Criminology graduate program changes format

By Emily Salvatori, Editor
This fall, the Masters of Science in Criminology (MSC) at West Liberty University has been moved to an 100 percent online format. 

The change from in class to online format has grown out of demand. Dr. Keith Bell, program director of the MSC program, said, “We have received nearly 50 requests concerning the possibility of the program moving online. Most of these requests came from practitioners in the field currently working shift work. These rotating schedules made it nearly impossible for the students to complete a traditional face-to-face program. WLU was the logical university for these students to complete their degree because of their familiarity with the university and the strong relationship established between the criminal justice program and those service industries in the area. We have heard from students in the field of policing, corrections, courts, emergency management, probation, parole, and juvenile and victim based services.” 
Having a master’s program in this field helps students who would previously have to leave the state for graduate school. “Prior to the start of the MSC program in the fall of 2016, only one in every 20 graduates from WLU’s criminal justice program remained in state for graduate school. That number has increased to eight out of 20 students and should see a growth to over 50 percent in the next two years as a result of the move to online,” said Bell. “The MSC program is both increasing the overall perception of the state of West Virginia through a more educated workforce and increasing the public perception of graduates of West Liberty University.”
“In the traditional face-to-face format, students are in your office weekly asking questions, seeking advice on job opportunities, or engaging with faculty. All of these students are local. However, in the online format, students may be local, or hundreds of miles away, including international students. While the face-to-face contact is limited, the efforts of the faculty to facilitate an active learning environment while engaging the student in critical thinking, personal growth, and an positive learning environment does not change,” said Bell. “Our courses are strategically built to be just as effective at meeting course goals and objectives as our traditional face-to-face format. While the traditional classroom setting is different, the program can still be completed in 1.5 years and students still are expected to complete writing and speaking assignments using the online format.”
“The hiring of three new full-time faculty has allowed for the additional courses to be offered, including special topics in select fields which should interest students and allow them to become more marketable,” said Bell. 
A main focus for the program is making its students more employable after graduation. One standout of the program is the grant writing course. This is one of the first courses students take when enrolling in the MSC program. The ever changing job market has mandated that many employees have multiple skills. Having the opportunity to write grants that will benefit one’s place of employment only increases the marketability of these individuals. 
Benefits for completing a MSC include having higher potential earning capacity. Bell said, “While the program is relatively inexpensive, at roughly $450 a credit, the potential earnings associated with obtaining the degree can pay for itself in as little as two years after graduation.”
He also said, “In addition, those wishing to obtain employment with federal agencies are much more likely to be successfully employed with these agencies once obtaining an advanced degree such as the MSC from West Liberty University. Further, students have the option to complete an additional graduate internship, which has already been successful at expediting employment into federal agencies for those who wish to pursue this path.”
“I want to add, your undergraduate can be in anything and one can still pursue a Masters in Criminology. Some of the best federal agents and detectives have their undergraduate degrees in accounting, business, psychology, and history. I just ask students to have an open mind and email or come see me (Main 220) if they have any questions about this exciting and growing field,” said Bell.
There are currently 20 students enrolled in the program. If you are interested in applying, the MSC program allows students to apply to begin in either the fall or spring semester. They use a rolling enrollment which allows the student to begin at his or her own pace.
If you have any questions, contact Bell at [email protected] or visit his office in Main Hall 220. 

Photo Credit: Daniel Morgan