According to USA Today, criminal justice and corrections remains as one of the most sought after majors for students in the US. In their October 2014 list of the ‘Most Popular Majors’, criminal justice beat accounting, liberal arts and sciences and English Literature to take the sixth spot. The criminal justice discipline is vast and offers a number of challenging opportunities to students. However, there may be another reason why in recent years criminal justice as a discipline has captured the imagination of the American youth.
The media has played a role in the student’s interest in criminal justice programs. TV shows like Dexter and CSI portray professionals investigating crime scenes and analyzing evidence to catch criminals. This is true to a certain extent; however criminal justice is not all about investigating crime scenes.
Let’s begin with criminal justice programs first. A number of subfields could be included in criminal justice programs. These include the following:
Law Enforcement – This major allow students to pursue careers as police officers, detectives and game wardens. It examines the roles, responsibilities and procedures involved in contemporary law enforcement agencies.
- Rehabilitation – Students majoring in this area usually work as substance abuse counselors, a critical part of the criminal justice system. This major helps students assess issues through research and formulate plans for rehabilitation.
- Criminology – This is another exciting field where students who specialize in this major could pursue a career in forensic psychology. A degree in criminology helps students understand criminal trends and patterns through research, examination and analysis.
The abovementioned is not, admittedly, an exhaustive list of specialties offered in criminal justice schools. Students can pursue criminal justice specialties at the following degree level.
- Associate of Science in Criminal Justice – Students learn about the main components of the criminal justice system in the United States. This degree also includes topics on courts, law enforcement, crime causation and crime control policy among others. This degree is for entry-level positions or for students who are interested in doing their Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice.
- Bachelor’s of Science in Criminal Justice – With this degree, students learn about the administration of justice and the practical aspects of crime control. Some of the courses students are required to complete relate to the adult and juvenile system, courts, laws and corrections. Students can also opt for Bachelor’s of Arts in Criminal Justice. The arts degree takes the liberal arts perspective in the study of crime.
- Master’s of Science in Criminal Justice – A graduate program, students learn about prevention and control, design and analysis in criminal justice research, qualitative research methods and policy analysis.
It is important to note that the above mentioned topics and courses may not be available with every school. These courses give prospective students a general idea as to what courses and topics they should expect when enrolling in an online criminal justice school.
Online schools may be a relatively new concept, however since the advent of internet, students have realized how distance learning may be a viable option. As with any traditional campus-based school, prospective students must perform an extensive research before enrollment. Here are a couple of factors that students must consider before enrolling in an online criminal justice school.
- Accreditation – Both the school and the program needs to be accredited by the regional commission such as the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools or the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, just to name a few.
- Faculty – The online criminal justice school must have an experienced and qualified faculty. Check what percentage of faculty holds PhD degrees and other advanced degrees.
- Class Size – Even if the classes are online, students must check what the student-teacher ratio is. The acceptable ratio for many students is around 23:1.
- Tuition – Many may think online education is relatively inexpensive, in some cases it may be. For an estimate, the students must check the price per credit hour and also if the school offers any financial aid to its students.
- Delivery Method – What technology and tools does the school use for coursework delivery? How frequent are the live one-on-one lectures? What research materials do students have access to and are they free?
Although the above mentioned factors are the school’s responsibility, a big chunk of the responsibility lies with the students as well. Prospective students must not think that online education is easy by any means. Here are a couple of attributes that go into the making of a successful online student.
- Time Management – This is the most important attribute. If the student is not good with their time management, they will not be able to complete their degree. Discipline plays an important role here.
- Technical Skills – As most of the education is going to be online, students must have basic technical skills. This includes using different software and tools to complete their assignments.
- Motivated – With online education, students must be motivated. This will require students to have a sense of responsibility to complete their assignments and be mature and diligent about meeting their deadlines.
- Study Environment – The study environment of an online student should be similar to a classroom. This means it should be quiet, have good lighting and free of distractions. Distractions that must be avoided at all are web surfing or online games.
It is the amalgamation of all these factors that go into the successful completion of an online criminal justice degree.