What is Criminal Justice?
In West Virginia, there are many different criminal justice colleges and degree programs available. Students can choose to study at a traditional four-year university or they can opt for a two-year program at a community college. There are also online programs available for those who wish to study from home.
No matter which type of program you choose, you will be able to take courses that cover topics such as the legal system, criminology, and criminal psychology. You will also have the opportunity to participate in internships and field placements, which can give you real-world experience in the criminal justice field.
Upon graduation, you will be prepared to work in a variety of settings including law enforcement agencies, courts, and correctional facilities. With a degree in criminal justice, you will have the knowledge and skills necessary to help keep your community safe.
Online Criminal Justice Education in West Virginia
A criminal justice professional is someone who works in the field of criminal justice, which is the system of agencies and processes established by governments to control crime and impose penalties on those who violate laws. There are many different types of criminal justice professionals including police officers, lawyers, judges, probation officers, correctional officers, and more.
Most criminal justice professionals have at least a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field, though those who wish to work as police officers in WV may only need a high school diploma and to pass through their training academy. It’s important that criminal justice professionals be able to work with people of all backgrounds and cultures, as well as understanding the law and how it applies to different situations.
Criminal justice professionals play an important role in keeping our communities safe. They work to investigate crimes, apprehend offenders, and help ensure that criminals are brought to justice.
Online Associate Degree in Criminal Justice (AS)
An associate degree in criminal justice can be the first step on your way to a career in law enforcement or corrections. With an associate degree, you will have the opportunity to learn about the American legal system, crime scene investigation, and criminal procedure. You will also gain essential skills in communication and critical thinking.
If you are interested in a career in law enforcement, an associate degree in criminal justice can give you the foundation you need to begin your career. After completing your degree, you may be eligible for entry-level positions such as police officer or detective. If you are interested in working in corrections, an associate degree can prepare you for a job as a correctional officer or probation officer.
An associate degree in criminal justice can provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to begin a rewarding career in law enforcement or corrections.
Online Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice (BS)
A bachelor's degree in criminal justice can lead to many different legal careers in a number of settings including schools, prisons, and community organizations. This degree will give graduates a background in criminology, with an understanding of criminal psychology, laws, the court system, etc. The goal is for graduates to be able to use their knowledge of human behavior to help make positive changes in the world.
A bachelor’s is often not required to get started as a law enforcement officer or corrections officer, but earning this degree can help you earn more right from the start or gain early access to promotions and greater responsibilities. On top of that, if you’ve already completed an associate degree, it may only take two more years to earn enough credits to gain your bachelor’s as well. And there are online programs for those who are already working in the field and need a more flexible schooling options.
Online Masters Degree in Criminal Justice (MS)
A master's degree in criminal justice could lead to a career as a criminal counselor or allow you to gain administrative roles within the criminal justice system. No matter your goal, a master’s degree can help you gain promotions and higher pay or help you shift your career in a different direction.
A master’s degree in criminal justice should take between 18 months and two years to complete, even for those who are already employed within the field. However, for those who have particularly busy or unpredictable schedules, you can also find programs that will allow you to attend part-time and finish your degree over a longer period of time – one class at a time if necessary.
Graduates of master's programs in criminal justice can work in law enforcement agencies, government agencies, for non-profit organizations, in corrections facilities, as private investigators, as forensic scientists, and more, depending on their specialty.
Online PhD Degree in Criminal Justice (PhD)
Criminal justice is a broad field that encompasses many different specialties. However, there are few uses for a doctoral degree in the field. While a criminal justice professional could find work in a variety of settings such as prisons, juvenile detention centers, and rehabilitation facilities; they are more likely to work in policy creation, as a university professor, or in research.
In each of these positions, a PhD in criminal justice will give you unique qualifications to make decisions related to crime, punishment, criminal justice reform, and much more.
In a few special cases, one might also earn a degree in counseling to support those in the criminal justice system. Graduates from these programs are uniquely qualified to work with offenders, provide psychological and emotional support, and have the skills necessary to assess an offender’s risk for recidivism and develop treatment plans accordingly. Some earn doctorate degrees to support their work in forensics, with a focus on hard sciences as they aim to catch the bad guys and improve forensic techniques through research.
No matter what your focus, all PhD holders can find work as educators at the college level or in research, as that is a main focus of a doctoral degree.
Online Criminal Justice Certifications
Criminal justice certifications can be very beneficial to those working in the field. They can help improve job prospects and salaries, as well as providing opportunities for career advancement. There are many different types of criminal justice certifications, so it’s important to choose one that is aligned with your goals and interests.
Some popular criminal justice certifications include the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), the Certified Protection Professional (CPP), and the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). Each of these certs has different requirements and focuses, but all require a certain amount of experience and/or education.
If you are looking to get ahead in your criminal justice career, pursuing one or more of these certifications is a great way to do so. With the right certification, you can open up doors to new job opportunities and earn a higher salary.
Become a Criminal Justice Professional in West Virginia
Criminal justice is a field of study that can lead to many different career paths. If you want to become a criminal justice professional, there are some steps you can take to help you reach your goal.
Step 1: Research different types of criminal justice careers to find the one that best fits your interests and skills
A criminal justice degree can prepare you for a number of different careers in the field of law enforcement. If you're interested in a career in the criminal justice system, research the different types of jobs available to find one that best fits your interests. For example, if you're interested in working as a police officer, you'll need to complete training at a police academy. If you're interested in becoming a lawyer, you'll need to attend law school and pass the bar exam. There are also many other types of careers available in the criminal justice field such as probation officers, court reporters, and crime scene investigators. Researching different types of criminal justice careers is the first step to finding the job that's right for you.
Step 2: Enroll in a college or university that offers a degree program in criminal justice or a related field
The first step to becoming a criminal justice professional is to enroll in a college or university that offers a degree program in criminal justice or a related field. There are many different types of programs available, so it’s important to choose one that best fit your future career goals. Most criminal justice programs will provide you with a strong foundation in the legal system, law enforcement, and corrections. You will also have the opportunity to take courses in specialized areas such as forensics, victimology, and juvenile justice. After completing your degree, you will be prepared to pursue a variety of careers in the criminal justice field. It's true that you might not technically need a degree to work in some roles, such as a police officer. However, earning any level of degree will make it easier to move up through the ranks of a law enforcement agency and can allow you to start with a higher salary no matter your role.
Step 3: Complete an internship or other type of work experience in the field of criminal justice
If you're interested in a career in criminal justice, you should consider completing an internship or other type of work experience in the field. This can give you valuable real-world experience and help you decide if a career in criminal justice is right for you. There are many different types of internships and work experiences available in the field. You could do a ride-along or intern with a local police department, the district attorney's office, a law firm that specializes in criminal defense, or any number of other organizations. Each offers its own unique insights into the world of criminal justice. Some internships are paid positions, while others are unpaid. Regardless of whether you're paid or not, an internship can be a great way to gain valuable experience and learn more about the field.
Step 4: Take the exam for state licensing
If you want to pursue a career in some fields, such as criminology or some types of forensics, you will need to obtain state licensing. State licensing exams are designed to ensure that individuals have the skills and knowledge necessary to perform their duties. The exam may cover topics such as criminal law, investigation techniques, certain laboratory techniques, and report writing. The subjects covered by these exams will be determined by what type of licensure you hope to earn.
What Can I Do with a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice?
In the United States, a bachelor's degree in criminal justice is a popular undergraduate degree. It’s also quite versatile. A criminal justice degree can be used to pursue a career in law enforcement, corrections, or victim advocacy. For those interested in working in law enforcement, a criminal justice degree can provide the necessary education and training. While police officers usually do not require a degree, it can help you move up, and there are many state and federal agencies which require candidates to have at least a bachelor's degree; at some levels, they may even prefer candidates with a master's degree. For those who want to work as police officers, corrections officers, detectives, or federal agents, a criminal justice degree can be very beneficial. Or, if you choose not to move into a criminal justice career, you can use your bachelor’s degree to get started in another field. Many businesses are looking for workers with any bachelor’s to prove that they have an education of some kind.
Potential Careers for Criminal Justice Professional Graduates
- Emergency Management Coordinator:
An emergency management coordinator will be responsible for coordinating the emergency management program and activities. They will be responsible for developing and implementing emergency plans and procedures, training employees, and conducting drills. They will also be responsible for liaising with local emergency response agencies.
- Bachelor's degree in emergency management, public administration, or a related field
- Experience in emergency management or a related field
- Strong organizational and communication skills
- The median annual wage for emergency management directors in the US in 2021 was $76,730
- The mean annual wage for emergency management directors in West Virginia is $71,710
- Forensic Psychologist:
A forensic psychologist is a professional who uses their psychological knowledge to assist in legal cases. They work with clients, witnesses, and criminals to help investigate crimes and provide expert testimony in court.
- A doctorate in psychology
- Experience working with the legal system
- The median annual wage for psychologists in the US in 2021 was $81,040
- The mean annual wage for psychologists (all other) in West Virginia is $55,990
- K9 Officer:
A K9 officer is responsible for the care and training of police dogs. They work with police departments to provide officers with trained dogs that can be used in law enforcement. K9 officers may also be responsible for tracking and apprehending fugitives, searching for missing persons, and providing security at special events.
- A high school diploma or equivalent
- Experience working with dogs
- Ability to pass a background check
- 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 West Virginia is $47,160
- Corrections Manager:
A corrections manager is responsible for the daily operations of a correctional facility. They oversee the staff and inmates and ensure that the facility is running smoothly and safely.
- 5+ years of experience in corrections or a related field
- Experience in management or leadership roles
- Knowledge of security systems and protocols
- Strong communication and interpersonal skills
- The mean annual wage for first-line supervisors of correctional officers in the US in 2021 was $69,750
- The mean annual wage for correctional officers and jailers in West Virginia is $53,470
- Private Investigator:
A private investigator is someone who is hired to conduct investigations. These investigations can be of many different types, but all share the common goal of uncovering information that is not readily available to the public.
- A valid driver's license
- Excellent research skills
- Good communication skills
- The ability to work independently
- The median annual wage for private detectives and investigators in the US in 2021 was $59,380
- The mean annual wage for private detectives and investigators in West Virginia is $54,150
- Forensic Science Technician:
A forensic science technician who works with law enforcement will collect and analyze physical evidence related to criminal investigations. They may not only collect specimens from a crime scene but might also use laboratory equipment to match DNA or other bodily fluids, check for matches on fibers and other materials, and more.
- Bachelor's degree in forensic science or a related field
- Experience working in a crime lab
- Strong analytical and communication skills
- The median annual wage for forensic science technicians in the US in 2021 was $61,930
- The mean annual wage for forensic science technicians in WV is not tracked, but in Kentucky they make $43,870 and in Virginia they make $65,370
- FBI or Secret Service Agent:
An FBI or secret service agent may perform investigations, gather evidence, and make arrests in cases involving national security. Secret service agents also protect government officials and their families. And both of these groups may conduct background checks and provide security for events.
- U.S. citizenship
- At least 23 years old
- A bachelor's degree
- A satisfactory score on the Law Enforcement Officer Physical Abilities Test (LEOPAT)
- The median annual wage for police and detectives in the US in 2021 was $66,020
- The mean annual wage for detectives and criminal investigators in West Virginia is $87,390
- Criminal Justice Professor – Forensic Science Technician:
A criminal justice professor will be responsible for teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in the field of criminal justice. In addition to preparing and delivering lectures, they may also be responsible for developing and grading coursework, advising students, and conducting research.
- A Ph.D. or terminal degree in criminal justice or a related field
- A minimum of 3 years of teaching experience at the college level
- Evidence of scholarly research in the field of criminal justice
- Strong communication and interpersonal skills
- The mean annual wage for criminal justice and law enforcement teachers (post-secondary) in the US in 2021 was $81,730
- The mean annual wage for criminal justice and law enforcement teachers (post-secondary) in West Virginia is $48,980