Guide to Criminal Justice Schools & Accreditation
Accrediting agencies are private educational associations that develop criteria by which to evaluate educational schools and programs. Accreditation leads universities and program developers to create quality courses, offer relevant materials, and employ valuable instructors so that they may meet the requirements of the accrediting agencies. For this reason, many employers specifically seek applicants with an education from an accredited institution, as that school’s accreditation proves to employers that the education the applicant received is valuable and well-earned. The specifics of the criteria for accreditation vary from agency to agency.
However, because accrediting agencies are private and not run by the government, there are some with low standards that may not reflect the best educational opportunities available. For this reason, the U.S. Department of Education publishes a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies that are deemed to be reliable authorities about the quality of education provided by the institutions and programs they accredit, according to the Department of Education website. This list of reliable accrediting agencies is organized with the date of the school’s initial accreditation as well as the date of when the school is up for review again.
The practice of accreditation ensures that quality schools and programs are recognized, while fraudulent schools, most often seen in the form of diploma mills, are not. Accredited criminal justice schools provide students with an education and skills that can be applied in the workforce. No matter what specific sector of the criminal justice field a student wants to join, he or she will have to acquire a relatively in-depth understanding of the legal system. The materials can be difficult to learn, as legal courses are often complex and ever-changing as new cases are brought forth each day. This makes attending a quality institution for higher education even more important, as employers will expect for graduates to have a deep understanding of the field. Accreditation is not a guarantee that the degree earned will be accepted by all future employers, but it is far more likely to be accepted than a degree from an unaccredited institution or diploma mill.
Prospective criminal justice students should never attend an unaccredited institution, but instead should make sure that the schools they are considering have been approved by one of the institutions mentioned in the Department of Education’s list. Diploma mills are a genuine problem in online education, duping students into paying a hefty fee for a fake degree. The real problem is that diploma mills may claim to be “accredited,” so students should take care to research this claim. Diploma mills prey on the prospective student’s need for a quick and cheap degree, promising a Bachelor’s Master’s, or Doctorate degree in less than a year with minimal coursework involved, according to the Federal Trade Commission. However, students should realize that no college degree can be rewarded without legitimate effort.