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Certificate in Criminal Justice

Certificate programs are one of the fastest growing trends in higher education. Today’s fast-changing workplace and competitive economy rewards people who invest in improving their skills and knowledge. Certificate programs not only help you acquire expertise, they document your achievement and make you more marketable to employers – often at a higher salary.

A step ahead of the competition

The criminal justice field is competitive. A certificate alone will not get you a job in law enforcement, security, criminal courts or in incarceration/rehabilitation institutions. Top jobs increasingly require advanced degrees and plenty of specific work experience. A certificate can, however, prove to be that little bit extra that makes the difference.

Is a criminal justice certificate worth the effort? The answer depends on a number of “ifs.” If you are earning a degree in another field, adding a criminal justice certificate can put you ahead of other bachelor’s degree holders. If you already have a bachelor’s degree in another field and want to pursue your master’s in criminal justice, a criminal justice certificate can show the admissions committee that you are truly committed to the field and it can make sure you get your degree studies off to a good start. If you already work in criminal justice and want to specialize in a certain area, a specialized certificate is a cost-effective and time-saving way to establish your credentials. And you don’t necessarily have to work in criminal justice to benefit from having the certificate. If you work in the corporate world, information technology, accounting, education, or social services, this added credential can open many doors. Employers value the added area of expertise as well as the effort you make to acquire it.

With a certificate in criminal justice, you can profit from the benefits of a criminal justice education without the high cost in time and money you would incur earning a full degree. Because your coursework focuses exclusively on criminal justice classes, you don’t have to invest in the peripheral liberal arts or science classes most degrees require. The streamlined nature of certificate in criminal justice programs means they can be completed in a few months of part time effort, with some lighter programs taking just weeks.

A chance to focus on the criminal justice field

Typical criminal justice certificate programs require you take somewhere around fifteen credit hours of coursework. Most institutions put you in class with bachelor’s or master’s degree candidates. You take the same college-level classes, so expect the same level of challenge. Certificate programs are designed to accommodate people who are holding down full time jobs. While flexibility is part of most programs, so is the expectation of a professional attitude and personal responsibility regarding schedules and performance.

The typical criminal justice certificate program is focused on courses in criminology, psychology of motivation and forensic psychology, victimology, the role of chemical abuse in violence and crime, policing and corrections, basics about the court system and procedures, security management, and administration. While you can earn a general criminal justice certificate, you can usually customize certificate curriculum to focus on a specific area of expertise. Some common areas of emphasis include law enforcement, forensic science, homeland security training, public safety, administration and corporate and organizational security.

Many community colleges and universities offer on-campus, online and blended programs. Getting in usually requires only that you have a high school diploma. Some programs allow you to continue on to a bachelor’s or master’s degree and will apply credit for some of the certificate coursework to those degrees. If you think you may continue your education at a later date, it pays to investigate this benefit. Do be mindful of any restrictions a particular institution places on applying certificate credits to follow-up degrees. In general, you won’t be able to transfer certificate credits to a different institution and some schools require you pursue your degree within a certain time frame.

Certificates are a real value compared to degrees, but they still are not cheap. With a little extra effort, you may find you don’t have to be on the hook for their entire cost. Private employers often have programs that reimburse your tuition in whole or in part. Government agencies may also pony up some cash either as a grant or as part of a work/study program. The institution offering the certificate itself may have partial scholarships, financial aid, or payment plans. Definitely research your options before you whip out your checkbook.