In the beautiful state of Washington, there are a multitude of options for those interested in pursuing degrees or other education in the field of criminal justice. In fact, it is becoming increasingly popular for people to seek mere certification in lieu of a traditional degree.

After all, certifications can often be completed in as little as a couple of weeks, with coursework rarely lasting longer than a year, and certifications are relatively easy to obtain, so why wouldn’t you earn one? The truth of the matter, however, is that most people who seek only certification will end up disappointed.

There are many actual degrees available in the field of criminal justice, such as associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and even the coveted master’s and doctoral degrees, also known as PhDs. The people who possess such degrees are usually the top choices for most job openings in the field.

Those who only have certificates are usually left disappointed, and often go back to receive further more formal education in the field. This does not mean, however, that certificate granting programs are entirely useless. As a matter of fact, they often tend to serve very useful purposes, it’s just that so many people misunderstand that purpose and thus misuse them.

Certification programs were originally intended for those who had already completed coursework and/or had earned degrees in the field of criminal justice. They were meant to be a supplement to an already well formed education, not a substitute, as so many people use them now.

Therefore, if you are already learned in the area but simply want to increase your subject knowledge in a specific area or vamp yourself up for a promotion, certificates can be quite useful. Just don’t use them in place of an actual education.

Another big problem with certificates is that they have started to be granted from just about every institution out there, including the shady ones. If you are going to earn a certification, for whatever purpose, make sure that you do so from a fully accredited and legitimate institution.

Otherwise, you are just paying a lot of money for a very useless piece of paper. You can feel out about the accreditation status of your institution of choice by checking its website or even by asking the institution directly. Remember, it’s your education and your money on the line, so don’t be afraid to be forthright and ask what it is that you need to know.

With that said, once you have done your research and are sure that a certification program is the right choice for you, you’ll be happy to know that there are many good and very legitimate certifications available right in the state or even online.

Common options for certification chosen by Washington state residents include Centralia College, located in Centralia, which offers a certificate of completion in corrections officer and a certificate of proficiency in forensic and private investigation.

Clark College, located in Vancouver, which offers certificates in both legal office and paralegal; Edmonds Community College, in Lynwood, with a certificate program in emergency management; Gray’s Harbor, located in Aberdeen, which offers certificate granting programs in correctional services, criminal justice, juvenile justice, and law enforcement.

Green River Community College, in Auburn, offering certificate programs in corrections and law enforcement; Highline Community College, located in Des Moines, with a certificate program in paralegal; Pierce College, with locations in both Lakewood and Puyallup, with certificate granting programs in correctional mental health, corrections and protection officer, forensic technician, law enforcement, and protections officer; Shoreline Community College, in Shoreline, with a certificate program in general criminal justice.

Skagit Valley College, in Mount Vernon, with certificate programs in law enforcement training and law enforcement academy; South Puget Sound Community College, located in Olympia, with a certificate program in legal administrative assistant; Spokane Community College, in Spokane, with certification programs in legal administrative assistant, legal information processing, legal receptionist, and paralegal; Tacoma Community College, in Tacoma, offering a paralegal certificate.

Walla Walla Community College, in Walla Walla, with a certificate program in corrections and law enforcement; and Whatcom Community College, in Bellingham, with certificate programs in administration of justice and paralegal studies.