What is Criminal Justice?
Criminal justice colleges and degree programs in Virginia prepare students for careers in law enforcement, corrections, and the courts. Students learn about the criminal justice system, constitutional law, and criminology and develop skills in critical thinking, problem solving, and communication.
Criminal justice professionals can work in either the public or private sector. In the public sector, they may work for local, state, or federal government agencies. In the private sector, they may work for security firms or individual, private companies.
Criminal justice professionals typically have a college degree in criminal justice, criminology, or a related field, though entry-level positions may only require an associate degree or academy training. They may also have a law degree. Some criminal justice professionals are certified by professional organizations, such as the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers or the American Bar Association.
Criminal justice professionals typically have strong writing and communication skills. They must be able to write reports and present evidence in court. They must also be able to communicate effectively with prosecutors, judges, and other lawyers if they go that route.
Online Criminal Justice Education in Virginia
Most criminal justice programs in Virginia offer associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees. Some schools also offer certificate programs or terminal PhD degrees. Associate degree programs typically take two years to complete, while bachelor's degree programs take four years and master's degree take another two years to finish.
If you are interested in working in law enforcement, there are programs that will prepare you for a career in this field. You can learn about the legal system, forensics, and investigation techniques, and there are also programs that focus on corrections and probation. If you want to work as a lawyer or a judge, you will need to get a law degree from an accredited law school. However, many criminal justice colleges offer pre-law programs that can help you prepare for this type of career.
Many criminal justice colleges and universities in Virginia offer online programs. These programs can allow students to complete their coursework from anywhere at any time. Online students are meant to have the same access to instructors and resources as on-campus students, though there are of course things like lack of physical access to the library or computer labs, or the inability to ask a question during class, that can make online learning slightly more difficult. It’s up to you to know your strengths and know whether or not you will be able to thrive while learning through an online platform.
Online Associate Degree in Criminal Justice (AS)
An online AS degree in criminal justice is a two-year degree program that provides students with the basic knowledge and skills needed to work in the criminal justice field. Students who complete this degree program will be able to find entry-level positions in law enforcement, corrections, and other related fields.
The curriculum for an associate degree in criminal justice typically includes coursework in topics such as criminal law, constitutional law, police procedures, and criminology. In addition to academic coursework, students may also be required to complete internships or field placements as part of their degree program.
Students who are interested in pursuing a career in criminal justice should consider completing an associate degree in criminal justice. This degree program provides students with the skills and knowledge needed to begin a career in this field and supports those who may wish to earn more education in the future.
Online Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice (BS)
A bachelor's degree in criminal justice provides students with the necessary skills and knowledge to pursue a career in the criminal justice field at a higher level and within more industries than an associate degree. Students who earn a bachelor's degree in criminal justice can find employment in a variety of settings including law enforcement, corrections, and private security. Those who are considering working in law may even use a bachelor’s in criminal justice as their first degree before earning a law degree.
A bachelor's degree typically takes four years to complete. During their time in college, students studying criminal justice will take courses in a variety of subjects including criminology, law, and sociology. In addition to taking classes, students also have the opportunity to participate in internships and research projects.
Upon graduation, students with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice are prepared for a variety of entry-level positions in the field. With experience and further education, graduates can advance into leadership roles within their chosen career path. A bachelor’s can even allow you to move from an entry-level law enforcement position into a position as a detective or captain.
Online Masters Degree in Criminal Justice (MS)
A master's degree in criminal justice is a terminal degree that can lead to careers in academia, government, and the private sector. In most cases, a master's degree is the highest level of education attained in the field of criminal justice as a doctorate is focused only on academia or research.
The majority of criminal justice programs are found at the undergraduate level. A bachelor's degree provides students with a broad foundation of knowledge in the field, while a master's degree allows students to specialize in an area of interest and gain access to more supervisory positions. Many students at this level are pursuing a master's degree in forensic science or criminology to support their specific career choice.
A career in criminal justice can be both rewarding and challenging. Professionals who work in this field often have the opportunity to make positive differences in their communities. However, they also deal with difficult and sometimes dangerous situations on a daily basis.
Online PhD Degree in Criminal Justice (PhD)
A PhD in criminal justice is the highest academic degree that one can earn in the field of criminal justice, but it is not commonly earned. This degree is typically reserved for those who wish to pursue careers in academia or research as it requires a great deal of advanced study and research. graduates with a PhD in criminal justice can find work in a number of different settings including government agencies, think tanks, and private research firms.
Those who earn these degrees often go on to careers as college professors or researchers. A doctoral degree is also required for most tenured teaching positions at colleges and universities, so those with a PhD in criminal justice will be able to teach at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Some graduates also find work as policy analysts or consultants, using their research skills to help organizations make informed decisions about criminal justice policy.
Online Criminal Justice Certifications
There are a number of criminal justice certifications that can be earned to help advance a career in this field. Some of the most popular certifications include the following.
The Certified Protection Professional (CPP) credential is one of the most highly respected certifications in the security industry. To earn this credential, individuals must have at least five years of experience in the field and pass a comprehensive exam.
The Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) credential is another popular certification for those working in the field of fraud prevention and detection. This credential requires individuals to have at least two years of experience and pass an exam.
For those interested in working as a law enforcement officer, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) offers several certification programs.
Become a Criminal Justice Professional in Virginia
In order to become a criminal justice professional in Virginia, you will need to complete a few steps.
Step 1: Research the different types of criminal justice careers
There are many options available, from law enforcement to corrections to private security. Find the one that best fits your interests and skillset.
Step 2: Enroll in a criminal justice program at a college or university
Many schools offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees in criminal justice. Choose the level of education that best meets your needs and goals. For example, those who wish to work as police officers will need less education than those who wish to make their way into a forensic scientist position. The former usually requires only an associate degree and a bachelor’s for advancement, while the latter may require as much as a master’s degree in order to gain credentials and licensure that will let you succeed.
Step 3: Complete an internship or other practical training experience
This will give you the opportunity to gain real-world experience in the field of criminal justice. It can also help you make connections with professionals who can provide guidance and advice as you begin your career.
Step 4: Pass the Virginia State Bar Exam or whatever test is required for your position
In order to become a practicing lawyer in the state of Virginia, you must first pass the Virginia State Bar Exam. The exam is administered by the Board of Bar Examiners and is generally taken over the course of two days. For police officers, you must be able to complete academy training, a background check, and perhaps a licensing test. There are different requirements for different fields, so be sure to do your research ahead of time.
What Can I Do with a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice?
A bachelor's degree in criminal justice can open up a number of doors for you in terms of careers. With this degree, you could become a police officer, a detective, a federal agent, or even a lawyer. The sky is the limit when it comes to what you can do with a bachelor's in criminal justice, especially if you’re willing to continue your education later.
If you're looking to enter the field of law enforcement, then a bachelor's in criminal justice is the perfect place to start. A four-year degree will give you the knowledge and skills you need to be successful in this competitive field. And if you're looking to advance your career, many agencies offer promotion opportunities for those with higher education levels. If you're interested in working in the private sector, then a bachelor's in criminal justice can also be beneficial. Many companies are looking for employees with strong backgrounds in law and order.
Potential Careers for Criminal Justice Professional in Virginia
- Forensic Accountant:
A forensic accountant is responsible for investigating and analyzing financial data to help solve crimes. They use their skills in accounting, auditing, and finance to examine financial statements and other records to look for evidence of criminal activity.
- A bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or a related field
- Strong analytical and problem-solving skills
- Attention to detail
- Ability to work independently
- The median annual wage for accountants and auditors in the US in 2021 was $77,250
- The mean annual wage for accountants and auditors in Virginia is $87,850
A paralegal will provide legal and administrative support to the lawyers in a law firm.
- A law degree or equivalent qualification
- Excellent research and writing skills
- The ability to work well under pressure and to deadlines
- Good interpersonal and communication skills
- The median annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants in the US in 2021 was $56,230
- The mean annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants in Virginia is $54,840
- Conservation Officer:
As a conservation officer, you will be responsible for the protection of natural resources including wildlife, plants, and water. You will work to ensure that these resources are used responsibly and sustainably. In order to be successful in this role, you must have a deep knowledge of conservation principles and practices. You must also be able to effectively communicate with the public and other stakeholders.
- Bachelor's degree in conservation, biology, or a related field
- Several years of experience working in conservation
- Strong communication and interpersonal skills
- The median annual wage for conservation scientists in the US in 2021 was $63,750 and fish and game wardens earned $60,730
- The mean annual wage for conservation scientists in Virginia is $74,390 and fish and game wardens earn $50,980
- State Trooper:
A state trooper is a law enforcement officer who is responsible for enforcing state laws and keeping the peace. They patrol highways and communities, investigate crimes, and make arrests.
- Valid driver's license
- High school diploma or GED
- 21 years of age or older
- Pass a background check and drug test
- The median annual wage for police and detectives in the US in 2021 was $66,020
- The mean annual wage for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in Virginia is $59,720
- Police Supervisor:
A police supervisor is responsible for the day-to-day supervision of police officers. They ensure that officers are properly trained and equipped to perform their duties, and that they are following department procedures. A police supervisor also investigates complaints against officers and takes disciplinary action when necessary.
- Previous law enforcement experience
- Good interpersonal and communication skills
- Good organizational skills
- Ability to make quick decisions
- The mean annual wage for first-line supervisors of police and detectives in the US in 2021 was $98,760
- The mean annual wage for first-line supervisors of police and detectives in Virginia is $98,640
- Lab Scientist:
A lab scientist is responsible for conducting experiments and tests in a laboratory setting. They are also responsible for maintaining accurate records of their findings, and writing reports on their work.
- A bachelor’s degree in science or a related field
- Experience working in a laboratory setting
- Strong attention to detail
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills
- The median annual wage for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians in the US in 2021 was $57,800
- The mean annual wage for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians in Virginia is $55,220