Blake Lafond is a researcher and an assistant professor for Everest College. He received his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in public safety and criminal justice from Capella University in 2012. His areas of research include policing and gangs.
A certificate program is the shortest route to getting an education in this subject. Therefore, if you want to get an idea of what the criminal justice field is like without committing to the time and cost that it takes to earn a full degree, a certificate might be the right option for you. Certificate programs tend to be good choices for working adults who do not have time to halt their careers entirely in order to go back to school.
Both graduate and undergraduate certificates are available, so you don’t have to worry if you do not have a background in criminal justice. In addition, you can earn your certificate at traditional brick-and-mortar or online schools.
You have a couple of options when it comes to earning a certificate. Both undergraduate and graduate certificates are available, and the 1 you should get depends on how much collegiate experience you have.
If you do not already have a bachelors degree, you should earn an undergraduate certificate. This will provide you with an overview of the fundamental principles. But you should be aware that, although the undergraduate certificate introduces you to the subject, it does not prepare you to work in this field. Undergraduate certificates are also useful if you decide later to earn a criminal justice associate degree online or an online criminal justice bachelor degree because you can often transfer your credits. Of course, you can pursue both of those degrees through traditional programs, too.
On the other hand, you are eligible to apply for a graduate certificate in criminal justice if you have already earned a bachelors degree in any subject. This level of certificate offers graduate classes. Because of the advanced level of study, the graduate certificate is the best option if you are already a criminal justice professional and you want more education in order to advance your career.
It takes longer to earn a graduate certificate than an undergraduate certificate. The amount of time that it takes to earn a top criminal justice certificate can also vary according to the length and depth of your program. Normally, undergraduate certificates require students to complete about 12 credits. Therefore, these certificate programs can be completed in 6 months to a year. On the other hand, you have to complete 15 to 18 credits to finish a graduate certificate. Students can normally complete graduate certificate programs in approximately 1 year of full-time study.
Whether you choose to earn your undergraduate certificate online or in a classroom, you will take introductory classes in the foundations of the field. Depending on the school you go to, your classes may vary. However, you are likely to take courses about law enforcement, the operation of correctional facilities and the role of the courts system in the criminal justice process.
In most cases, graduate certificates have a particular focus, like criminal justice administration, forensic science or criminology. Therefore, in the best certificate programs, you will take classes about public policy, policing, corrections and research methods in addition to classes in your area of focus.
Although online education is not recommended for some degrees, there are no significant drawbacks to earning an online criminal justice certificate. At the certificate level, whether you earn an undergraduate or graduate certificate, all of your classes will be based in theory rather than focused on teaching you practical skills. Therefore, the online learning environment will not negatively impact your education.
If you are earning a certificate to enhance your resume, you should be getting a graduate certificate. However, a graduate certificate alone will not qualify you to work in criminal justice. These credentials are most valuable in combination with a bachelors degree in a related subject like sociology or forensic science.
Graduate certificates can qualify you for legal assisting jobs in a legal office or to work in a correctional facility like a jail. And if your certificate is in a focus area like administrative criminal justice, you may be able to use your certificate to earn a promotion in your current position.
If you are interested in obtaining an undergraduate certificate, you should be aware that it will not prepare you for any jobs in the field. However, it can serve as a useful introduction to the field and you can transfer your credits into a bachelors degree program.