In this course, students gain a fundamental understanding of crime, criminal behavior, and the legal system. They study the theoretical natures of crime, the various types of crime and criminal behavior, and the potential causes of crime. Courses also explore the social structure of law and order and observe how different theories impact criminal justice policies and procedures.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE ETHICS
This course examines the ethical dilemmas within the criminal justice system. Training covers the balance between the professional responsibilities of the field, as well as the moral and the ethical implications that may arise in a student’s career. Criminal justice ethics classes typically fall within the core program and provide students with essential ethical training.
CONTEMPORARY ISSUES IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE
In this course, learners study the issues faced by today’s professionals and the historical context in which these issues sit. They look at how the field has changed over time and the causes and motivations for that evolution. The courses also look at how current issues could impact future policies and procedures in criminal justice professions.
POLICE BUDGETING AND FINANCE
Students in this course learn about the financing of police departments and law enforcement agencies. They learn how management creates budgets and defends them at each organizational level. This training can prepare graduates for careers in administration and management within different agencies.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE POLICY
Criminal justice policy courses look at how administration and management professionals tackle the creation and implementation of criminal justice policies within the various departments and organizations. Students analyze current policies and look at how and why those organizations implemented them in the first place. This training can help students looking to qualify for management positions.
The Master’s Practicum and Thesis
In addition to concentrations and specializations, students can use a master’s practicum and thesis to build a specific expertise. By choosing an area of professional interest for the thesis topic or practicum location, learners can impact their career path and gain a competitive advantage over other job candidates.
A thesis is an extensive research project in which students create an in-depth report in an area of interest. These projects typically take up the majority of a learner’s second year of study and can involve a considerable amount of work. Students interested in a thesis should look for programs that offer them as course options or requirements.
Like a thesis, a practicum is typically completed during the second year of a master’s program. Students often choose as their practicum site an organization or field that they wish to work within after graduation. This allows them to build relevant experience at the same time as completing their education.
Selecting Your Online Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Program
In order to choose the right criminal justice school and program, aspiring master’s students need to consider a number of factors to decide on the one that best meets their needs. Applicants should take into account program accreditation, delivery format and coursework, and institutional resources.
No matter their individual specifications, prospective students should select an accredited program. Proper accreditation can impact financial aid and employment outcomes. If they plan to apply to a local law enforcement agency, enrollees should also find out if that organization recognizes their program before enrolling.
Students should closely examine the delivery format of each program. Online programs may limit the travel requirements, but some still require on-campus visits and residencies. Distance learners should also ensure that they can complete practicums and internships locally to avoid any future complications.
Aspiring criminal justice students should consider each program’s breakdown. This may include finding a program that offers the ideal courses and concentrations, thesis options, and program length. Applicants should also look into the admission requirements and competitiveness to ensure it matches their expectations.
Finally, candidates should research the level of support the school offers, which might be determined from a school’s size and student-to-teacher ratios. Finding a faculty with strong credentials or a department with a quality reputation in the applicant’s field of interest can help future job searches. Extensive graduate support resources and an emphasis on a strong alumni network might indicate that a program that will provide continuous support after graduation.
Admission Requirements for Online Criminal Justice Programs
The admission requirements for online criminal justice master’s programs vary by school, but students can get an idea of what to expect from the following general guidelines. Most master’s degrees in the field require applicants to complete a bachelor’s degree.
Some programs may require a degree in a specific discipline, such as criminal justice or a related field. Applicants may also need to complete prerequisite courses, such as foundational criminal justice or legal system courses. Some programs prefer applicants with professional experience, such as military service.
Many programs also set minimum grade and GRE or GMAT test score requirements. The necessary grades and scores depend on the competitiveness of the program. Some programs set the minimum GPA at 3.0, GRE scores at 850, and GMAT scores at 400.
Additional admission requirements usually include professional recommendations and a written statement or essay. This latter piece may take the form of a statement of goals, a personal essay, or an essay on a suggested topic.
Accreditation for Online Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Schools and Programs
Program accreditation represents an important consideration for all students, as it can ensure a quality education. Regional accreditation indicates that an institution meets the standards as set by the seven regional agencies acknowledged by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Students should prioritize regionally accredited programs, as this type of accreditation may be required for federal aid, transfer credits, and employment.
National accreditation typically acknowledges for-profit career and religious schools and are unlikely to have an impact on master’s programs, but field-specific programmatic accreditation may impact a student’s decision. The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS), for example, recognizes programs that meet their organizational standards. The National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security also acknowledge schools that meet certain programmatic standards.
While these program recognitions are informal and not considered mandatory for criminal justice professionals, they can give graduates a competitive advantage and preference for certain positions. To find out what programs and schools received accreditations, students can search the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
Ranking Your Top Schools
After considering all of the above factors, criminal justice candidates can begin to prioritize the most important things and rank their ideal programs. Applicants can fill in any informational blanks through additional research, discussions, and campus visits. As a starting point, online rankings can help learners identify some of the best programs in their ideal location, format, and discipline.EXPLORE OUR LIST OF THE BEST ONLINE MASTER’S IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROGRAMS
Frequently Asked Questions
What jobs can I get with a master's in criminal justice?
With a master’s in criminal justice, graduates can enter most law enforcement organizations and many other legal fields. The advanced training may qualify them for specialized or management positions within these organizations. Some employers may require experience in addition to education.
What is the best online college for a master's in criminal justice?
Choosing the best online college depends on the student’s individual needs and wants. Distance students should look for programs with little or no on-campus requirements. Students interested in a specific discipline within criminal justice should look for a school with courses or specializations in that area. Finally, all students should look for a regionally accredited institution.
Is a master's degree in criminal justice worth it?
Earning a master’s degree in criminal justice can lead to more specialized careers, faster career development, and higher earnings. The prevalence of online programs has made earning a graduate degree easier, quicker, and more flexible, so learners can study while maintaining employment.
Scholarships for Online Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Programs
To help in funding their education, aspiring students can turn to numerous sources of financial aid, including federal funding and scholarships. Candidates can access school-specific, location-specific, and program-specific scholarships. To help criminal justice students, the following list looks at some of the best program-specific scholarships available.
Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: Hosted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners Foundation, this scholarship rewards students aiming at an anti-fraud career. Graduate applicants must be enrolled in at least six semester hours of a criminal justice major.
Apply for Scholarship
IALEIA Education Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts provides this scholarship to an active association member or a member’s immediate family member pursuing a criminal justice degree at the graduate level.
Apply for Scholarship
ACJALAE Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: Hosted by the American Criminal Justice Association–Lambda Alpha Epsilon, this program rewards graduate students pursuing a degree in criminal justice. Applicants need a minimum GPA of 3.0 to qualify.
Apply for Scholarship
ACJS Student Scholarship Awards
Who Can Apply: The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences awards master’s students with a winning research paper in criminal justice sciences. The scholarship recognizes their academic and research accomplishments and invites the winners to present their paper at the annual ACJS conference.
Apply for Scholarship
Pi Gamma Mu Scholarships
Who Can Apply: Pi Gamma Mu offers multiple scholarships for graduate students pursuing criminal justice degrees. Applicants are judged on their academic excellence and their commitment to the field.
Apply for Scholarship
Professional Organizations for Criminal Justice
Professional organizations provide a number of resources and benefits that offer support for current and aspiring students, new graduates, and experienced professionals. Members and visitors can access industry publications, educational and professional development programs, and networking events.
The following list outlines some of the best associations for criminal justice students and professionals.
AMERICAN CRIMINAL JUSTICE ASSOCIATION – LAMBDA ALPHA EPSILON
Striving to improve the career landscape for criminal justice professionals, this association offers educational opportunities, promotes standards and best practices, and provides a unified voice for members.
ACADEMY OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE SCIENCES
Established in 1963 to improve the criminal justice field and its professionals, the ACJS offers its members access to education, industry research, and a professional network.
FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE
The nation’s largest organization of law enforcement professionals, the FOP serves its members through education, representation, and access to information and resources.
EXPLORE OTHER CRIMINAL JUSTICE CAREERS