Degree Programs for Criminal Justice Jobs in West Virginia

According to FBI statistics, crime in West Virginia has been steadily increasing over the past decade to its current level of more than 4,500 violent crimes per year. Professionals at all levels of the criminal justice system approach this challenge from a variety of angles and on many different fronts:

  • 3,500 sheriff’s deputies and police officers
  • 350 criminal investigators and detectives
  • 2,000 paralegals
  • 150 forensic scientists
  • 3,530 correctional officers

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Education, training, and experience are all critical elements of those pursuing careers in all fields of the criminal justice system. Professionals in this field make it possible for West Virginia to continue to grow as a prosperous state by ensuring that justice is served.

Law Enforcement and Criminal Investigation Jobs in West Virginia

West Virginia’s law enforcement officers and criminal investigators garner respect from the local populations they serve while working to prevent, fight and investigate crime.

Qualifying to Work as a Police Officer or Deputy Sheriff in West Virginia

All law enforcement officers and detectives need to have a basic high school education and a personal history that demonstrates a good moral character. Having education in the fields of law enforcement or criminal justice will always add to the competitive qualifications of candidates who would like to pursue these careers.

West Virginia’s 3,500 sheriff’s deputies and police officers work at law enforcement organizations throughout the state, including:

  • Charleston Police Department
  • Huntington Police Department
  • Parkersburg Police Department
  • Morgantown Police Department
  • Wheeling Police Department
  • Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office
  • Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department
  • Cabell County Sheriff’s Department

Wheeling and the areas of the state near Washington DC are two urban regions with the highest concentration of police officers and sheriff’s deputies in the nation.

Becoming a State Patrol Officer in West Virginia

Since 1919 the West Virginia State Police has been serving residents and assisting local law enforcement as needed while also maintaining a safe ground transportation network on the roads. To become a West Virginia State Trooper candidates will need to meet the following conditions:

  • Be between the ages of 21-39
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Have a good employment and personal record

During the initial application process candidates can also find it helpful to have some college education in fields like:

  • Law Enforcement
  • Criminal Justice
  • Police Science

Having a bachelor’s degree in these or related fields is also a requirement for more advanced jobs within the West Virginia State Police.

Criminal Investigators and Detective Job requirements in West Virginia

These professionals are experienced law enforcement agents who solve the state’s toughest crimes. Criminal investigators and detectives work at all levels of government, including police departments, the State Police, and federal agencies such as the FBI.

Candidates who are interested in pursuing a career in this field usually need to have prior experience with the law enforcement agency they want to work for, and a college education in criminal justice, law enforcement, or related field may also be required.

  • Working as an Investigator II with the West Virginia State Police requires a four-year college degree or an equivalent amount of investigative experience
  • Working as a Special Agent with the FBI requires a bachelor’s degree in a strategic subject area like:
    • Languages
    • Criminal Justice
    • Law
    • IT or Computer Science
    • Political Science

The metropolitan area of West Virginia near Washington DC offers the fourth-highest average salary for urban detectives and criminal investigators in the nation.

Paralegals and Other Legal Support Professions in West Virginia

Paralegals, also known as legal assistants, are the backbone of West Virginia’s legal system. Numbering over 2,000, legal assistants in West Virginia are not required by law to meet any certification or degree requirements, however this is often a de facto necessity imposed by employers.

West Virginia has the third-highest concentration of paralegals of all states in the country. The regions of the state near Washington DC are part of the metropolitan area that offers the third-highest average paralegal salary of all urban areas in the nation.

There are several levels of paralegal education available to West Virginia residents both in-state and online:

  • Associate’s degree in Legal Assisting
  • Bachelor’s degree in Paralegal Studies
  • Post-bachelor’s certificate in Legal Assisting

West Virginia residents can also choose among providers of paralegal certification programs, such as the following agencies:

Employers of Paralegals and Legal Assistants in West Virginia

  • The West Virginia Bureau for Child Support was recently seeking a paralegal who had could meet one of the following qualifications:
    • Bachelor’s degree in any subject
    • Completion of a legal assistant training or degree program
    • Two years of full-time experience in a legal setting
    • Five years of full-time experience performing clerical duties
  • EQT Corporation in Charleston was recently seeking a Senior Legal Assistant with the preferred qualification of advanced college education
  • Steptoe and Johnson PLLC in Morgantown recently posted an ad seeking a paralegal with one of the following minimum qualifications:
    • Bachelor’s degree
    • Advanced paralegal certificate
    • An equivalent amount of relative job experience required
  • Jackson Kelly in Charleston was recently looking for a paralegal with at least three years of litigation experience

Forensic Scientist and Crime Scene Investigator Jobs in West Virginia

Crime scene investigators and forensic scientists work with the criminal investigation divisions of law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal level in West Virginia. Nationwide West Virginia ranks third among all states when it comes to having the highest concentration of forensic scientists. Additionally, parts of the state fall within the DC metro area, which offers the seventh-highest average urban salary for forensic scientists in the country.

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There are a total of 150 forensic scientists working in West Virginia statewide.

Requirements for Forensics Science and CSI Jobs in West Virginia

Each agency sets its own requirements when it comes to hiring forensic scientists and crime scene investigators. In general a relevant bachelor’s degree is either preferable or required, as exemplified by the following job descriptions:

  • Evidence Technician I with the State Police – working in this capacity requires a four-year college degree in Criminal Justice, four years of relevant work experience, or an equivalent combination of the two
  • Medicolegal Investigator with Kanawha County – requires at least four years of investigative experience in law enforcement, which may be substituted for with a bachelor’s degree that includes a major or minor in:
    • Law Enforcement
    • Criminal Justice
    • Forensic Science
    • Biological fields
    • Medical fields
    • Any other closely related field
  • Criminal Justice Specialist in Kanawha County – this position requires a bachelor’s degree in any of the following subjects, with a preference for candidates with a strong academic background in research and analysis:
    • Criminal Justice
    • Political Science
    • Social Sciences
    • Mathematics
    • Statistics
    • Planning
    • Management
    • Any other related field

There are a number of national organizations that offer professional certification for prospective forensic scientists or crime scene investigators:

West Virginia Agencies Employing Forensic Scientists and Crime Scene Investigators

CSI agents and forensic scientists work with West Virginia agencies including:

  • Charleston Police Department – Criminal Investigation Division
  • Huntington Police Department – Criminal Investigations Bureau and Special Investigations Bureau
  • Parkersburg Police Department – Detective Bureau
  • West Virginia State Police – Forensic Laboratory
  • Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office – Criminal Investigative Section (CIS)

Jobs with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and West Virginia Division of Corrections

The two largest employers of correctional officers in West Virginia are the state’s Division of Corrections and the federal government’s Bureau of Prisons. As separate agencies, these each have their own hiring requirements that both include a high school education plus some college credit in the field of corrections or commensurate experience.

West Virginia is a great place to work as a correctional officer, as evidenced by the fact that of all states in the nation it has the second-highest concentration of correctional officer jobs – 3,530 in total according to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Qualifying to Work for the West Virginia Division of Corrections

Candidates who are interested in working as a correctional officer with the West Virginia Division of Corrections need to meet one of the following:

  • Have earned at least 45 quarter/30 semester college credits in any of these fields:
    • Corrections
    • Criminal Justice
    • Any related subject
  • Have at least one year of general work experience

There are more than a dozen facilities operated by the West Virginia Division of Corrections, including:

  • Anthony Correctional Center in White Sulphur Springs
  • Beckley Correctional Center in Beckley
  • Denmar Correctional Center in Hillsboro
  • Huttonsville Correctional Center in Huttonsville
  • Lakin Correctional Center (LCC) in West Columbia
  • Martinsburg Correctional Center in Martinsburg
  • Mount Olive Correctional Complex (MOCC) in Mt. Olive
  • Northern Correctional Facility in Moundsville
  • Ohio County Correctional Center in Wheeling
  • Parkersburg Correctional Center in Parkersburg
  • Pruntytown Correctional Center in Grafton
  • Saint Marys Correctional Center in St. Marys
  • Salem Correctional Center in Industrial

Qualifying to Become a Federal Correctional Officer in West Virginia

Candidates who want to work as federal correctional officers will at minimum need to meet the requirements for employment at the General Schedule (GS)-05 level:

  • A bachelor’s degree in any subject or either of the following:
    • One year of specialized work experience
    • Three years of work experience at the GS-04 level

To enter at the next-highest rank candidates will need to meet one of the following requirements:

  • One year of specialized work experience at the GS-05 level
  • 9 semester/14 quarter college credits in subjects such as:
    • Law
    • Criminology
    • Social Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Any other related field

There are seven correctional facilities operated by the federal Bureau of Prisons in West Virginia:

  • Federal Prison Camp (FPC) Anderson
  • Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Beckley in Beaver
  • Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Gilmer in Glenville
  • Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Hazelton in Bruceton Mills
  • U.S. penitentiary (USP) Hazelton in Bruceton Mills
  • Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) McDowell in Welch
  • Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Morgantown

Homeland Security and Emergency Management Jobs in West Virginia

Homeland security and emergency management careers are essential for maintaining the vital link between local, state, and federal authorities at the time of a large-scale crisis or emergency situation. Professionals in this field work in many capacities with numerous law enforcement and disaster agencies

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Candidates who want to prepare for successful careers in this field should consider earning an academic degree in subject areas such as:

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

From logistics to security to planning, professionals in homeland security and emergency management work at all levels of government in West Virginia, including with agencies such as:

  • West Virginia Joint Terrorism Task Force in Fairmont with annexes in Clarksburg and Charleston
  • West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center
  • West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety
  • West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
  • West Virginia’s National Guard Critical Infrastructure Protection Mission Assurance Assessment
  • FBI Resident Agencies in Beckley, Wheeling, Charleston, Huntington, Clarksburg, and Martinsburg

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