Home Iowa Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Iowa Criminal Justice Degree Programs

State Agency: Division of Criminal & Juvenile Justice Planning


Iowa, a land of mostly small towns and rural communities, was once the site of a deadly shootout with one of the most notorious gangs of the Great Depression. In 1934, Iowa police cornered Bonnie and Clyde and other members of the Barrow gang in a park in Dexter. Bonnie and Clyde escaped the shootout, but three other gang members were taken into custody.

These days Iowa is working toward a more restorative justice system. One recent initiative focuses on bringing education to jails and prisons. The prisons that work with the Des Moines Area Community Colleges see much lower rates of recidivism than those who don’t.

“Restorative justice is a different paradigm, a different way of looking at how we respond to wrongdoing,” said Fred Van Liew, a former Polk County prosecutor and director of the Center for Restorative Justice Practices in Des Moines.

If you’d like to help change the way criminal justice is carried out, find a program near you from the school listings below.

Criminal Justice Education in Iowa

If you decide to pursuit a criminal justice degree at a four-year institution, it will typically involve the completion of a variety of core curriculum courses in areas like math and English. An increasing number of criminal justice courses are then typically taken as you progress through the program. Therefore, relatively more criminal justice coursework occurs during the junior and senior years. Here are some of the types of courses that are commonly included in criminal justice education:

  • The History of Criminal Justice
  • Introduction to Criminal Law
  • The American System of Jurisprudence
  • Research Methodologies in Criminal Justice
  • Legal Writing and Research
  • Ethics in Criminal Justice
  • An Introduction to the U.S. Criminal Justice System

As you know, far more job opportunities are open to graduates with four-year bachelor’s degrees than to those with two-year associate degrees. However, if you’d like to get a degree and then get out in the workforce quickly, you may find the associate degree to be the perfect choice. Many local law enforcement agencies, especially in rural areas, will hire a graduate in possession of a two-year associate degree. Also, the credits you acquire from a two-year degree usually transfer, especially if you want to continue your criminal justice education. You may even want to complete the rest of your bachelor’s degree online.

Fieldwork and/or internships are common in criminal justice programs. For example, a semester of fieldwork may be required during the junior year, although this is not always the case. Internships in criminal justice are commonly pursued during the senior year, and these internships gives students “hands-on” experience. Finally, those that want to qualify for high-level law-enforcement occupations like an FBI agent will want to pursue a master’s degree in criminal justice. In addition, a master’s degree plus field experience may make you a good candidate for high-level administration positions such as police chief.

If you need financial assistance, your school can help you apply for scholarships offered through the American Criminal Justice Association or those offered through private foundations like the David E. Whitmire Scholarship Fund. Or you may want to visit this page to learn more about other criminal justice scholarships.

Outlook for Criminal Justice in Iowa

Law-enforcement officers in Iowa will find relatively better working conditions than in some states in the country. For example, the violent crime rate, according to the FBI, ranks 35th in the nation. The overall crime rate, according to the National Institute of Corrections, is more than 25 percent less than the national average. Even though Iowa is statistically a pretty safe state, Careerinfonet.org projects protective services occupations in Iowa to increase 13 percent between 2016 and 2026.

For those looking to work in law enforcement in Iowa, salary depends on the chosen profession. It is important to note that correctional officers only work at the local or state level because there are no federal correctional institutions in Iowa.

The job outlook for probation officers is relatively strong for the remainder of the decade, according to O*Net. Job growth from 2016 to 2026 is projected to be about five percent. More offenders are reporting to probation and parole officers as incarceration is sometimes less favored due, in part, to the overpopulated prisons.

We’ve listed some of the top criminal justice career paths and salaries in Iowa below. Data was found at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Average Annual Iowa Salary

Be sure to review our list of criminal justice colleges below to help with your search to find the best criminal justice program.

Iowa Criminal Justice Schools

Online programs may not be available in all areas