A career in criminal justice will provide opportunities for you to contribute positively to the community while securing financial stability for your future. Many careers in the criminal justice field require advanced degrees and educational certification from criminal justice schools. Careers in this growing field include police officer, criminologist, crime scene investigator, probation officer, private security employee, and correctional treatment specialist. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 27 occupations that are directly related to fighting crime. Of these 27 occupations, some are concerned with monitoring and attempting to prevent crime, while others are involved in the punishment and rehabilitation of criminals.
Once students have finished course work at criminal justice schools, they can work in a wide variety of occupations.
- Public-Arena Crime-Related Occupations Include Police Officers
- Correctional Specialists
- Court Reporters
Although many believe that local, state, and federal governments are solely responsible for fighting crime, private industry also employs a large number of people in crime-related occupations, including security guards, private investigators, lawyers, and legal support staff and assistants.
The wide variety of occupations accounts for the vast differences in education, salary, and workloads among different types of employees in the criminal justice field. For example, while security guards comprise the largest number of employees in this field, their hourly wages are much lower than the wages of a lawyer working for a private corporation. The work experiences of a security guard and a lawyer are also vastly different, as are the expected levels of education. Criminal justice schools can provide excellent training and background for many of the professions in this industry; however, lawyers must attend law school.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, crime-related occupations make up 3 percent of American workers. Many of these occupations have salaries higher than those of the average American worker, with employees in crime-related occupations earning, on average, more than $23 per hour. These occupations are expected to grow at the same rate as average occupational growth, and many of these occupations provide strong job security as well as other benefits.
Criminal justice professionals are integral to the health and well-being of any society. Working in this important profession is an honor and a privilege, and those who choose to do so are expected and required to be ethically sensible and strong; concerned about safety and fairness for all members of a community; interested in helping others; and skilled at communication, leadership, and observation techniques. As an occupation that is expected to grow (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), the field of criminal justice is a viable career option for anyone who wants to do good while making a good living. Exploring options at criminal justice schools can help educate a student about what avenue he or she wants to pursue.
- Qualities of Good Criminal Justice Professionals
- Choosing a Criminal Justice Program
- Sample Coursework
- School Life
- History of the Profession
Cost of Criminal Justice School
The cost of attending criminal justice schools or completing specific programs varies dramatically depending on the institution a student is attending. If a student plans to attend a junior college or community college, courses are generally less expensive than courses at a four-year undergraduate college or university. In general, average costs per course hour at a junior college in the United States range from about $75 to $350.
- An associate’s degree in criminal justice will usually require about 60 to 66 course hours of instruction. Therefore the average cost of completing an associate’s degree program can range from about $4500 to $23,000.
- One key factor that affects cost is whether a student is considered a district resident. A four-year bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can cost $50,000 or more.
- The costs vary depending factors such as the school, whether a student receives a discounted tuition, and the time that a student takes to earn the degree.
- If a student is interested in pursuing a master’s degree, he or she should generally allow another two years of course work and expect it to cost at least an additional $10,000.
Despite the high cost of tuition, many schools offer financial aid in the form of grants, loans, and work-study opportunities. Financial aid can make a degree in criminal justice possible for many who may otherwise not pursue a career in the field because they consider the cost to be too high. A student should contact the financial aid offices of all schools to which he or she is interested in applying. Counselors will be able to provide accurate information about out-of-pocket costs and tuition assistance programs available at their particular schools. In addition, employers and government agencies may forgive certain student loans if a student agrees to work in a certain area or with a particular community.
Paying for Criminal Justice School
Paying for criminal justice schools is a challenge for many people seeking a degree. Students should contact the financial aid offices of every school to which they plan to apply in order to determine the actual costs of attendance and the options that students have for financial assistance. A financial-aid officer at the school that a student attends may be able to assemble a financial-aid package that takes into account student contributions, available grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study jobs.
Students should also consider the cost of a degree when compared to average starting salaries for employees in the careers that they plan to pursue. Before taking out loans, students should determine possible monthly payments and what they will be able to afford. They should not be overwhelmed by or unable to pay back the money they have borrowed for their education.
Criminal Justice School Grants
Grants are one way that students can get assistance in paying for criminal justice school. Grants are monies applied to the cost of education that do not need to be repaid. The federal government offers grants for a wide variety of students. Grants provided by the federal government include Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), Academic Competitiveness Grants, Institutional Grants, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants. Each of these grants requires that students meet certain specifications, which students can research through financial-aid offices at various schools or at federal government websites that address college funding.
Undergraduate students who are pursuing their first degree are usually eligible for federal Pell Grants. This eligibility depends on cost of attendance and financial need.
- The 2010 – 2011 school year maximum Pell Grant allowed is $5,500 per semester.
The FSEOG provides funds for students whose family contributions are expected to be among the lowest of all students in attendance at the school. The FSEOG can range from $100 to $4000 a year.
- The Academic Competitiveness Grant offers from $750 to $1300 per year for eligible students. In order to be eligible, a student must be a Pell Grant recipient, must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree program, and must meet several other requirements.
- Institutional Grants refers to the grants offered by colleges and universities to students whose family and personal contributions and loans still need to be augmented in order to meet tuition requirements.
- The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant is for students whose parents or guardians died as a result of service in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. To be eligible for this grant, the student must be under 24 years old and must be enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of the parent or guardian’s death.
In addition to grants, students interested in financial aid to pay for criminal justice school should investigate loans, work-study options, scholarships, and other sources of aid. Grants are just one source of aid that can make up a student’s financial-aid package. Grants do not need to be repaid, but some of them (especially the Institutional Grants) require that recipients meet certain conditions. Students should meet with the financial- aid counselors at the schools to which they are applying to investigate the possibilities of assembling personalized financial-aid packages to help pay for tuition.
Criminal Justice Scholarships
Students interested in pursuing a degree from a criminal justice school should investigate scholarship availability. Scholarships are money toward educational expenses that a student does not have to repay. Various scholarships are offered for students following various programs of study. Each state’s education division receives federal funding to provide scholarships to graduating high school seniors. Each state’s qualification guidelines differ, so students should investigate specific guidelines for their states. There are also many scholarships not affiliated with the federal government. Students should contact the financial-aid offices of schools to which they intend to apply in order to determine possible scholarship opportunities available through particular schools. Because scholarships, unlike loans, don’t have to be repaid, they are an ideal way of paying for criminal justice school.
Various colleges, universities, and other educational institutions provide scholarships to students who meet specific qualifications. For example, a school may offer scholarships to students who are state residents, who meet certain qualifications regarding grade point average, who are following a particular course of study or major, or who are contributing specifically to an activity such as athletics or theater or music.
Other private scholarship opportunities are also available for students. Many corporations, church groups, or other organizations offer scholarships to students meeting certain criteria. Scholarship search services offer help matching possible scholarship opportunities with students; however, students should be aware of the possibility of scholarship fraud – students can find out about scholarship opportunities available to them without having to pay any money.
Examples of scholarships that are specific to students seeking a criminal justice major include the Criminal Justice Department Scholarship, the Drinko Criminal Justice Scholarship, and the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association Undergraduate Criminal Justice Scholarship. Each of these scholarships is school-specific. That is, they are only offered to students who attend a specific school, as outlined in the scholarship information. Students interested in a program of study and career in law enforcement can apply for various scholarships such as the Harris Y. Cotton Memorial Scholarship, which awards $2500 per student and is not school-specific. The U.S. Department of Education’s federal student aid site is an excellent resource for scholarship searches that students should review when trying to finance their educations.
Criminal Justice School Financial Aid
Students pursuing degrees from criminal justice schools should investigate all possibilities of financial aid when financing their education. Financial aid simply refers to the monetary contributions, outside of one’s own contributions, that a student must use in order to finance his or her education. Financial aid can come in many forms, including grants, scholarships, and student loans. Financial aid is also provided by many schools in the form of campus employment, often referred to as work-study programs.
Schools at which a student is pursuing a course of study in criminal justice most likely have a financial-aid office that is dedicated to determining ways to finance one’s education.
Counselors who work in a school’s financial-aid office can assemble a financial-aid package for a student that includes all sources contributing to the student’s educational costs, such as family and student contributions, grants, scholarships, loans, and any other sources of financial aid. Each year, a student will work with a financial-aid counselor to determine a financial aid package to help pay for his or her costs for the year.
Traditional financial aid options include grants, scholarships, and student loans. Grants and scholarships are money contributed toward a student’s educational expenses that he or she does not have to repay. Loans are money to cover one’s immediate educational expenses that must be repaid. Federal student loans are usually offered at low interest rates and include flexible repayment options for students after they have graduated from school.
As the cost of postsecondary education continues to increase, more and more students require some form of financial aid in order to successfully fund their educations. Students considering postsecondary education should be organized and clearly informed about all financial aid options, including knowing their own financial situations and what amount they can contribute to their own education. Working with a counselor in a school’s financial aid office is the best and most effective way to determine how to pay for a program of study.
Criminal Justice School Student Loans
Students considering pursuing degrees at criminal justice schools must consider the practicalities of attending postsecondary educational institutions, namely the costs involved and coming up with a plan for paying for criminal justice school. Federal student loans are available to students pursuing postsecondary educational opportunities. Federal student loans are an attractive way to bridge the financial gap because they offer interest rates that are lower than commercial loans. In addition, repayment of federal student loans usually does not begin until a student has left school, or if a student is considered to be working toward his or her degree on a less than half-time basis.
Federal student loan options include Direct Stafford Loans (Subsidized and Unsubsidized), Direct PLUS Loans, and Direct Consolidation Loans. Direct Subsidized Stafford Loans are provided for students who demonstrate financial need. Each school determines the amount a student can borrow, and interest is not charged while the borrower is enrolled in school at least half-time. Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans are provided for students who do not necessarily demonstrate financial need, and interest accrues as soon as the loan is disbursed to the student. Direct PLUS loans are provided for parents of students pursuing postsecondary, graduate, or professional degrees. Direct Consolidation Loans are provided for students who wish to combine into a single loan all federal education debts.
As with all loans, federal student loans are distributed with the expectation that the money will be repaid. When a student receives a federal student loan, he or she must sign a promissory note that outlines the repayment conditions and any other stipulations that apply to the loan. It is essential that students considering borrowing money to pay for postsecondary education determine a reasonable amount to borrow based on expected career earnings after school. A student is expected to repay the loan even if he or she does not finish the postsecondary education program for which he or she obtained the loan, cannot find employment upon completion of the program, or is dissatisfied with the education received at the program. As with any loans, student loan obligations are serious, and failure to repay them can result in default and negative reports to credit agencies.
A student borrowing money for the first time must undergo entrance counseling before being granted approval for the loan for which he or she is applying. A student must also participate in exit counseling before leaving school. This counseling ensures that students understand the repayment expectations and responsibilities and that they can develop effective repayment strategies when they have completed their postsecondary educational programs.