The broad, interdisciplinary field of criminal justice explores laws, law enforcement and the justice system. Corrections is a niche area of criminal justice dedicated to the punishment, treatment, supervision and rehabilitation of individuals who have been convicted of different crimes. Specifically, corrections personnel oversee and assist criminal offenders during three key phases: incarceration, or imprisonment; parole, or conditional release from prison once a sentence has been completed or commuted; and probation, a period of close supervision usually granted to a convicted criminal in lieu of actual jail time. Some correctional employees serve as guards and attendants at prisons (which are also known as correctional institutions), while others work with released offenders as parole or probation officers.
Many corrections professionals begin their careers at the collegiate level by earning an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution. In most cases, this will take the form of a bachelor’s in criminal science with a concentration in corrections. These programs will introduce students to the laws, ethics and most popular strategies guiding today’s corrections field. Corrections bachelor’s pathways often include internships or practicum courses, which allow students to receive hands-on training from experienced professionals. Many of today’s students are choosing to earn their corrections bachelor’s degree online, rather than in a classroom. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to a comparable number of post-graduation job opportunities. The asynchronous (or self-paced) schedule of most online corrections degree programs is also ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other commitments that may conflict with campus-based learning.
Learn more about what you can do with a bachelor’s degree in corrections and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.
Choosing a Program
WILL AN ONLINE BACHELOR’S IN CORRECTIONS PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
A bachelor’s degree in corrections will prepare students for this demanding — yet equally rewarding — profession. The coursework will cover legal protocols and procedures for the incarceration, parole and probation of convicted offenders, as well as some best-practice approaches to communicating and interacting with these individuals. The curriculum will also incorporate history, anthropology, sociology, psychology and other social sciences that have bearing in the criminal justice field. Internships and practicum courses also enable students to apply the knowledge and skills they have gained in a real-world correctional setting.
WILL AN ONLINE BACHELOR’S IN CORRECTIONS WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?
Online bachelor’s degree programs in corrections offer a flexible alternative to traditional college learning. Students can access lectures and other course materials, participate in virtual discussions with fellow students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors on their own time from their home computer. Current educational technology also allows them to study away from their desk using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other Wi-Fi-compatible devices. For added convenience, online students can typically coordinate internships at sites that are reasonably close to their current residence.
WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY BACHELOR’S IN CORRECTIONS?
Many careers in corrections are attainable with an associate degree — and in some cases, a high school diploma — so those with a bachelor’s degree will be well-positioned to enter the job market. Common professional titles for corrections degree-holders include correctional officers and jailers, parole and probation officers, bailiffs and correctional treatment specialists. The bachelor’s degree may also serve as a stepping-stone for those who wish to advance to graduate school and study to become criminal justice teachers at the collegiate level.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE BACHELOR’S IN CORRECTIONS PROGRAMS?
Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online bachelor’s in corrections programs in the United States. Our ranking is based on the courses schools offer, available specializations, student outcomes, career support services, and other criteria used to determine academic excellence. If you are considering an online bachelor’s in corrections, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific bachelor’s degree requirements and offerings.
Accredited Online Corrections Programs
|Rank||School Name||Ranking Score||Relative Cost||Graduation Rate||Location||Description|
|1||Eastern Kentucky University||77.92||37%||Richmond, KY||
Eastern Kentucky University is known for offering some of the most comprehensive online education programs in the nation. Consistently ranked among the best schools for distance learning, the university's commitment to accessibility has shaped a flexible online bachelor's in corrections program geared toward adult learners with or without a background in the field.
This 120-hour corrections and juvenile justice studies program offers accelerated eight week terms that begin six times a year. While core courses provide students with a solid foundation in criminal justice studies, the program's unique emphasis on juvenile topics makes the program ideal for anyone pursuing a career in youth corrections or counseling. Drawing from multiple disciplines, electives expand on contemporary topics in criminal justice, including capital punishment, female offenders, and the needs of a diverse inmate population. In a final capstone seminar, seniors must synthesize their acquired knowledge in a comprehensive research paper to earn their correctional officer degree.
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|2||Bellevue University||69.17||31%||Bellevue, NE||
Nebraska-based Bellevue University has garnered awards and acclaim for its affordability and military-friendly policies. Offering deeply discounted tuition for active duty personnel, a strong Veteran services program, and a generous credit transfer policy, Bellevue's online criminal justice degree program is ideal for distance learners in or out of the military, and those already employed in the corrections field who wish to expand on prior experience. The 127 credit hour program is career-focused, placing emphasis on knowledge and skills most sought after by employers. The program's flexible online format and accelerated courses are designed for busy learners who want to earn their online bachelor's in corrections at their own pace.
Along with elective and major credits necessary to complete a correctional officer degree, students must complete nine hours of Kirkpatrick Signature Series credits. Required for all Bellevue students, these courses focus on traditional American values and intellectual life in the 21st Century.
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|3||Washburn University||66.25||8%||Topeka, KS||
Located in Topeka, Kansas, Washburn University has repeatedly been named one of the best universities in the Midwest. Committed to providing students with affordable, comprehensive educations, Washburn's partnership for learning and networking program offers a fully online bachelor's in corrections program to applicants who have earned an associate's degree at one of 26 partner community colleges. Distance learners pay in-state tuition, and can expect to complete the program in two years. Students in the bachelor of science in criminal justice program may select one of four areas of concentration: law enforcement, corrections, security administration, and forensic investigations.
The 36 credit hour corrections concentration combines foundational topics with relevant issues such as diversity, juvenile rehabilitation, and the role of community in corrections. Before receiving a correctional officer degree, all BSCJ students are required to declare a minor, and to demonstrate their cumulative knowledge and skills in an internship.
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|4||Tiffin University||57.92||33%||Tiffin, OH||
Founded in 1888, Tiffin University strives to provide flexible, professionally-focused online programs for distance learners seeking to jump-start their careers. This accredited, Ohio-based institution offers an online bachelor of criminal justice in corrections program taught by professors with strong academic backgrounds and extensive hands-on experience in the field. Drawing from this unique expertise as well as the latest innovations in theory, students acquire a broad knowledge base in criminal justice topics while developing a professional specialization. Corrections major courses highlight recent developments in theory and policy and draw directly from faculty experience, placing special emphasis on the corrections officer's role in larger society. All online classes are offered in seven week terms that begin six times a year, and the 121 credit hour correctional officer degree program can be completed in as little as 18 months. Most Tiffin students receive some form of financial aid.
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|5||Baker College||40.83||10%||Flint, MI||
Baker University campuses are located all over Michigan and Pennsylvania, but the school allows anyone to earn an online bachelor's in corrections from the comfort of their own home. The 186 credit hour bachelor of science in criminal justice program is perfect for individuals who want to take their career to the next level with a correctional officer degree. Touching on topics as diverse as youth gangs and forensic detection, Baker's curriculum is intended to expose students to a wide variety of concepts in criminal justice and prepare them for a successful career in the field. Prior to beginning major coursework, students must take a three week introductory course outlining Baker Online policies and practices.
Baker is committed to helping students succeed, in or out of the University. All graduates are eligible for Lifetime Employment Services, which provide assistance with finding jobs, resumes and cover letters, and relocation.
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What Else Can I Expect from an Online Bachelor's in Corrections Program?
|4 to 5 years|
|$35,000 to $55,000 for full tuition|
|Criminal Justice, Law, Criminology, Forensic Science, Public Administration, Social Work, Psychology, Sociology, Emergency Management, Leadership|
|There is no programmatic accreditation for this major field of study. Students should defer to the regional/national accreditation of their four-year college or university.|
Employment Outlook for Bachelor's in Corrections Graduates
The job outlook for corrections bachelor’s degree-holders is somewhat mixed. On one hand, their strong academic background will allow them to compete for top jobs against candidates who complete their education with associates degrees or high school diplomas. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), individuals with a bachelor’s degree face an unemployment of 2.8%; by comparison, associate degree- and high school diploma-holders face unemployment rates of 3.8% and 5.0%, respectively. The unemployment rate for bachelor’s recipients is also much lower than the national average for all occupations, which currently sits at 4.7%.
However, the BLS projects below-average job growth in the coming years for some of the most prominent correctional occupations. The following table looks at job growth estimates for some of these professions.
|Occupation||Projected Job Growth (2014-24)||Projected Change in Number of Jobs (2014-24)|
|Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists||4%||+3,300|
|Correctional Officers and Bailiffs||4%||+17,900|
|Police and Detectives||4%||+33,100|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Earning a Living
Students who earn a bachelor’s degree in corrections and other criminal justice fields enjoy higher earning potential than those who complete their education with an associate degree in criminal justice. Using data from the 2016-17 PayScale College Salary Report, the table below looks at earning expectations for both of these degree-holders at two career benchmarks.
|Degree||Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years)|
|Associate Degree in Criminal Justice||$31,100||$46,000|
|Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice||$37,000||$59,100|
Source: 2016-17 PayScale College Salary Report
As the table indicates, those with a bachelor’s in criminal justice outearn their associate-holding counterparts by roughly 19% at the entry-level mark and 28.5% at the mid-career mark. However, salary expectations for employees with a bachelor’s degree in corrections will also depend on their specific job title, as well as their experience level and their city/state of employment. The next table looks at career salary growth rates for five of the most popular corrections career pathways.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years)||Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)|
|Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist||$36,000||$50,000||$52,000||$64,000|
|Juvenile Probation Officer||$35,000||$42,000||$45,000||$45,000|
All five occupations listed reported 20-year salary growth of at least 28.6%. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists experience the highest growth rate: a 77.8% earnings increase between the entry-level and late-career stages. Parole officers placed second with 52.5% career growth, followed by correctional officers with 48.6% growth.
Career and Further Education Opportunities
Students who graduate with an online corrections bachelor’s degree will be qualified for dozens of positions dealing with the incarceration, parole and probation of convicted criminals. Four common career paths are outlined below.
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists: Probation officers work with probationers, or convicted criminals who are allowed to remain out of jail but must be closely supervised. Probationers are legally required to meet with their assigned officers to go over the conditions of their sentencing and receive evaluations. Correctional treatment specialists (also known as case managers) provide the same service for inmates at prisons who plan to be paroled.
Correctional Officers and Jailers: Correctional officers and jailers supervise inmates at jails and prisons, and enforce rules and regulations. They are also responsible for ensuring that all inmates remain safe and secure for the duration of their incarceration. Most correctional officers and jailers receive academy-based training that follows guidelines from the American Correctional Association.
Bailiffs: Bailiffs maintain order, safety and security in courtrooms during trials, sentencing and other legal proceedings. They typically have a background in law enforcement, and as part of their job, they must be trained to subdue, disarm and arrest individuals if the need arises.
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary: These educators lead courses in criminal justice and law enforcement at colleges, universities and other postsecondary learning institutions. Most collegiate teaching positions are attainable with a master’s degree or higher.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary|
|Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists||$49,360|
|Correctional Officers and Jailers||$45,320|
|Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary||$64,460|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Many criminal justice bachelor’s degree recipients choose to continue their education with a master’s program. For more information on this option, please visit our Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Guide.
Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to corrections is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for corrections professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates.
- American Correctional Association: Founded as the National Prison Association in 1870, the ACA is today one of the leading voices in the training and professional development of corrections professionals. Perks for members include complimentary magazine and newsletter subscriptions, invitations to networking opportunities and discounts on continuing ed courses and other programs.
- Correctional Peace Officers Association: This nonprofit created in 1984 is dedicated to the spouses, children and other family members of correctional officers who lose their lives in the line of duty. CPOAs programs include an annual charity golf tournament and a scholarship program for children of slain officers who plan to attend college.
- American Probation and Parole Association: APPA represents probation and parole personnel working with criminals and juvenile offenders. The organization’s website features an extensive online resource library, as well as links to online and onsite training programs.
Financing Your Online Bachelor's in Corrections
Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.
Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We’ve curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.
Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.