Online Criminal Justice Degrees in Montana

Montana residents can expect an increase in job opportunities over the next several years. The Montana Department of Labor and Industry projects the creation of 5,100 jobs each year through 2025. The Montana Economic Report also projects economic growth for the state, largely due to Montana’s strong broadband telecommunications infrastructure.

The Montana Department of Labor and Industry projects the creation of 5,100 jobs each year through 2025.

According to the report, Montana’s rural broadband providers have invested $250 million into broadband infrastructure over the past several years. For students pursuing an online criminal justice degree, Montana’s telecommunications infrastructure provides reliable access to distance learning programs.

Montana’s economy benefits from the increasing number of students earning postsecondary degrees. A growing number of skilled, college-educated workers leads to higher wages, job opportunities, and overall economic growth. For students pursuing an online criminal justice degree, Montana provides a variety of educational and career opportunities.

Earning an Online Criminal Justice Degree in Montana

For busy students in Montana, online criminal justice degrees provide the flexibility to study anytime, from anywhere. Asynchronous classes allow students to complete coursework at their convenience and to create a schedule that fits their lifestyles. Many online learners work full time or fulfill personal obligations while earning their degrees.

An additional benefit of online learning is the increased educational options. Learners can attend programs throughout the country without relocating. Online students often pursue certificates, bachelor’s degrees, and graduate degrees. Distance programs are also ideal for international students.

When considering whether to pursue a criminal justice degree online, Montana students often consider the increased affordability. Distance learners earning criminal justice degrees in Montana often pay in-state tuition rates, regardless of residence, and many schools waive campus fees for online students. Additionally, distance learners typically save on costs such as textbooks and transportation, and the flexible scheduling options allow students to continue working and earning wages while in school.

Accredited Criminal Justice Programs in Montana

When researching criminal justice degrees in Montana, prospective students should be sure to choose an accredited school. Accreditation ensures that an institution meets set standards of quality. Accredited schools are well-staffed and have clear educational objectives. Because accreditation requires regular evaluation, accredited institutions demonstrate a commitment to continual improvement. Accrediting agencies establish their own criteria for accreditation.

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities awards regional accreditation to Montana institutions.

Individual programs within an institution can receive specialized accreditation in areas such as nursing, law, or business. Regional accreditation applies to the entire institution. Six agencies, recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), grant regional accreditation. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities awards regional accreditation to Montana institutions.

Attending an accredited institution ensures degrees and credits earned will be recognized by future employers and other institutions. Additionally, only students at institutions with accreditation from an ED-approved agency qualify for federal financial aid. The ED maintains a database of accredited institutions.

Education and Training Requirements for Criminal Justice Professionals in Montana

Employees at the Montana Department of Justice protect the safety and wellbeing of residents. After earning an online criminal justice degree, Montana graduates often pursue jobs with the Department of Corrections, the Division of Criminal Investigation, the Board of Crime Control, the Board of Private Security, and the Office of Consumer Protection.

Positions in the field require extensive knowledge of the criminal justice system in areas including law enforcement; parole, probation, and the court systems; and investigative procedures. Criminal justice professionals should understand the field’s regulations, laws, policies, and terminology. Professionals in the field must also have strong communication skills and the ability to make decisions in high-stress situations. Some criminal justice positions require firearms training.

Many criminal justice careers require postsecondary education. Candidates for some positions need a bachelor’s degree, and advanced positions may require a master’s degree. Some employers mandate additional training or work experience. Candidates with online criminal justice degrees in Montana have a competitive edge when applying to positions that require only a high school education.

Licensing, Registration, and Certification Requirements in Montana

Nongovernmental organizations, such as educational institutions, professional societies, and private agencies, issue certifications. Certifications are voluntary credentials that require periodic renewal. Professional licenses, on the other hand, are issued by state agencies and are typically required to legally work in a specific occupation.

Many criminal justice positions require candidates to have a valid driver’s license, meet physical standards, pass a medical examination, and submit to fingerprint and background checks.

Federal and state governmental agencies require professionals in certain occupations to hold specific licenses. Many criminal justice positions require state licensure; private investigators, security guards, alarm response runners, and firearm instructors must hold licensure from the state Board of Private Security. Candidates for state licensure must submit an application and pass a qualifying exam.

Licensing requirements vary by position and state. For example, candidates for a private investigator license in Montana must have an armed endorsement and commercial general liability coverage. To become a certified firearms instructor, applicants must complete a course and commit to attending a board-certified course each year. Aspiring police officers must hold a certificate from the Montana Law Enforcement Academy or the equivalent from another state and must have firearms training.

Many criminal justice positions require candidates to have a valid driver’s license, meet physical standards, pass a medical examination, and submit to fingerprint and background checks. Because licensing regulations change often, candidates should contact employers directly to verify requirements.

Career and Salary Expectations

The Montana Department of Labor and Industry projects the creation of more than 5,000 jobs per year over the next seven years, including positions in protective and legal services and government agencies. The department projects the creation of 450 jobs per year in the law, public safety, corrections, and security industries, 250 annual openings in the protective service industry, and 130 jobs in the legal services field.

After earning a criminal justice degree online, Montana graduates have access to high-paying careers with potential for advancement. Of the projected annual openings in the criminal justice field, 40 require an associate degree, 15 require a bachelor’s, and 75 require advanced degrees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean hourly wage for protective service occupations in Montana is $21.38, and the annual mean wage is $44,480. The table below highlights common occupations for professionals with criminal justice degrees in Montana.

Protective Services Occupations in Montana

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Fire Inspectors and InvestigatorsN/AN/AN/A
Detectives and Criminal Investigators450$38.26$79,580
Fish and Game Wardens100$23.15$48,150
Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers1600$26.24$54,590
Private Detectives and Investigators120$23.30$48,470
Security Guards1490$12.77$26,570
Transportation Security Screeners190$19.01$39,550
Source: BLS, May 2017

Court and Corrections Occupations in Montana

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists370$21.29$44,280
Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates80$26.46$55,030
Paralegals and Legal Assistants940$20,95$43,570
Court Reporters60$30.40$63,220
Correctional Officers and Jailers1,070$18.91$39,330
Source: BLS, May 2017

Other Criminal Justice Occupations in Montana

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Forensic Science Technicians50$27.75$57,710
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, PostsecondaryN/AN/AN/A
Source: BLS, May 2017

Scholarships and Financial Aid

In other states and in Montana, online criminal justice degrees can be expensive. Fortunately, students have a variety of financial aid options, including loans, grants, work-study programs, fellowships, and scholarships based on need and merit. Many scholarships are reserved for criminal justice students and for Montana residents. Unlike student loans, scholarships do not have to be repaid, making them an ideal form of funding.

Criminal Justice Scholarships

Kush Arora Federal Criminal Justice Reform Scholarship $500

Who Can Apply: Established by criminal defense attorney Kush Arora, this scholarship supports one undergraduate, graduate, or law school student each year. Applicants must submit a 1,000-word essay and must have a minimum 3.0 GPA. View Scholarship

Susan M. Hunter Correctional Scholarship $750-1,500

Who Can Apply: The Association of State Correctional Administrators provides annual scholarships to children of current, retired, and deceased Department of Correction employees. Applicants must be full-time high school seniors or college students who are studying criminal justice or corrections. Applicants must submit two letters of recommendation and must have a minimum 3.3 GPA. View Scholarship

Criminal Defense Incorporated Scholarship $500

Who Can Apply: Criminal Defense Incorporated awards this annual scholarship to a high school senior who demonstrates exceptional commitment to improving their community. Applicants must submit an introduction and a short essay and must have a minimum 3.0 GPA. View Scholarship

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

Who Can Apply: The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners Foundation offers this scholarship to students pursuing careers as certified fraud examiners. Applicants must submit an essay demonstrating interest in fraud examination and three letters of recommendation. View Scholarship

Montgomery Summer Research Diversity Fellowships $3,600

Who Can Apply: The American Bar Foundation awards four annual fellowships to a diverse group of college students interested in research-oriented careers in social science, criminal justice, law enforcement, public administration, and public service. The selection committee considers academic achievement, essays, and letters of recommendation. Applicants must be college sophomores or juniors and must have minimum 3.0 GPA. View Scholarship

Scholarships for Montana Residents

Kids Chance Montana Scholarships Varies

Who Can Apply: Kids Chance of Montana awards scholarships to children of workers who have been catastrophically or fatally injured. Applicants must be between the ages of 16 and 26 and must hold a high school diploma, GED, or HiSet. Applicants must submit an essay. View Scholarship

Dearborn Ranch Scholarship FBO Montana Highway Patrol Varies

Who Can Apply: This annual scholarship supports full-time students enrolled in accredited institutions, including colleges, universities, trade schools, and technical schools. Applicants must have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.75. View Scholarship

The MUS Honor Scholarship $4,000/year tuition waiver

Who Can Apply: The Montana Guaranteed Student Loan Program offers up to 200 scholarships each year. The program assigns each applicant a composite score based on their GPA and ACT or SAT score; students with the highest composite scores receive scholarships. Applicants must have a minimum 3.4 GPA. View Scholarship

National Merit Semi-Finalist Scholarship Tuition waiver

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is available to semifinalists of the National Merit ProgramView Scholarship

The 2 + 2 Honor Scholarship Tuition waiver

Who Can Apply: This annual scholarship supports Montana residents who hold associate degrees degrees from a Montana University System institution or from a Montana community college. Applicants must have completed at least two semesters of college and must have been accepted by an eligible four-year program. Applicants must have at least a 3.4 GPA. The scholarship includes an undergraduate tuition waiver for up to four semesters. View Scholarship

Resources for Criminal Justice Students in Montana

Law Enforcement Agencies in Montana

Professional Organizations

For students or recent graduates with an online criminal justice degree, Montana professional organizations offer a variety of resources for launching a career in the field. Many professional organizations provide networking opportunities and resources for job seekers. Members have access to national and international professional development events, seminars, and conferences. Professional organizations help members stay up to date on trends and research in their specific area.

Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences

This international association is committed to research, policy analysis, education, and practice within the criminal justice field. ACJS has nearly 3,000 members and offers benefits including professional development opportunities and access to journals, newsletters, and a job board.

American Society of Criminology

This international organization encourages and fosters criminological scholarship. The Society regularly awards both members and non-members for academic and professional achievement.

American Correctional Association

Founded as the National Prison Association nearly 150 years ago, ACA shapes the future of corrections by providing strong leadership and forging partnerships.

American Probation and Parole Association

APAA promotes public awareness, research, training, and standards for probation and parole programs. Members include pretrial, probation, parole, and community-based corrections practitioners.

American Academy of Forensic Sciences

This professional organization is devoted to advancing the field of science as it applies to the legal system. The AAFS has more than 6,600 members, including attorneys, document examiners, digital evidence experts, criminalists, and educators.

Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

An affiliate of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, MTACDL is a professional group of attorneys committed to justice and due process. Members receive access to educational programs and an annual seminar.

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