Admission criteria to criminal justice colleges vary widely depending on the type of school to which a candidate is applying. Criminal justice programs at junior colleges and career preparation institutes generally have less rigorous admissions standards than programs at more traditional four-year colleges and universities. Depending on the particular junior college, candidates are expected to have graduated from high school with an acceptable academic record and demonstrated a desire to improve the community and enforce safety. They should also be prepared to complete an academic program outlined by the academic institution.
Students should consider whether they want to pursue an associate’s degree (which usually takes about two years to complete) or a bachelor’s degree (which usually takes about four years to complete). Associate’s degrees are offered by junior colleges, while bachelor’s degrees can only be awarded by a four-year academic institution.
- Requirements for criminal justice programs at four-year colleges and universities also vary depending on the school. In general, colleges and universities take into account several criteria, including standardized test scores (ACT and SAT), grade point average, class rank, rigor of high school academic program, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, and, often, a personal statement.
- Depending on the criminal justice college, students may apply for the criminal justice program either after they are accepted or at the time that they first apply to the school. Often, criminal justice programs at four-year colleges and universities are labeled majors in criminal justice or legal studies. Students who major in criminal justice follow a certain course of classes, ranging from juvenile justice to ethics in modern society.
- In general, as with any application, strong candidates should strive to meet the requirements of each institution to which they are applying. Strong candidates have standardized test scores that meet or exceed their particular institution’s requirements, above-average written and oral communication skills, a desire to contribute positively to their community, a well-developed sense of ethics and morals, and the determination and organizational skills to succeed in a rigorous academic program.
Students may also consider programs that are available online. Online criminal justice programs are affiliated with traditional four-year colleges and universities, junior colleges, and career training institutes. Like in-person academic institutions, these online programs vary according to the type of academic institution offering the program and the type of degree sought. Online study can be a viable option for candidates who are not interested in traditional schooling. Online programs can offer more flexible scheduling options and an online learning community. However, students in online academic programs must be self-starters who can complete tasks well with little supervision.