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Strategies for Success in Earning a College Education

Pursuing a college education is an important decision. However, there are several essential considerations to explore before, during and after earning a college education.

It is important to research degree programs that align with and prepare you for the specific discipline or industry in which you want to master your career skills and expand your knowledge. Most people obviously start with a program title like “criminal justice,” but did you know that there is a bachelor of science and a bachelor of arts program for criminal justice at our University?

Take a deeper dive when you’re reviewing the program descriptions to include the general and major requirements. You’ll often find some overlap.

However, you’ll also discover key differences. For example, the B.A. in Criminal Justice at our University covers primary and industry-relevant courses. So does the B.S. in Criminal Justice, but it focuses on providing more in-depth courses in the study of forensics.

There Are Commonly Two Types of College Accreditation

Once you’ve selected a degree program, it is important to check the accreditation of the institution you are interested in attending. The U.S. Department of Education maintains the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs that can help you determine a school’s accreditation.

There are commonly two types of college accreditation, national and regional. Seeking a university that is regionally accredited is a smart approach because college credits from regionally accredited universities are more easily transferable; also, regional accreditation is viewed as more rigorous than national accreditation.

Most employers understand that accreditation is critical to ensuring that a degree program has met the necessary academic standards to verify that its graduates have mastered coursework that is relevant to the industries they either work in or are entering. American Military University and American Public University are part of American Public University System, which is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

Specialized accreditation, which is based on meeting industry-focused commission or council standards, provides additional verification as to the academic rigor of a program. For example, our fire science and emergency and disaster management programs are specialty accredited by the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC), and the University is designated by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE).  

Transferring Credits Can Save You Time and Money

After you’ve chosen your intended university and degree program, you should determine if any college credit you’ve earned elsewhere or from career training is transferred to your chosen school. This is important because being able to transfer credits can save time and money. For example, servicemembers can receive college credit for their military training.

Since 1954, the American Council on Education has been evaluating military courses and providing recommendations for awarding appropriate college transfer credits to the institution that offers the college degree you’re seeking. Check for scholarships, employer tuition assistance programs and state financial grants to reduce your school expenses.

Once You’re Enrolled in College, It Is Important to Decide What Degree to Pursue

Once you’re enrolled in college, it is important to decide what degree to pursue for your career goals: a bachelor’s degree if you’ve not already earned one or a master’s to further your education. A master’s degree requires the successful completion of more complex courses, but requires fewer credit hours and takes less time to complete than the typical four-year bachelor’s degree. Also, having an M.A. or M.S. can separate you from other job applicants due to your advanced degree.

Conducting informational interviews with prospective employers can be helpful in determining what degree program is most appropriate. These types of interviews can provide insight into the level of education or the type of program that would best prepare candidates or employees to either enter into the field or to take on greater responsibilities.

Once you’ve earned your chosen college degree, it is a good idea to utilize the job assistance programs and any networking opportunities that your degree-granting institution offers. For example, the University has a University Ambassadors program that gives alumni the opportunity to network with other college graduates. Ambassadors are among the first to hear university news, share input with university leadership, and access networking and professional development opportunities.

Also, the University participates in industry advisory councils. Being actively involved in an industry advisory council opens opportunities to network with leaders and employers in your specific career field.

In addition, networking through professional social media like LinkedIn is one of the most effective ways for recent college graduates to develop a professional network of colleagues and potential employers. Similarly, attending industry-specific trade shows and job fairs are also effective ways to get started in your chosen career field.

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor in the School of Security and Global Studies. He has over 22 years’ experience in the field of homeland security. Jarrod has engaged in speaking engagements in the United States, Europe, and Central America on the topic of human trafficking, counterterrorism, police responses to domestic terrorism, and police stress management. He earned his master’s degree in criminal justice from American Military University.

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