Online Criminal Justice Degrees in Tennessee

Working in criminal justice can provide a meaningful and exciting career protecting citizens, solving crimes, helping rehabilitate offenders, and making communities safe. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that job openings in protective services will grow 5% between 2016 and 2026, keeping pace with the national average for all professions. Students interested in the field may be drawn to Tennessee, as the state boasts a high average personal wage and a fast-growing GDP.

Job openings in protective services will grow 5% between 2016 and 2026, keeping pace with the national average for all professions BLS

Criminal justice professionals in Tennessee often work in a county, state, or local police department, but may serve as correctional officers, private investigators, or parole officers. By earning an online criminal justice degree in Tennessee, students can help fast-track their careers from entry-level posts to leadership positions. A master’s degree may even open positions in criminal justice research or education.

By completing a criminal justice degree online in Tennessee, students take advantage of a flexible program that allows them to work, raise a family, and serve the community all while going to school. Many digital learners also save money studying online, as distance learners often forgo many of the expenses traditional students must pay.

Earning an Online Criminal Justice Degree in Tennessee

In Tennessee, an online criminal justice degree can be an affordable, flexible, and convenient way for students to complete a degree while still managing their family, work, and community responsibilities. For those who see a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree as the next step in their career, an online program can provide excellent educational quality without the time-consuming commute, structured schedule, and added expenses of on-campus courses. Many universities in Tennessee offer criminal justice as an online major, allowing current law enforcement officers to upgrade their skills and career switchers to explore other opportunities.

Most online programs are taught asynchronously, meaning students can study wherever and whenever they like. Although many criminal justice degrees in Tennessee require an internship, online students can usually complete these at law offices, police stations, and courts.

Accredited Criminal Justice Programs in Tennessee

To gain their accreditation, schools undergo a rigorous review of their programs and services under the direction of an accrediting agency.

Students who are planning to start a Tennessee online criminal justice degree should consider several factors as they evaluate prospective schools, including financial aid, program length, accessibility, and institutional reputation. Another vital factor is accreditation, which affects many components of a student’s experience, including credit transfers, student loan eligibility, and degree recognition by employers after graduation. To gain their accreditation, schools undergo a rigorous review of their programs and services under the direction of an accrediting agency. In the United States, schools receive accreditation from private accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Prospective students can examine the ED’s database of accredited programs and institutions before choosing their school.

There are three types of accrediting agencies: regional, national, and specialized. The gold standard of accreditation is regional, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) is the regional accrediting body for schools offering criminal justice degrees in Tennessee. National agencies such as the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) and the Transnational Association of Christian Schools (TRACS) also provide institution-wide recognition. But most regionally accredited schools only accept transfer credits from other regionally accredited schools. Specialized agencies approve individual programs within a college or grant accreditation to vocational schools. There is no specialized agency for criminal justice programs, although some schools seek certification with the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.

Education and Training Requirements for Criminal Justice Professionals in Tennessee

An online criminal justice degree in Tennessee can open many professional opportunities within the field. Some occupations, such security guard or correctional officer, require a GED or high school diploma. Many city police officers, deputy sheriffs, and paralegals need an associate degree. Other careers demand a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or even a doctorate. Those who plan to pursue careers as detectives, police supervisors, forensic science technicians, or officers in the Federal Bureau of Investigation need at least a bachelor’s degree, and in many cases, these careers call for a master’s degree in criminal justice.

To be a chief of police, professor of criminal justice, or hold leadership positions, criminal justice professionals need a master’s degree or higher. In most cases, an advanced degree can set a candidate apart from the competition. For several careers in the field, however, academic education is only part of the needed preparation. Tennessee requires corrections officers, state troopers, and other professionals to undertake practical, field-based training that leads to state licensure.

Licensing, Registration, and Certification Requirements in Tennessee

Becoming a private investigator in Tennessee means passing an examination, and keeping the license requires 12 credits in continuing education every two years

Criminal justice is a public service profession. Most people employed in the industry work for local or state governments. Some work for private corporations as security guards or government contractors, and still others own private investigation businesses or teach criminal justice at the collegiate level. Most of these professionals need to hold a license since their jobs require significant interaction with the public, the ability to deal with a crisis, and the responsibility of carrying a gun. Typically, the state issues a license, which signifies the holder is legally permitted to serve in their position. Some professions may also require certification, which is usually granted by a private organization to show the holder’s level of competence in their profession.

For criminal justice professionals, certification and licensure requirements vary according to occupation. For example, most security guards must pass a background check and complete training. Becoming a private investigator in Tennessee means passing an examination, and keeping the license requires 12 credits in continuing education every two years. To receive certification as a private investigator trainer, applicants must have three years of experience and a college degree. Polygraph examiners also need a license, and they must hold a bachelor’s degree or two years of college plus extensive experience. Tennessee has reciprocity agreements with a few other states that allow these licenses to transfer.

Correctional officers in Tennessee take 40 hours of training and attend an annual in-service. To be a training officer, applicants take an additional 40 hours of training. Correctional officers can also receive certification through the American Correctional Association, a private association that helps officers demonstrate knowledge in the field. State troopers in Tennessee attend a 22-week-long trooper school to receive certification, and they can gain promotions faster if they hold at least an associate degree.

Career and Salary Expectations

Beautiful cities, stunning mountains, and affordable living are just some of the reasons people love to work and study in Tennessee. The state’s GDP is growing at 2.5%, outpacing the national average, and its average personal income is 17th in the nation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Tennessee’s unemployment rate is only 3.4%. The state’s most significant economic challenge may be deciding what to do with its $2 billion surplus.

The BLS states that the the median wage for all jobs in Tennessee is $43,550 per year (or $20.94 per hour). Protective service employees earn $37,930 on average, though salaries for police supervisors and detectives are much higher. First-line supervisors of police make about $63,390, and detectives earn $70,060. Thanks to Tennessee’s moderate cost of living, these salaries can support a middle-class lifestyle.

Protective Services Occupations in Tennessee

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Fire Inspectors and InvestigatorsN/A$26.49$55,100
Detectives and Criminal Investigators1,420$33.68$70,060
Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers12,890$21.31$44,320
Private Detectives and Investigators470$25.28$52,590
Security Guards23,380$13.95$29,020
Transportation Security Screeners610$18.31$38,090
Source: BLS, May 2017

Court and Corrections Occupations in Tennessee

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists1,910$19.51$40,580
Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates390$56.63$117,780
Paralegals and Legal Assistants3,540$23.65$49,200
Court ReportersN/A$27.03$56,230
Correctional Officers and Jailers9,600$16.11$33,510
Source: BLS, May 2017

Other Criminal Justice Occupations in Tennessee

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Forensic Science Technicians540$24.61$51,180
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers230N/A$51,720
Source: BLS, May 2017

Scholarships and Financial Aid

An online criminal justice degree in Tennessee can help digital learners start a rewarding career in law enforcement or a related field. Many students take advantage of public and private financial aid packages to help offset costs. Many non-institutional scholarships are available exclusively to criminal justice majors, and some are specifically earmarked for students from Tennessee.

Criminal Justice Scholarships

Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police Scholarship $2,500

Who Can Apply: Dependents of TACP members who show an interest in criminal justice and a high school GPA of at least 2.5 must submit an essay and a signature from the local chief of police to receive consideration. View Scholarship

Alphonso Deal Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: Funded by the National Black Police Association, this scholarship goes to high school seniors of good character who wish to improve the criminal justice system. View Scholarship

Crimcheck Criminal Justice Scholarship $500

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be high school graduates with a GPA of 3.0 or better and show knowledge of the criminal justice career field. View Scholarship

American Best Locksmith Scholarship $500

Who Can Apply: Graduating high school seniors with a minimum GPA of 2.5 and holding a college acceptance letter to study a security-related major must submit a 300-word essay about why they want to be a security professional. View Scholarship

LivSecure Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: A graduating senior, college freshman, or sophomore who is not related to MyAlarm Center staff and who plans to study law, law enforcement, or criminal justice can apply. View Scholarship

Scholarships for Tennessee Residents

Aspire Award $750 per semester

Who Can Apply: This scholarship goes to students who meet the requirements for the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship and whose adjusted gross income is $36,000 or less according to the IRS. View Scholarship

General Assembly Merit Scholarship (GAMS) $1,500

Who Can Apply: Graduates of a public, private, or home school in Tennessee must meet the academic qualifications for the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship. GAMS is a supplement for HOPE scholars. View Scholarship

Tennessee Promise Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: Qualifying students must attend college full time, participate in a mentoring program, and perform eight hours of community service each term during the award. This is a last-dollar scholarship for people pursuing associate degrees. View Scholarship

Tennessee Student Assistance Award (TSAA) $4,000

Who Can Apply: Funded by the Tennessee Education Lottery, this award helps financially needy residents of Tennessee pay for attendance at public or private colleges and universities within the state. View Scholarship

Tennessee HOPE Scholarship $2,250 per semester

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be graduates of a Tennessee high school, plan to attend a college or university in Tennessee, hold a 21 ACT or a minimum of 1060 SAT, and have a GPA of 3.0 or higher. People with GEDs, homeschoolers, and Tennessee residents living abroad may also qualify under different criteria. View Scholarship

Resources for Criminal Justice Students in Tennessee

Law Enforcement Agencies in Tennessee

Professional Organizations

Joining a professional organization is one of the best career investments a student in an online criminal justice degree in Tennessee can make. These organizations provide online job boards, professional certifications, chances to publish in journals, and national and international networking opportunities. Some professionals join associations while in college to earn awards and seek leadership roles that may give them a career boost. Finding the right organization early can lead to long-term growth and career advancement.

International Association of Women Police

Now working in 60 countries, the IAWP provides women police officers with mentoring, training, peer support, scholarships, and networking opportunities.

Southern Criminal Justice Association

This regional affiliate of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences offers an annual conference, a journal, professional awards, and job listings.

American Correctional Association

Members of the ACA can take advantage of a wealth of resources, including healthcare benefits, conferences, professional certifications, e-learning courses, and a variety of publications.

Alpha Phi Sigma: The National Criminal Justice Honor Society

This honor society provides scholarship, award, and grant opportunities to members along with a conference and an online career board.

National Organization of Hispanics in Criminal Justice

A professional affiliate of the American Correctional Association, NOHCJ is a coalition of Hispanics who promote high standards in the field. The group hosts an annual event.

American Probation and Parole Association

The APPA provides assistance, advocacy, training and resources for men and women working in pre-trial, parole, and probation careers at all levels of government

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