Online Juvenile Justice Degrees

In an August 2011 article for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, writer Rebecca Weiker makes the argument for her vision of true justice in the juvenile system. "Real justice would address the needs of victims through supportive services," she says. "Real justice would require meaningful accountability and provide opportunities for rehabilitation for young people."

Working in the juvenile justice system gives individuals the chance to affect the future of countless young people. The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown finds that youth of color and girls are disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system, and that 10 percent of juveniles enter foster care after incarceration. Formal training is a compassionate and systematic way to learn the appropriate skills to enter this criminal justice specialty.

Juvenile justice degrees are less common than those for online criminal justice degrees. Prospective students usually choose from one of the following:

  1. Certificate: A popular choice for those with existing education or experience is to pursue a certificate or diploma program in juvenile justice. Coursework often includes conflict resolution, drop-out prevention, youth advocacy and similar subject matter. Certificate training may be split into courses for private-sector or public-sector leaders.
  2. Bachelor's degree: Structured as a four-year, full-time degree, bachelor's degree programs in juvenile justice typically focus on correctional leadership and juveniles in the correctional system.

For prospective students looking for more education, criminal justice associate, bachelor's and master's degree programs may offer juvenile justice concentrations. Though rare, master's degrees in juvenile justice are available and offer training that can prepare graduates for high-level positions in correctional and rehabilitation facilities.

Courses in a juvenile justice degree program often focus on criminology, sociology and legal issues, which are topics that lend themselves well to the online environment. Courses may require a lot of reading and writing, and some online classes make use of chat rooms or video conferencing to enable students to discuss topics and themes from the course.

From trial preparation and detention to parole and advocacy, jobs are available at every step of the juvenile justice process. Graduates with online degrees in juvenile justice may choose to work in one of two major job categories:

  1. Public sector: Includes government groups like corrections departments at the state, local and tribal level, including probation officers, corrections officers and state-supported mental health counselors.
  2. Private sector: Includes child advocate groups, law offices, school legal departments, private care and custody officers.

Two common careers for juvenile justice graduates are probation officers and correctional treatment specialists. They earned mean annual wages of $51,240 in 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. Steady career growth is projected in the coming years, with about 19,900 new jobs entering the field between 2008 and 2018.

  • Employment: About 89,900 probation officers and correctional treatment specialists in 2010 (BLS)
  • Public service: Most probation officers work for state or local government
  • Private service: Advocacy, private custody and residential treatment centers are private-sector options
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