You’ve spent years honing the professional skills you need on the job daily. As a student, many of these skills and career experiences will add to your education as you pursue an advanced degree. However, it’s possible that while developing professional proficiencies, you may have stepped away from some of the skills you will need to succeed in the classroom. Before you go back to school, prepare yourself in the following five ways.
When you consider the right college or university for you, make sure to investigate what resources are available to students. Many programs offer access to prerequisite courses or learning services that can help you succeed. It’s also important to find a program that emphasizes the unique needs of the adult learner, lead by faculty and staff with the ability to assist you.
News & Events: Frederick Campus
In January we talked about the Top 10 Considerations to Find the Best Program For You. This month we’re following up with more information about one concern in particular – time. Program directors and academic advisors at the Mount are often asked how long it will take to complete a graduate or adult undergraduate degree. While the answer is different for everyone, the following five points are often indicators.
- Program format. Some programs run as cohorts, meaning you begin and end the program with the same group of students, progressing through courses together. These programs have specific start and end dates.
- Prerequisites. In order to complete certain courses, undergraduate prerequisites may be required. If you already earned these prerequisites prior to beginning the program, you will progress quicker.
- Transferrable credits. Similar to prerequisites, if you are transferring credits from another institution, you will be able to start out ahead. You can also explore whether your institution offers credit for prior experience that could be applicable toward your degree.
- Other responsibilities. Depending on the program, you may also have to complete an internship, research, thesis, or other requirement for graduation. Factoring in time to complete this is essential when considering your overall timeline.
- Alternatives. Instead of earning a degree, there may be a certificate program or series of courses you can enroll in that will provide the specific skills and knowledge that you need to advance your career.
Your education plan can be individual and flexible, which is beneficial as you balance coursework with work and life responsibilities. While there are many considerations to keep in mind when choosing the right program for you, always consider how the timing fits into your long and short term plans.
Last month’s article, 5 Things you Need to Know About Funding Your Grad Degree, briefly addressed employer tuition assistance (ETA) as a solution to finance your education. Whether you’re completing an undergraduate degree or earning a graduate degree or certificate, ETA could significantly decrease or eliminate the cost.
When approaching the topic with your employer, lead with information about how your education will ultimately benefit the company. In short, better skilled managers who know the organization from the bottom up will make for a better organization. Before discussing ETA with your employer, prepare for the following:
- Find the right fit. Research and select the best option to fit your own career needs, as well as the organization’s needs. Decide whether a single class, certificate program, or degree program is the most direct and effective route to develop the knowledge and skills you need to move yourself and your organization forward. To help you select the right program or school, check out the Top 10 Considerations to Find the Right Program For You.
- Know the program. Once you select a program, outline exactly how the coursework aligns with your job responsibilities. Employers will want to see that your time spent in class will directly correlate to your work on the job.
- Compromise. Be prepared to discuss multiple options for tuition assistance if your employer seems hesitant about full remission or reimbursement. One option is to split the cost. Another is to be reimbursed based on grades, so that your employer sees you are excelling in the program before paying your way. Go in with alternatives in mind so you can make a case for compromise.
If your organization does not have an ETA policy in place, become a policy shaper! Your initiative will demonstrate your commitment to your personal growth as well as your investment in the well being of the organization.
The Alpha Sigma Lambda, Sigma Mu Chapter of Mount St. Mary’s University invited 15 new members into the honorary last week. Four new members and their families attended a ceremony at the Frederick Campus on Sunday to celebrate this prestigious achievement.
Alpha Sigma Lambda recognizes the adult learner who balances family, work, and school. A student invited into the honorary must have a minimum 3.5 grade point average on a 4.0 scale. Students also must complete 24 graded semester hours at Mount St. Mary’s, and be in the top 10 percent of their class.
Dr. Tim Wolfe gave the keynote address on finding happiness and meaning in life, and the role education plays in that meaning.
“Research findings make clear that having a sense of purpose or meaning in one’s life, particularly in the work we do, is one of the strongest predictors of life satisfaction," said Dr. Wolfe. "A Mount education is designed, among other things, to help us find our calling or our purpose in this life. I urge you to reflect carefully on your calling so that you may help others and also increase your personal happiness.”
Certificates, cords, and pins were awarded to each new chapter member.
Pictured above (L to R): Marina Golub, Cynthia Kokoski, Karen Butters, John Jefferson
Former Chief of Police, Thomas J. Ledwell, will join the Mount’s criminal justice program faculty, bringing new ideas and experiences to the table. He will be teaching classes such as Law Enforcement Leadership and Intelligence in the adult Criminal Justice Program, starting in the fall of 2015.
Ledwell, a twenty-two year veteran of the Frederick Police Department, has held many positions in the force, including patrol officer, narcotics detective and supervisor, patrol squad supervisor, patrol division commander, special operations division commander, operations bureau commander and chief of police.
In addition to his various positions in the force, he was certified through the Maryland Police and Corrections Training Commission as both a general instructor and a defensive tactics instructor. He also taught subjects in the Frederick Police Academy, ranging from search and seizure, to crime analysis and crime reduction strategies, to ground fighting.
“He is not someone who has just read the books,” said Professor Joe Vince, director of the criminal justice programs for adult and traditional students. “He knows of the nitty-gritty issues and best practices that chiefs deal with on a daily basis.”
Ledwell spearheaded a number of department programs and projects, including development of the agency’s data-driven crime reduction strategy and problem-solving systems. A new initiative that he would like to work on bringing to the Mount would be a Police Chief Think Tank, where students could help solve real world problems alongside members of various police forces. A search for corporate sponsorship for the program has begun, and it could open new doors to internships and learning experiences for students.
“Chief Ledwell is very humble and dynamic in inspiring people to work for him,” Vince stated. “People gravitate towards his leadership style.”
A graduate education can advance your career to the next level, and it can be a hefty investment that demands a return. In the long-term, the value outweighs the initial cost, however there are ways to make graduate school a more viable and affordable option. Navigating the financial aid realm as a prospective graduate student is much easier than you may think if you know where to start.
- File a FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as the FAFSA, is available online and can be filed each academic year. It’s quicker and simpler than you may think! As a grad student, you don’t have to complete parental information, and the results are usually sent to the universities you specify within a week.
- Sign up for all of your classes. By signing up for all of your classes prior to each semester, you’ll make your financial aid and billing much simpler. You can still add or drop classes during the semester, but keep in mind that it generates a revised award letter with new loan amounts and a new billing statement, which may be confusing.
Explore alternatives to federal aid. Financial aid and scholarships for graduate students can be difficult to find, but options are available, such as:
- Outside aid, like company sponsored scholarships, Maryland State Grants, or Legislative Scholarships.
- Tuition reimbursement or remission from your employer. If you’re studying in a field related to your career, your work may fund classes for professional development.
- Graduate assistantships allow you to earn your degree while working for the university.
- Lifetime Learning tax credits can give you a break on your annual taxes.
- Minimize borrowing. If you don’t need all of your federal loan entitlement, don’t use it! Graduate students are eligible to borrow up to $20,500 in Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans each year to be used toward tuition, books, and other supplies. However, only borrow what you absolutely need. In the long run, this can save you a lot of money in loan payments and interest.
- Defer undergraduate loans. If you borrowed for your undergraduate education, your loans are deferred when your graduate school enrollment is automatically reported to your lenders. To help you keep track of all your federal loans and your servicers, create an account on the National Student Loan Database.
As you prepare for your next educational endeavor, carefully consider how your finances factor into the equation. Make the best short-term and long-term investment decisions that will help you achieve your desired career outcome. Good luck!
What differentiates one individual from another candidate to make them appear a more desirable employee? As a current university professor and a former employee in Federal law enforcement, I am often asked this question. To be successful in this job hunt one needs to acquire requisite skills prior to employment that will demonstrate to the employer the ability to ‘hit-the-ground-running’ when hired.
It is certainly no secret that law enforcement and analysis positions are highly sought after by a large segment of both government agencies and private sector businesses. Federal agencies report receiving thousands of applications for law enforcement positions and internship opportunities; even Disney World needs and hires intelligence analysts. In order to determine what specific skillsets these high level jobs require, I interviewed government and private sector managers to obtain the answer directly from the people who make the decision to hire.
- Written Communication – Universally, each stated that the number one skill expected was that the applicant is proficient in communicating through writing. Managers cite arduous task of finding individuals who can prepare reports and other communications on a daily basis.
- Data-Driven Policing – Modern policing strategies, at all levels, are extremely data directed. Whether patrolling in a squad or hunting terrorists, performing the job begins with an analysis. Therefore, it is important that students learn various methodologies and techniques of intelligence/crime analysis. This includes skills such as flow analysis, spatial/geographic analysis, financial analysis, crime-pattern analysis, time series analysis, frequency analysis, and investigative (evidential) analysis, among others.
- Oral Communication – The ideal employee can deliver presentations to groups of concerned citizens, courtroom jurors, and colleagues at a COMSTAT Meeting. They are experienced in the presentation of facts and evidence, providing clear arguments for rebuttal, and responding to questions. They have performed media interviews, given 10-minute lectures, and responded impromptu to reporters’ questions.
Overall, a successful criminal justice professional is ethically and morally driven, living by high intellectual and moral standards, respecting the dignity of other persons, seeking to resolve the problems facing humanity, and committing themselves to live as responsible citizens.
About the Author
Joe Vince is the director of the adult and traditional criminal justice programs at the Mount. He has been accepted as an expert in Federal Court with regards to firearms-related violent crime, often interpreting crime-gun and other crime data for both judges and juries. He is a nationally- and internationally-known crime-gun/law enforcement expert, being quoted in several publications, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, USA Today and other national and international publications. He has appeared on 60 Minutes, CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX and PBS, as well as local television stations across the U.S. and internationally in Canada, Great Britain and Japan, commenting on crime and law enforcement. He is also the President of Crime Gun Solutions LLC, a private company dedicated to assisting and training law enforcement and other groups.