Online Criminal Justice Degrees in West Virginia

West Virginia is known for its hospitable locals and breathtaking mountain scenery. The state was hit hard by the economic recession of 2008-09, and its economy continued to struggle into 2016. However, the state has shown signs of rejuvenation through several consecutive quarters of economic growth.

Earning an online criminal justice degree in West Virginia is an excellent educational path for those seeking a career in law enforcement, protective services, or other justice careers

Earning an online criminal justice degree in West Virginia is an excellent educational path for those seeking a career in law enforcement, protective services, or other justice careers. Rates of violent crime in the state spiked in 2009, coinciding with the worst of the recession, and remained elevated in the years that followed.

While these trends have recently settled as the state has continued its financial recovery, many forms of crime are more common now than they were before the recession began. The state also continues to fight the opioid crisis. These crises have created an ongoing need for qualified professionals to work in the state's criminal justice system.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of students take online courses in addition to or instead of on-campus courses. Online courses are usually taught by the exact same faculty that lead on-campus classes, ensuring that the quality of education and the material covered matches in-person courses. Additionally, diplomas and transcripts do not usually state whether students completed courses online or on campus.

West Virginia online criminal justice degrees offer numerous advantages over traditional on-campus programs. One major benefit of online education is that it is typically far more affordable, with significantly lower tuition rates. Distance learners also avoid on-campus fees, transportation costs, and parking permits. Furthermore, students enjoy far greater levels of flexibility and convenience when earning a criminal justice degree online in West Virginia.

Many online students continue to hold their current jobs while earning an education. Distance learning courses allow students to create their own schedules and work from anywhere with an internet connection. Consequently, online study is particularly appealing to students with commitments like careers and families.

It is vital to ensure that you earn your online West Virginia criminal justice degree at an accredited school. Accreditation ensures that colleges meet certain educational and professional standards. Accrediting bodies evaluate schools based on their courses, programs, and professional outcomes. Most employers and graduate schools only recognize degrees from accredited colleges. Accreditation also plays an important role in securing financial aid, since most private lenders and government agencies only offer funding to students at accredited institutions. Accreditation also affects transfer credit.

Accreditation also plays an important role in securing financial aid, since most private lenders and government agencies only offer funding to students at accredited institutions

Colleges and universities qualify for three different types of accreditation: national, regional, and specialized. Generally, nationally accredited schools hold religious affiliation, focus on vocational programs, or operate on a for-profit basis. West Virginia schools may receive accreditation from national agencies such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges or the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.

In contrast, most regionally accredited schools focus on academics. The vast majority of regionally accredited schools are nonprofit state institutions. Regional accreditation requires higher standards and a multi-year process. Most employers and graduate schools prefer degrees from regionally accredited colleges. West Virginia schools receive regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

Specialized accreditation applies to particular programs or schools within a college or university. For example, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences certifies a select number of criminal justice programs across the country. Students can check the U.S. Department of Education's database of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs to see if their desired school holds accreditation.

Education and training requirements vary significantly between criminal justice jobs in West Virginia. Some positions, including state trooper, only require candidates to hold a high school diploma. Certain cities create their own requirements. For example, Charleston requires applicants to hold a high school diploma, complete an aptitude test, and pass a physical assessment.

While some employers may offer entry-level opportunities to candidates with associate degrees in criminal justice, your job prospects will vastly improve if you earn at least a bachelor's degree. An analysis of currently available criminal justice jobs in West Virginia shows that a large majority of listed vacancies require at least a four-year bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field. Your career potential will increase further with a master's degree in criminal justice. Advancement into management-level positions typically requires extensive work experience and an advanced degree. Criminal justice professionals who hold master's degrees tend to earn the highest salaries.

In addition to an online criminal justice degree, West Virginia employers may require occupation-specific licensure, registration, or certification. Certain jobs, such as state trooper, require candidates to complete an academy or training program. Depending on the position, candidates may benefit from an educational background in areas such as social work, criminology, sociology, psychology, counseling, or behavioral science. This is particularly true of professions that focus on rehabilitating offenders.

In West Virginia, many criminal justice jobs require employees to hold valid licenses, registrations, or certifications. These requirements vary from position to position, and depend on the nature of the job requirements. For instance, professionals who carry weapons as part of their day-to-day duties must receive a license from the appropriate government body.

Private investigators in West Virginia must honor several state-specific regulations. PIs who employ other people need to hold a valid PI firm license and surety bond, which can be obtained through the West Virginia Secretary of State office. Corrections officers typically complete a standardized examination to ensure that they are psychologically and emotionally fit for the job. Some protective services occupations, such as police officers and firefighters, have their own strict qualification requirements that include physical fitness tests, medical examinations, and other evaluations.

private investigators must hold a West Virginia firm license to legally operate a business within the state

It is also common for criminal justice professionals to have to pass a background check, including a criminal record check, before being formally hired for a position. This is especially true of jobs that involve a significant level of interpersonal contact with children and adolescent minors. Employers use specific, internally developed criteria and policies to evaluate whether or not a candidate's criminal background passes screening procedures. Some criminal justice jobs with federal agencies also require candidates to obtain security clearances.

Some licenses, such as federally issued firearms licenses, transfer between states. Others are state-specific; for instance, private investigators must hold a West Virginia firm license to legally operate a business within the state. Licensing, registration, and certification requirements change frequently and vary from position to position. Job-seekers should check with employers and local regulatory agencies to ensure their credentials and qualifications meet current requirements.

Professionals with an online criminal justice degree in West Virginia can pursue careers in protective and legal services, corrections, private investigation, case analysis, and security. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), West Virginia professionals working in protective services earn an hourly mean wage of $16.84 and an annual mean salary of $35,020.

Certain criminal justice jobs in West Virginia will likely experience increased growth by 2014. Projections Central projects that positions for detectives and patrol officers will both grow 20% by 2024. PC also projects that first-line police supervisors will grow 10% in the same period. These rates are much higher than the national average of 7% for all occupations. Other positions, including criminal justice professors and firefighters, are not projected to experience any growth in the coming years.

The following tables summarize current employment numbers and average wages for criminal justice occupations in West Virginia.

Protective Services Occupations in West Virginia

Occupation Employment Average Hourly Wage Average annual Wage
Firefighters 870 $16.78 $34,900
Fire Inspectors and Investigators 50 $22.75 $47,310
Detectives and Criminal Investigators 190 $20.70 $43,050
Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers 3,800 $20.70 $43,050
Private Detectives and Investigators 40 $23.02 $47,880
Transportation Security Screeners 90 $18.86 $39,230
Security Guards 4,790 $12.60 $26,210
Source: BLS, May 2017

Court and Corrections Occupations in West Virginia

Occupation Employment Average Hourly Wage Average annual Wage
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists 840 $18.23 $37,920
Lawyers 2,440 $45.78 $95,220
Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates 300 $38.21 $79,470
Paralegals and Legal Assistants 2,050 $20.99 $43,650
Court Reporters 80 $25.16 $52,340
Correctional Officers and Jailers 3,280 $16.39 $34,090
Source: BLS, May 2017

Other Criminal Justice Occupations in West Virginia

Occupation Employment Average Hourly Wage Average annual Wage
Forensic Science Technicians 130 $23.88 $49,670
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers 80 N/A $48,520
Source: BLS, May 2017

There are many scholarships available to West Virginia students pursuing degrees in criminal justice. Some scholarship opportunities are open to all students in West Virginia, while others only assist criminal justice majors. Students should research scholarships offered by local businesses, professional associations, and police departments. Below are 10 scholarships available to criminal justice students in West Virginia.

Criminal Justice Scholarships

ACJA/LAE Competitive Scholarship $100-$400

Who Can Apply: Offered by the American Criminal Justice Association and Lambda Alpha Epsilon, this scholarship is available to all active LAE members with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. Recipients must pursue degrees related to criminal justice. View Scholarship

National Technical Investigators Association Captain James J. Regan Memorial Scholarship $500

Who Can Apply: Students with a demonstrated history of extracurricular involvement and high levels of academic achievement may apply. Applicants should demonstrate interest in a law enforcement career. Candidates must be high school seniors or undergraduate students in an accredited criminal justice program. View Scholarship

Out to Protect Scholarship $500-$1,000

Who Can Apply: LGBT students who are pursuing law enforcement careers are eligible for this scholarship. View Scholarship

Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship $1,000-$10,000

Who Can Apply: This scholarship benefits outstanding students interested in fraud investigation. ACFE prefers candidates who submit letters of recommendation from certified fraud examiners or professors. View Scholarship

West Virginia Sheriffs Association Scholarships Varies

Who Can Apply: These scholarships are open to applicants who have lived in West Virginia for at least one year. Applicants must pursue a criminal justice degree at a West Virginia college or university. View Scholarship

Scholarships for West Virginia Residents

Dale C. Bailey Scholarship $2,000

Who Can Apply: College students with demonstrated financial need and a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5 are eligible. Applicants must enroll in a four-year program at a West Virginia college or university. View Scholarship

Evans Memorial Scholarship $2,000

Who Can Apply: Residents of West Virginia who are enrolled in a full-time college-level program can apply. Applicants must demonstrate strong moral character, have a GPA of at least 2.5, and achieve an ACT score of at least 20. View Scholarship

Fairmont State University Scholarships Varies

Who Can Apply: Fairmont provides information on dozens of scholarships for West Virginia residents. Eligibility criteria vary. View Scholarship

Kids Chance of West Virginia, Inc. $1,000

Who Can Apply: Kids' Chance offers scholarships to West Virginia residents between the ages of 16 and 25 with one or more parents who were seriously or fatally injured while on the job. Applicants must submit documentation verifying the parent's continued disability. The scholarship provides financial assistance to students who would not otherwise be able to afford education due to parental circumstances. View Scholarship

David Womack Memorial West Virginia LGBT Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: This scholarship assists West Virginia undergraduate students who openly identify as LGBT. View Scholarship

Law Enforcement Agencies in West Virginia

Professional Organizations

Students pursuing an online criminal justice degree in West Virginia should consider joining professional organizations. These organizations offer networking opportunities, job boards, and career development initiatives. They are also excellent resources for professionals who want to stay up to date with new research and best practices. Many criminal justice organizations offer scholarships and internship opportunities for current students. Below are a few options for students earning criminal justice degrees in West Virginia.

National Criminal Justice Association

This national organization represents criminal justice professionals who work for local, tribal, state, and federal governments. NCJA researches crime prevention and supports crime control initiatives.

West Virginia Sheriffs' Association

The WVSA advocates on behalf of law enforcement agencies to enact policies that better protect the public.

West Virginia Criminal Justice Educators' Association

Founded in 1992, this organization provides a forum for educators to share ideas, new research, and pedagogical best practices.

West Virginia Chiefs of Police Association

The WVCPA hosts an annual conference and networking events. The association advocates for better working conditions for police officers.

Southern States Correctional Organization

SSCA represents corrections officers from 14 states, including West Virginia.

United States Association of Professional Investigators

This national organization is open to all professional investigators regardless of their area of focus or expertise.

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