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Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice: PhD Program Information

Learn about online programs with criminal justice courses. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

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Essential Information

Several types of online degree programs are available for those seeking doctoral degrees in criminal justice, either in criminal justice alone or combined with a related field, like public safety or even business administration. While there are programs available fully online, some programs require an in-person residency. Coursework provides students with teaching skills, as well as those skills needed in correctional treatment.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

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Doctorate in Criminal Justice

People seeking doctoral-level instruction in criminal justice have several options that can be completed entirely online. An online Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Criminal Justice is available with concentrations in organizational leadership, behavioral science or juvenile justice. Criminal justice can also be a specialization of an online Ph.D. in Public Safety or a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA).

Candidates for these programs generally must first have completed a master's degree, preferably in a related area, from an accredited institution. Students enrolled in a doctorate program in criminal justice learn about the intricate concerns involving criminal behavior, crime deterrence and legal traditions and codes from the local to the worldwide level.

Information and Requirements

A doctoral degree program in criminal justice typically consists of 54-80 credit hours. The program can be completed entirely online with no in-person work required, though some schools may require a residency. The materials can be accessed and worked on at any time as long as deadlines are met. Students interact with their instructors and fellow students by posting messages to discussion boards and sending e-mails.

Common Criminal Justice Courses

The curriculum of a doctorate degree program in criminal justice generally combines core courses, specialization courses and dissertation research credits. Some schools also require some additional graduate-level electives. Most Ph.D. programs end with a written dissertation.

Theories of Crime and Criminal Behavior

The sociological, psychological and biological theories of crime and criminal behavior are identified. Students read works of famous theorists and the research finding. Special attention is given to the environmental factors responsible for criminal behavior, keeping with the Chicago School's dominance in modern criminology theory.

Criminal Laws and Ethics

This course examines criminal laws, procedures and rights as explained by the constitution, especially the fourth, fifth and sixth amendments. Students learn to recognize the difference between ethical and unethical law enforcement practices, specifically what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Research Methods in Criminal Justice

Students get acquainted with the conventions and crucial problems concerning criminal justice research and researchers. The scientific method is highlighted as well as qualitative and quantitative research methods, and how to interpret and apply information from each to writing their doctoral dissertations.


Career Information

Graduates with a doctorate in criminal justice look for employment as a criminal justice and law enforcement teachers at 4-year college or university. Other career opportunities include probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, although a bachelor's degree is usually the minimum requirement for these two jobs.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that as of May 2015, there were 14,560 people employed as postsecondary criminal justice and law enforcement teachers, with an average yearly salary of $64,460 (www.bls.gov). Comparatively, the 87,950 people employed as probation officers and correctional treatment specialists had a median yearly salary of $49,360 in 2015. The BLS predicted an occupational growth of 13% for postsecondary teachers in general and 4% job growth for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, between the years 2014 and 2024.

Fully online Ph.D. programs in criminal justice are available in the specific field or in related majors like public safety or business administration, and an area of concentration, such as juvenile justice, may be chosen. After completing coursework in criminal law, ethics and research methods, graduates can pursue careers as postsecondary teachers or advanced positions in the criminal justice sector.

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