Online Criminal Justice Degrees in Washington

Over the past few years, Washington state has consistently ranked as one of the top economies in the U.S., boasting overall economic growth of 3.7% in 2016; this value was almost 2.5 times as high as the national average growth rate. This economic boom is due in part to the state's high concentration of tech corporations, such as Microsoft and retail giant Amazon, but also due to factors like its growing population and high level of innovation. For example, Washington follows California in the highest number of patents filed per year. Washington state also has no corporate or income tax, despite being home to some of the highest average wages in the country.

Washington state has consistently ranked as one of the top economies in the U.S., boasting overall economic growth of 3.7% in 2016

In most places, a career in criminal justice is dynamic and challenging, and Washington is no exception. Due to its relatively liberal political climate, western Washington (and the city of Seattle in particular) is pushing for greater equality and fairness in the criminal justice system. Topics such as the current opioid epidemic, immigration violation, and record-level homelessness all fall at the forefront of criminal justice reform, and this reform has the potential to create new positions in the field. Learners looking to earn a criminal justice degree in Washington can do so online at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels.

Today, more and more people choose to earn their college degrees online. Online programs tend to be much more flexible than their on-campus counterparts. Many schools structure online programming asynchronously, meaning students can complete classes at any time of the day without required login times. Online criminal justice degrees in Washington may also come with a lower price tag than traditional campus-based programs. For example, many schools offer in-state tuition to distance learners, regardless of their state of residence. The growing prevalence of technology and increased internet speeds across the nation have made online degrees more practical, allowing schools to provide distance learners with the same level of education as on-campus students.

Online criminal justice degrees may represent an especially appealing option for working individuals looking to go back to school and increase their career opportunities. Additionally, for learners who feel like they benefit from face-to-face interactions with teachers and classmates, many schools also offer hybrid programs that mix online and on-campus coursework. Time spent on campus in this format is frequently once a week or in the evenings.

Before deciding where you want to pursue your online criminal justice degree in Washington, make sure that any program you look at holds the appropriate accreditation. Accreditation is crucial and indicates that a school meets minimum academic standards. Potential future employers and/or other schools weigh these standards when interviewing workers or determining the eligibility of transfer credits.

regional accreditation is the most widely recognized and respected; however, these schools tend to require more liberal arts coursework and may be more competitive to get into

Additionally, students must be enrolled in an accredited program to qualify for many academic scholarships and loans. Two main types of accreditation exist at the institutional level: regional and national. Regional accreditation is the most widely recognized and respected; however, these schools tend to require more liberal arts coursework and may be more competitive to get into. Alternatively, national accreditation is generally less prestigious and tends to be awarded to career/vocational schools, religious schools, and for-profit institutions.

The regional accrediting agency that oversees colleges and universities in Washington state is the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, and the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences also evaluates programs in criminal justice. Before picking a criminal justice program, visit the U.S. Department of Education's website and search for your potential schools is in the database of accredited postsecondary programs and institutions.

Criminal justice career options can vary widely depending on your interests. However, a criminal justice degree is a baseline requirement for many entry-level positions. Individuals who earn an associate-level criminal justice degree in Washington may qualify to work as criminal justice research analysts, community corrections officers, probation corrections officers, and paralegals.

Additionally, earning a bachelor's degree can lead to additional career opportunities in fields such as crime scene investigation, computer forensics investigation, and immigration and customs enforcement, as well as with the Drug Enforcement Administration and Secret Service. Graduates with a master's in criminal justice may qualify for supervisory roles; specialized careers in law, security, and criminology; and even district attorneys or attorney general investigators.

Many criminal justice jobs also require additional training. For example, individuals looking to become police officers need to graduate from a police academy, aspiring detectives must first work as a police officer, and judges need to accrue ample experience working as lawyers.

Professionals in this field may need to meet minimum age requirements and maintain a certain level of health. Additionally, criminal justice jobs often require individuals to earn a license in their specific area of employment. These licensure requirements vary by state and by position. For example, an individual pursuing a career as a private detective in Washington must be knowledgeable about local, state, and federal legislation and meet physical ability standards. Alternatively, security guards must understand the law, and those who carry weapons need to register with the relevant government agency or authority.

Washington has specific licensing requirements for many criminal justice professionals. These licenses -- issued by the state -- grant an individual the authority to hold a certain position. Individuals obtain licenses by undergoing testing and meeting/exceeding a state's minimum qualifications. Alternatively, certification indicates that a worker holds proficiency or expertise in a certain area. Certificates may be earned voluntarily and can help workers set themselves apart from their peers when looking for jobs or pursuing promotions.

Additionally, all criminal justice professionals entering a supervisory role in Washington must become certified. This process is tiered into first-level, mid-manager, and executive-level certification. First-level supervisors and middle managers complete 40 hours of supervisory courses and 40 hours of leadership electives within one year of being promoted into a supervisory role to earn certification. Executive-level certification can be pursued by chiefs, sheriffs, and other professionals in leadership positions. To earn this credential, workers must complete 80 hours of leadership courses.

Other criminal justice jobs in Washington have different licensing requirements. For example, to become a licensed private investigator in Washington, you must be at least 18 years old and have no criminal convictions. Armed private investigators must be at least 21 years old and meet a number of other requirements.

Salaries for careers in protective services and criminal justice vary widely depending on the specific industry. On average, an individual in this field makes almost $35.00 per hour, which translates to more than $68,000 per year. This compensation ranks significantly higher than the average job in the state or across the nation. Additionally, graduates who earn an online criminal justice degree in Washington tend to earn higher salaries than non-degree holders. The expense related to pursuing an advanced degree may feel daunting, but it can be well worth the investment over the course of a career.

On average, an individual in this field makes almost $35.00 per hour, which translates to more than $68,000 per year

The field of criminal justice should be in demand as long as people feel like they require policing. This is particularly true in areas where the population is growing rapidly, like in western Washington. Individuals who earn a Washington online criminal justice degree can expect to enter a healthy job market after they graduate.

The following tables detail the average hourly and annual wages, as well as the accompanying employment numbers, for many positions that individuals who earned an online criminal justice degree in Washington can pursue.

Protective Services Occupations in Washington

Occupation Employment Average Hourly Wage Average annual Wage
Firefighters 8,710 $33.80 $70,300
Fire Inspectors and Investigators 200 $41.11 $85,510
Detectives and Criminal Investigators 2,280 $40.20 $83,610
Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers 9,610 $37.79 $43,050
Fish and Game Wardens 150 $36.09 $75,060
Private Detectives and Investigators 380 $30.77 $63,990
Security Guards 19,760 $17.99 $37,410
Source: BLS, May 2017

Court and Corrections Occupations in Washington

Occupation Employment Average Hourly Wage Average annual Wage
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists 2,210 $27.98 $58,200
Lawyers 10,540 $62.12 $129,220
Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates 920 $59.61 $123,980
Paralegals and Legal Assistants 5,490 $28.98 $60,280
Court Reporters 210 $26.94 $56,040
Bailiffs 190 $25.27 $52,570
Correctional Officers and Jailers 7,420 $26.57 $55,270
Source: BLS, May 2017

Other Criminal Justice Occupations in Washington

Occupation Employment Average Hourly Wage Average annual Wage
Forensic Science Technicians 600 $28.54 $59,360
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers 100 N/A $60,840
Source: BLS, May 2017

Students pursuing a criminal justice degree online in Washington may qualify for many scholarships and financial aid opportunities. Some of these awards go to students enrolled in certain types of programs, while others specifically target learners attending college in Washington state. The sections below detail a few of the many scholarships that students earning an online criminal justice degree in Washington can apply for.

Criminal Justice Scholarships

Captain James J. Regan Memorial Scholarship $500

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is available to any student in the 12th grade or enrolled in an accredited college-level criminal justice program. Judges evaluate applicants based on their academic record, extracurricular activities, and a submitted personal statement. View Scholarship

George A. Strait Minority Scholarships Varies

Who Can Apply: These scholarships go to college students with meaningful law library experience who intend to pursue a career in law librarianship. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and be a member of a minority group, as defined by the U.S. government. View Scholarship

Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Award $1,000

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is awarded to minority nominees who demonstrate financial need and intend to earn a college degree in criminal justice or a related field. Applicants must submit a short essay reflecting on the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. View Scholarship

Out to Protect Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is awarded to individuals who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or as a straight ally. Applicants must be pursuing a career in law enforcement. View Scholarship

Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship $10,000

Who Can Apply: This scholarship provides an opportunity for an individual to further their education in the anti-fraud/criminal justice field. Applicants must be enrolled at an accredited, four-year college or university. View Scholarship

Scholarships for Washington Residents

Nellie Martin Carman Scholarship Fund $2,000

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is available to graduating seniors from public schools in Snohomish, Pierce, and King counties looking to earn an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree. View Scholarship

Ajia Matthews Educational Scholarship Fund $5,000

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is awarded to Washington high school graduates planning to attend two- or four-year colleges or technical colleges. Judges base their decision on academic performance, school involvement, character, leadership, and employment history and community service. View Scholarship

ARC of Washington Trust Fund Research Grants $10,000

Who Can Apply: Students seeking to conduct research in any of several fields can apply for these grants. Applicants must provide a personal statement and a research proposal detailing their subject of interest. View Scholarship

BBB Foundation Students of Integrity Scholarship $10,000

Who Can Apply: High school juniors and seniors who embody and communicate ethics in their everyday experiences can apply for this award. To apply, students create a 90-second video that demonstrates how BBB helps people become smarter consumers. View Scholarship

Education First Scholarship $4,000

Who Can Apply: These scholarships target low-income seniors at specific high schools. Preference is given to first-generation college attendees. View Scholarship

Law Enforcement Agencies in Washington

Professional Organizations

After college, many new graduates struggle to find connections and/or employment. Without the assistance of college-provided networking opportunities, it can be difficult to meet individuals in your field. Fortunately, most industries have a number of professional organizations. Members who join these organizations can gain access to networking opportunities, career fairs, and up-to-date research in their field. The list below contains several criminal justice organizations open to students and professionals in Washington state.

Western Association of Criminal Justice

One of five regional affiliates of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, WACJ's mission is to promulgate evidence-based research and social justice evaluations while also providing professional networking opportunities.

National Criminal Justice Association

NCJA represents local, state, and tribal governments regarding issues related to crime prevention and control. Members represent all facets of the the juvenile and criminal justice community.

Alpha Phi Sigma: The National Criminal Justice Honor Society

A collegiate and professional honor society, the goal of this organization is to promote academic excellence and provide graduates with professional connections.

American Correctional Association

Founded in 1870 as the National Prison Association, this professional organization was developed to help individuals working in the field of corrections.

American Probation and Parole Association

APPA challenges, empowers, and serves its members through education and training.

International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology

An organization of behavioral scientists, members of IACFP focus on offering high-quality mental health services to convicted criminals while also promoting research related to criminal behavior.

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