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Can I receive college credit for criminal justice work I have already completed?

Criminal justice involves the enforcement of laws and maintenance of social order and the prevention and punishment of crimes. The three parts of the field typically include legislation, adjudication, and corrections. Degrees in criminal justice involve instruction in criminology, law enforcement, crime scene management, terrorism, and ethics in criminal justice. A wide range of colleges and universities offer criminal justice degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels and some offer certification programs in specialty areas. Many students thinking of pursuing a criminal justice degree or continuing education opportunities wonder if credit is granted for previous academic and professional experiences. A lot of criminal justice programs award credit for a variety of experiences such as standardized tests, previously completed courses, military experience, and previous work experience. Many schools call these credits prior learning credits and each institution sets a maximum depending on degree level. Various institutions require students to submit portfolios that highlight their prior learning experiences.

Standardized Examination Programs 
Many criminal justice programs award credit for standardized examinations, such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) and the DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST). The CLEP is a collection of tests that evaluate knowledge at the college level of various subjects, such as business, science and mathematics, foreign languages, composition and literature, and history and social sciences. Schools typically grant credit to students who score at least a 50 on the examination. The DSST is an examination that was started by the U.S. Department of Defense. It involves a series of 38 exams in subject areas that are similar to final examinations in college level courses. The CLEP is typically used for lower level credit, while the DSST is used for both lower and upper level credit.

Previously Completed Courses
A lot of criminal justice degree programs grant credit for courses completed at another institution of higher learning. They award credit for general education courses, such as mathematics, history, English, and science. Receiving credit for specific criminal justice courses is usually more selective and many institutions only grant credit for classes equivalent to their course offerings. Some programs require students to submit course descriptions, course syllabi, and examples of completed work.

Prior Military Experience
Students with military experience may receive credit in criminal justice programs. Examples of eligible experiences include basic training, active duty in the armed forces, Official documentation for military experiences is required such as copies of specialized transcripts and military forms signed by commanding officers. Military credit is commonly treated like coursework completed at the community college level.

Previous Work Experience
Students who have experience working in the criminal justice field can commonly receive credit for those experiences. The maximum amount of credit hours varies by school and many programs grant elective credits for work-related experiences. In general, schools will not apply the credits toward the last 30 credits of the program. Many schools grant credit for work experience only to individuals who have not earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.

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