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A criminal justice degree is a natural educational path for students who wish to enter the field of corrections or juvenile justice. Those interested in this career path should display a variety of qualities including integrity, adaptability, attentiveness to detail and a good level of physical fitness. It's also necessary to be able to deal with high-stress situations and have an inherent sense of concern for others.
Working as a correctional officer is a way to play an important role in the functioning of an orderly society. It falls on the shoulders of corrections officers to keep the peace and ensure order at local jails, as well as state and federal prisons, which in turn keeps the rest of the community safe. Online degree programs in corrections are designed to prepare students for work in the fields of corrections, parole, and probation.
Juvenile offenders often need services that differ from adults and an online juvenile justice degree program can equip you with the specialized knowledge needed for dealing with that population. Working in the juvenile justice system gives individuals the chance to affect the future of countless young people.
What do juvenile justice and correctional officers do?
Correctional officers and bailiffs are vital to the smooth running of our justice system.
Correctional officers are responsible for ensuring penal or rehabilitative facilities run smoothly. They normally work in shifts as corrections facilities need to be staffed 24 hours a day. Some of their duties include:
- Enforcing rules and maintaining order within the prison system
- Transporting prisoners to and from court and between institutions
- Inspecting inmates and facilities for contraband items
- Recording information on inmates and reporting to supervisors
- Ensuring inmates are fed and dispensing medication as prescribed by doctors
- Counseling inmates and responding to legitimate concerns
- Using restraints like handcuffs and preventing security breaches, disturbances and escapes
Bailiffs ensure security in the courtroom and have varying duties including escorting witnesses to the stand, handling evidence and enforcing courtroom procedures.
Juvenile justice officers typically perform duties such as:
- Supervising children and young adults in juvenile justice centers
- Counseling troubled youth and helping them deal positively with their issues
- Supervising youth on probation
- Working with various authorities, including police officers, courts and parents and guardians to help rehabilitate juvenile offenders
Did you know?
"The American criminal justice system holds almost 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 1,852 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories," according to Mass Incarceration, The Whole Pie 2018.
Occupations and Career Outlook
This table with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows the occupations related to this field along with job openings, average salary, total employment and job outlook projections until 2026.
Projected Job Growth
(2016 - 26)
|Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists||87,700||$56,630||5.7%|
Choose a degree that can help you meet your career goals
Corrections officers must have completed a high school diploma or graduate equivalency diploma (GED) making the field of corrections easy to enter. Frequently, new recruits are sent to a training academy before being assigned to a correctional facility, where they receive additional training. This requirement can vary by state. Holding a certificate in corrections may give you an edge over other applicants.
Employees working in federal prisons must complete a bachelor's degree, and some state facilities require a smattering of post-secondary education as well, the BLS reports. Workers at federal prisons must complete 200 hours of formal training, as well as an additional 120 hours of specialized training at the federal training center in Glynco, Ga. Correctional officers who work as part of tactical teams typically receive additional training in riot control, hostage situations and extracting obstinate prisoners from cells.
A popular choice for those seeking entry-level positions is to pursue a certificate in juvenile justice. Prospective students looking for more education may find a criminal justice associate, bachelor's and master's degree programs with juvenile justice concentrations.
Online Certificate Programs in Corrections and Juvenile Justice
What can I expect to learn in an online certificate program?
Online corrections certificate programs are designed to provide a foundation on correctional facilities administration and leadership skills. Online juvenile justice certificate programs can focus more on the juvenile justice system and understanding the world of juvenile offenders.
Typical duration: Four months to a year
General prerequisites: High school diploma, GED or equivalent; some certificate programs may require work experience in the field
Typical coursework: Topics covered can help candidates meet regulatory educational requirements. Additional coursework may include core skills like communication and composition. Sample courses:
- Introduction to the criminal justice system
- Corrections law and procedure
- Ethics in criminal justice
- General psychology
- Engaging high-risk youth
- Contributing factors to delinquency
What can I do after earning a certificate?
A certificate in juvenile justice or corrections can enable to you apply for entry-level roles in most local and state correctional facilities as well as private corrections companies. Some potential occupations are:
- Corrections officer
- Court advocacy
- Security guard
- Social worker
- Youth advocate
Online Associate Degree Programs in Corrections and Juvenile Justice
What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?
Online criminal justice and corrections associate degree programs give students a working knowledge of the law enforcement and corrections system.
Associate degree programs in juvenile justice are rare but you may be able to choose a corrections or juvenile justice concentration as a part of your online associate degree program in criminal justice.
Typical duration: Two years of full-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma, GED or equivalent
Typical coursework: Coursework for an online associate corrections or juvenile justice degree program includes core general education classes along with a specialized knowledge of corrections or juvenile justice topics.
You may find there is an overlap in the topics covered in both degree programs in terms of subjects like criminal law and justice. Examples of topics:
- Introduction to corrections
- Introduction to criminal justice
- Criminal law
Juvenile Justice (as a concentration):
- Introduction to juvenile justice
- Crime and delinquency
- Juvenile corrections
- Youth addiction
Possible Electives: White collar crime; crime scene investigation basics; victimology; crisis intervention
Additionally, you may be required to complete an internship/ capstone project.
What can I do after earning an associate degree?
An online associate degree program may allow candidates to apply for jobs in the police force and other law enforcement agencies. Potential occupations include:
- Corporate security manager
- Front-line supervisor (police and detectives)
- Corrections officer
- Conservation officer
- Public safety dispatcher
- Juvenile officer
- Juvenile justice trainer
- Youth service worker
Online Bachelor's Degree Programs in Corrections and Juvenile Justice
What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor's degree program?
An online bachelor's corrections program builds on the knowledge gained in an associate degree program and can allow students to choose concentrations or specializations.
Bachelor's degree programs in juvenile justice typically focus on correctional leadership and juveniles in the correctional system. They can prepare individuals for leadership and supervisory positions in the fields of juvenile justice and corrections.
Typical duration: Four years of full-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma, GED or equivalent, associate degree
Typical coursework: Courses in an online bachelor's corrections degree program or an online juvenile justice degree program usually include specialized topics such as:
- Criminal procedure
- Agency administration
- Research in criminal justice
- International criminal justice
- Judicial administration
- Victimology and trauma
- Interviewing and negotiating
- Child and juvenile protection law
- Child and adolescent psychopathology
- Family dynamics and community involvement
Possible electives: Psychopaths; sociopaths and serial killers; terrorist techniques; criminal psychology
Students may also be required to complete a capstone project or internship as a part of their bachelor's degree program.
What can I do after earning a bachelor's degree?
A bachelor's corrections or juvenile justice degree may enable students to follow careers in their areas of specialization. Some federal agencies require a minimum of a bachelor's degree to apply for jobs in their corrections institutes. Some potential occupations are:
- Police officer
- Customs inspector
- Corrections officer
- Correctional treatment specialist
- Correctional counselor
- Case manager
- Probation officer
- Juvenile probation officer
- Youth service coordinator
- Outreach counselor
Online Master's Degree Programs in Corrections and Juvenile Justice
What can I expect to learn in an online master's degree program?
Though rare, master's degrees in juvenile justice or corrections are available and offer training that can prepare graduates for high-level positions in correctional and rehabilitation facilities. These can be found as a:
- Master of Science (MS) in criminal justice with a concentration in corrections
- Master of Science (MS) in criminal justice with a concentration in correctional and juvenile justice studies
Typical duration: One to two years of full-time study
General prerequisites: Bachelor's degree
Typical coursework: Courses tend to focus on promoting leadership abilities in students, building an understanding of the administrative strategies used in the criminal justice system, and research-focused subjects. You may find topics such as:
- Research methods in criminal justice
- Correctional theory and policy
- Correctional rehabilitation
- Community corrections
- Juvenile justice
- Juvenile justice and ethics
- Juvenile law
- Management of behaviors
- Delinquency and gang impact
Additionally, you may need to complete a master's thesis and/or a capstone project.
What can I do after earning a master's degree?
A master's degree in criminal justice with a concentration in either corrections or juvenile justice can open up a number of different careers in supervisory positions within the criminal justice system. Some potential occupations are:
- Correctional officer supervisor
- Juvenile justice specialist
- Juvenile corrections facility manager
- Private security manager
Online Doctoral Degree Programs in Corrections and Juvenile Justice
What can I expect to learn in an online doctoral degree program?
Online doctoral degree program in criminal justice with a focus on corrections or juvenile justice can pave the way for numerous high-level careers in the criminal justice system.
Typical duration: Between three to seven years to complete
General prerequisites: Master's degree in criminal justice or a related field
Typical coursework: You are likely to take some courses pertaining to your field of specialization and complete a doctoral dissertation to fulfill your program requirements.
What can I do after earning a doctoral degree?
Doctoral degree holders may pursue careers like criminal profilers or as professors in colleges. Some occupations may allow those with doctorates to conduct their own research or participate in policy-making.
Graduating from a regionally or nationally accredited online college may hold you in good stead. Obtaining professional certifications and licenses require students to have graduated from an accredited college. Transferability of credits and eligibility to certain financial aid programs may require enrollment in an accredited school.
Certifications and Licensures
Gaining certifications in the various fields of juvenile justice and corrections shows an individual's competency in the field. Here are a few professional certifications in the field of criminal justice and corrections right from entry-level to executive-level certifications.
The International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST) has developed a National Certification program (NCP) for Law Enforcement continuing education to ensure a uniform standard of education across the country. Professional bodies offering certifications for corrections officers are:
The American Correctional Association (ACA) offers professional certifications for both adult corrections officers and juvenile justice professionals. The National Partnership for Juvenile Services is another body that offers professional certifications for juvenile justice professionals.
Licensing requirements can vary by state. Many states require private security guards and those working in casinos to obtain licenses. Some states require candidates to obtain professional certifications before being licensed to work as correctional officers or bailiffs.