As brick-and-mortar universities continue the trend of increasing their online degree program offerings, students are gaining access to educational opportunities. And as degree programs become more accessible, prospective students are asking: “How can I evaluate the quality of an educational program or institution?” The answer lies within accreditation. The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) is an international association dedicated to professional and scholarly activities and the leading accreditation organization for criminal justice education programs.
The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) was established in 1963 to foster professional and scholarly activities in the field of criminal justice. Their mission is to uphold high standards of education, research, and policy analysis for criminal justice educators and practitioners. Through the dissemination of ideas related to research, policy, education, and best practices, ACJS aims to create a dynamic professional organization to meet the needs of its 2,800 diverse members in the United States. Membership in ACJS comprises professionals with backgrounds in scholarly research, professionals from a variety of sectors, and students wanting to explore the field of criminal justice as future scholars or practitioners.
Members of ACJS may choose to join an interest section to engage more fully in their area of professional specialization. These interest sections include:
To promote access to the scholarly exchange of ideas related to the field of criminal justice, the ACJS offers its members online access to its two official journals: Justice Quarterly and the Journal of Criminal Justice. In addition, the official online newsletter ACJS Today is published five times a year featuring articles and book reviews relevant to the fields of criminal justice, criminology, and sociology.
To keep in constant contact and provide its members with timely information, the ACJS maintains direct email communication to promote local criminal justice organizations, upcoming meetings, and recent journal publications. The ACJS Employment Bulletin features electronic job postings and professional networking opportunities for academics, researchers, and practitioners. It is updated twice weekly.
The ACJS has set program standards for associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in criminal justice. Program assessment involves a self-evaluation of all program goals and learning objectives with an emphasis on measurable outcomes to determine an educational program’s success in serving the needs of its students.
Criminal justice programs desiring to earn ACJS accreditation should consider the following questions when determining their educational program outcomes:
More information on how to develop program assessment plans can be found on the ACJS Developing Program Assessment Plans webpage.
For more than 50 years, the ACJS has contributed to the field of criminal justice in the form of networking opportunities, scrupulous educational program standards, and scholarly research and publication. Three publications detailing the rich history of this organization from its start in 1963 to the present day can be found below:
Before applying for admission to any institution of higher education, prospective students should determine if the school is accredited by a recognized regional or national accrediting agency. Students, employers, and educational institutions all benefit from the high standards set forth by accrediting organizations and students cannot receive federal financial aid unless they are enrolled in an accredited educational institution. According to the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), in order to be considered for accreditation, an institution must:
A list of accredited colleges, universities, and programs may also be found by searching the institution directory of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the U.S. Department of Education.
The ACJS has put together an exclusive list of fifteen ACJS Certified Programs in the United States. Here are three universities with ACJS-accredited criminal justice programs:
North Carolina Central University– Durham, NC
North Carolina Central University offers an ACJS-certified bachelor’s of science (BS) in criminal justice. Undergraduate students applying to this program must complete 18 credit-hours of coursework with a grade of C or higher in English, math, sociology, psychology, and criminal justice.
The criminal justice core curriculum includes 35 semester-hours of courses in criminal justice, statistical and research methods, and a criminal justice practicum course. Students in this program choose from one of four concentrations comprising 12 hours of coursework in law enforcement, corrections, homeland security, and juvenile justice. All of the concentration courses feature a blend of theoretical and practical issues. Students in this program are required to see an academic advisor once each semester and are encouraged to pursue a second major related to their career interest.
Seattle University – Seattle, WA
Seattle University offers three degree programs in criminal justice: a bachelor of arts (BA), a bachelor of science (BS), and a master of arts (MA). These academic programs have an interdisciplinary focus combining social science, the arts, and sciences to provide students a multifaceted education required for future careers and leadership roles in criminal justice.
Seattle University features a low student-to-faculty ratio and several internship opportunities to support students in the beginning stages of their careers. Other student support services include an honor society, a criminal justice club, and an extensive alumni network.
Specializations within the bachelor’s degree include administration of justice, criminology and criminal justice theory, forensic psychology, and forensic science. Carrying forth the Jesuit values of knowledge, critical thinking, ethics, and consciousness, the Seattle University criminal justice program emphasizes ethical leadership. Seattle University’s ACJS-certified criminal justice program features a crime and justice research center focusing on public outreach events, which is run by a campus advisory committee in collaboration with students and faculty.
University of Baltimore – Baltimore, MD
The University of Baltimore offers bachelor’s and master’s of science degree programs certified by the ACJS. Undergraduate courses include a wide range of fundamentals of criminal justice courses in organization and administration, criminological theory, research design, and analysis.
Students can customize their studies by integrating interdisciplinary coursework in psychology, government, and information technology. Internship programs at agencies related to chosen areas of specialization are available to students in the bachelor’s degree program. Accelerated options for those who want to earn bachelor and master of science degrees in criminal justice are available, and students can qualify to earn up to nine graduate credits in their undergraduate degree coursework.
The master of science (MS) program may be completed as a dual Juris Doctorate (JD) and master’s degree program, allowing students to earn two advanced degrees in a shorter amount of time. The 33-credit MS program requires students to apply research theory, methods, and statistics, as well as interact with field professionals. Specializations in law enforcement, courts and law, corrections, juvenile justice, or victim studies are offered in these two programs.
Criminal justice degree graduates can look forward to a variety of careers as correctional officers, border patrol agents, domestic violence counselors, drug enforcement agents, FBI/secret service agents, juvenile victim advocates, and U.S. marshal and customs agents, among other opportunities.