Seattle has a very diverse state ecosystem that allows people to be on the beach one minute and shortly after be skiing down the mountain. As a lot of criminal justice agencies are not limited to just standard law/police enforcement but can carry over to port police and other location based type of enforcement (which adds to Seattle having variety).
The Washington State Patrol has over 600 patrolmen on the road as well as over 1,000 civilian employees (forensic technicians, fire marshal has, etc.) so the state has a sizable criminal justice industry and work environment. There are a total of 28 schools offering a criminal justice degree with 18 of those being Associate has degrees and seven being Bachelor has degrees.
The more well-known cities in Seattle and Spokane do not speak for the entire state of Washington though so we collected some information pertinent to the education level of the entire state through US Census data:
- 2013 population estimate: 6.97 million
- Persons under the age of 18 years old: 22.9 percent
- Persons with high school graduate level or higher: 90 percent
- Persons with a bachelor has degree level or higher: 31.6 percent
Overall, the state sees 250+ law enforcement agencies that employee over 11,000 police officers. source The high school graduate level is important to consider as some agencies only require a certain amount of work hours and a high school degree while the bachelor has degree could be important depending on your desired career path.
Criminal Justice Degree Curriculum Expectations
The only school that managed to make it into the US News World Report rankings of criminology programs was Washington State University located in Pullman, WA. The ranking came in at #19 and the state did not see any other has make the list but it is by no means the only criminal justice program option. There are also for-profit colleges and community colleges that could offer solutions as well.
Shoreline Community College (located in Shoreline, WA) also offers a criminal justice Associate has degree with two different options: Associate in Arts – Direct Transfer Agreement or Associate in Arts & Sciences. There are details about both options but they will aim to align with your current employment position and future education goals (bachelor has, master has, or other certifications in the state of Washington). Be sure to do the research on what level of education your desired career in criminal justice requires whether it be a high school degree or master has and Washington requirements for each.
Criminal Justice Program Highlights
While understanding the curriculum of the programs you have interest in is important, sometimes the curriculum isn’t different enough from school to school to be a big deciding factor. When you have two similar programs that have similar associated cost and courses, you need to look at the details around the program to really understand which one offers the better program for you.
If you begin to think about comparing things like internship opportunities, faculty make up (how many are currently in the criminal justice work force right now), and even exclusive hiring opportunities that school might have vs. others. We’ve selected a few programs in Washington to show help guide you in what to look at for those finer detail comparisons.
- Law and Justice Program at Central Washington University: While a lot of the courses you see with a traditional undergraduate degree are similar to what CWU offers, they do have a unique alumni spotlight feature within their alumni newsletter. You could also try to gain more knowledge around how expansive that alumni group is and if there are ways to utilize the network to try and gain future employment after gaining a degree.
- Bachelor Degree in Criminal Justice at Seattle University: Seattle University actually has a Center for the Study of Crime and Justice that works with the criminal justice department. The Center tries to work various agencies to collect information and data around various criminal justice statistics and try to draw conclusions around it. The opportunity for students to try and gain access to this Center might be one of those unique deciding factors that helps you make a decision.
- Law, Societies, and Justice Major at the University of Washington: The Law, Societies, and Justice (LSJ) department has three affiliated centers that include the Center for Human Rights. This affiliated center that is unique to the University of Washington does a lot of research around human rights which has an obvious connection to their LSJ department as well.
Washington Criminology Organizations
Washington has some large metro cities and a very unique education landscape for criminal justice degrees but with any career, firsthand experience and info is beneficial. We compiled a list of organizations in the state that will allow you to reach out and gain more info and potentially even get on the job work hours (as that is a big demand of the criminal justice degree).
- Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission
- Washington State Law Enforcement Association
- Washington State Police Canine Association
- Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs
We would recommend trying to find somebody within the Training Commission as they could be a good resource on finding out the full extent of training required for the position you hope to attain. While doing all your due diligence around written research and data for the degree, sometimes you just can’t be firsthand knowledge. There could be educational nuances that they might inform you of (i.e. how hard is it to earn a degree while also working a full-time job) that are specific to the state of Washington.
Washington Criminal Justice Careers
Washington has a variety of landscape and environments that bring a variety of criminal justice careers. Aberdeen is located in Washington and according to their website police officers might be assigned to the K-9 unit, Bike Patrol, Motorcycle Patrol, Drug Task Force, and a variety of other options.
Before you can think about becoming a police officer in Washington, you will need to meet some of their requirements like being a minimum of 20 years old and have at least 30 credit hours. Depending on what position you hope to attain within your desired criminal justice organization, you might have to gain certain certifications or advanced degrees to qualify for those certain positions. Washington has unique requirements so you will need to investigate those when deciding your criminal justice career pathway.
Police Officer and Law Enforcement Jobs in Washington
Washington has a their fair share of criminal justice organizations that will vary between the different federal and local levels so it is good to have an understanding of what that looks like. We decided to make a list of the number of those different agencies from Wikipedia which might help in deciding the direction you hope to go with a criminology degree.
- 14 State Agencies
- 104+ County Agencies
- 31 City Sheriffs Offices
- 45+ City Agencies
- 31+ Town Agencies
- 4 Airport Agencies
- 10 Federal Agencies
- 4 Multi-State Jurisdiction Police Agencies (includes Metro Transit Police, Amtrak Police, Norfolk Southern Railroad)
You can tell from the diversity of the different levels of police departments that Washington has a lot of options at the federal and local level. If you hare looking for a career a little outside of the norm, you can check out careers in railroad police departments or an airport agency.
Criminal Justice Job and Career Outlook in Washington
It has all in the details and when you hare making a decision as big as a career path, you should have all of the details in front of you. We reviewed the statistics that ONET provides on the state of Washington specifically to the criminal justice career (these stats are based on Police Patrol Officers averages). Washington has a median average salary of $70,900 with the US median average being $56,100 so they hare substantially higher than what you see from the rest of the US. Washington has an appealing median average but be sure to check out their cost of living as that might have a significant effect on that yearly salary average.
According to ONET, Washington expects to see a 3 percent growth in this particular job sector and the median average for the US is 6 percent. While not quite on par with the level of median US growth, Washington is still expecting to see positive growth which is a good sign if you hare considering that industry as future career. Seattle is one of the largest cities in Washington and they keep an updated blog with different schedules that might give you an idea of the happenings Washington police departments might see (advisory council meetings with different ethnic/diversity groups, religious groups, etc.). Do yourself a favor and make sure you research all the aspects of the Washington criminal justice industry along with economic factors and cost of living before making a decision.