Degree Programs for Criminal Justice Jobs in Virginia

As home to vital governmental organizations, Virginia requires a criminal justice system capable of handling anything. In recognition of this, Virginia offers highly competitive salaries and has better employment opportunities for criminal justice professionals than almost anywhere else in the country.

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Virginia is the ideal place for many with careers in the criminal justice field:

  • Law enforcement officials, detectives, and forensic experts enjoy rewarding jobs with a clear path of career advancement and supplementary benefits
  • Paralegals and legal assistants will find one of the highest average salaries in the nation
  • Forensic experts work with some of the most compelling cases in the country and subsequently earn one of the highest average salaries
  • The state is home to one of the highest concentrations of correctional officers in the nation
  • Homeland security and emergency management officials will find diverse opportunities of employment in Virginia

Education, experience, and training are all vital components to success in Virginia’s criminal justice system.

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Law Enforcement and Criminal Investigation Careers in Virginia

Virginia’s law enforcement professionals ensure the protection of life, liberty, and property throughout the state. Included in these honorable ranks are police officers, sheriff’s deputies, the Virginia State Police, as well as specialized detectives and criminal investigators.

Requirements to Become a Police Officer and Deputy Sheriff in Virginia

The Bureau of Labor Statistics counts 18,070 police officers and sheriff’s deputies serving throughout Virginia. Each police department and sheriff’s office determines its own qualifications for hire, and these generally include having a high school diploma or GED plus a clean criminal record. If not already a requirement, competitive candidates will want to consider at least some college education in fields like:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Law Enforcement
  • Police Science

Police officers and sheriff deputies work with agencies such as:

  • City of Alexandria Police Department – prefers candidates with a four-year college degree
  • Virginia Beach Police Department – most recruits have had some college education, and about half of all those selected for the police academy have a bachelor’s degree
  • Arlington County Police Department
  • Norfolk Police Department
  • City of Alexandria Sheriff’s Office – encourages its deputies to pursue a bachelor’s degree
  • Arlington County Sheriff’s Office
  • Chesapeake Sheriff’s Office

Eligibility for Detective Jobs in Virginia

There are over 3,600 detectives and criminal investigators working throughout Virginia. These experienced law enforcement professionals have worked their way up through the ranks of police and sheriff’s departments, and in some instances will need to meet additional education requirements. Virginia’s detectives and criminal investigators work with:

  • Police department and sheriff’s office special investigations divisions
  • Virginia State Police’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and Criminal Intelligence Division (CDI)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), with field offices located in Richmond, Norfolk, and Washington DC

Each law enforcement agency determines its own requirements when it comes to hiring detectives and criminal investigators, with prior agency experience being one of the most important factors. Education can also be an important qualifier:

  • The City of Alexandria Police Department’s Investigations Bureau prefers to hire detectives with at least a four-year college degree
  • The FBI requires all of its special agents to have a four-year college degree, with some of the most valuable majors including:
    • Computer Science
    • Information Technology
    • Law
    • Political Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Languages

Requirements to Become a State Trooper

State Troopers in Virginia keep the commonwealth’s interstate highway system safe and functioning while assisting local law enforcement agencies as needed. To become a State Trooper as part of the Virginia State Police, candidates will need to be in good physical and mental condition, be at least 21 years old, and have a high school education.

The Virginia State Police prefers candidates who possess a college education and related experience.

Paralegal and Legal Assistant Positions in Virginia

Conducting accurate and timely legal research for an employer is all in a day’s work for the 8,870 paralegals and legal assistants who work throughout Virginia. One of the reasons professionals in this field are drawn to Virginia is a high average salary – the Arlington-Alexandria-DC metro area offers the third-highest average salary for paralegals of all urban areas in the nation. The proximity to the nation’s political center also means that the Arlington-Alexandria-DC area employs the second-highest number of paralegals of anywhere in the country.

Although there are no official training or degree requirements to work as a legal assistant in Virginia, many in this field recognize de facto education and certification that may be required by individual employers, such as:

  • Associate in Applied Science (AAS) Degree in Paralegal Studies or Legal Assisting
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Legal Administration
  • Master of Arts (MA) in Legal Administration
  • Graduate Certificate in Paralegal Studies

Prospective legal assistants or paralegals can also maintain a competitive edge – and often required qualifications – through nationally recognized certification programs, such as:

Potential Paralegal and Legal Assistant Employers in Virginia

Law firms are one of the largest employers of paralegals in Virginia, however these professionals can be hired by any agency that requires legal research and assistance.

  • CACI in Alexandria was recently seeking a legal assistant who at minimum had a paralegal certification and one year of experience
  • Parallon Business Solutions in Richmond recently advertised for a paralegal who had the following preferred qualifications:
    • Paralegal certification
    • Bachelor’s degree in Business
  • CoreLogic in Vienna was recently seeking a senior legal assistant with a paralegal certification and three years of job experience as minimum qualifications
  • USIS, a company that supports National Security Initiatives, was recently seeking a Legal Assistant II for its office in Falls Church who possessed the following qualifications:
    • Paralegal certificate
    • Five years of legal experience
    • US citizenship and the ability to obtain a government public trust

Virginia Forensics and Crime Scene Investigator Jobs

Virginia’s forensic scientists and crime scene investigators are the professionals who piece together the clues found at crime scenes. Through various means of analysis they work towards the ultimate goal of solving crime. According to the most recent FBI statistics there were more than 15,500 violent crimes reported in Virginia over a 12 month-period.

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The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Virginia offers an average annual salary for forensic science technicians that is higher than 90 percent of all other states. Moreover, the Arlington-Alexandria-DC area employs the third-largest amount of these professionals of all metropolitan regions in the nation.

Forensic professionals and crime scene investigators work in specialized divisions of law enforcement agencies at all levels of government throughout Virginia.

Requirements for Forensic Technician and CSI Jobs in Virginia

Working as a forensic technician or crime scene investigator requires specialized training. Because of the many different niches in this field, the required education and training can vary according to agency.

  • Forensic Scientist for Latent Prints with the Virginia Department of Forensic Science – requires a bachelor’s degree and completion of a forensic science latent print training program or relevant work experience
  • A bachelor’s of science degree in Forensic Science or college coursework in biology, chemistry, math, or other related subjects will give candidates a preferred advantage when applying for positions like:
    • DNA Forensic Science Technician
    • Ballistics Forensic Science Technician
    • Trace Evidence Forensic Science Technician

Virginia requires a college education for candidates who want to advance in their careers as forensic scientists and crime scene investigators. Virginia is one of only 15 other locations in the nation to offer a Master’s of Science degree in Forensic Science.

Having a certification in a particular field of forensic science or crime scene investigation can prove to be invaluable in the application process. For example, to work as a Latent Print Forensic Scientist with the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, candidates are preferred to have certification through the International Association for Identification.

Competitive certifications available to Virginia residents include:

Federal Bureau of Prisons and Virginia Department of Corrections Jobs

Figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that Virginia has a higher concentration of correctional officer jobs than 90 percent of all other states. The state employs 16,600 professionals in this field to guard inmates at federal, state, and local prisons throughout the commonwealth.

Virginia State DOC Correctional Officer Jobs

There are 38 state Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities located throughout Virginia that hire only the most qualified applicants to become correctional officers. These employees must go through a rigorous hiring and training process before being eligible to work at facilities such as:

  • Augusta Correctional Center in Craigsville
  • Bakerville Correctional Center
  • Bland Correctional Center
  • Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn
  • Coffeewood Correctional Center in Mitchells
  • Deep Meadow Correctional Center in State Farm
  • Lunenburg Correctional Center in Victoria
  • Nottoway Correctional Center in Burkeville
  • Pocahontas State Correctional Center
  • Red Onion State Prison in Pound
  • Sussex State Prison in Waverly
  • Virginia Correctional Center for Women in Goochland
  • Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap

Prospective correctional officers with the Virginia Department of Corrections will need to be in good physical shape, pass a background investigation, and have a basic high school education. Because only the top candidates are chosen in this competitive field, candidates can consider distinguishing themselves with a college education, such as an associate’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in corrections.

Federal Correctional Officers in Virginia

The federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) operates two prisons in Virginia:

  • Lee United States Penitentiary (USP) in Pennington Gap with a total of 1,657 inmates
  • Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) Petersburg in Hopewell with a total of 1,700 inmates

Correctional officer positions with the Bureau of Prisons are federal jobs, and therefore candidates will need to meet the qualifications for employment as defined by the federal General Schedule (GS) classification:

  • Entry at the GS-05 level requires a bachelor’s degree or one of the following:
    • Three years of work experience which is equivalent to the next-lowest level
    • One year of specialized work experience
  • Entry at the GS-06 level requires one year of specialized GS-05 work experience or either 9 semester credits or 14 quarter credits of college education in any of the following subjects:
    • Criminology
    • Social Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Law
    • Any other related field

Homeland Security and Emergency Management Careers in Virginia

Emergency management and homeland security are two critical fields in Virginia, driven home by the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon in Arlington. Emergency management and homeland security agents work with law enforcement and other critical infrastructure agencies throughout the state at all levels of government. These important fields demand the most qualified candidates who will lead the nation and state in the time of an emergency.

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Due to the multi-faceted nature of this area of employment, prospective agents can prepare for careers in these fields with college degrees in the subjects of:

  • Law Enforcement
  • Police Science
  • Logistics
  • Emergency Management
  • Information Technology
  • Criminal Justice
  • Homeland Security
  • Engineering

Homeland security and emergency management agents work throughout Virginia in organizations such as:

  • Virginia Fusion Center
  • Virginia Emergency Operations Center
  • Virginia Department of Emergency Management
  • Virginia Emergency Response Council
  • Joint Terrorism Task Forces in:
    • Richmond
    • Norfolk (Tidewater)
    • Charlottesville
  • National Ground Intelligence Center in Charlottesville
  • Anti-Terrorism Advisory Councils in:
    • Alexandria
    • Richmond
    • Roanoke
  • FBI Field Intelligence Groups in Richmond and Norfolk
  • Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network in Vienna
  • CIA’s Crime and Narcotics Center in Langley
  • Virginia Office of Commonwealth Preparedness

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