Online Degree Issues

 Important Issues To Consider Before Choosing A Criminal Justice School

Many students are pursuing their college degrees online today. The growth of online degree programs is phenomenal, growing at rates that took decades for traditional on-ground campus programs to reach (and continuously growing daily). With that said, there are many issues that you should strongly consider, assuming you're looking to earn a degree online,

which include:

 

Name recognition

 

Some students want to earn a degree from a college that is well-known, and in such cases, they should probably apply for admission at a state university that offers online programs. Many traditional universities are now establishing distance education divisions to offer their programs via an online environment. For example, Florida State University offers an online master's degree in Criminal Justice Studies. Having this name recognition may be important for some students, but should only be one of several issues to consider when looking for the school right for you.

Convenience

 

One of the promises of online education is convenience. You don't have to get into a car, drive to a campus, look for a parking spot, sit in a classroom and then drive home. Rather, your classroom is wherever you have internet access. With that said, one needs to evaluate the true convenience a college offers to see if it best fits their needs. Some colleges require virtual chat sessions each week at a pre-set time. This means the student must be in front of a computer at that time (ex: 7:00pm - 9:00pm every Thursday night). Other colleges require residency requirements, which is where the student must come to the campus once per quarter (from anywhere to a couple of days to an entire week) to sit in a physical classroom and receive an on-campus lecture. These requirements vary from one college to the next, so be sure you know the requirements at the institutions you consider.

Accreditation

Online programs are still thought by some to be "diploma mills", but this is becoming less of the attitude ascribed to distance education. While there are some online websites that offer fraudulent degrees where one never takes a class (but rather pay $500 and receive a "degree" in 3 weeks in the mail), this is NOT what a true distance education program offers. Therefore, it's important to check the accreditation of the college you're reviewing. The degree should be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (whether nationally or regionally accredited). You may check the database of the Office of Postsecondary Education to ensure an institution is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education: http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/Search.asp

Graduates from the program

This is something few potential students will inquire about, but is very important to avoid certain hassles down the road. If a program has had graduates, it is likely offered the program for at least two (for an associate's degree) to four (for a bachelor's degree) years. Therefore, it is likely that all the courses have been offered in the curriculum at least once, and graduate placement information may be available. This can ensure that courses needed to graduate have been properly and fully developed for when they were first offered so that you do not end up taking a class that is really a "work in progress." Also, graduate placement information can tell you how many students who graduated from a program landed positions in the career field. The sole reason many earn a college degree is to get a job, so it can be encouraging to know that others who have taken the program have ended up in jobs similar to what you are looking for.

Is the program right for you

After considering all the above-listed information, one ultimately has to decide which program is right for him/her. In addition to the factors above, this will include tuition cost, financial aid availability, interest in the curriculum offered (or in minors/specializations available for the degree program), and what special incentives may be available. One important incentive for those who have relevant work experience is an evaluation of one's work history to account for credit in the degree. For example, many Criminal Justice programs will allow for students who have worked in a related field to bring in training and relevant work experience for review by academic management as possible transfer of credit hours. Military training/experience is also widely recognized and approved for credits at many colleges, so be sure to ask those in Admissions if this applies to you.
 
In Conclusion

Taking these issues into careful consideration can ensure one finds an online program that is right for him/her. The intelligent student will carefully evaluate the above factors, decide what their needs, and then pick the college program that best fits those needs. For some, name recognition is inconsequential, for others it is important. However, other issues like convenience, accreditation, previous graduates in the program and other issues should be carefully reviewed before making the decision of which school is best.


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