage Average Annual Wage
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists 570 $17.58 $36,560
Lawyers 3,190 $51.13 $106,360
Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates 320 $26.03 $54,140
Paralegals and Legal Assistants 1,760 $20.99 $43,650
Court Reporters 60 $18.78 $39,070
Bailiffs 150 $14.17 $29,460
Correctional Officers and Jailers 5,600 $13.96 $29,040
Source: BLS, May 2017

Other Criminal Justice Occupations in Mississippi

Occupation Employment Average Hourly Wage Average Annual Wage
Forensic Science Technicians 100 $24.94 $51,880
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers 60 N/A $70,610
Source: BLS, May 2017

Students should investigate the availability of scholarships to help finance their degrees. Several private donors and national organizations offer both need-based and merit-based assistance for students seeking a career in criminal justice-related fields. Some awards are reserved for specific cultural or underrepresented groups, and others are restricted to residents of Mississippi and must be used at in-state schools.

Criminal Justice Scholarships

National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives $1,500-$2,500

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is intended for African-American high school seniors with a 3.8 GPA or higher who are committed to a career in criminal justice or law enforcement. Applicants must submit a one-page essay on career goals and interest. View Scholarship

Martin Luther King, Jr. Criminal Justice Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: The scholarship is awarded to minority undergraduate or graduate students planning a career in criminal justice. Candidates must submit a short reflection on how they have been influenced by the example and writing of Dr. Martin Luther King in their own lives. View Scholarship

Captain James J. Regan Memorial Scholarship $2,500

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is open to high school seniors or those enrolled in an accredited college-level program in law enforcement or related fields. Applicants are selected based on academic record, leadership, and co-curricular activities, and a personal statement on the significance they place on a technical background in law enforcement. View Scholarship

Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship $1,000-$10,000

Who Can Apply: Sponsored by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, this scholarship is for undergraduate students majoring in criminal justice, accounting, business administration, or finance. Students must demonstrate fraud-related interests and activities. View Scholarship

Women in Federal Law Enforcement $500-$2,000

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is open to women enrolled full time in an accredited college who are majoring in criminal justice or a related field. Applicants must submit a 500-word personal statement. View Scholarship

Scholarships for Mississippi Residents

Nissan Scholarship Full Tuition

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is for academically talented students with a minimum ACT score of 20 who demonstrate extreme financial need. Students most also show evidence of leadership in extracurricular activities and submit a 200-word essay. View Scholarship

Mary Loraine Peets Buffett Endowed Scholarship $5,000

Who Can Apply: Named for the mother of University of Southern Mississippi's most prominent alumnus, Jimmy Buffett, this scholarship is awarded to a female freshman. Applicants must be residents of Mississippi with a GPA of 3.0 and demonstrable financial need. View Scholarship

Mississippi Higher Education Plan for Needy Students Full Tuition

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be residents of Mississippi with a minimum ACT score of 20 and a 2.5 cumulative high school GPA. Financial need must be demonstrated through a submitted FAFSA. View Scholarship

Kids' Chance of Mississippi Varies

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is restricted to Mississippi residents between the ages of 17 and 23 who have experienced the loss of a parent or whose parent became permanently and fully disabled in an accident covered under the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act. Applicants must also provide evidence of financial need. View Scholarship

University of Mississippi Bledsoe Scholarship $6,000-$14,000

Who Can Apply: This is a merit-based scholarship. Applicants must be entering freshmen at the University of Mississippi, with an ACT of 25 or higher and a 3.5 GPA. View Scholarship

Law Enforcement Agencies in Mississippi

Professional Organizations

Joining a professional association is a smart move for anyone earning an on-campus or online criminal justice degree in Mississippi. Membership provides a competitive advantage in the job market and many opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals. These associations provide assistance with employment placement and sponsor networking opportunities with working professionals. They often offer professional development and training for specialized credentials.

National Criminal Justice Association

NCJA represents local, state, and Native-American tribal governments in all areas of criminal justice issues. It lobbies for effective criminal justice policies and funding, and offers training, grant information, and a job bank.

Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences

With 2,800 members in criminal justice education, policy analysis, and research, this organization offers opportunities for networking and professional development. ACJS sponsors a certification program and offers several publications to its membership.

American Correctional Association

ACA promotes research and continuing education for corrections professionals. An important aspect of its mission is to establish standards and accreditation for correctional organizations. ACA also administers the Certified Corrections Professional Certificate.

Mississippi Association of Addiction Professionals

This organization provides training to professionals working in several fields related to chemical dependency in Mississippi. It offers reciprocal certification or prevention specialists, clinical supervisors, substance abuse counselors and other criminal justice addictions professionals.

Mississippi Division of the International Association for Identification

The International Association for Identification is the largest forensic organization in the world. The Mississippi division provides educational resources and professional development to forensic science professionals and law enforcement.

Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police

The MACP promotes professionalism and provides training and educational programs for police chiefs. It also advocates on behalf of legislation that assists law enforcement to reduce crime in Mississippi.

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