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Pennsylvania Criminal Justice Programs

It is a particularly interesting time for criminal justice in the state of Pennsylvania, where judicial reforms have been increasingly gathering steam in recent years. The First Step Act, which aims to ease mandatory minimum drug sentences and releases people who meet specific requirements, is just one law that is changing the face of criminal justice in the state.

Read on to learn more about which schools in the state of Pennsylvania offer the best criminal justice programs, and the types of careers those schools may prepare you for.

Criminal Justice Careers in Pennsylvania

Criminal justice careers generally fall under one of three branches—law enforcement, the court system, or corrections.

Law enforcement forms the front line of criminal justice. If you take a job in this field, you may be tasked with finding and arresting criminals. A role in the court system means you may be responsible for helping ascertain if a person is guilty of a crime or determining their punishment. A job in corrections involves carrying out the sentence determined by the court, including jail or probation.

While each branch serves a different purpose, all careers in the criminal justice field focus on helping protect the communities in which they serve.

Law Enforcement Careers in Pennsylvania

A career in law enforcement can be dangerous, but it can also provide a profound sense of job satisfaction from seeing the direct benefits of your work in the community. Many people enter law enforcement because helping others during vulnerable times can be immensely satisfying.

The table below outlines the average pay and job outlook for several popular law enforcement careers in Pennsylvania.

CareerCareer OutlookAnnual Median Salary
Police Officers +5% $61,380
Private Detectives and Investigators +8% $50,090

All data from CareerOneStop

Jobs in the Pennsylvania Courts

A career in the Pennsylvania court system may require education in the legal field, as well as a sense of justice and compassion for people who are victims of abuse, struggle with mental illness, or battle with addiction.

The table below outlines the median salaries and expected growth for jobs in Pennsylvania’s court system.

CareerCareer OutlookAnnual Median Salary
Paralegals and legal assistants +12% $50,940
Prosecutors +6% $120,910

All data from CareerOneStop

Corrections Careers in Pennsylvania

If you have a sense of fairness and have a tough skin, a job in corrections may be an ideal career path for you. Though physically and emotionally taxing, these jobs let you be part of a system that helps people with a criminal record clean up their lives, get an education, and launch into a new way of living after serving their sentence.

The table below explores the most common careers in Pennsylvania corrections, including the median salary and projected career growth.

CareerCareer OutlookAnnual Median Salary
Correctional Officers and Jailers -7% $44,330
Probation Officers +3% $53,020

All data from CareerOneStop

Criminal Justice Education Resources in Pennsylvania

As previously mentioned, the field of criminal justice encompasses numerous types of careers, including positions in law enforcement, the legal profession, and corrections. Below, we’ve listed important resources for some common jobs in the field. These resources include information about how and where to apply to popular positions, the training involved, and exams you might be required to take.

  • Corrections: Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
    Careers include corrections officers, corrections counselors, teachers, and health care positions. Provides information about what each career entails and how to apply
    Most occupations in corrections are considered civil service jobs, and applicants must pass the Civil Service Written/Online Exam to be considered
  • Justice System: The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania
    Careers include Deputy Attorney General, law clerk, public defender, and Arraignment Court Magistrate. Internships may also be included.
    Job listings for the Pennsylvania Department of Justice, including salary ranges

Innovations in Criminal Justice in Pennsylvania

The criminal justice field is ever-evolving, with new laws going into effect and new task forces being announced all the time. These initiatives can impact the profession in numerous ways, including increasing the number of jobs in the field and shifting the responsibilities of certain positions.

The following recent innovations may impact the criminal justice field in the coming years:

  • Clean Slate Initiative: In June of 2018, Governor Tom Wolf signed the Clean Slate provision, which automatically seals records for low-level crimes after one year. This includes those who offended many years ago or whose charges were dropped, with the goal of helping those who have committed a minor crime lose the stigma and improve their lives through things like better employment opportunities.
  • Creation of a New Juvenile Justice Task Force: In December 2019, the governor of Pennsylvania announced the creation of a new task force to assess how the state handles justice for minors. The results of this review could impact the number of jobs that focus on juvenile justice in the state.
  • Proposed Overhaul of the Probation System: Governor Tom Wolf and Deputy Secretary of Corrections Christian Stephens are pushing to reduce the length of probation in the state, which could impact the number or probation officers needed in the coming years.

Resources for Criminal Justice Students and Professionals in Pennsylvania

There are several Pennsylvania government agencies in the criminal justice field, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by them all. The following sites provide critical information about job opportunities at several of these agencies, including application information.

  • Allegheny County: As one of the most populous counties in the state, Allegheny’s police force services a total of nine public parks, two airports, and the Borough of Wilmerding. This site outlines when applications are open and the requirements you must meet to be hired.
  • Attorney General’s Website: The AG is the top law enforcement official in the commonwealth and has a wide range of responsibilities. Jobs under the Attorney General include attorneys, investigators, and executive and administrative assistants.
  • Department of Corrections Employment Page: The main page for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections includes information about the different types of employment available, as well as how to apply. Positions include licensed psychologists, corrections officers, and parole agents.
  • Forensic Laboratory Pennsylvania State Police: This page outlines the different types of jobs available in the field of forensics, which may include forensic scientist and forensic examiner, as well as the requirements for applying.
  • Monroe County PA Deputy Sheriff Page: The requirements for becoming a deputy sheriff often vary by jurisdiction. This page outlines the essentials in Monroe County, including a link to apply.
  • Pennsylvania State Police: The cadet eligibility requirement page on this site outlines the steps you must take to become a state police officer, including the training required and disqualifying factors.
  • United States Department of Justice Pennsylvania Vacancies: The U.S. DOJ page lists federal criminal justice positions in the state of Pennsylvania, which include trial attorney and Assistant US Attorney.

If you are considering a career in criminal justice, the following resources may help you on your path to finding the ideal role. The websites below offer support for those already in the field, as well as educational opportunities and job listings.

  • Pennsylvania Association on Probations, Parole, and Corrections: The PAPPC is a professional organization that provides continuing professional development, promotes legislature, and works to increase public understanding of the field of corrections.
  • Pennsylvania Bar Association: The PBA is dedicated to promoting and protecting the legal profession in the state of Pennsylvania alongside the rights of Pennsylvania citizens. Resources include a directory of lawyers in the state, diversity information, meeting rooms, and networking opportunities.
  • Pennsylvania Crime Prevention Officers’ Association (PCPOA) : PCPOA is committed to reducing crime in the state of Pennsylvania through promoting cooperation between law enforcement and citizens. They host training segments, informational TV shows, and an annual three-day symposium.
  • Pennsylvania Prison Wardens Association: This organization is dedicated to improving education and providing networking opportunities for professionals in the corrections field. Resources include training, conferences, and a list of open positions in the state.
  • Pennsylvania State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police: This organization of sworn law enforcement officers gives a voice to those who serve by representing the interests of active and retired law enforcement officers in the government. They provide seminars and training, host events, and list jobs in the field.

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