Online Criminal Justice Degrees in Pennsylvania

The general economic outlook in Pennsylvania remains fair. Forbes reports that Pennsylvania boasts the sixth largest economy in the U.S. and is home of 42 of the country’s largest 1,000 public and private companies. For those pursuing an online criminal justice degree in Pennsylvania, the state has much to offer.

Pennsylvania boasts the sixth largest economy in the U.S. and is home of 42 of the country’s largest 1,000 public and private companies

This moment presents a particularly salient time to gain criminal justice degrees in Pennsylvania. The Times Leader reports that Governor Tom Wolf recently partnered with legislators and advocacy groups to call for criminal justice reform. In a news release, Wolf outlined a package of initiatives for reform. If passed, these initiatives could offer exciting changes for students interested in pursuing an online criminal justice degree in Pennsylvania.

Earning an Online Criminal Justice Degree in Pennsylvania

Online criminal justice degrees in Pennsylvania, as opposed to more traditional on-campus options, provide several benefits to individuals pursuing higher education. Typically, an online criminal justice degree in Pennsylvania costs a bit less than campus-based programs, particularly for out-of-state students. When students complete their degree programs online, they entirely eliminate costs like on-campus housing, dining hall meal plans, and transportation to and from class.

Universities often conduct online courses asynchronously, which allows students to complete coursework on their own schedules. This provides more flexibility for students with outside obligations and responsibilities. Additionally, students can often customize their course loads to suit their time and ability. Students complete coursework and attend online classes remotely, which is not only convenient, but also allows students with limited mobility to break through the physical barriers to education.

Accredited Criminal Justice Programs in Pennsylvania

Proper accreditation ensures that a degree or program is reputable. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) is the main regional accrediting agency for colleges in Pennsylvania, as recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The MSCHE is one of six regional accrediting agencies in the U.S. Students can usually transfer credits acquired through regionally accredited universities and institutions to other similarly accredited schools.

National accreditation, on the other hand, generally focuses more on schools and universities within a particular career track or involving a religious focus. Specialized or programmatic accreditation specifically gives accreditation to departments, programs, or schools within larger universities, which are typically accredited either nationally, regionally, or both. For more information for those seeking an accredited criminal justice degree online in Pennsylvania, students may browse the U.S. Department of Education’s database of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs.

Education and Training Requirements for Criminal Justice Professionals in Pennsylvania

Earning a Pennsylvania online criminal justice degree prepares students for a variety of careers. An associate degree or 60 semester credit hours meets the minimum education requirements for Pennsylvania state police cadets. Cadets also must hold either a GED or high school diploma, be U.S. citizens, have a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license, and be between the ages of 20 and 40. Associate degree holders can also find work as probation officers, legal assistants, corrections officers, insurance officers, campus security personnel, evidence technicians, and crime statistics analysts.

Completing a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in criminal justice will enhance your career prospects in the field. features rankings for the best criminal justice bachelor’s degree programs and the best criminal justice master’s degree programs. Many criminal justice careers in Pennsylvania require additional training, such as police academy school or weapons training, while other jobs may call for specific licensing and registration.

Licensing, Registration, and Certification Requirements in Pennsylvania

Certain criminal justice careers and positions may require that practitioners to hold relevant licensure for the state in which they practice. For example, personnel who carry weapons, such as security guards, must typically be registered by the appropriate government authority. Although specific standards and rules may vary state-to-state, most states require applicants to complete training, be above the age of 18, and complete a background check. Generally, guards who carry weapons must fulfill more strenuous testing than their unarmed counterparts. While most surveillance and guard positions require applicants to have earned a high school diploma or its equivalent, most security occupations also require that applicants register themselves and their weapons with the state. Applicants may also need some experience with video surveillance and familiarity with security work.

Pennsylvania’s private investigator requirements vary by county, but the Private Detective Act of 1953 requires three years of investigative experience

Some criminal justice professionals must obtain specific certifications required for their career. Private investigator license requirements, for example, change from state-to-state. Pennsylvania’s private investigator requirements vary by county, but the Private Detective Act of 1953 requires three years of investigative experience. In Pennsylvania, a county judge must issue each private investigator license.

Although a licensed occupation typically calls for state licensing, some jobs may require particular certifications. Depending on the license or certification, some may allow multi-state provisions, while others maintain that applicants must obtain each certification or license within each state or department they will practice. For example, the constable and deputy constable training and certification program falls within the territory of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. This certification program requires 80 hours of basic training and 40 hours of basic firearms training, but offers an optional 20 hours of advanced firearms training. Continuing education requires an annual 20 hours of training while also offering an optional 16 hours of additional training.

Career and Salary Expectations

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean hourly wage for all protective service occupations in Pennsylvania is $21.54, and the annual mean wage is $44,800. There are plenty of jobs in the field: there are nearly 130,000 Pennsylvanians currently employed in protective services and another 43,000 employed in legal occupations. The mean hourly wage for legal occupations in Pennsylvania is $50.18, and the mean annual wage $104,360.

The tables below break down these employment numbers, and provide information on the average hourly wage and average annual wage for protective services, court and corrections, and other criminal justice occupations in Pennsylvania.

Protective Services Occupations in Pennsylvania

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Fire Inspectors and Investigators180$24.48$50,910
Detectives and Criminal Investigators2,910$40.86$84,990
Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers27,460$31.95$66,460
Private Detectives and Investigators3,080$21.36$44,430
Security Guards42,700$13.05$27,150
Transportation Security Screeners1,250$19.66$40,890
Source: BLS, May 2017

Court and Corrections Occupations in Pennsylvania

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists4,240$26.02$54,120
Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates250$30.61$63,660
Paralegals and Legal Assistants11,590$26.00$54,080
Court Reporters930$22.71$47,240
Correctional Officers and Jailers17,380$24.58$51,140
Source: BLS, May 2017

Other Criminal Justice Occupations in Pennsylvania

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Forensic Science Technicians300$24.07$50,080
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers740N/A$71,270
Source: BLS, May 2017

Scholarships and Financial Aid

Many students require some form of financial aid or assistance to complete college degree programs. A plethora of scholarships are available to help students in need. There are also awards specifically designated for criminal justice students and learners from Pennsylvania. The following selection features a few examples of scholarships offered to criminal justice students in general, and then a sample of Pennsylvania student scholarships.

Criminal Justice Scholarships

Alpha Phi Sigma Undergraduate Best Paper Scholarship $150-$500

Who Can Apply: The Alpha Phi Sigma Undergraduate Best Paper Scholarship awards a scholarship to the top three essays covering the subject ‘A Contemporary Issue in Criminal Justice’. Applicants must be Alpha Phi Sigma members. View Scholarship

Brian Terry Foundation Scholarship Program Varies

Who Can Apply: The Brian Terry Foundation Scholarship Program awards students currently seeking undergraduate degree programs in criminal justice or a related field. View Scholarship

Crimcheck Criminal Justice Scholarship $500

Who Can Apply: The Crimcheck Justice Scholarship awards high school seniors, recent graduates, or current postsecondary school students studying criminal justice or a degree program in a related field. Applicants must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit an essay. View Scholarship

My Alarm Center Student Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: The My Alarm Center Student Scholarship is open to graduating high school seniors, and college freshmen and sophomores studying criminal justice, law enforcement, law, or a related field. View Scholarship

Ruth D. Peterson Fellowship for Racial and Ethnic Diversity $6,000

Who Can Apply: Applicants for the Ruth D. Peterson Fellowship for Racial and Ethnic Diversity scholarship must represent racial and ethnic groups underserved in criminal justice and related fields. Applicants should already be awarded acceptance to a doctoral program in criminal justice or a related field, and must include a personal statement, letter of intent, CV, and three recommendation letters. View Scholarship

Scholarships for Pennsylvania Residents

NAAAP Philadelphia Future Leaders Scholarship Program $1,000

Who Can Apply: The National Association of Asian American Professionals Philadelphia awards scholarships to Asian and Asian American students living in the Philadelphia area who demonstrate leadership potential and excellence. View Scholarship

The Beverly J. Smith Memorial Scholarship $2,500

Who Can Apply: Created by the Harrisburg AAUW branch in the name of their former president, The Beverly J. Smith Memorial Scholarship honors one female student per year who lives in either Perry, Dauphin, or Cumberland county and attends an accredited Pennsylvania university. Applicants must demonstrate academic achievement and financial need, and complete 60 hours by the spring semester. View Scholarship

Pennsylvania Chafee Education and Training Grant Program Varies

Who Can Apply: The Pennsylvania Chafee Education and Training Grant Program supports students identified as youth in foster care, or adopted or discharged from foster care after the age of 14, as they attend an approved undergraduate program at least part time. Students must demonstrate financial need and academic progress. View Scholarship

Postsecondary Educational Gratuity Program Varies

Who Can Apply: The Postsecondary Educational Gratuity Program supports students who survive a parent who was a first-responder killed in the line of duty. Applicants must be 25 years old or younger, Pennsylvania residents, and enrolled in Pennsylvania community college or related state institutions. View Scholarship

Horatio Alger State Scholarship $10,000

Who Can Apply: Horatio Alger scholarships exist in every state, but those applying to the Pennsylvania scholarship must be high school students who reside in the state. Students must demonstrate financial need, be involved in community service, show perseverance and integrity in the face of adversity, maintain a 2.0 GPA, and be a U.S. citizen. View Scholarship

Resources for Criminal Justice Students in Pennsylvania

Law Enforcement Agencies in Pennsylvania

Professional Organizations

Joining a professional organization benefits both students pursuing criminal justice degrees in Pennsylvania and professionals in the field. Professional organizations vary, but most offer members networking opportunities for establishing useful contacts, job search assistance, educational resources, and additional members-only perks.

Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Justice Educators (PACJE)

Since the early 1980s, the PACJE has been committed to nurturing criminal justice education in training centers and academic settings statewide.

National Association of Criminal Justice Lawyers (NACJL)

A professional bar association, the NACJL began operations in 1958. The NACJL has about 40,000 attorneys in 90 affiliate organizations on the provincial, local, and state levels.

Pennsylvania Association for Justice (PAJustice)

An association serving more than 2,000 plaintiffs attorneys, PAJustice provides education and information resources to its members and the public regarding courtroom processes and citizens’ constitutional rights.

American Society of Criminology (ASC)

Members of the ASC include professionals, students, and academics involved in criminal justice, criminology, or a related field. This international organization serves members all over the world.

National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA)

The NCJA advocates for criminal justice related policy-making and funding for justice assistance programs covering a versatile range of topics, such as drug treatment, corrections, local law enforcement, violent crime reduction, and pretrial justice reform.

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