A master’s degree in criminal justice is ideal for current law enforcement and other criminal justice professionals looking to make their contributions to the field through a role in management, policy, education, or special law enforcement unit.
Why You Should Earn a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice
Considering a master’s degree in criminal justice? This advanced degree prepares graduates for jobs in management, government and specialized units in law enforcement. It’s a smart move if you are:
- Training for a specific career (e.g. criminal profiler)
- Aspiring to more highly paid management positions
- Attracted to public advisory positions on criminal justice policy
- Seeking an adjunct teaching job at the university level
Online Master’s Degrees in Criminal Justice: Requirements and Cost
Getting into an online master’s degree program in criminal justice requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, faculty letters of recommendation, and your GRE scores. You may also be required to attend interviews and provide a statement of intent. Some programs will allow you to transfer graduate-level credits, though this is usually limited to two or three courses. Of course, it never hurts to ask about exceptions.
The cost of your online master’s degree in criminal justice will largely depend on the program you choose, but tuition fees can be $10,000 or more. Financial aid, tuition assistance, scholarships, grants, and work study programs are often available: be sure to ask your school’s financial aid office which programs you may qualify for.
Online Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Curriculum
A master’s degree in criminal justice is broken into 30-45 credit hours – which means it takes approximately one to two years to complete. There are three different paths you can take to earn a master’s degree in criminal justice: the Master of Arts in Criminal Justice (M.A.C.J.), Master of Science of Criminal Justice (M.S.C.J.), and Master of Criminal Justice (M.C.J.). Each offers a master’s degree in criminal justice, but all have slightly different courses.
- The M.A.C.J. takes a humanities-based approach, with coursework in law enforcement administration, legal studies, and public policy.
- The M.S.C.J. focuses on science and may include specializations in forensic psychology, cyber-crime and behavior analysis.
- M.C.J. programs combine the best of both worlds, offering a mix of humanities and science for a flexible, comprehensive criminal justice master’s degree.
Courses may be rigorous, with a heavy emphasis on current issues and advanced research methods. In addition to core credit hours on criminal justice and law, a master’s curriculum encourages you to focus on electives and concentrations in specific topics, such as terrorism, white collar crime, and correctional rehabilitation. Your degree program is also likely to include a comprehensive examination, practicum, or final thesis.
Career Options with an Online Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice
Graduate education generally leads to better positions and higher wages. An online master’s degree in criminal justice from an accredited institution can lead to management positions such as:
- Police Captain or Sergeant
- Corporate Security Manager
- Critical Incident Manager
For example, while police and sheriff’s patrol officers earned an average salary of $70,000 as of May 2020 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, first-line supervisors of police and sheriff’s patrol officers earned an average salary of $93,100 during this time.
A master’s degree in criminal justice may also qualify you to work as a:
- Forensic Psychologist
- Crime Scene Investigator
- Criminal Profiler
- University or College Adjunct Professor
Though a master’s degree in criminal justice can help you reach higher levels of employment with many criminal justice organizations, it’s important to note that it’s not necessary for some positions where a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice may be more appropriate. Special agents in organizations such as the FBI, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and DEA do not require a master’s degree to qualify for initial employment. You also don’t need a master’s degree to become a police officer or detective — but you do need one to become a captain or a sergeant.
May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job market trends for police and sheriff’s patrol officers and first-line supervisors of police and detectives. Figures represent national data, not school specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed June 2021.
Find Your Online Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice
Take your career in criminal justice to the next level with an advanced degree in criminal justice. Search our directory for schools to find the online master’s degree program in criminal justice that’s right for you.