Learn All about Online Criminal Justice Degrees

There is a reason why online criminal justice degrees are highly sought - they provide a launching pad to myriad careers and are obtainable. If you lack the desire, time, or patience to sit in a traditional brick-and-mortar classroom, consider learning about your online options. There are five questions that will help you finalize a school choice. In the end, you are paying for a quality education, not just a piece of paper stating that you graduated. Your criminal justice degree should prepare you for your chosen career field.

What Are the Admission Requirements?

Although this sounds like a given, each school varies in the number, type, and transferability of credit hours accepted toward your online criminal justice degree. Inquire about the basic academic credits required, including math, composition, history, and social studies. If you have a college degree, such as an associate, or have completed college-level classes, ask the admissions counselor if these credits are transferable. If they are not, ask if you can take an examination, such as a College Level Examination Program, or CLEP, to skip taking the extraneous course.

Is Travel Required?

Read the fine print and ask this question. Some online college courses are not 100 percent online courses. If you read the fine print on your admissions paperwork, you may find that a couple of classes or credit hours must be completed in person, in a traditional classroom setting. If you live in Cincinnati and are attending the University of Colorado online, this could be a major inconvenience. Furthermore, ask if there is any fieldwork, such as an internship or apprenticeship, involved to complement your didactic learning. If fieldwork is involved, which is not uncommon in the specialized fields of criminal justice, inquire if this will be arranged within your community or if you are responsible for finding your own mentors during the online program.

How Many Credits to Graduate?

The number of credit hours required to matriculate depends on the school providing the online criminal justice degrees and the level of degree you wish to obtain. An associate degree requires sixty to seventy credits on average. A bachelor's degree will require almost double that, or about 120 credit hours for completion. Master's degrees in criminal justice may require thirty-five to fifty additional credits, depending on the school and master's program type.

Choosing between the degrees is a personal choice largely based on your career choice. An associate degree in criminal justice can open the door to many local and state law enforcement jobs, whereas a master's degree may facilitate a job in education or administration. See the article titled, "Matching Criminal Justice Degrees to Careers," for more information.

What Is the Cost per Credit Hour?

After you learn how many credit hours are required for your degree, you will need to know how much the school charges per credit hour. Typically, the higher the degree obtained, the more it will cost per credit hour. Find out if the school offers financial assistance or discounts to individuals or spouses of active-duty or retired military.

Is the University Accredited?

The online portal provides access to a cesspool of institutes just waiting to take your time and money. While online criminal justice degrees are easy to find, you want to make sure the school that supplies your degree is accredited. Accreditation is a voluntary process by which the school's faculty, curriculum, and matriculation and attrition rates are assessed by a non-governmental certifying body.

There are national and regional accreditations awarded to colleges providing online degrees; make sure your school has at least one accreditation, preferably a regional accreditation. Schools that are regionally accredited provide a sound curriculum with high matriculation rates and low attrition rates. If you are not sure where to start looking for accreditations, you can ask the admissions faculty or complete an online search with the U.S. Department of Education.

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