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Top 5 Factors When Considering Online Criminal Justice Degree

Criminal Justice recently registered as the third most popular online college degree. Many students, especially members of the military who are professionally raised on discipline, aspire to careers in law enforcement or security.

Criminal Justice offers a range of careers in law enforcement, federal law enforcement, forensic science/crime scene investigation and legal/courts. If you've left the military and are already employed but want to better your opportunity for a promotion or raise, furthering your education could be the final step toward achieving those goals.

Let's say Criminal Justice is your degree program of choice. How do you know you've selected the right program?

Here are the top 5 factors to consider when deciding on an online Criminal Justice program.

1. Faculty
If you're going to invest your time, resources and money into a degree program, why not learn the subject from the most credible sources? Research who the faculty members associated with the Criminal Justice program you're thinking about are, and see if their background correlates with any of your interests in the field. It's ideal that the faculty member has a professional and academic background in your field of choice. This won't only be important for your education, but for future networking opportunities as well.

2. Variety of courses
It's important with Criminal Justice to pick a program that has a variety of open electives. This will allow you to gain a wealth of knowledge and experience in a number of Criminal Justice fields. It may open your eyes to a new facet of CJ you may not have otherwise considered.

3. Flexibility
Many students enrolled in online Criminal Justice degree programs already have a job and/or take care of a family. Will the potential Criminal Justice program allow you to work 40 hours a week and/or allow for the necessary time to care for your loved ones? If the program doesn't allow for flexible scheduling in connection with your full-time job/family obligations, simply do not consider it.

Think of it as a relationship. OK, I'm no relationship expert, but I'm of the opinion there's a direct connection between successful relationships and the ability to compromise. Same with choosing a degree program. If the degree program can't meet you halfway and compromise with your work/family obligations, politely dismiss it.

4. Interaction with law enforcement
CJ students may not conduct live investigations at local police stations, but that doesn't mean they can't gain valuable, first-hand experience from trained professionals. Many online Criminal Justice courses incorporate assignments into the curriculum that require speaking with a representative from a local law enforcement agency. Look for a degree program that offers its students this valuable luxury.

5. Gut instinct
When all your research is complete, you should pick a degree program that makes you feel comfortable and will best prepare you for future opportunities in Criminal Justice. Seek a school that treats you well from the moment you show interest. Make sure that student advisors are in place to assist you along the way. See to it that the admissions representative(s) takes a keen interest in getting you started on your path to starting or furthering your education. Trust your gut in assessing your experiences in these areas. Take notes on particularly memorable or forgettable engagements with school representatives.

Contributed by Eric Sorrentino, Grantham University

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