Criminal Justice Colleges: 3 Tips for Finding the Right School Near You
Finding the right school for you can be tricky. You need to make sure your college selection is worth the time and money you invest so after graduation your degree will set you up for a lucrative criminal justice career. Since salaries and jobs vary based on state, use these tips to help you find a criminal justice program near you.
#1 Research Criminal Justice Careers in Your Area
When it comes to finding the right criminal justice career for you, first consider your goals. Think about what level of law enforcement and type of work interests you. Also, consider what careers pay well or are in high demand. Below we’ve highlighted some of the most popular criminal justice positions.
- Police Officer – Police officers provide safety and security to the general public, enforcing local or state laws. An associate degree is usually all that’s required to begin a career in the field, and these entry-level jobs can pay well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2017, police officers made an average salary of $62,960. The state with the highest pay for police officers was California, at an annual mean wage of $100,090.
- Police Detective – Becoming a detective requires more in-depth training than that of police officers and many entry-level positions are in federal agencies, private companies, and promoted positions in police departments. With your bachelor’s degree, you can find a lucrative position as a detective making a mean annual wage of $83,320, according to the BLS (2017).
- Forensic Psychologist – With a master’s degree, you could work to analyze criminal behavior at the federal level. Forensic psychologists asses a criminal’s competency to stand trial or determines if parents are fit in divorce proceedings, and most graduate degrees come with higher salaries. The BLS states the average salary for any type of psychologist is $77,030 per year.
- Criminologist/Sociologist – The BLS groups criminologists with sociologists, who make a median pay of $79,650 per year. Sociologists study how people interact and behave, and criminology is considered an area of sociology that focuses specifically on how crimes impact society. These positions typically require at least a master’s degree and may not be available in every state.
- Homeland Security Jobs – Homeland security careers exist with nearly any level of education or experience. People in these careers work to keep the nation safe through many types of jobs, both on the forefront and behind the scenes. Even security agencies need accountants and human resource managers as well as special agents. With five years of on-the-job experience, you could become an emergency management director who helps communities prepare for disasters or other emergencies. According to the BLS, emergency management directors earn a median pay of $72,760 per year.
Many jobs differ from state to state, especially in the field of criminal justice. You can find updated data on your state and those near you through the BLS. Simply click on the career above to find out more. If you’re interested in a career other than those listed above, you can also search the BLS by occupation. Be sure to check out local area data on each job page to find the salary average and demand in your state by following these directions:
- Step 1- Choose your desired career then click on ‘State & Area Data’.
- Step 2 – Click on the specific career in the ‘OES’ section to see more details.
- Step 3 – Scroll down to the blue map and hover over your state for more information.
#2: Look for Colleges with Good Criminal Justice Programs Near You
Not all criminal justice programs are created equally, so make sure you pick the best school for you. Be sure to find an accredited program with dedicated and esteemed professors in the department. Use the following tips to research good programs near you.
- The best schools and criminal justice programs will be accredited from an outside organization, which also means they most likely participate in a federal or state financial aid program. They will also offer a return on your investment, meaning what you pay in tuition is worth the price in comparison to your later career salary. And they’ll have fantastic professors in the department who enjoy teaching.
- Consider your career goals and explore the college’s website to make sure the classes and specialties they offer align with your needs. The number of students enrolled at the school may give you an idea of the anticipated class sizes. You’ll also want to consider the location of the school if you want to work in a state that pays the highest wages, especially if you plan to take online or in-person classes.
- Lastly, research the financial aid options and criminal justice professors. By heading to the school’s website, you can search for the scholarship or aid options available or learn more about each professor’s background and experience.
#3: Research Criminal Justice Accreditation: Ensure Your School is Accredited
Accreditation is given to schools that meet certain requirements set by either regional or national private educational associations. This helps evaluate educational standards in various schools and examine whether their degrees are legitimate.
Make sure to check if the school has regional and national accreditation, as many employers will seek graduates from regionally accredited schools. This type of accreditation is considered more rigorous, and you can find this information on the department or council’s website. Regional accreditation will ensure your credits transfer to another school, join graduate school, and even land a job later.
To tell if a college is accredited, you will need to research the school. Head to the college’s website and start with the ‘About’ page. This is where many universities or online colleges list their accreditation. You can verify this information on the Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation website directories.
Some of the most common regional accrediting organizations include:
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- Western Associate of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities (WASC ACSCU)
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)