What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Corrections?

Individuals who graduate with an online master’s in corrections typically work in prisons dealing with inmate rights and prisoner rehabilitation, or they work in the juvenile justice system. While not all jobs in corrections require a master’s degree, many administrative and supervisory positions in this field require an advanced degree.

Online programs offer several advantages over on-campus classes. If you live in an area where the program isn’t offered, you can still have access to coursework, and online classes make it easier to balance work, home and personal life with college classes. There are many different programs to choose from, so it’s important to look around and find the best one to suit your career goals and personal preferences.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Corrections

CONCENTRATION DESCRIPTION POTENTIAL CAREERS FOR THIS CONCENTRATION
Administration and Management Focuses on managerial positions with a correctional facility. Students get a feel for the issues related to managing a general prison population on the federal, state, local or private level. Warden or manager of a correctional facility
Juvenile Corrections Provides information on the structure of the juvenile justice system and juvenile offenders. They also take a look at various facilities and available treatments. Juvenile counselor, probation officer and juvenile corrections officer
Correctional Assessment Students learn to apply counseling theories and methodology to the general prison population and information on how to manager special types of prison populations. Correctional officer, correctional case manager and correctional counselor
Community Corrections and Rehabilitation Explore the different types of communities within correctional facilities. Students learn about the policies and procedures when dealing with the general prison population and offender rehabilitation and treatment. Parole officer, probation officer and correctional treatment specialist

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Corrections

Classes in an online master’s in corrections expose you to all sides of the criminal justice system whether it is the legal field, technology or sociology. Classes vary depending on the individual concentration, but core classes include criminology, correctional policy and rehabilitation techniques. Also, some colleges let you complete your entire degree online, but others may offer labs, practicums and capstone sources only on-campus. Common courses you are likely to encounter include:

COURSES DESCRIPTION
Substance Abuse and Addictions Focuses on how drugs and addiction affect the criminal justice system and the types of treatment specialties that are available.
Current Issues in Correction Provides an overview of the current legislative process and different types of case laws that currently affect the U.S. correctional system.
Comparison of Correctional Systems Teaches students about the different types of correctional facilities throughout the world. Topics may include the types of treatments and supervision, human rights and legal standards of different prison populations.
Community Corrections Provides insight into the types of community-based correctional options that are available for criminals, including house arrest, boot camps and treatment centers.
Criminology Teaches students about the various criminological theories and how they apply to the understanding of criminal behavior.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s in Corrections?

Most students complete the master’s degree in corrections in two years or less when taking around 36 credit hours of classes full-time. If you decide to take classes part-time, it can take as much as five years to graduate. Another factor that may affect the length of time to complete the degree is the type of classes offered by your college or university. Cohort classes group students together in a graduating class. Specific classes may only be offered once a year, which can slow down the time it takes to complete the degree. Self-paced programs let you take as many or as few classes at once, so you may be able to graduate sooner.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Corrections Prepares For

CERTIFICATION DESCRIPTION
Certified Probation Officer An online master’s in corrections may prepare you for a career as a probation officer. Officers must go through training to gain knowledge on how to keep efficient records, self-defense measures and how to use a firearm.
Certified Corrections Professional To receive certification as a corrections officer, a student must go through training that adheres to the American Correctional Association or the American Jail Association guidelines. Classroom coursework covers topics like arrest procedures, evidence rules and rehabilitation.
Private Investigator To become a private investigator, an individual must have 4,000 hours of verifiable professional experience. Each state has their own licensing procedures. Some require a college degree and five years of investigative experience.
Jail Manager Certification This certification requires a renewal every four years and ensures jail managers are held to the highest professionalism and effective management practices.
National Certified Corrections Officer Offered by the National Institute for Jail Operations, this certification ensures jailers, administrators and sheriffs understand legal rights when working in a prison population.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Corrections

All master’s program must go through accreditation to receive any type of recognition. Nationally recognized school are typically faith-based programs and trade schools. They are not held to the same standards as regionally accredited programs. Regional accreditation is granted by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council of Higher Education Accreditation. The Department of Education distributes federal education funds, collects school data and helps enforce education statutes. Most employers in the criminal justice system require an individual applying for higher-level management to be a graduate of a regionally accredited school to ensure they have the necessary skills to do the job.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Corrections Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

With job competition fierce, a master’s degree can make a difference for anyone looking for a career in corrections or the criminal justice system. If you ever decide you want to teach classes in corrections, your master’s degree may make it easier to receive your teaching certification. Advanced degrees are also ideal for those who prefer to be on the negotiating end of business instead of those who work with the prison population.

Expected Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that the average wage for those with a master’s degree was approximately $12,000 higher in 2013 than for those with a bachelor’s only. Some jobs that require a bachelor’s pay just as much as those with a master’s degree.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Correction officers work in a variety of industries — not just jails or prisons. These facilities may provide a stepping stone to additional positions in criminal justice. Consider these industries with the highest levels of employment for those with a master’s degree in corrections.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Opportunities

Corrections is a professional field for individuals who want to serve and protect the general population. While many beginning positions deal directly with the inmate population, many higher-up positions involve managing facilities, dealing with families of inmates and ensuring the proper rules and regulations are held.

JOB TITLE JOB DESCRIPTION MEDIAN SALARY PROJECTED GROWTH RATE
Corrections Officer Corrections officers are responsible for overseeing individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trial or those who are currently serving jail time. $43,510 per year 7%
Bailiff Bailiffs help guard courtrooms and other areas of the courthouse and provide services to the judge during the trial. They may also escort inmates in and out of the courtroom during a hearing. $46,190 per year 2%
Correctional Treatment Specialists Correctional treatment specialists provide the same services as probation officers, but most are assigned to fieldwork in high-crime areas and institutions. $51,410 per year 6%
Probation Oofficer Probation officers provide social services in rehabilitation for current inmates or parolees and probationers. The job is often stressful due to working in high-crime areas. $51,4100 per year 6%

Professional Organizations

Professional organizations make it possible for those with an online master’s in corrections to stay updated on industry standards and provides networking opportunities with potential employers. Many of these organizations offer continued education, publications and planned events. Consider some of the top professional organizations in criminal justice.

American Correctional Association: The ACA has thousands of members all over the world who work to shape the future of corrections through effective leadership. The group promotes research and education and the expansion of degree programs that are relevant to the industry.

National Criminal Justice Association: The NCJA promotes the justice systems that help reduce the harmful effects of criminal and delinquent behaviors. Members receive updates about federal activities and receiving funding opportunities and receive discounted registration for the annual conference.

International Association of Correctional Training Personnel: The IACTP is an international professional organization that represents the field of adult and juvenile justice. The group holds an annual conference, hosts an ongoing webinar series and publishes a quarterly journal.

American Jail Association: A nationally recognized non-profit organization, the AJA supports professional who operate the nation’s jails. The group also helps recruit for positions across the country and focuses on training and partnerships.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Corrections

The online master’s degree in corrections costs less than an on-campus program. Those completing the degree may still need help paying for classes, so the first place to look is with federal financial aid. To see what’s available, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This gives you a list of available resources on whether on you are qualified for federal grants, loans and scholarships. For those who need additional help, consider these additional resources.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

American Correctional Association’s Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Award

Award: $1,000

Deadline: June 1

Eligibility: Awarded to minority students who have demonstrated a need and willingness to continue their education to fulfill a career in criminal justice.

Association of State Correction Administrators Susan M. Hunter Scholarship

Award: New recipients receive $1,500. Renewals receive $750

Deadline: March 31

Eligibility: Available to children of a current, retired or deceased full-time employee of a corrections agency that is a member of the ASCA.