If you’ve been researching criminal justice or related programs, you may have heard the term “accredited” thrown around, such as an accredited school, program, college or university.
What does accredited mean and is it important?
What is accreditation?
When a school or program is accredited, it means that it meets specified standards reflecting quality education (i.e. in terms of faculty, support for students, curriculum, facilities, educational outcomes, etc.) and it demonstrate a commitment to enhance this quality over time.
The key to finding such a college/university or program is to look for those approved by an organization recognized by the CHEA (Council for Higher Education Accreditation), the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) or both. As of 2013, there are over 80 accrediting agencies recognized by the CHEA and/or USDE. They range from organizations that accredit schools by region and those that accredit career-related institutions to those that accredit specific programs (such as the American Academy of Forensic Sciences’ Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission or the American Bar Association’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar).
Benefits of an Accredited Criminal Justice Program
Besides the obvious benefit—quality education—there are several other advantages to enrolling in a criminal justice or related program at an accredited college or university. These include:
- Potential employers will take you seriously if you complete a program that meets quality standards.
- Completion of a non-accredited program will generally not count towards educational pre-requisites for transferring schools or applying to graduate school.
- Attending a non-accredited school generally denies you the ability to apply for financial aid.
How Do I Know if a School/Program is Accredited?
While there are more than 7,000 accredited schools and almost 19,000 accredited programs (according to CHEA estimates from 2008), there are still so-called institutions out there that are not reputable. Some advertise “too good to be true” programs and even fake accreditations. The CHEA refers to this growing problem as “degree mills.”
If you want to make sure a program is accredited, both the CHEA and USDE have databases on their websites listing the schools they recognize.
A great resource to answer any further questions you may have is CHEA’s “Accreditation Tool Kit”: http://www.chea.org/accreditation_toolkit/accreditation_toolkit.pdf