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Baccalaureate Degree Standards

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 Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences
Certification Standards for College/University
Criminal Justice Baccalaureate Degree Programs

Adopted by ACJS Executive Board:  May 2, 2005
Amended October 28, 2005

For Further Information Contact:
ACJS Academic Review Committee Chair, Dr. Barbara Peat


ACJS Program Certification Review Process

  1. A regionally accredited college or university interested in initiating the Certification Process must be an institutional member of ACJS for at least one year prior to the application.  Active institutional membership must be maintained throughout the review process and following Certification.  (The requirement regarding length of institutional membership may be waived at the discretion of the ARC Chair and the ACJS Executive Director until 2007.)

  2. The institution submits a letter of intent to pursue ACJS Program Certification (from the institutional president or chief academic officer), a completed application, and a three to five page statement describing the type of program, future program plans, and a timetable estimating completion dates of the self-study and anticipated on-site review.  The self-study is an arduous year-long process of reflection about and examination of the criminal justice program and its outcomes.  The self-study results in a document and all the associated evidence that demonstrates the extent to which the program meets or exceeds the certification standards.

    The application will include statements by the applicant that:

    a. the ACJS Program Certification Review is a voluntary review with no appeal
    b. the “certification” decision of the ACJS Executive Board is final
    c. the college or university is willing to pay the fees associated with the process
    d. fees are non-refundable
    e. fees will be paid upon receipt of bill from ACJS
    f. the institution has 12 months from application date to complete and submit the self-study, and
    g. by submitting an application, the institution agrees to the foregoing disclaimers.

  3. The fees for the process are based on the highest degree program to be reviewed, the number of days for the site visit, and the number of reviewers (see table below).  For example, an institution that seeks certification for an associate, baccalaureate, and master’s degree programs would use the graduate fee structure to determine its fee.

    The typical review requires two or three reviewers on-site for two or three days.  Very large programs, departments with multiple programs, or programs with multiple sites may require four reviewers.  In extremely unusual circumstances, more than four reviewers may be required.  In unusual circumstances when more than four reviewers or more than three days are required, the fees will be adjusted accordingly.

    Add $1000 to the fee for each satellite campus or location where a substantial portion of a degree or a certificate program is offered away from the main institution.

    Institutions should be advised that additional fees may accrue for follow-up review of programs for which certification is deferred.  Such fees will depend upon the nature of the deferral (see #9 below).

    Fee structure (1 day equals approximately 8 hours devoted to the review):

      Two reviewers Three reviewers Four reviewers

    Community College
    One day
    Two days
    Three days 



    Four year
    One day
    Two days
    Three days



    One day
    Two days
    Three days




  4. Upon receipt of the application documents, the ACJS Executive Director will contact the Chair of ARC and ask him/her to begin working with the institution. The ARC Chair will communicate with the institution’s contact to ensure that the institution understands the protocol.

  5. ARC Chair will determine the number of reviewers and the number of days for the on-site review in consultation with the ACJS Executive Director and the applicant institution. ACJS will bill the institution for applicable fees.  One Review Team member serves as the team chair and is the primary author of the report.

  6. After the application and fees have been received:

    a.  the ARC Chair will provide clarification and advice to the program on the self-study document.  The institution will have 12 months to complete its self-study and provide any other relevant documentation.
    b.  the ARC Chair will contact potential certification team members with a tentative schedule to determine their availability.

  7. The ARC Chair will provide a list of potential reviewers to the institution requesting certification.  The list must include at least 3 more individuals than required for the Review Team.  No reviewer will visit a program/institution in the state where his/her academic institution is located.  The ARC Chair will select reviewers who are appropriate for the kind of institution requesting the certification visit.  For example, faculty with graduate-level experience will be selected to review graduate programs. The institution should communicate with the ARC chair if there is a significant conflict of interest or other significant problem with any individual on the potential reviewer list.  Upon such notification, the ARC Chair will strike that individual from the list and determine whether additional potential reviewers must be sought.  The ARC Chair selects the Review Team from the final potential reviewer list which must include at least 2 more individuals than required for the Review Team.

  8. On completion of the self-study and other relevant documentation, the institution is responsible for providing a copy of these documents directly to:

    a. the ARC Chair
    b. the ACJS National Office
    c. the ACJS Executive Director
    d. each Review Team member

    The institution assumes the cost of postage to mail these documents and any other documents the reviewers may request subsequently.

  9. The institution will deal directly with the reviewers regarding travel arrangements. All costs associated with travel must be submitted by the Review Team members to the ACJS National Office on ACJS travel forms.  The institution will be billed by ACJS for these costs.  The institution is responsible for all travel expenses for all Review Team members.

  10. The institution will develop an itinerary for the site visit which will include time for interviewing all members of the faculty, a sample of adjunct faculty, students, and administrators who are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the program or the program’s plan.  The program will make all arrangements for scheduled meetings.  The itinerary will include time for the Review Team to meet privately at the beginning and end of the site visit and each day of the visit to coordinate, organize, and share information.  The itinerary will also include two 15 minute rest breaks every half-day.  When interviewing multiple people where one person is the supervisor of those individuals, the meetings should be conducted separately.  A list should be provided of all individuals to be interviewed including the full name, title, relationship to the program, and short bio.  A clock should be provided in the room where interviews are held to assist the team in staying on schedule.

  11. Site visit occurs. 

    The Review Team may make no comments regarding the likelihood of the program receiving certification in any formal or informal communication with members of the institution at any time in the process.  The ACJS President will communicate the Board’s decision regarding certification.

  12. The Review Team will have 30 days to complete a draft of the certification review report which includes no recommendations regarding certification.  The draft report will be submitted to the institution (one copy to the department and one copy to the Academic Dean). The institution will have fourteen (14) days to correct any inaccuracies in the report.  Once the institution has submitted its corrections to the Review Team Chair, the Review Team Chair will share the corrections with team members and finalize the report.

  13. The Review Team upon review of the final report will decide what to recommend regarding certification. The Program Certification Review process is an evidence-based review process.  The issue does not concern the institution’s good intentions to deliver quality academic programs.  The review team must not recommend certification unless the institution has provided evidence demonstrating that the program is in compliance with all requirements of the certification standards.

  14. Review Team Chair sends the final report and separate Review Team recommendation to the ARC Chair with a copy to the ACJS National Office and the ACJS Executive Director.

  15. ARC Chair corresponds with the institution to provide a copy of the Review Team’s final report without the recommendation section and to inform the institution of the date of next ACJS Executive Board meeting.  No evaluation is included in this correspondence.

  16. The ARC members vote on the recommendation of the Review Team. The ARC can only recommend certification if the institution has demonstrated evidence that the program is in compliance with all certification standards.

    The ARC Chair and members may make no comments regarding the likelihood of the program receiving certification in any formal or informal communication with members of the institution at any time in the process.  The ACJS President will communicate the Board’s decision regarding certification.

  17. The ARC Chair submits the ARC recommendation to the ACJS Executive Board for final approval.  ACJS Executive Board will consider ARC recommendations regarding certification twice a year.  Certification final decisions will be made at the Board’s mid-year meeting which is generally held in August or September and at the ACJS Annual Meeting.

    The ACJS Executive Board has three options regarding the Certification Program Review:

    Approval (requires compliance with all standards).
    Defer (identifies the standard(s) that have not been met and the date of deferral; the deadline for deferred programs to submit evidence of compliance with all standards is one year from the date of deferral; after one year, the status of the review will automatically change to “denied” and the application expires.  A new application (and fees) is required to re-initiate the Program Certification Review process.  
    Denied (failed to meet standards).

    There is no appeal process for institutions in the certification process.  However, an institution that has been deferred will have one (1) calendar year from the time of deferral to make the recommended changes. 

    An institution that has been deferred submits an update on the self-study report to the ARC Chair.  This update is to take the form of a letter or memo and appropriate documentation that demonstrates evidence of compliance with all standards.  The ARC will review the materials and then make a certification recommendation to the ACJS Executive Board.  The ACJS Executive Board will consider these recommendations only at the midyear and annual meetings and will decide to approve or deny certification.

  18. The ACJS President will notify the institution of the ACJS Executive Board’s decision regarding certification.

  19. ACJS will acknowledge the certified programs on its website and in any annual published reports.  Certified programs will also be listed in the Annual Meeting Program book, and participants at the Annual Meeting whose programs have been successfully certified will have a special certification notation on their identification badge.

  20. The length of ACJS certification for each program is ten (10) years from the date of Board approval.  Schools may elect to be considered early for recertification.




Certification Standards for College/University
Criminal Justice Baccalaureate Degree Programs



These standards acknowledge the accreditation process conducted by each of the regional associations of colleges and schools.  These regional agencies accredit the total institution and evaluate the work of criminal justice programs within those institutions.  It is the intent of ACJS through the standards[1] set forth in this document to supplement the regional accreditation process by providing guidance for the internal and external evaluation of criminal justice programs.

Throughout the standards, ‘program’ refers to criminal justice degree programs.  Following each section of standards is a list of selected indicators that should be used by an institution to demonstrate that it meets the standard.  The bracket at the end of each indicator denotes the standard(s) it addresses.  Institutions may provide evidence of compliance through appropriate indicators not listed in this document.

The ACJS Program Certification Review process is evidence-based.  To be certified the institution must provide evidence demonstrating that the program is in compliance with all requirements of the certification standards.


Quality Standards for the Baccalaureate Degree in Criminal Justice

Section A: Program Mission and History


A.1 The program has a stated mission and set of purposes derived from and consistent with the overall mission and purposes of the institution of higher education.

A.2 A history of the program is provided.

Selected Indicators:
I-A.a.  Statement of program mission and purposes [A.1]
I-A.b. Statement of institutional mission and purposes [A.1]
I-A.c. Statement demonstrating how program mission and purpose derived from and is consistent with institution’s mission and purpose [A.1]
I-A.d. Brief history of the program, describing its evolution from inception to present form [A.2]


Section B: Program Structure and Curriculum

B.1  The program clearly specifies and publishes program goals, objectives, and requirements. The institution’s mission and purposes are reflected in the specific educational objectives of the program. Requirements for the program are based upon clearly defined and articulated learning objectives, including a mastery of the knowledge, methods of inquiry, and intellectual skills pertinent to the study of the causes, consequences, and responses to crime and its interrelatedness to other areas of inquiry.

B.2  The program design is characterized by sufficient content, breadth, depth, coherence, and rigor appropriate to its higher education level. Individual courses and programs are dynamic and responsive to new developments in the field and modes of inquiry.


The program and courses provide an opportunity for reflection and for analysis of the subject matter. Programs and courses offered on other than the usual semester/quarter hour basis or through distance learning modalities (internet, television, video-conferencing, or other means) or through different divisions of the institution (e.g., day division, evening division, continuing education division) demonstrate that students completing these programs or courses acquire levels of knowledge, understanding, and competencies comparable to those expected in similar programs offered in more traditional time periods and modalities.



The methods of evaluation of student performance are appropriate and consistent with established institutional and academic standards and are comparable to other programs throughout the institution.



The broad scope of the field of criminal justice is reflected in the undergraduate curriculum and is a balanced presentation of the issues of the field. All baccalaureate degree programs must demonstrate that the content areas below are substantively addressed in the curriculum. Individual courses may address multiple content areas.



Table 1: Required Content Areas and Related Topics

Content Area
Related content topics include but are not limited to:
Administration of Justice
Contemporary criminal justice system, major systems of social control and their policies and practices; victimology; juvenile justice; comparative criminal justice
History, theory, practice and legal environment, development of correctional philosophy, incarceration, diversions, community-based corrections, treatment of offenders
Criminological Theory
The nature and causes of crime, typologies, offenders, and victims
Law Adjudication
Criminal law, criminal procedures, prosecution, defense, and court procedures and decision-making
Law Enforcement
History, theory, practice and legal environment, police organization, discretion, and subculture
Research and Analytic Methods
Quantitative - including statistics - and qualitative, methods for conducting and analyzing criminal justice research in a manner appropriate for undergraduate students


B.6  In addition to the content areas above, an undergraduate program in criminal justice includes a systematic examination of the issues of diversity in criminal justice through either specific required courses and/or the integration of these issues within the program’s curriculum. Further, programs should provide evidence that students are taught to employ ethical perspectives and judgments in applying this knowledge to related problems and changing fact situations.

B.7  A variety of criminal justice electives are available consistent with faculty, resources, and program objectives. Some degree programs will offer concentrations in specific areas, depending upon the composition of the student body and faculty expertise.

B.8  Programs have elective internship opportunities available to upper-level students. Measures are taken to ensure that internships are integrated into the academic component of the program and related to educational objectives.

B.9  The purpose of undergraduate programs in criminal justice is to educate students to be critical thinkers who can communicate their thoughts effectively in oral and written form. Programs should familiarize students with facts and concepts and teach students to apply this knowledge to related problems and changing situations. Primary objectives of all criminal justice programs include the development of critical thinking; communication, technology, and computing skills; quantitative reasoning; ethical decision-making; and an understanding of diversity.

B.10  The undergraduate criminal justice program affords students the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills above the introductory level through a logically sequenced, coherent, and rigorous body of coursework. Baccalaureate and associate degree programs should coordinate their curriculum efforts in order to facilitate transfer of students. No more than 50% of required criminal justice courses at the baccalaureate level can come from an associate degree program. A baccalaureate major in criminal justice should require one-third of its semester hours in criminal justice and related cognates.

B.11  All undergraduate programs in criminal justice are part of a broadly based degree program with a balance of general education, required and elective courses in criminal justice and in related fields (cognates), and unrestricted electives wherever possible.

Selected Indicators:
I-B.a.  Statement of program goals and objectives, including those for concentrations and options [B.1]
I-B.b.  Statement of all places where program goals and objectives are published including page numbers, if applicable, and copies of relevant pages of these publications [B.1]
I-B.c. Indication that the institution’s mission and purposes are reflected in the specific educational objectives of the program [B.1]
I-B.d. Expected learning outcomes for each course [B.1; B.8]
I-B.e. Demonstration that students’ mastery of the program’s stated learning objectives and outcomes are formally and systematically assessed prior to completion of the program with documentation of methods and measures utilized [B.1]
I-B.f. Indication of where objectives of all criminal justice programs are taught in curriculum and how measured, including the development of critical thinking; communication, technology and computing skills; quantitative reasoning; ethical decision-making; and an understanding of diversity [B.1; B.3; B.6]
I-B.g. Comparison of the mean grade point average of criminal justice students with the mean grade point average institution-wide [B.2; B.4]
I-B.h. Statement regarding method used to ensure programs and courses are dynamic and responsive to new developments in the field and new modes of inquiry [B.2]
I-B.i. Outline of curriculum, including required courses and number of semester/quarter hours in criminal justice, cognate areas, and elective courses [B.2; B.7; B.8; B.9; B.10]
I-B.j. Course syllabi and copies of final exams for each criminal justice course [B.2; B.3; B.4; B.8]
I-B.k. Comprehensive evaluation or capstone experience [B.3]
I-B.l. Evidence, when applicable, that students taught on other than the usual semester/quarter hour basis, through distance learning modalities, or through different divisions of the institution acquire levels of knowledge, understanding, and competencies comparable to those expected in similar programs offered in more traditional time periods and modalities [B.3]
I-B.m. Statement of methods used to evaluate student performance. Evidence that methods of evaluating student performance are comparable to other programs throughout the institution and that the methods are appropriate and consistent with institutional and academic standards [B.4]
I-B.n. Indication of course(s) in which specific content areas are found in the core curriculum [B.5; B.9]
I-B.o. Evidence that available criminal justice electives are consistent with faculty, resources, and program objectives [B.7]
I-B.p. When degree programs offer concentrations, evidence that these concentrations are supported by student body composition and faculty expertise [B.7]
I-B.q. Evidence that elective internships are integrated into the academic component of the program and related to educational objectives [B.8]
I-B.r. Evidence that graduates are critical thinkers with effective oral and written communication skills [B.9]
I-B.s. Evidence that graduates are familiar with criminal justice facts and concepts and can apply the knowledge to problems and changing situations [B.9]
I-B.t. Explanation of rationale behind sequencing of courses [B.9]
I-B.u. Evidence that the program coordinates curriculum to facilitate student transfer from associate degree programs [B.10]
I-B.v. Undergraduate catalog [B.11]


Section C: Faculty for Baccalaureate Degree Programs

C.1  Criminal justice faculty credentials, number, diversity of educational and professional experience, time commitment and performance are sufficient to accomplish the program’s mission and objectives. Faculty specializations are considered in recruitment and hiring decisions.

C.2  Faculty holding terminal degrees in the field of criminal justice or fields appropriate to criminal justice are actively sought. Institutions do not have undue dependence on faculty who are graduates of their own programs.

C.3  The institution employs an open and orderly process for recruiting and appointing faculty. Criminal justice program faculty members direct the search process for new program faculty members.

C.4 Two-thirds of all full-time faculty in baccalaureate degree programs must hold an earned doctorate (PhD) in criminal justice or a closely related discipline. When a faculty member holds a graduate degree in a closely related discipline, there should be evidence of experience, scholarship, and professional involvement, demonstrating a clear commitment to and identification with the field of criminal justice.

C.5 All baccalaureate degree programs should strive to have all faculty members with terminal degrees.

C.6 A program’s faculty FTE to student ratio must comply with the standards of that region’s institutional accrediting body (e.g. Middle States Association).

C.7 Faculty assignments and workloads allow adequate time to provide effective instruction, advise and evaluate students, continue professional growth, and participate in scholarship, research, and service compatible with the mission and purposes of the institution and program.

C.8 Graduate teaching assistants are qualified in terms of education, experience, and training in the field of criminal justice and are usually engaged in teaching only lower-level undergraduate courses. Where graduate teaching assistants are employed, the program carefully selects, trains, supervises and evaluates them.

C.9 Faculty categories (e.g., full-time, part-time, adjunct) are clearly defined, as is the role of each category in fulfilling both the program’s and the institution’s mission and purposes. Orientation, oversight, evaluation, and professional development opportunities are provided for all faculty, including part-time and adjunct faculty. Criminal justice faculty members take advantage of these opportunities and take initiative in ensuring their continued competence and growth as teachers and scholars.

C.10  Faculty members are demonstrably effective in carrying out their assigned responsibilities. The institution employs effective procedures for the regular evaluation of faculty appointments, performance, and retention.

C.11  Programs rely on full-time faculty to teach core-courses and to deliver at least two-thirds of the teaching in the undergraduate degree program.

Selected Indicators:
I-C.a.  Faculty vitae or Faculty Profile Form, including recent professional contributions [C.1; C.2; C.4; C.5; C.7; C.9]
I-C.b. Documentation of faculty recruitment efforts (newspaper advertisements, professional journal announcements, etc.) [C.1; C.2; C.5]
I-C.c. Description of process for recruiting and appointing criminal justice faculty including all personnel involved at each step [C.3]
I-C.d. Table of all faculty currently teaching in the program by full- and part-time status. Indicate the course number, and name of courses taught by semester or quarter for the past two years. For each course, indicate the time, day, credit hour, location and whether the course is graduate or undergraduate level. Also indicate whether the course fulfills day, evening, or off-campus program requirements, if applicable [C.4; C.7; C.8; C.11]
I-C.e. Indication that the number of FTE students and majors complies with the standards of that region’s institutional accrediting body (e.g., Middle States Association); provide the standards and formula [C.6]
I-C.f. Teaching load for all faculty [C.7]
I-C.g. Vitae of graduate teaching assistants, if applicable [C.8]
I-C.h. Description of selection, training, supervision and evaluation of graduate teaching assistants, if
applicable [C.8]
I-C.i. Evidence that the role of each faculty category is clearly defined in fulfilling the program and institution’s mission and purposes [C.9]
I-C.j. Description of orientation program for new faculty [C.9]
I-C.k. Institution funds spent on professional development [C.9]
I-C.l. Evidence of faculty effectiveness [C.10]
I-C.m.  Samples of performance evaluation forms [C.10]
I-C.n. Faculty awards, recognitions [C.10]
I-C.o. Indication of full-time and part-time, and FTE instructional faculty, by program [C.11]
I-C.p.  Full-time/part-time faculty ratio [C.11]

Other Supporting Materials:
I-C.q.  Institutional policy on hiring of faculty [C.3]
I-C.r. Faculty handbook [C.9]
I-C.s. Institution’s faculty development policy [C.9]
I-C.t. Faculty evaluation policy and process [C.10]
I-C.u.  Collective bargaining agreements, where appropriate [C.10]


Section D: Admission and Articulation

D.1  The institution specifies and publishes requirements for admission into, continuation in, termination from, or re-admission to its criminal justice program(s), which are compatible with its educational purposes. Graduation requirements are clearly stated in appropriate publications and are consistently applied in the process for awarding degrees. Degrees awarded accurately reflect student attainments.

D.2  No credit toward graduation is awarded for pre-collegiate level or remedial work designed to prepare the student for collegiate study.

D.3  Only credit from institutions that are accredited by their regional higher education accrediting body is accepted for transfer into an undergraduate criminal justice program. No academic credit is awarded by the criminal justice program for life experience or for military, police academy, or other professional training.

D.4  Two-year and four-year colleges and universities enter into articulation and joint admission agreements whenever possible to clarify curricular issues and academic expectations for both parties. These agreements reflect discussion of how best to advise and prepare students at two-year schools who are considering four-year degrees.

D.5  No more that 10 percent of the criminal justice major credits are completed through knowledge-based examinations (e.g., CLEP). All credit earned through examination is clearly documented on the student’s official transcript by specific course designations and numbers, including the source of the credit. Awarding blanket credit for criminal justice courses in a “block” is not allowed (e.g., “12 hours criminal justice credit”).

D.6  The institution awards degrees only to those students who have earned at least 50 percent of the credit hours in the criminal justice program through instruction offered by that institution.

Selected Indicators:
I-D.a. Undergraduate Catalog [D.1; D.2; D.3; D.5; D.6]
I-D.b. Admission requirements and policies for the program and for the institution as a whole [D.1]
I-D.c. Statement of all places where program admission requirements and policies are published and copies of relevant pages of such publication(s) [D.1]
I-D.d. Enrollment and retention reports [D.1]
I-D.e. Transcripts of current students and recent graduates [D.1; D.2; D.3; D.5; D.6]
I-D.f. Transfer policy including policy on credit for non-academic learning [D.3]
I-D.g. Agreements leading to the award or waiver of credit or payments for credits earned outside of the institution [D.3]
I-D.h. Signed articulation agreements [D.4]
I.D.i. Report of credits awarded through knowledge-based examinations [D.5]


Section E: Resources

E.1  The program has sufficient facilities, equipment (including classrooms, laboratories, information and computer technology), and budgetary resources to meet program objectives and the needs of faculty and students.

E.2 Students have access to library and information resources, collections and services that are sufficient in quality level, diversity, quantity, and currency to support and enrich the criminal justice program’s offerings.

E.3 Library facilities are adequate to house the collection and equipment so as to foster an atmosphere conducive to inquiry, study, and learning among program students, faculty, and staff.