Choosing a School

Choosing a criminal justice school is an important decision. You will spend thousands of dollars along with years of your life earning your degree. After graduation, you want to be able to take this education and use it to land a quality criminal justice job. With all the schools available to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you?

To pick the right school, you will need to spend time conducting a little research. Make a list of the schools you are considering attending. You should pick at least three schools. Then, do a little investigative work on the following factors.

  • Degrees Offered - Learn what types of criminal justice degrees are offered. Some schools only focus on criminology while others explore broader areas of criminal justice or criminal administration. Browse through the school's catalog to learn more about the different courses offered. Will the classes be relevant to the criminal justice jobs you want to pursue? Also, check and see the school's policy for transferring credits from AP classes and classes taken while working on your associate's degree.
  • Faculty - Read up on the faculty's biographies. See what types of real world criminal justice experience they have. Have they been involved in research studies, have they written articles in pertinent journals, or do they work closely with area law enforcement to ensure that their students are learning the most relevant law enforcement techniques? Colleges will usually provide this information on their websites. If they don't, call the criminal justice department and ask.
  • Classroom Experience - Understand how the class will be delivered and the teacher-to-student ratio. Some introductory classes may be given in an auditorium filled with hundreds of students. More specialized classes may be delivered in a more intimate classroom setting. Think about how you learn best. Are you someone who needs to have one-to-one interaction with the teacher? Make sure the school offers classroom experiences that match your learning style.
  • Campus Visits - Relatives, friends, and family (even current police officers) may recommend specific criminal justice programs in your area. Don't rely on someone else's word; you owe it to yourself to visit the campus.Schools will offer campus tours at various times throughout the year. You will be able to visit the classrooms, talk to faculty and staff members, learn more about the curriculum, and have all of your questions answered.
  • Costs - Attending school is an expensive proposition. Location plays a huge role in the amount you will have to spend. State schools offer significant discounts to in-state residents. Out of state schools will be much more expensive. Remember, the total cost is more than tuition. Include books, fees, and room and board in your calculations.However, do not let the cost of attending school deter your dreams of earning a degree. There is plenty of financial aid available. Check with the school's financial aid department to see about applying for grants and scholarships.

Last Updated: 04/29/2014