Online Criminal Justice Degrees in Virginia

According to the state’s Department of Labor and Industry, Virginia will continue to experience exceptional economic growth through 2024. DOLI projects employment in the state will grow by 9.3%, well above the national job growth rate of 6.5%. In Virginia, this translates into nearly 370,000 new jobs in the next few years.

employment in the state will grow by 9.3%, well above the national job growth rate of 6.5%. In Virginia, this translates into nearly 370,000 new jobs in the next few years

Within the field of protective services, DOLI projects an annual employment growth rate of 1.1%, the equivalent of more than 12,000 new jobs. Through 2024, Virginia will need roughly 4,500 new security guards, 2,300 police and sheriff’s patrol officers, and 1,500 correctional officers and jailers.

All of these new positions will require, at a minimum, a high school diploma or GED. However, the majority of local and state criminal justice employers prefer candidates with at least some college experience. Many high-level jobs in law enforcement management and federal agencies require a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Earning an online criminal justice degree in Virginia is a flexible and affordable way to find a new job or advance your career.

Earning an Online Criminal Justice Degree in Virginia

Students who need to balance their studies with other professional and personal obligations should consider earning their criminal justice degree online in Virginia. Many online programs allow students to watch lectures, engage with their classmates, and complete assignments whenever and wherever is most convenient for them.

In addition to flexibility and convenience, online programs often offer more affordability than on-campus programs. Many schools charge similar tuition rates for both distance and in-person learners, but some programs offer discounts to online students. Online students can also avoid significant expenses associated with on-campus learning. For example, distance learners do not pay for room and board, an increasingly large part of the total cost of education. Some schools exempt online students from certain campus service fees.

Online programs also give students more academic options. A large number of public and private colleges and universities offer criminal justice degrees in Virginia. Online students are able to choose the school that best aligns with their interests and career goals, instead of just attending the closest school to their location.

Accredited Criminal Justice Programs in Virginia

Students seeking criminal justice degrees in Virginia should make sure their preferred school holds accreditation. Accreditation ensures that schools meet certain educational standards and adequately prepare their students for careers in the field. Students at unaccredited schools cannot receive federal financial aid or transfer their credits to another institution.

There are three primary types of accreditation: regional, national, and specialized. Of the three forms, regional accreditation is the most common and most respected

There are three primary types of accreditation: regional, national, and specialized. Of the three forms, regional accreditation is the most common and most respected. Six agencies administer regional accreditation for the majority of nonprofit colleges and universities in the United States. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools regionally accredits schools in Virginia.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) recognizes 10 national accrediting agencies. These bodies tend to accredit for-profit, vocational, or religious institutions. Both national and regional accreditation apply to every program within a given school.

Specialized accrediting agencies assess specific disciplines or areas of study. For example, the American Bar Association (ABA) grants approval to law schools throughout the country. Most states require students to graduate from an ABA-accredited school before taking the bar exam.

You can review a listing of all accredited postsecondary programs and institutions on the ED’s website.

Education and Training Requirements for Criminal Justice Professionals in Virginia

For most criminal justice jobs in Virginia, you only need a high school diploma or a GED. However, when considering new hires or internal promotions, many employers prefer candidates with some kind of postsecondary degree. For example, the Virginia Department of Corrections prefers to hire officers who have taken college-level classes in criminal justice. Similarly, the Virginia State Police gives preference to academy applicants who earned an associate degree or completed some postsecondary coursework. In this way, earning a Virginia online criminal justice degree can give you an advantage over other candidates.

A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can qualify you for federal jobs, including employment at Federal Bureau of Investigation offices or federal correctional facilities in the state. A degree can also help you advance to senior-level positions in local law enforcement. For some highly specialized positions in criminal justice, including forensic science technician or crime scene investigator, employers prefer to hire candidates who have earned a master’s degree in criminal justice or a related field.

Licensing, Registration, and Certification Requirements in Virginia

In addition to a high school diploma or a postsecondary degree, all candidates for criminal justice professions must meet the licensure and training requirements established by the state of Virginia.

To become a local law enforcement officer in Virginia, you must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, and pass both a physical examination and background check. You must also complete the requirements of one of the state’s regional law enforcement training academies. The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services establishes the standards and curricula for these academies.

the Virginia State Police operates a separate training academy, and candidates must be at least 21 years old to apply for entry

State criminal justice agencies typically have stricter requirements. For instance, the Virginia State Police operates a separate training academy, and candidates must be at least 21 years old to apply for entry. The state’s Department of Corrections also requires candidates to be 21 years old and be lawfully able to possess a firearm.

Armed security guards working in Virginia must be at least 18 years old and complete 50 hours of training in subjects like confrontation management, arrest authority, and handgun use and safety. Private investigators must also have a license. The state requires applicants to complete 60 hours of training in investigative skills, evidence documentation, and privacy.

Licenses do not automatically transfer from state to state, though individuals with prior experience or an out-of-state license may receive exemption from some of the training courses detailed above. Make sure to check with the proper local or state authority to determine if you have met the requirements for your ideal career.

In addition to licensing, many criminal justice professionals pursue certification to demonstrate proficiency or expertise in a given area. For example, several criminal justice academies in Virginia offer certificates in areas like suicide prevention, community policing, and opioid emergency response.

Career and Salary Expectations

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean hourly wage for protective service occupations in Virginia was $22.59 in May of 2017. This averages to a mean annual salary of $46,990. These wages fall below the average pay rates for all other occupations, both in the state and the nation as a whole. However, actual wages vary greatly depending on specific occupation. Jobs that require a college degree, such as first-line supervisors of police and detectives, pay significantly more than both the state and national average salaries.

Generally speaking, criminal justice occupations in the state will experience strong growth through 2024. Projections Central (PC), a clearinghouse for state-level economic data, projects that employment for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in Virginia will grow by 12.4% during that period. Similarly, PC projects that employment for security guards in the state will grow by 14% and employment for correctional officers and jailers will grow by 9%.

The table below includes employment and compensation data for more than a dozen careers you may consider after earning an online criminal justice degree in Virginia.

Protective Services Occupations in Virginia

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Fire Inspectors and Investigators240$28.10$58,460
Detectives and Criminal Investigators3,360$45.58$83,610
Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers18,700$27.06$56,290
Fish and Game Wardens230$23.05$47,940
Private Detectives and InvestigatorsN/A$33.93$70,580
Security Guards30,570$16.75$34,830
Transportation Security Screeners1,690$19.51$40,580
Source: BLS, May 2017

Court and Corrections Occupations in Virginia

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists2,810$22.97$47,770
Paralegals and Legal Assistants8,790$25.49$53,030
Court Reporters230$25.24$52,490
Correctional Officers and Jailers14,160$19.33$40,200
Source: BLS, May 2017

Other Criminal Justice Occupations in Virginia

OccupationEmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage annual Wage
Forensic Science Technicians430$33.59$69,860
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers370N/A$74,560
Source: BLS, May 2017

Scholarships and Financial Aid

Scholarships are an excellent way to help finance your online criminal justice degree in Virginia. Many organizations offer scholarships to students majoring in criminal justice fields. Virginia residents can also apply to a number of scholarship programs for students planning to attend a college or university in the state.

Criminal Justice Scholarships

Women in Federal Law Enforcement Scholarship Program $2,500

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is open to women pursuing a degree in criminal justice. Applicants must have completed at least one full year of college with a 3.0 GPA. View Scholarship

National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives Scholarships $1,500-$2,500

Who Can Apply: To apply to one of NOBLE’s three scholarship programs, students must gain acceptance at an accredited academic institution and commit to working in the field of criminal justice. Students must also demonstrate financial need and hold at least a 3.8 GPA. View Scholarship

Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: The American Correctional Association encourages students of color planning to work in criminal justice to apply for this award. Applicants must demonstrate financial need. View Scholarship

Crimcheck Criminal Justice Scholarship $500

Who Can Apply: Crimcheck scholarship applicants must pursue a postsecondary degree with the intent of starting a career in criminal justice. Candidates must also have a 3.0 GPA. View Scholarship

Brian Terry Scholarship $500

Who Can Apply: The Brian Terry Foundation awards scholarships to students seeking an undergraduate degree in criminal justice. View Scholarship

Scholarships for Virginia Residents

Virginia Commonwealth Award Program $500-$3,500

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be Virginia residents pursuing their first postsecondary degree in the state. Students must also demonstrate financial need. View Scholarship

Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program $400-$5,000

Who Can Apply: To apply, students must graduate from a Virginia high school with a 2.5 GPA or higher. Recipients must demonstrate financial need and maintain a 2.0 college GPA. View Scholarship

Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant Program Varies

Who Can Apply: This program is open to any Virginia resident attending college or university in the state. There are no merit or financial need requirements. View Scholarship

Esperanza Education Scholarship $5,000-$20,000

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be born outside the United States or have two parents born outside the United States. They must also have a family income of less than $100,000. View Scholarship

Granville P. Meade Scholarship $2,000

Who Can Apply: This scholarship assists high school seniors who excel academically but are unable to pay for school on their own. Students should plan to attend a college or university in the state. View Scholarship

Resources for Criminal Justice Students in Virginia

Law Enforcement Agencies in Virginia

Professional Organizations

Professional associations provide bountiful benefits to individuals pursuing an online degree in criminal justice in Virginia. Joining a professional organization can help you connect with individuals and opportunities in the field. These organizations host networking conferences, provide professional development opportunities, offer continuing education resources, and share job listings. Unions and trade associations also advocate for higher salaries and improved working conditions on behalf of their members.

Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police

Founded in 1926, the VACP represents law enforcement executives, administrators, and managers in the state. The association sets standards for training and selecting Virginia police officers. VACP also collaborates with other state and national law enforcement agencies.

Virginia Sheriffs’ Association

VSA serves more than 8,000 sheriffs and sheriffs’ deputies working in Virginia. In addition to sharing news and research with its members, VSA lobbies for higher salaries, enhanced retirement, and safer working conditions.

Virginia Gang Investigators Association

VGIA is a cross-agency organization that combats gang violence and activities in the state. The association organizes a conference, hosts training workshops, and administers a gang specialist certification.

Police Association of Virginia

PAVA offers a number of benefits to its members, including scholarships for family members, body armor for those unable to afford it, and death benefits for members killed in the line of duty.

Virginia Correctional Association

A state affiliate of the American Correctional Association, VCA provides professional development resources for corrections personnel in Virginia. The association also offers scholarships to children of members.

Virginia Professional Investigators and Security Association

Representing private investigators and security guards in Virginia, PISA hosts an annual conference and professional training events. The association requires all members to agree to a professional code of ethics.

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