Online Criminal Justice Degrees in New Mexico

New Mexico was hit hard by the Great Recession, still suffering its effects as recently as 2017. During this time, however, the 2016 median income per home in the state reached over $45,000, indicating the possibility for growth. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently reported an increase in government jobs beginning in February 2018. This serves as evidence that the economy may continue to grow, which may encourage job seekers to consider working in New Mexico.

the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently reported an increase in government jobs beginning in February 2018 in New Mexico.

This positive turn, particularly the increase in government employment, is a good reason to pursue a criminal justice career in New Mexico. Only 26.7% of New Mexico residents over 25 held a bachelor's degree between 2012 and 2016. Therefore, as the economy builds, a bachelor's in criminal justice could provide a stand-out credential for job candidates. Numerous universities offer criminal justice degrees in New Mexico, including online options through New Mexico State University and the University of the Southwest, making the state a strong prospect for a criminal justice education and career.

A stronger education often provides a higher possibility of career success. According to the BLS, the 2017 unemployment rate varied depending on education level. Specifically, the unemployment rate for residents without a high school diploma reached 7.7%, while the unemployment rate for those with college experience stood at 3.8%. By these numbers, college experience more than doubles the odds of earning a job. Additionally, total lifetime income statistically increases with more education. The Social Security Administration reports that citizens with a bachelor's degree make around $900,000 more (for men) and over $600,000 more (for women) over a lifetime than those with only high school diplomas.

An online criminal justice degree in New Mexico provides students with the flexibility to complete their degree while maintaining their work and family obligations. A learner could, for example, pursue a bachelor's degree while working full time by completing asynchronously delivered coursework that they can access at any time. Additionally, schools make financial aid options like grants, scholarships, and loans available to students hoping to earn their New Mexico online criminal justice degree.

Accreditation serves as one of the most important considerations when choosing a college or university. Accrediting bodies establish and maintain universally recognized educational standards for colleges and universities. Students who attend schools without accreditation can neither transfer their credits to an accredited school, nor can they receive government-funded financial aid. Degree seekers should check the U.S. Department of Education's database to determine whether an institution enjoys accreditation status.

In New Mexico, the regional accrediting agency is the Higher Learning Commission.

Schools receive three types of accreditation. First, regional accreditation serves as the highest form of accreditation, and schools within a specific region receive accreditation from the accrediting body overseeing the region in question. Second, national accreditation typically applies to technical schools, and nationally accredited coursework typically fails to transfer to regionally accredited schools. Finally, specialized accreditation refers to accrediting bodies who specialize in a particular area and confer accreditation to schools or programs that meet their field's independent educational expectations.

For criminal justice degrees in New Mexico, the regional accrediting agency is the Higher Learning Commission. For criminal justice programs, look for accreditation from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. Distance learners should prioritize institutions and programs with both regional and field-specific accreditation.

Many people in New Mexico enter a criminal justice career without a bachelor's or master's degree. For example, private investigators only need a high school diploma, and applicants to the New Mexico State Police do not need a college degree -- though new employees must complete 60 college credits during their first two years on the force if they lack prior police or military experience.

However, crime scene investigators need an associate degree in a similar field, though most hold bachelor's degree or higher. Still other occupations require further education. A forensic lab scientist or a forensic biology scientist must hold a bachelor's degree, and criminal profilers and criminologists need a master's. Earning an online criminal justice degree in New Mexico can provide pathways to various jobs.

Some criminal justice careers also require supplementary training. Private investigators must provide evidence of 6,000 hours of recent work in the investigative field. Security guards must complete training that varies in time requirements based on the position level. For example, level-one security guards must finish eight training hours, level-two security guards 20 or more hours, and level-three 16 or more hours. Level two and three security guards must also hold certification to carry a firearm or a taser. Students should research their intended field to determine specific training and educational requirements.

The difference between licensure and certification depends on the awarding agency or body. Any private organization may offer certification to demonstrate that an employee or applicant meets company standards. The state, however, awards licensure to candidates who meet statewide criteria for a specific role. If a position requires licensure, no certification may act as a substitute. As regulations vary between states, residents should not assume that their licenses or certifications will transfer. Regulations may change with time as well, so applicants should ensure that they meet requirements for the position and area at the time they plan to enter the profession.

As regulations vary between states, residents should not assume that their licenses or certifications will transfer.

For private investigators, requirements include a mental health evaluation, firearms training, a criminal background check, and a 25-question exam. Following the exam, applicants must register with the Investigations Board with evidence of bond security, field involvement, and proof of identity. Security guards must undergo certified training that differs between levels of the profession. Level-three registration, for instance, includes training in psychological preparations, arrest laws, and firearm topics focused on welfare, containment, and accuracy.

Other careers that require certifications or licensures include game wardens -- who must receive certification as peace officers -- polygraph examiners, and private patrol operations managers. Lawyers must pass the LSAT exam after earning a bachelor's degree from an accredited university in any field, including a New Mexico online criminal justice degree. Potential lawyers must also graduate from law school and pass the bar exam to earn licensure.

Given the rise of government jobs in the state, the employment outlook for those with in-class and online criminal justice degrees in New Mexico looks promising. In fact, one source reports that less than half of American states experienced a three-month economic increase above 1% at the end of 2017 -- and New Mexico stood among that handful.

Possibility of employment and pay expectations, however, vary between occupations. While animal control workers enjoy an employment rate of 2.9% and a mean annual income of $30,240, fire inspectors enjoy a smaller rate of 0.4% and a higher average earning of $47,380. Additionally, lifeguards, security guards, and crossing guards make less than $30,000 per year, while detectives, criminal investigators, lawyers, and judges earn over $75,000.

Though New Mexico shows signs of economic recovery, applicants should consider these numbers when planning for a future career. The list below provides a condensed overview of selected criminal justice jobs, and the BLS offers further information concerning these careers for holders of online criminal justice degrees in New Mexico.

Protective Services Occupations in New Mexico

Occupation Employment Average Hourly Wage Average annual Wage
Firefighters 2,140 $17.73 $36,880
Fire Inspectors and Investigators 30 $22.78 $47,380
Detectives and Criminal Investigators 1,620 $37.19 $77,360
Fish and Game Wardens 80 $21.01 $43,690
Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers 4,540 $25.15 $52,320
Private Detectives and Investigators 160 $24.30 $50,550
Security Guards 6,640 $13.50 $28,090
Transportation Security Screeners 220 $17.10 $35,580
Source: BLS, May 2017

Court and Corrections Occupations in New Mexico

Occupation Employment Average Hourly Wage Average annual Wage
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists 860 $20.44 $42,510
Lawyers 2,900 $47.84 $99,510
Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates 320 $39.95 $83,090
Paralegals and Legal Assistants 1,510 $21.13 $43,940
Court Reporters 110 $30.96 $64,400
Bailiffs N/A N/A N/A
Correctional Officers and Jailers 4,550 $16.73 $34,800
Source: BLS, May 2017

Other Criminal Justice Occupations in New Mexico

Occupation Employment Average Hourly Wage Average annual Wage
Forensic Science Technicians 230 $19.46 $40,480
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary N/A N/A N/A
Source: BLS, May 2017

Earning a criminal justice degree online in New Mexico requires significant funding. To mitigate the effects of tuition, schools and the government make a variety of scholarships, grants, fellowships, and loans available. Scholarships in particular serve the function of enabling students to earn an education at either reduced or no cost, and many scholarships cater specifically to criminal justice students in New Mexico.

Criminal Justice Scholarships

Chief Gary R. Cline Memorial Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: High school seniors expecting to enter college and pursue law enforcement jobs qualify. Students can apply January through March. View Scholarship

Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Award $1,000

Who Can Apply: Minorities pursuing a criminal justice degree or training may apply. All applicants must submit a 250-word exploration of Dr. King's beliefs and how those beliefs relate to the applicant's life. View Scholarship

Sheryl A. Horak Law Enforcement Explorer Memorial Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: Students pursuing criminal justice studies may apply. Applicants must submit grades, a personal statement, and letters of recommendation. View Scholarship

WIFLE Scholarship $2,500

Who Can Apply: Applicants must attend an accredited university with at least one year of previous coursework demonstrating a 3.0 GPA. Additionally, they must submit an essay and a recommendation letter from someone within their community. View Scholarship

Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship Up to $10,000

Who Can Apply: Current students studying criminal fraud at accredited colleges or universities may apply. View Scholarship

Scholarships for New Mexico Residents

New Mexico Legislative Lottery Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: Learners from New Mexico high schools who plan to attend New Mexico colleges or universities qualify. Students must take a certain number of credits and maintain a 2.5 GPA every semester to continue receiving funds. Credit amounts differ depending on whether the student attends a two-year or a four-year institution. View Scholarship

New Mexico Manufactured Housing Association Scholarship Up to $1,000

Who Can Apply: Students living in a manufactured or mobile home qualify. Applicants need a 3.0 GPA and must submit an essay discussing future goals. View Scholarship

New Mexico Scholars Program Covers tuition

Who Can Apply: Learners at the top of their New Mexico high school class who possess a minimum 25 ACT or 1140 SAT score may qualify. The annual income of the student's family cannot exceed $60,000. View Scholarship

Sussman-Miller Educational Assistance Award Program Up to $2,000

Who Can Apply: The applicant must enroll in a nonprofit or public college or university taking at least 15 credits. View Scholarship

New Mexico State Student Incentive Grants Up to $2,500

Who Can Apply: Any undergraduate student from New Mexico who demonstrates financial need and enrolls at least half time. View Scholarship

Law Enforcement Agencies in New Mexico

Professional Organizations

Professional organizations provide several advantages to applicants and employees after they receive a New Mexico online criminal justice degree. These organizations provide networking opportunities, educational materials, and support that may lead to job openings or career advancement. Participants in these groups may also discover new concepts, technology, and ideas related to the field by interacting with others.

New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association

This branch of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers strives to protect constitutional rights. Practicing lawyers and law students may join as members.

National Organization of Hispanics in Criminal Justice

This organization provides training material, a directory, and other resources to its members. It aims to enable other nonprofits in New Mexico to function at a higher level.

New Mexico Women's Justice Project

By targeting factors that lead to criminal activity, this group aims to change the system through prevention. Members address topics like financial instability through research and collaboration and by helping to create policies that assist women and children in hazardous situations.

New Mexico Association of Drug Court Professionals

This group ensures that drug courts embrace policies and plans based on treatment. The organization reaches more than 40 drug courts and offers trainings and conferences to help spread awareness.

Southwestern Association of Criminal Justice

As a branch of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, this region-based group disseminates criminal justice information through conferences and articles.

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