Criminal Justice Doctoral Degrees

A doctoral degree is the pinnacle of criminal justice education. A criminal justice PhD program is the next step for those with a master's degree in criminal justice who are seeking high-level careers in academia, private or governmental research agencies, or criminal justice leadership. You can pursue various criminal justice PhD specializations through distance learning, which may allow you to continue to work while earning your degree.

Examples of courses that are commonly found in a doctorate in criminal justice curriculum include:

  • Philosophy of Law, Justice, and Social Control
  • Contemporary Public Safety Leadership
  • Management and Leadership Theory
  • Criminal Justice Leadership and Management
  • Race and Ethnicity in Crime and Criminal Justice
  • Advanced Research for Planning and Evaluation
  • Quantitative Research Methods in Public Service
  • Advanced Qualitative Research Methods in Public Service
  • Advanced Quantitative Techniques in Criminal Justice
  • Forecasting, Trend Analysis, and Data Interpretation

Profiles of Doctorate in Criminal Justice Programs

Northeastern University offers a PhD in Criminology and Justice Policy that opens the door to careers in education and in research and policy development. With full-time study, the program can be completed in as few as four years for students with a master's degree or five to six years for students with a bachelor's degree. The practice-oriented curriculum includes two practicums in preparation for the doctoral dissertation and a third practicum in teaching or in policy. Example courses include Special Topics in Criminology and Public Policy, Globalization of Crime and Justice, Law and Psychology, and Advanced Data Analysis. While the school notes that a social science background is helpful, students with undergraduate or master's degrees in other disciplines may apply. Financial assistance, including teaching and research assistantships and alternative education loans, are available to graduate students. The Northeastern University School of Criminology and Criminal Justice is recognized for its research and high-quality academics.

Texas State University offers a PhD in Criminal Justice to students who complete a minimum of 53 credit hours in its comprehensive doctoral program. Admission is open to students who have completed a master's degree in criminal justice or a closely related discipline. Typical courses taken to earn the degree include Philosophy of Law, Justice, and Social Control; Race and Ethnicity in Crime and Criminal Justice; Linear Regression for Criminal Justice Research; and Law and Behavioral Science. Students additionally take electives from special topics in advanced scholarship and integrated methods as well as special topics in technology and applied systems. A minimum of 12 credit hours are devoted to the process of researching and writing a doctoral dissertation. The majority of courses are held during evenings and weekends and students may study under a part-time or a full-time schedule. Highly qualified students may apply for doctoral assistantships within the department while pursuing the PhD.

University of Nebraska-Omaha offers a PhD in Criminology and Criminal Justice that is designed for aspiring criminologists with an interest in basic and applied research. 36 credit hours of post-graduate coursework beyond a master's degree are required to earn the PhD. Students must have a master's degree in criminal justice for unconditional admission, though students with a master's degree in a field related to the social sciences may apply for conditional admission. For these students, unconditional admission may be earned by successfully completing 18 hours of the core curriculum. The core curriculum includes 24 credit hours in topics related to criminal justice, research, and statistics. Students also take 18 credit hours of electives such as Criminal Justice Planning and Change, Seminar on Law and Social Control, and Advanced Research Topics on Policing. In addition, all students must pass a comprehensive examination and deliver a dissertation. Full-time doctoral students may apply for graduate assistantships.

What Jobs Can You Get With a Criminal Justice Doctoral Degree?

A criminal justice doctoral degree can open the door to a variety of interesting criminal justice careers. Some possible examples include:

You can learn more about opportunities in criminal justice through our criminal justice career guide, which includes information on the typical minimum education required, employment figures, and average salary data for over 50 different career paths.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What kinds of criminal justice doctoral programs are there?

Answer: While there are a variety of focus areas in criminal justice at the doctoral level, all programs include a heavy focus on research, policy development, and interventions. Depending on your area of interest you might earn a PhD in criminal justice in such areas as criminology, justice administration, justice studies, or law.

Question: What salary can I expect after earning a doctorate in criminal justice?

Answer: Salary is an important consideration when weighing the commitment and expense of a PhD in criminal justice. Salary expectations vary greatly depending on whether you plan to work in the public or private sector, or at the local, state, or federal level. However, some example salaries for PhDs in criminal justice include college- and university-level criminal justice educators, who earn an average annual salary of $58,770; criminal investigators, intelligence analysts, and special agents, who earn an average annual salary of $77,210; information security analysts, who earn an average annual salary of $90,120; and fraud examiners, investigators, and analysts, who earn an average annual salary of $66,670.1,2,3,4 If you earn a Juris Doctor (JD) as part of your criminal justice doctorate, you can also pursue careers in direct legal practice. Lawyers earn an average annual salary of $115,820.6

Question: Can I earn a PhD while studying part-time and/or working full-time?

Answer: The academic work required to earn a doctoral degree in any subject, including criminal justice, is in itself a full-time job (in fact, it typically requires overtime!). The majority of schools offering doctoral degrees discourage students from working full-time while earning their doctorate. Since degree requirements must be met within a set amount of time from beginning a program in order to earn your PhD, it is wise to plan to devote as much time as possible to working on your degree.

1. O*NET OnLine, Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary:
2. O*NET OnLine, Criminal Investigators and Special Agents:
3. O*NET OnLine, Intelligence Analysts:
4. O*NET OnLine, Information Security Analysts:
5. O*NET OnLine, Fraud Examiners, Investigators, and Analysts:
6. O*NET OnLine, Lawyers:

SELECT A PROGRAM is an advertising-supported site. Featured programs and school search results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other information published on this site.