Degree Programs for Beginners
Today the security industry has not only a new friend in the education system: universities that offer security related degrees and their accrediting agencies. It is a wonderful opportunity to be able to earn a degree, whether it is a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctorate, in the private security field from a valid university, but how does one know the university is valid in the first place? Wasting time and money on a degree that turns out to be worthless or at best unrecognized is something to be avoided.
Accreditation is key
What makes a degree-granting university valid? Accreditation. Many universities will tell you that accreditation is an expensive and voluntary process. Some will also claim that accreditation is not necessary, to that I say poppycock! Possessing an unaccredited degree runs numerous risks.
It just seems logical to obtain a degree from an accredited university. The next step is how to tell if a university is accredited. Accreditation is offered by agencies specifically geared for accrediting universities and colleges. Any agency that is recognized by the United States Department of Education or/and recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation located in Washington, D.C. is an agency that can be trusted to provide legitimate accreditation.
Regional or Non-Regional Accreditation
In the United States, there are two main types of recognized accreditation. One is Regional Accreditation (RA), offered by the following Associations of Schools and Colleges: New England, Mid-West, Southern, North Central, Western and Northwest. This is the highest recognized level of accreditation. Schools accredited in this category would be institutions such as Harvard, Yale and Michigan State University. Degrees from these schools can be transferred to other accredited universities for post-graduate study entrance and students can transfer credits with minimal problems. The vast majority of employers recognize these degrees as well recognized and preferred by government/corporate recruiters and are widely respected.
The second type of accreditation is what I call Non-Regional Accreditors (NRA). There are accrediting agencies that are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) that are not regionally accredited (e.g. Distance Education Training Council). The problem with NRA degrees is that even though they are above standards, they are not always accepted by RA schools for post-graduate study acceptance and may be scrutinized and even rejected by some employers in favor of RA degrees. NRA degrees are legitimate but are simply not as widely accepted or nearly as respected as RA degrees.
Accrediting agencies are not regulated and can operate legally, yet be unrecognized. Many schools, which choose unrecognized “accreditation”, turn out to be degree mills. Other unrecognized schools may be run in such an improper manner that they are not eligible for accreditation and in many instances are shut down by the presiding government leaving students with debt, no degree or even proof of a degree. Not all unaccredited (unrecognized) universities and colleges fall into these categories, but many do. The monetary risk, the value of education and/or integrity of the student are not worth sacrificing for an uninsured degree.
Not all unrecognized accrediting agencies are bad nor are all unaccredited universities/colleges bad. Many agencies operate legally and many of the schools are allowed to offer degrees. However, the degrees are still unaccredited, employers and post-graduate schools are under no obligation to accept them, and in many if not most cases do not.
College degree programs are relatively new to the world of security and we have opportunities we did not have before.