Criminal Justice Master's Degrees

Compiled and Written By Staff

A criminal justice master's degree prepares students to advance their careers. The degree positions graduates for leadership roles in the field, such as emergency management director. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment growth of 5% for emergency management directors between 2018 and 2028. This guide covers important information for prospective master's in criminal justice students, including common courses and potential careers and salaries for graduates.

Criminal Justice Master's Programs

The time it takes to earn this degree varies by program and your personal schedule; most students complete a master's in criminal justice within two years. Programs typically require 60 credits, including a final capstone project.

If you need greater flexibility, consider choosing an online master's in criminal justice program delivered in an asynchronous format. Asynchronous courses provide pre-recorded lectures and permit distance learners to participate in online discussions at their convenience. Students who desire more accountability and can commit to weekly virtual class sessions may find a synchronous program more suitable. Check out our rankings of the best online criminal justice master's programs.

Master's Degree in Criminal Justice Courses

  • Criminal Justice Theory

    In this course, learners analyze theories that guide current criminal justice practices. The course also covers important research in the field, including applications of research data. Students discuss current events that impact criminal justice and form their own views on best practices based on theory.

  • Law and Social Control

    This course focuses on factors that can influence an investigation, including theories, laws, and forensic identification. Students learn how to coordinate with other criminal justice professionals for investigations.

  • Crime Analysis

    This course focuses on factors that can influence an investigation, including theories, laws, and forensic identification. Students learn how to coordinate with other criminal justice professionals for investigations.

  • Violence and Victimization

    In this course, participants learn about theories and research on aggressive behavior. Learners study the effects of gender roles, social constructs, and language on behavior. Learners also examine the dynamic relationship between violence and victimization.

  • Crime Mapping

    In this course, students learn how to use geographic information systems to map crimes, discover common crime patterns, and identify susceptible areas. Learners also discuss social, economic, and census data in relation to locations at high risk of crimes.

Master's Degree in Criminal Justice Career Outlook

Graduates with a criminal justice master's degree can pursue a variety of jobs. They can work behind the scenes as law enforcement instructors or on the frontlines as FBI agents. They can also assume supervisory roles, working as supervisors for corrections officers. The BLS projects jobs for these supervisors to grow 3% between 2018 and 2028.

What Jobs Can You Get With a Criminal Justice Master's Degree?

Consider the following five positions you can pursue with a master's in criminal justice degree. When comparing median salaries, remember that income potential varies by factors like experience, location, and education. For example, jobs in cities with low costs of living tend to offer lower salaries than jobs in cities with higher costs of living.

FBI Agent

FBI agents play a crucial role in keeping societies safe. Like local police officers and detectives, these individuals respond to and investigate crimes, but they focus on federal crimes. FBI agents conduct interviews, keep detailed records, collect evidence, and create reports on their investigative findings.

Median Annual Salary: $65,383

Projected Growth Rate (2018-28): 5%

Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teacher

Criminal justice and law enforcement teachers inspire and educate the next generation of police officers, FBI agents, detectives, and emergency management directors. Before becoming an instructor or professor, many individuals gain field experience by working as a police officer or detective.

Median Annual Salary: $78,470

Projected Growth Rate (2018-28): 11%


Criminologists study social justice and criminal issues and report their findings to policymakers. These professionals help identify the motives behind crimes and suggest options for crime prevention. They need strong research and analysis skills.

Median Annual Salary: $45,125

Projected Growth Rate (2018-28): 5%

Emergency Management Director

Emergency management directors create plans for responding to emergencies, such as natural disasters and pandemics. These professionals identify risks and address threats in their early stages. They also create recovery plans to mitigate damage. Most emergency management directors work for the government; a few work for businesses and nonprofits.

Median Annual Salary: $74,420

Projected Growth Rate (2018-28): 5%

First-Line Supervisor of Correctional Officers

First-line supervisors of correctional officers supervise individuals convicted or accused of crimes. They work in jails, prisons, and juvenile delinquent centers to make sure that these environments remain as safe as possible.

Median Annual Salary: $66,880

Projected Growth Rate (2018-28): 3%
Learn More about Careers in Criminal Justice

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice?
Learners typically complete a master's degree in criminal justice within 2-3 years, though completion time varies based on type of program, program requirements, and course load.
I Have a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice -- Now What Can I Do With It?
Once you earn a master's in criminal justice, you can start applying for jobs. Positions requiring a master's degree typically pay more than those requiring a bachelor's degree. A graduate education often opens paths toward leadership positions within the field. You can guide or educate the next generation of professionals as a teacher or a supervisor, work behind the scenes as a criminologist, or serve on the frontlines as an FBI agent.
What Master's Degree is Best to Earn if You Have a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice?
If you already possess an undergraduate degree in this subject, pursuing a master's in criminal justice can deepen your knowledge. Coursework at the master’s level emphasizes analysis of criminal justice theory and crime prevention.
How Much Can You Make as a Police Officer With a Master's Degree?

Graduates of master's programs often find employment in higher-paid law enforcement roles, such as FBI agent. According to the BLS, police officers earn a median salary of $63,380 per year. PayScale reports that FBI agents earn $65,383 per year, plus benefits, such as a $4,898 bonus, $2,900 in commission, and $2,446 in profit-sharing. Other factors that may influence your pay rate include previous professional work experience and geographical location.

What Are the Top Master's in Criminal Justice Programs?
Many sites publish helpful rankings that identify the top master's in criminal justice programs. You can also identify top programs by conducting your own research. Compile a list of programs from regionally accredited schools. Give each program a score based on factors that you consider important, such as affordability, instructional format, and available concentrations. Most top programs provide this data on their websites, but you can also contact an admissions counselor for assistance.
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