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Washington Criminal Justice Programs

The criminal justice field is very diverse, with many career tracks and jobs available in the state of Washington. Whether you want to seek justice for victims of crime , understand the psychology of offenders, or bring the rule of law and the tenets of the U.S. Constitution to light, pursuing a degree in criminal justice provides ample opportunity to specialize in an area that’s interesting to you.

If you’re eager to contribute to the growing field of knowledge or want to practice criminal justice through law enforcement, corrections, or the court system, read on to learn about the right opportunities for you in Washington.

Criminal Justice Careers in Washington

Just like the American criminal justice system, the criminal justice system in the state of Washington has three branches: law enforcement, the courts, and corrections. These branches work together to control and prevent crime, punish unlawful activities, and offer correctional and rehabilitation services to offenders.

You’ll find unique opportunities and challenges within Washington’s criminal justice system. For example, Washington has historically had one of the lowest ratios of law-enforcement personnel per 100,000 residents in the country.

Law Enforcement Careers in Washington

The law enforcement branch of the criminal justice system includes police officers, sheriffs, detectives, and so on. These people are tasked with investigating or observing behaviors and making judgment calls according to legal standards. They perform arrests and work with prosecutors on criminal cases.

Below are sample jobs within the law enforcement branch of criminal justice, along with their career outlook in the state of Washington, and annual median salaries. The career outlook for these professions is strong over the next decade.

CareerCareer Outlook (2016 – 26)Annual Median Salary
Police officers+11% $78,870
Private detectives and investigators+12% $48,920

All data from CareerOneStop.

Jobs in Washington Courts

The court system is where legal cases are heard before a judge, and sometimes a jury too. State, city, and municipal courts hear different types and degrees of cases, and various profession fulfill different needs within the court systems. Paralegals and legal assistants are critical members of the courts, providing support to attorneys, judges, and clients, and working across a variety of court experiences. Prosecutors—also called attorneys or lawyers—assess and present evidence to a judge. The career of a prosecutor is highly skilled and can be highly rewarding.

Careers in Washington courtrooms are predicted to significantly increase in the future, so this may be a good place to aim your career goals. Below are some criminal justice careers available within the court system in the state.

CareerCareer Outlook (2016 – 26)Annual Median Salary
Paralegals and legal assistants+16% $57,670
Prosecutors+10% $115,500

All data from CareerOneStop.

Careers in the Washington Corrections System

Corrections is the branch of the criminal justice system tasked with seeing through the sentences given to legal offenders. Sentences may include jail or prison time, probation, parole, rehabilitation services (like community service or therapy), and so on. Within corrections, a correctional officer monitors the activity of inmates in prisons or jails, ensuring the safety of inmates and employees. Outside correctional facilities, probation officers monitor individuals who have been placed on probation, and report findings and judgments to court officials as examples of whether the individual is complying with their sentence or not.

Jobs for correctional officers in Washington are anticipated to increase slightly over the next decade. By comparison, in the U.S. overall, this category of jobs is anticipated to shrink in the same time period.

Within the field of corrections, various careers fulfill important roles in ensuring the safety of the populace and the rehabilitation or incarceration of offenders.

CareerCareer Outlook (2016 – 26)Annual Median Salary
Correctional officers and jailers+7% $55,290
Probation officers+7% $61,370

All data from CareerOneStop.

Innovations in Criminal Justice in Washington State

As with any career, it will be important to remain educated and aware of proposed and approved changes within your field of expertise. Although criminal justice reform can be difficult to agree upon and vote into law, once passed, professionals will need to adapt new information and practices into their work. For example, in 2019, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a new law into effect that allows people with a single misdemeanor for possession of marijuana to apply for a pardon. The law also decriminalizes possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal use.

Whether you work in law enforcement, the court system, or corrections, it will be crucial to stay aware of work being done to reform a system that may change the way you do your job.

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Main Criminal Justice Governmental Agencies and Entities in Washington State

While pursuing your career in criminal justice, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the state agencies and resources available in Washington. Below is a helpful (though not comprehensive) list of criminal justice agencies in Washington.

  • Office of the Attorney General: The attorney general is the chief legal officer of the state of Washington. The office provides legal advice to state agencies, enforces consumer protection and civil rights laws, prosecutes financial crimes, and more. The office of the attorney general is also charged with remaining at the forefront of developing issues, like human trafficking, combating dark money, addressing vulnerable adult abuse, and so on. In Washington, the office contains 25 legal divisions that provide services for state agencies and hires licensed attorneys to do this work.
  • Department of Corrections: This department manages all state-operated adult prisons and supervises adult offenders who live in the community. The department aims to reduce the number of people who return to correctional facilities, and so works to ensure a low rate of recidivism. Jobs offered at the Department of Corrections vary significantly and include positions such as correctional officer, civil rights investigations manager, lieutenant, psychiatrist, correctional sergeant, and so on.
  • State Patrol: This is the state police agency for Washington. Originally founded as the State Highway Patrol, its jurisdiction has grown over the last 100 years, and now encompasses all law enforcement operations in the state. The department employs more than 1,000 people statewide, who handle 200,000 calls for service and make more than one million contacts per year. The state patrol hires individuals to work as troopers, communications officers, vehicle enforcement officers, and in civilian roles.
  • Criminal Justice Training Commission (WSCJTC): The WSCJTC establishes standards for peace officers and correctional officer training in Washington. The commission is tasked with ensuring every local officer has consistent training which is informed by innovative strategies and up-to-date methodologies. WSCJTC maintains an employment board for peace officers needed in the geographic area.
  • Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC): AOC supports Washington’s judicial branch of government by evaluating the functionality of the courts, providing continuing education for judges, maintaining records, compiling annual statistics, and more. The Washington courts employ more than 400 judges, as well as legal professionals, IT experts, accountants, educators, and more.

Resources for Criminal Justice Students and Professionals in Washington State

The resources below may be helpful for both students and professionals in criminal justice fields.

  • Law Enforcement Digests: Compiled by the WSCJTC, these digests offer a compendium of brief, easy-to-read updates on new cases and law, and legal changes. Digests summarize court rulings and assess how legal decisions may affect current law enforcement practices.
  • Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC): WASPC is a membership-based organization which provides support and services to law enforcement agencies in the state. It emphasizes diversity in the professional roles of its members and the geographic areas represented and is committed to serving both members and non-members.
  • Washington Defender Association (WDA): WDA is a membership-based organization that offers a compendium of resources and support for public defenders in Washington, as well as a list of current job openings. WDA provides training and publications, case assistance, and policy advocacy. Dedicated to supporting those who represent indigent or extremely low-income clients, this organization accepts membership applications from public defenders, but not from individuals performing prosecutorial or judicial work.
  • Washington Access to Criminal History (WATCH): This is the official Internet source of criminal history conviction records in Washington state. The fee-based database includes conviction information, arrests less than one year old with dispositions pending, and information regarding registered sex and kidnap offenders.