Accreditation Issues

For those who are not currently enrolled in a Criminal Justice degree program, you may have questions about how to determine if a degree is accredited, and if so, what sort of accreditation it has. First and most, it is important that a degree that is "accredited" be accredited by a council/agency that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDoEd). If the degree is from a foreign institution, or accredited by any other means (i.e. an agency that is not recognized by the

USDoEd), it will likely be at the discretion of the employer as to whether they will accept it or not.

There are two types of accreditations recognized by the U.S., regional accreditation and national accreditation. It may seem because of the title that a national accreditation is higher than a regional accreditation, but the opposite is actually true. Your major state universities, as well as many other smaller universities/colleges and online colleges are regionally accredited by one of six agencies ?Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Higher Education


New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher

Education (NEASC-CIHE)

North Central Association of Colleges and Schools The Higher Learning Commission

Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Colleges and


Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Commission on Colleges

Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) The Senior College Commission

If a degree is regionally accredited, you can count on it being accepted anywhere in the United States for employment purposes. If a degree is nationally accredited, it is accredited by an agency recognized by the USDoEd, but NOT by one of the six regional accrediting agencies listed above. So, what does this mean? Some employers (though they are in the minority) will only accept degrees from regionally accredited schools... no if's, and's or but's about it. Also, many regionally accredited schools will not accept transfer credits from nationally accredited schools (although this is not always the case, it is safe to say that this is the rule rather than the exception). On the contrary, credits from a regionally accredited school will always be transferable to a nationally accredited school, as well as other regionally accredited schools.

So, at this point you may be saying to yourself, "I'm going to get a regionally accredited degree since it's accepted everywhere." Sounds good, but the difference is often times (although not always) the price. The price of tuition may be more, or less, at either one or the other, but typically speaking, it is probably safe to make a general rule that a nationally accredited school is more likely to be less expensive (per credit hour) than the major state universities (which are regionally accredited). Also, nationally accredited schools will often times admit students under less stringent requirements than regionally accredited schools (these include "career colleges"). That's certainly not to say that they let anyone and everyone enroll, but many nationally accredited schools are seen as "second chance" colleges for those who aren't able to matriculate into a regionally accredited school. Additionally, some private institutions may have national accreditation due to the institution being religious in nature. Both types of institutions (those that are regionally accredited and nationally accredited) serve a particular type of student need, and thus in that way, are equally important in educating students.

In Conclusion

When determining what college degree program is right for you, accreditation recognized by the U.S. Department of Education should be something you ensure prospective colleges you research have. Of the two types, regional accreditation is the most widely accepted, but often times these schools are much more expensive (or have admissions standards some students cannot meet). Therefore, nationally accredited schools are another option. Whether one chooses to get their degree from a nationally or regionally accredited institution, it is important for employment within the United States that it came from one of the two. Otherwise, the student risks their degree not being accepted for employment purposes (and in essence, earns a degree not worth the money spent to obtain it).

About the Author

Ryan Schwoebel has worked for two online college Criminal Justice programs. He currently works as the director of distance learning Criminal Justice degree programs for one college, and as an adjunct Criminal Justice professor at another. In these roles, he has gained a wealth of knowledge about the academic study of Criminal Justice, and would like to impart on those interested in studying Criminal Justice some basic information one should consider before enrolling in a Criminal Justice program.

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