Criminal Justice Master's Degree

Earning a master's degree in criminal justice prepares the working professional to compete for lucrative promotions, seek a faculty or other training position, or advance into a doctoral program. Online criminal justice master's programs give students the perfect opportunity to complete a degree from the comfort of home, with minimal career or lifestyle interruptions. Once students complete a criminal justice master's program, the door to advanced career opportunities is wide open.

The schools listed below offer a variety of accredited criminal justice degrees, so you're sure to find the right criminal justice master's program for you. Some of these programs offer specific areas of emphasis, such as forensic psychology or criminology. These programs have attracted highly respected leaders from the field of criminal justice, including DEA, CIA, and FBI professionals, as well as police chiefs and counter terrorism experts.

Those who choose to pursue a criminal justice master's degree typically have some work experience in the criminal justice field and wish to build upon that experience, either to land an advanced position and/or earn more money. One job that often requires a master's degree is that of criminal justice professors. Beyond helping to mold the next generation of criminal justice professionals, an educator might also conduct research and publish those findings in professional journals or books. The median wage for postsecondary criminal justice and law enforcement teachers in 2015 was $58,770 year, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.1 Job growth for postsecondary educators is predicted to grow faster than average through 2024, at 13%.2 Those who choose to pursue this profession thrive on analytical thinking, innovation, and independence. A master's degree builds on those personal traits by developing advanced knowledge of teaching methods, law and government, and the English language.

Top Online Criminal Justice Master's Degree Schools

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

A criminal justice master's degree may help you advance in your career in the field of criminal justice and may open doors to careers such as:

Courses Offered in a Master's in Criminal Justice Program

  • Administration of Criminal Justice
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Criminological Theory
  • Crime Causation, Prevention, and Control
  • Criminal Profiling
  • Issues in Policing
  • Victimology
  • Quantitative Methods in Criminal Justice Research
  • Criminal Mind and Behavior
  • Threat Assessment and Risk Management
  • Policing Special Populations
  • Contemporary Issues in Corrections
  • Correctional Leadership
  • Managing Police Organizations
  • Information and Technology in Criminal Justice
  • Budgeting and Planning for Criminal Justice Managers
  • Criminal Justice Policy Development and Evaluation
  • Legal Issues in Criminal Justice Agencies
  • Management of Critical Incident Operations

Top Ranked Criminology Graduate Programs

US News Best Criminology Grad Schools Rankings

1. University of Maryland–College Park
2. University at Albany–SUNY
3. University of Cincinnati
4. University of Missouri–​St. Louis
5. Pennsylvania State University–​University Park
5. University of California–​Irvine
7. Florida State University
7. Michigan State University
7. Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey–​Newark
10. CUNY–​John Jay College

Also, see a list of top-ranked schools offering online graduate degrees in criminology at US News & World Report.

Master's of Criminal Justice Degree Program Admission Requirements

While schools vary in their admission requirements, some common requirements include qualifying scores on the GMAT or GRE exams, an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited college, a satisfactory undergraduate GPA, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.

Profiles of Master's in Criminal Justice Programs

Rutgers University awards a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice (MACJ) that equips students with the skills and knowledge necessary to assume positions of leadership in the criminal justice field. Students are also prepared academically and experientially for further post-graduate study and careers in academics. The 30-credit hour program can be completed in three semesters under a full-time course load or seven semesters under a part-time course load. Students take five required courses including Justice, Law and Policy; Planning and Evaluation; and Problem Analysis, as well as 15 credit hours of electives such as Race, Crime, and Justice; Crime Mapping; and GIS for Public Safety. A capstone Master's Project Seminar is an important part of the curriculum, during which students complete a research paper. Rutgers offers various competitive scholarships for master's degree students, several of which are specific to the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers.

Michigan State University's College of Social Science, School of Criminal Justice offers a Master of Science in Criminal Justice that can be completed on-campus or online. The program curriculum integrates theory and practice in criminal justice through the study of corrections, law enforcement, and security. Typical courses for this degree include Crime Causation, Prevention, and Control; Design and Analysis in Criminal Justice Research; and Policy Analysis under Conditions of Change. Students may elect to earn a specialization in security management as part of the master's curriculum or may consult with a graduate advisor to take specialized courses through the Master of Public Policy and Administration Program to prepare for careers in industrial security or government. The Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice has been offering graduate degrees since 1956 and began offering the Master of Science in Criminal Justice degree program online in 1998. Master's graduates are prepared to pursue professional careers or advanced graduate studies. Michigan State University also offers a doctoral program in criminal justice.

Seattle University awards a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice (MACJ) that requires 55 credit hours to graduate. Students may elect to pursue the degree on a general track or on a specialization track in one of three areas: Criminal Justice Research and Evaluation; Victimology; or Investigative Criminology. The curriculum for all programs focuses on rigorous and analytical study of crime and societal responses, with special emphases on diversity, ethics, and leadership. Classes are held during the evenings and weekends. The program's foundational courses include Advanced Criminological Theory, Law and Social Control, and Organizational Theory and Analysis in Criminal Justice. All program requirements can be completed in two years with full-time study. Seattle University also offers a joint Master of Arts in Criminal Justice/Juris Doctor (JD) program, which typically allows students to earn the two degrees in less time than required to earn the degrees independently.

Comparison of Colleges with Online Criminal Justice Master's Degree Programs

School Faculty Size (Full-Time, 2016) Graduate Enrollment (2016) Student to Faculty Ratio Online Master's in Criminal Justice Awarded (2014-15) Cohort Default Rate (2013)
Arizona State University 2,059 10,156 23 to 1 183 6.9%
Florida State University 1,806 8,124 25 to 1 32 4.4%
University of Cincinnati 2,091 11,033 18 to 1 247 7.6%

*For the latest statistics visit The National Center for Education Statistics website.

Profiles of Online Master's in Criminal Justice Programs

The University of Cincinnati awards a Master of Science in Criminal Justice through a program that can be completed entirely online. The curriculum is completed through a variety of learning modules including presentations, discussions, and online assignments. The 33 credit hours required to graduate from the program can be completed in one year of full-time study or two years of part-time study. Optional concentrations in such areas as Corrections and Offender Rehabilitation, Analysis of Criminal Behavior, and Law Enforcement and Crime Prevention are offered. Students are assigned to a track of study depending on their concentration area to ensure that degree requirements are completed on time. US News and World Report has ranked the University of Cincinnati's criminal justice program highly and the program faculty have been recognized by the Southwest Journal of Criminal Justice for their high publication rate.

Arizona State University offers a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice (MACJ) degree program that consists of 33 credit hours earned completely online. Full-time students can complete the program in as few as 18 months with a course schedule tracked for working professionals. Part-time students have up to six years to complete the degree program. While enrolled, all students will complete a core curriculum of 12 credit hours in addition to 18 credit hours of electives, with a 3 credit hour capstone course in Theory and Practice in Criminal Justice. Students may elect to join the national honor society for criminal justice students, Alpha Phi Sigma, which maintains a chapter at Arizona State University. Start dates for the program are year-round and based on a flexible schedule. The faculty of the Arizona State University School of Criminology and Criminal Justice specialize in various research areas and are known for research productivity.

Florida State University's College of Criminology and Criminal Justice administers a distance learning master's degree in criminology that can be earned through online study. The curriculum consists of 36 graduate credit hours, 15 of which are completed in core courses and 21 of which are completed through electives. The graduate programs in criminology and criminal justice at Florida State University have been recognized by the Journal of Criminal Justice Education and have been highly ranked by US News and World Report. Florida State University also maintains the Center for Criminology and Public Policy Research, which offers graduate students opportunities to become involved in research and public policy.

University of Massachusetts at Lowell offers an online master's program in criminal justice that focuses not only on criminal justice fundamentals but on skills development in the areas of leadership, administration, and management. Graduates of the program are awarded a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice and Criminology. All students complete a core curriculum of five courses, supplemented by six student-chosen electives for a total of 33 credit hours. The program is designed to be flexible for students from various backgrounds looking to gain additional training in criminal justice to advance their careers. Completion of a master's thesis is optional and students may elect to take courses full- or part-time. The University of Massachusetts at Lowell has been ranked as a Top 25 Best Value College by Forbes and has also been ranked within the top 20 universities for academic and research reputation by Times of London.

Saint Joseph's University awards a Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ) that is completed through an online course of study. The curriculum is designed to teach students through the lens of leaders in the criminal justice field so that students are prepared to apply information both practically and academically throughout their careers. The online program incorporates real-time feedback from experienced faculty and allows for specialization in Behavior Analysis, Federal Law Enforcement, Intelligence and Crime Analysis, or Homeland Security. Students may also elect to pursue graduate certificates in addition to specialization. US News and World Report has consistently ranked St. Joseph's University among the top master's universities in the northern US.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What can I do with a master's degree in criminal justice?

Answer: A master's degree in criminal justice is a starting point for careers in academia and a strong foundation for careers in criminal justice administration and management. With a master's degree you may also be a more competitive applicant for advanced criminal justice careers in emergency management, policy analysis, and research.

Question: Are there corporate jobs for people with a master's degree in criminal justice?

Answer: Earning your graduate degree in criminal justice positions you to work in the private sector in a variety of corporate security- and fraud-related jobs. These include jobs in fraud prevention, security and fraud analysis and investigation, corporate security policy, and corporate security management.

Question: Is it worth it to earn a master's in criminal justice if I already have my bachelor's?

Answer: Whether or not it makes sense to earn a master's in criminal justice is a highly personal decision. However, if your ideal career involves management, policy, or higher-level responsibility at the federal level, earning a master's degree may be the right path for you. We recommend looking at job descriptions for the position you want to see typical requirements.

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages May 2015, Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary:
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Postsecondary Teachers:

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