Education is an investment—of both time and money—and it is important that the investment you make will help you reach your goals for your future. If you have been looking into criminal justice schools, you have probably noticed that there are many options available: different types of schools, different types of degrees, and even different formats (i.e., in-person or online). Other articles in this series discuss these issues more in depth; the goal here is to provide you with some criteria you can use to evaluate the quality of a school in general.
No matter what you want to study, the first thing you need to ensure is that the school you are considering is accredited. Accreditation is an indication of a certain level of quality, and if you want to use your certificate or degree to earn a diploma, accreditation is mandatory. Criminal justice programs can be accredited by either national or regional accrediting agencies. Visit the DOE website for more information and to make sure your school is listed.
All degree-granting institutions must be licensed by the state in which they operate. If your school is physically located in your state, it is probably licensed, but if you are looking for online programs, you need to make sure—even some accredited institutions are not licensed in all 50 states. You should be able to find this information on the school’s website.
The school you graduate from and the degree your earn will go on your resume, and having a credential from a nationally recognized institution is a good way to get the attention of hiring managers. If possible, attend a school that has a well-established reputation for its criminal justice programs.
Type of Institution
Criminal justice schools fall into three main categories: trade and technical schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities. These schools offer different types of degrees (see the related post in this series), and the one that is right for you will depend on your career goals. They also generally have different times to completion, so part of your decision will be based on how many years you are willing to devote to your studies.
Job Placement Services
Many criminal justice schools offer job placement programs for their graduates. If you are new to the criminal justice field, this service can be invaluable. To find out about the services available, contact the school and ask about its job placement rates, and select a school that has a good track record.
As you evaluate criminal justice schools, you will certainly want to look at the courses you will take, the schedule, the cost, and so on, but keeping these five factors in mind will help you choose the best school for you.
U.S. Department of Education. The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.