Picking the right criminal justice institute can be difficult with all the choices out there. In the past, the only sure route for enhancing your expertise and getting gainful employment in the criminal justice field was through traditional colleges. From the 70s, however, things began to change gradually and trade schools or technical schools began to gain prominence.

Today’s generation have plenty more opportunities for educational advancement than their counterparts in the 60s and 70s. Currently, there have been a record number of criminal justice institute and schools available across the country.

When you want to take up a criminal justice education, you should make sure that you contact or survey multiple schools. This is to make sure that you can make the best comparison possible.

You can compare these options in terms of the cost of taking a course, the requirements, and many other factors. You will find out that the multiple schools have a lot of differences, even if they offering the same program. In choosing that one to pick you need to make sure that it adheres to what you are looking for in your criminal justice education.

A lot of people are generally undecided on whether to join the traditional schools or the technical schools. There are people who totally advocate for one or the other although each of these has its advantages and disadvantages.  When deciding which of these will be best suited for you, it is important to evaluate your career goals.

What You Get From Traditional Schools

Traditional schools or the three to four-year colleges are best suited for a number of things. If you have some time on your hands and can afford to spend four years studying in college then this choice is for you. It is a good option if you are looking for a well-rounded education. There are numerous advantages which are associated with attending the traditional colleges.

For example, you have access to a faculty that is quite knowledgeable in their field and this means that you will have a very thorough theoretical grounding in your subject. You will be able to impress with your mastery and knowledge of your subject.

A feature of the traditional colleges is that students can get a very generic form of education as opposed to the specific laser-focused training. The latter is something that you usually get from the vocational colleges, trade schools or the technical schools. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. The advantage is that it gives you an overall bird’s eye view of your career and you are able to think more broadly.

Studying in a university setting is also ideal if you thrive in academic settings and want to pursue further research in the field. It gives you an opportunity to delve deeper into theory and empirical research so you can bring forth new knowledge and perspectives.

Traditional colleges and universities are not just meeting places of minds but also of people. You are able to meet people from diverse cultures and this can really broaden your worldview and perspective. Lifelong personal and professional relationships are also generally forged during your 4-year stint at a traditional college.

Other Reasons to Attend Traditional Schools


There are other less tangible but equally important that come with attending traditional schools. For example, students who have gone through universities and colleges are not just broad-minded, but are also more likely to engage in their civic duties. Moreover, they also have a better understanding of the society’s social and political values.

In short, they make great citizens. Studying in the traditional schools allows a student to pursue diverse intellectual pursuits. This diversity comes with its own drawbacks since it takes students longer to finish their education. 

This means that it might takes years for some to complete a coursework. While this gives students a thorough theoretical and intellectual grounding, too  much time is wasted in the process. 

While college has its own benefits, it also has certain disadvantages. College education, for example, is still unwaveringly expensive. Its cost rises steadily every year. Students always graduate with mountains of college debt which will take many years to repay. For others, it can even take a lifetime.

College education also lacks specificity or specialization. You may end up taking lots of courses which are irrelevant and may take too much time off your core field of study.

Technical Schools

Trade or technical schools have a philosophical difference in their approach to education. Their objective is to not make you a “well-rounded” individual such as in a traditional schools. They are more focused on equipping you with skills that will help you find a good job and perform in that role effectively. It is here where you will get a more hands-on training in various disciplines.

Students who attend the technical schools have the best mastery of real-world problem solving and skills. They generally have up-to-date labs where the latest real-life skills are imparted. In traditional schools that do not specialize in technical criminal justice courses, their facilities may not be as updated.

The technical schools will teach you a trade unlike the traditional schools which impart generic knowledge. A student who has passed through a technical school will generally be prepared for a role in the workplace.  In these schools, there is a good balance between practical knowledge and conceptual knowledge.


The curriculum of technical schools does not have much of the generic information that you would find in college. They have a sharp focus on practical training. Classes in a technical school are more likely to be practice-based rather than lecture-based.

Unlike traditional schools, the technical schools generally have smaller batches of students per classroom. This not only allows for efficient imparting of knowledge, but such smaller groups are generally able to forge stronger bonds. This also results in meaningful networks that can last an entire career or lifetime.  The smaller classrooms also mean that each student gets personal attention from tutors for better knowledge absorption.

Thanks to these advantages, more employers are increasingly preferring students who have gone to technical schools. Students with these certifications generally don’t need as much on-the-job training since they already possess the required skills as well as technical know-how to perform effectively. This is in contrast to graduates from traditional colleges who may need more training and orientation.

Cost Analysis

There also cost advantages. Due to the shorter course duration, students will spend less money and less time studying in technical school. They are also able to begin earning faster within 2 or 3 years compared to college graduates who may have to wait five years.

Trade schools generally offer a great deal of flexibility for students. They can opt for multiple study options including online, evening classes, part-time or even night studies. This flexibility works really well for someone who is doing a work-study program.

On the flip side, the education offered in the technical schools may be deemed as less rigorous compared to those offered in the traditional universities and colleges. You also miss out on the great social experience and networks that you miss out on when you fail to attend college.

Admission requirements

It is necessary to inquire about what’s required for you to be considered eligible to take a program that you want. Inquire if they need you to have already graduated from other programs, how many tests you should take before being considered and so on. There are some schools that will require applicants to have obtained a degree in certain fields.

Schools that have stringent degree requirements are often more competitive. The content that is offered is more meaningful. Whereas there are schools that will take anyone regardless of your credentials.  But it is important to pick a school that you think will give you value for the tuition fee you will pay.

Requirements for residency 

For criminal justice graduate degrees, some universities will require a residency requirement based on the number of academic units the degree requires. The residency requirements and the max allowable transfer units for criminal justice degrees may vary for each university. Make sure to check the website of your chosen university to know how many of your earned units can be credited.

However, a criminal justice department may establish unit requirements that are even higher than what the University requires. On the other hand, departmental residency requirements cannot be lower than the standard held by the University.

Tuition and Potential Salary

When you’re contacting different schools, ask about their fees and if they offer any financial scholarships or assistance programs. This will let you know if you are in a position to pay for the criminal justice program that you want to enlist to. If they have a few of these plans in place, see if you are eligible to apply and be a beneficiary.

The average cost of criminal justice education is around $44,000, which includes your whole four years of college. An online degree on the other hand, costs around $32,000 as of fall 2016 school year. When you start working and if for example you end up as a law enforcer, your salary would only be marginally higher than that to the tune of $55,000 a year. For forensic scientists/technicians, salary amount is even lesser, but still in the $50,000 range.

Given these info, you should try to keep in mind whether it’s worth racking all that student debt that may take you years and years to pay.

Certification requirements

When you’re enlisting for a criminal justice program, the college will require you to complete every class as required so that you can be certified. Typically, schools will differ in terms of their certification requirements. Ask about their certification requirements when you are contacting your desired schools.

Some of the schools will allow your certification to be only in the state in which it is located. Whereas others will allow you get certified in your state of choice or residence. Make sure that you choose what will give you the greater advantage.

Institutions and colleges have standards they require but most are in line with Commission mandated minimum prerequisites so you can be hired as a law enforcement officer or other related jobs. However, individual agencies may demand higher standards than the minimum.

Criminal Justice Institute List

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Valencia Criminal Justice Institute

If you’re based in Florida, Valencia Criminal Justice Institute is probably one of the well-known training centers in the state. Aside from being certified, its curriculum are all approved by the state’s governing commission. They currently offer programs for those who want to be law enforcement officers, as well as probation and correctional officers in the state. As of December 2015, they are serving more than 45 organizations including government agencies such as Department of Juvenile Justice and Department of Corrections with their graduates.

University of Arkansas System – Criminal Justice Institute (CJI)

The U of A CJI campus houses law enforcement professionals. Most of their students are already actively working in various government agencies and departments. What they do is supplement their students with additional training, resources, and any additional education they may require. The institute doesn’t just utilize a classroom-style setting but also provides necessary hands-on experience.

Harvard Law – Criminal Justice Institute

Harvard’s Criminal Justice program concentrates more on the law side of things. More specifically, their objective is to churn out criminal defense lawyers. They aim their graduates to practice in the Massachusetts court system or in the juvenile and criminal justice departments in charge of national or local reform. They endeavor to train their students to be well-versed in a wide range of legal services in different areas.

University of Maryland – College of Criminal Justice School (UMD-CCJS)

Currently the top rated criminology program by US News, it has a score of 4.7 out of 5. UMD’s CCJS also took the number 1 spot in 2005 and 2010 for its doctoral program in the same field. Previously only confined within the Park Campus, the department has since expanded its classes to other neighboring buildings due to its popularity. More currently, it has also established Master’s of Professional Studies in Justice Leadership program available in a Vietnam academy.