Online Criminal Justice Degrees in South Dakota

Criminal justice is a growing, well-paying career field for students who want to protect citizens, safeguard private or public property, solve crimes, and help maintain safety and order. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that protective service job openings will grow by 5% between 2016 and 2026, which is consistent with the national growth rate for all occupations. Home to seven large reservations, South Dakota offers many opportunities for work in tribal, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The state’s corrections budget is growing fast, potentially meaning more jobs and higher pay for criminal justice professionals.

protective service job openings will grow by 5% between 2016 and 2026, which is consistent with the national growth rate for all occupations BLS

South Dakota offers professionals a growing economy, low unemployment, a reasonable cost of living, and diverse natural beauty, all of which attracts students from across the nation. Distance learners can take advantage of the state’s numerous public and private universities to earn a criminal justice degree online in South Dakota. Internet-based learning allows students to further their educations and careers while meeting their responsibilities at work, home, and in the community, and many scholarship programs available to South Dakota residents can cover part — or even all — of tuition. By earning criminal justice degrees in South Dakota, students can position themselves for careers as police supervisors, fish and game wardens, policy researchers, or college teachers.

Earning an Online Criminal Justice Degree in South Dakota

Earning an online criminal justice degree in South Dakota can help current law enforcement professionals, private investigators, and juvenile justice officers accelerate their careers. Many South Dakota schools offer criminal justice as one of their online majors, making it convenient for students to earn a degree regardless of family responsibilities, employment status, or other commitments. The flexibility of online degrees allows students to take classes from home, the office, the library, or anywhere with a fast and reliable internet connection.

Digital learning offers two major benefits: convenience and affordability. Several schools offer online criminal justice degrees in South Dakota completely online with no on-campus requirements. Students can even complete required internships and practicums at law offices, police stations, and other professional sites near them. Plus, the around-the-clock availability of course materials ensures that students won’t miss out on information or assignments due to illness, work schedules, or childcare obligations. Most online degrees are also more cost-efficient than traditional programs. Tuition rates often remain the same, but online students do not pay for on-campus housing, expensive commutes, or childcare. Many online students also continue to earn an income while going to school.

Accredited Criminal Justice Programs in South Dakota

Accreditation is one of the most important factors prospective students should consider when researching criminal justice degrees in South Dakota, since it affects nearly every aspect of a student’s higher education experience, including credit transfer options and financial aid eligibility. In the United States, accreditation is a thorough review that schools undertake voluntarily in order to certify their credibility and improve their programs. Colleges and universities hold accreditation with private agencies, which receive recognition from the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Before applying to their schools of choice, students should examine the ED’s database of accredited programs and institutions.

There are three types of accreditation — regional, national, and specialized. The most prestigious accreditation type is regional accreditation. The Higher Learning Commission is the regional accrediting agency for colleges that provide online criminal justice degrees in South Dakota. National accrediting bodies, such as the Transnational Association of Christian Schools and the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, also accredit entire institutions in the state. Regionally accredited schools, however, often do not accept transfer credits from nationally accredited colleges. Specialized accrediting agencies typically approve a specific program at a school. No such agency exists for criminal justice, but some institutions hold certification from the Academy of Criminal Justice.

Education and Training Requirements for Criminal Justice Professionals in South Dakota

Careers in criminal justice require different levels and types of training or educational requirements. Becoming a security guard in South Dakota, for instance, requires 4-40 hours of state training, and in Rapid City, it also requires a license from the local government. Those who want to become state troopers take a much longer and more intense 24-week state-approved academy course. For both professions — security guard and state trooper — holding a high school diploma or GED is essential, and a South Dakota online criminal justice degree may help secure an entry-level employment.

wardens must also take a 520-hour South Dakota law enforcement officers standards training course followed by a 15-week game, fish, and parks conservation officer field training program

For some criminal justice occupations, a bachelor’s degree is essential. For example, becoming a game warden in South Dakota requires a four-year degree in criminal justice or a related field. Once hired, wardens must also take a 520-hour South Dakota law enforcement officers standards training course followed by a 15-week game, fish, and parks conservation officer field training program. Other criminal justice vocations require a master’s degree, including working as a professor of criminal justice at a community college or university, gathering and analyzing research, or holding most leadership positions. In criminal justice careers, formal education and state-mandated training provide complementary backgrounds in theory and practice.

Licensing, Registration, and Certification Requirements in South Dakota

The majority of criminal justice professionals work for local and state government agencies, although some work for research centers, teach in higher education institutions, or run private investigation businesses. Since many of these professionals are armed and operate in potentially hostile environments, nearly everyone in the field must hold appropriate licensure. A certificate, by contrast, typically comes from a private association and shows the holder’s level of competence in the field.

To earn licensure, candidates must complete a basic law enforcement officer certification course at the Law Enforcement Training (LET) Academy

For people working in criminal justice, required licenses and certificates vary depending upon the exact occupation. In Rapid City, security guards must hold a license from the local government. Meanwhile, law enforcement officers in many other jurisdictions must obtain licenses from the state. To earn licensure, candidates must complete a basic law enforcement officer certification course at the Law Enforcement Training (LET) Academy. Three South Dakota community colleges have reciprocity agreements with the LET Academy, making it possible to earn licensure and a degree at the same time. Students holding a criminal justice degree from one of these schools only need to pass the final test to receive the basic law enforcement officer certificate. Unlike law enforcement officers, private investigators in South Dakota do not need a license. Polygraph examiners, however, do need a license, and they must complete a program certified by the American Polygraph Association prior to applying for it. Correctional officers can receive their needed certificate after 80 hours of training. On top of holding a bachelor’s degree, South Dakota fish and game wardens must also complete training through the state to gain licensure in their field.

Some states accept a South Dakota license for a lateral job transfer, while others do not. Regulations can — and often do — change, so job-seekers should visit the appropriate South Dakota state government websites to check for any recent updates.

Career and Salary Expectations

Filled with iconic sites like Mt. Rushmore and many other opportunities for outdoor adventure, South Dakota is a great place to learn, work, and raise a family. The state’s economy is growing at about 1.7% and, according to the BLS, unemployment is very low at 3.4%. Agriculture is the state’s largest industry, followed by the service sector and tourism, which is a $2 billion annual industry. Of South Dakota’s ten largest employers, four are government agencies and two are healthcare associations.

Data from the BLS demonstrates that the median wage for all occupations in South Dakota is $40,770 per year (or $19.60 per hour). Those serving in protective occupations earn a comparable median wage of $40,990. Many professionals who hold criminal justice degrees, however, qualify for higher paying jobs such as police supervisors, who earn $77,090 per year, or managers of correctional officers, who earn $63,570 annually. South Dakota residents who bring in any of these salaries can enjoy a middle-class lifestyle due to the state’s low cost of living. In Sioux Falls, the cost of living is 6% below the national average. South Dakota offers many job opportunities in criminal justice, including the second-highest concentration of fish and game wardens in the U.S.

Protective Services Occupations in South Dakota

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Detectives and Criminal Investigators210$35.37$73,580
Fish and Game Wardens110$21.23$44,160
Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers1,750$22.98$47,800
Private Detectives and InvestigatorsN/A$18.87$39,260
Security Guards1,140$13.94$28,990
Transportation Security Screeners60$18.23$37,920
Source: BLS, May 2017

Court and Corrections Occupations in South Dakota

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists370$22.50$46,790
Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates40$40.75$84,760
Paralegals and Legal Assistants410$22.22$46,220
Court Reporters50$25.34$52,700
Correctional Officers and Jailers1,320$17.90$37,230
Source: BLS, May 2017

Other Criminal Justice Occupations in South Dakota

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Forensic Science Technicians40$24.85$51,680
Source: BLS, May 2017

Scholarships and Financial Aid

Paying for an online criminal justice degree in South Dakota can be a challenge. Fortunately, federal grants, government subsidized loans, and scholarships can help. A scholarship is private money set aside to help pay for the recipient’s education. Some scholarships listed below are available to criminal justice majors, while others are specifically designated for South Dakota residents. Most scholarships are competitive.

Criminal Justice Scholarships

Women in Federal Law Enforcement Annual Scholarship Program $2,500

Who Can Apply: WIFLE offers this scholarship for students who have completed one full year at an accredited community college, university, or four-year college and are pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field. View Scholarship

Charles Fonseca Scholarship Award $2,000

Who Can Apply: The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives awards this scholarship to a graduating high school senior with a GPA of 3.8 or higher who plans to work as a sworn law enforcement officer. View Scholarship

Edna R. Anthony Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: High school students with a GPA of 2.5 or better who plan to pursue a major in criminal justice at a Historically Black College or University can apply for this scholarship. View Scholarship

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

Who Can Apply: Instituted in memory of a young police lieutenant killed in the line of duty, this scholarship goes to high school seniors who are participants in the law enforcement Explorer program and plan on a career in criminal justice. View Scholarship

Scholarships for South Dakota Residents

Joe Foss $1,000

Who Can Apply: Seniors graduating from an accredited South Dakota high school who hold a GPA of 3.5 or higher and ACT scores of 21 or better must also demonstrate leadership abilities to receive this award. View Scholarship

Fred and Marie Christopherson Scholarship $3,000

Who Can Apply: This renewable scholarship is available to students who intend to enroll in one of South Dakota’s four-year colleges or universities, hold an ACT score of 28 or above, and demonstrate a cumulative GPA of 3.9 or better after seven semesters. View Scholarship

South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship $6,500

Who Can Apply: Scholarship applicants must attend a participating institution in South Dakota, score 24 or above on the ACT, and show an average grade of B with no grade below a C-. View Scholarship

Jump Start Scholarship $1,500

Who Can Apply: The South Dakota Board of Regents offers this scholarship to South Dakota residents who complete high school in three years or less. Applicants must have attended a South Dakota public high school full-time for at least two semesters prior to graduating and must plan to enroll in an accredited college, university, or technical school in the state. View Scholarship

Resources for Criminal Justice Students in South Dakota

Law Enforcement Agencies in South Dakota

Professional Organizations

While earning an online criminal justice degree in South Dakota, students can join a professional organization in the field. These associations give members an opportunity to network at conferences, present papers, take online training courses, and read articles on the latest research and applied strategies in criminal justice. Members can even earn certificates to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Some organizations also offer discounts on insurance and other practical benefits.

American Probation and Parole Association

Parole, probation, and pretrial practitioners can join the APPA, which provides its members with access to a career center as well as on-site and online training resources, including a leadership institute.

National Sheriffs’ Association

Individuals who work in law enforcement, including those who teach in the field, can join the NSA and enjoy access to a career center, national conferences, and specialized training programs.

High Technology Criminal Investigation Association

Professionals who investigate or prosecute crimes associated with technology can join the HTCIA to take advantage of its annual conference, regional trainings, and membership in local chapters.

American Correctional Association

The ACA offers professional development opportunities through e-learning courses, on-site trainings, and correctional certifications. Members can also attend conferences and publish research papers.

National Association of Fire Investigators

This organization offers valuable professional certificates in fire investigation as well as an insurance program, a job board, and a newsletter for its members.

National Criminal Justice Association

The NCJA works with state, tribal, and local governments to improve criminal justice programs and agencies. Members receive free registration in webinars, discounted entrance to the organization’s annual conference, and access to an online member community.

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