When you hare trying to select a criminal justice degree and decide if it has the field you want to be in, you have to consider current events directly related to your state. As many jobs within criminal justice are funded by government, those funds and often policies can shift as quickly as the political landscape.
It is no surprise that Iowa is seeing themselves mentioned often when many politicians (on both sides of the aisle) are saying that the US needs to reform the criminal justice system. A lot of the national discuss has been over mandatory sentences for repeat offenders but Iowa has launched their own exploratory summit that is taking place in Ankeny, Iowa. source The attendees of that meeting will range from Governor Terry Branstad to Betty Andrews who is the NAACP President of the Iowa-Nebraska chapter. They will be discussing everything from racial inequality rates related to incarceration rates to actual law enforcement tactics.
It is things like this that you should research and understand as they could have direct impacts on your criminal justice education and career. You should also take note of what the rest of the state looks like from an education standpoint so we pulled these US census numbers based around the state of Iowa:
- 2014 Population Estimate: 3.107 million
- Persons under the age of 18: 23.4 percent
- Persons over the age of 25 with a high school degree: 91 percent
- Persons over the age of 25 with a bachelor degree: 25.7 percent
Why should you be interested in the number of persons under the age of 18? A lot of these people will be entering the same decision you hare entertaining shortly. They could be future classmates, coworkers, or interviewing for the same criminal justice job as you. It is vital that you understand the educational requirements around the criminal justice path you are interested in taking.
What to Expect From A Criminal Justice Degree in Iowa
Have you decided if you can/will earn your degree online or go to a ground campus? If you hare trying to go to a campus in Iowa, you might need to consider their population layout along with where different universities offering criminal justice are located. Des Moines is the largest city in Iowa at 207,000+ people with the next nearest city being Cedar Rapids at 128,000+ people. Using Des Moines as the example, you can gain an undergraduate degree from a school like Grand View University or travel to Ames and look at Iowa State has criminal justice program. source Finally, if none of those work, see what online universities have degrees accepted by the departments and areas you will later try and gain employment at.
A lot of times, a degree itself might focus items like analyzing data to become better about preventing crime (i.e. identifying high crime areas and increasing police presence). Other degrees might be much more focused on a specific route like understanding lab procedure if you hare considering a focus on the forensic aspect. Many institutions will have a set list of required courses and hours but allow the student to choose between several others as their elective. If you have a good idea of what career you hope to pursue in criminal justice, it could be a good idea to focus your electives around that. If you are still not sure, you can always take a variety (after doing the proper research to make sure it is ok) and get a better understanding of multiple criminal justice roles.
Finding the Unique Elements Between Criminal Justice Programs
It is important to understand that the curriculum between many schools may often look very similar. The tuition cost could also be very similar which means trying to pick between similar programs becomes challenging. When you run into this, we recommend looking at the unique selling point each program might offer. Does one have a unique relationship with a federal agency that could increase the likelihood of employment after degree completion? Does one program offer more scholarship opportunities only available to future students of their school? Asking questions like these can help you find the unique value adds (and hopefully make your difficult decision easier). We’ve chosen a few programs and highlighted what we think are their value adds to help you better understand this approach.
- Criminal Justice Program at Iowa Central Community College: This community college in Iowa prides itself around the fact that many of their teaching faculty are current employed (or recently employed) in the criminal justice workforce. Bringing that experience to the classroom can add a dynamic level to their teaching.
- Interdisciplinary Studies Major in Criminal Justice at Iowa State University: A school with student organizations can often provide you the ability to network with current criminal justice professionals or gain a deeper understanding of daily duties of different roles. Iowa State offers a Criminal Justice Club to its students which you can take advantage of if you enroll in their program.
While this is only a snapshot of two programs out of many available in Iowa, you should have a better idea on how to find those finite details to differentiate between programs that are similar on paper.
Iowa Criminal Justice Organizations
You have an idea of what Iowa looks like from a state education perspective and a better understanding of the curriculum within the criminal justice degree but what about firsthand experience? We wanted to give you a few different organizations that you can reach out to and try to forge relationships with in order to get a greater level of detail around the degree and career.
- Midwestern Criminal Justice Association
- Iowa State Police Association
- Iowa Association of Women Police
- Iowa Corrections Association
We provide you with this list because we know how important a good job contact can be or having somebody help you better understand the minute details around gaining a criminal justice degree. If you’re able to make a contact within one of these organizations, you might be able to find somebody just like that. Don’t underestimate the power of Linkedin, as many criminal justice professionals are on there. Any of those outlets could help you potentially find somebody that can help you know more around degree trends and what future employers might be looking for.
Iowa Criminal Justice Careers
Before you jump into trying to figure out what kind of career path you would like to take within the state of Iowa, you should probably understand some of the current events happening within the state. It isn hat unusual to see criminal justice making headlines in every state as the whole nation is facing questions and challenges within the industry. Iowa is no different which was made clear when Governor Terry Branstad addressed several points within criminal justice reform in his recent Condition of the State speech. While Iowa saw their prisons expand by three facilities that were built in the 1990 has, the points Gov. Branstad made were focused around rehabilitation (not just incarceration). One thing he mentioned was that something many states are considering which focuses on keeping the records of juveniles sealed which could directly affect those within court system criminal justice careers (paralegals, attorneys, prosecutors, etc.). Often with these political proposals that focus around criminal justice policy, you can see shifts occur in allocation/funding between different facilities within criminal justice. If the goal is to move more of those convicted of crimes from an incarceration/punishment perspective to one of rehabilitation you might need to consider what that will do to the approach of correctional officers within prisons (if that is a career you hare interested in). Many criminal justice careers are actually government funded so be sure to do research around policy changes that could affect the funding of the criminal justice career(s) you hare interested in.
Iowa Criminal Justice Agency Breakdown
So we have pointed out some of the current happenings within Iowa that could affect the criminal justice industry as well as pointed out how current policy changes could have longterm effects. Now you need to understand the breakdown of the different agencies within the state of Iowa which we have pulled from the Iowa criminal justice Wikipedia page.
- 3 federal agencies
- 3 state agencies (which have several divisions like Division of Parole, Iowa State Division of Narcotics Enforcement, etc)
- 97 county agencies
- 66 municipal agencies
- 3 college and university agencies
- 2 other agencies (Meskwaki Nation Police Department and Eastern Iowa Airport Public Safety Department)
While Iowa is the 30th most populated state, it is interesting to note that they actually have three federal agencies within the state. This can make your career path decision more dynamic as you can select between local, county, state, and federal careers.
Criminal Justice Career Outlook in Iowa
What about the future? You know more about the current happenings, what the current agency layout of the state is but do you know what is happening in the future? While criminal justice can see it has future outlook vary and change from career to career and division to division, we wanted to try and give some sort of indicators for you. We pulled Iowa ONET statistics for the police patrol officer career profile to help you better understand what the career outlook is shaping to be. The median salary is $53,600 which is slightly lower to the national average ($56,800) but should also be considered with other cost of living expenses. As of 2012, there were 4,750 annual job openings for patrol officers and by 2022 they estimate there to be 5,030 (a 6 percent growth). This is right in line with the national average expected growth in annual openings (6 percent) so Iowa is pretty close to the national averages that are currently out there. We utilized police patrol officers as it is a pretty common role to be taken within criminal justice but we recommend researching your specific job of interest expected growth before you make any major career path decisions.