Criminal Investigations Masters Degree Program Overviews

Oct 13, 2019

While there are few master's degree programs offered specifically in criminal investigations, students can find programs in criminal justice and criminology. Find out more about application requirements, curriculum and career options.

Essential Information

Master's degree programs in criminal justice and criminology provide advanced coursework in the theoretical and practical aspects of crime, justice administration and law enforcement. Programs can take anywhere from eighteen months to two years to complete, depending on the program and whether the student chooses a part-time or full-time study schedule. Some programs are offered in the evenings or online, which can enable students to balance coursework with other time commitments.

The minimum admissions requirement is a bachelor's degree, and prospective students are expected to have taken undergraduate courses in areas such as political science, economics, sociology, psychology, anthropology, history and/or social work. Those with insufficient academic backgrounds may be required to complete prerequisite courses before enrolling. Some schools also require applicants to meet a minimum GPA requirement of 3.0.

Master's Degree in Criminology

There are both Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MS) programs in criminology and criminal justice. To complete a master's degree program, students must complete 30 to 36 credits of coursework. Some programs require a capstone independent research project, while others offer both thesis and non-thesis tracks. At some schools, students may pursue specializations such as security management or judicial administration. Common course topics include:

  • Crime causation and prevention
  • Criminal justice management
  • Security administration
  • Historical foundations of judicial administration
  • National and global trends in court planning
  • Criminal justice research methods
  • Advanced statistical analysis

Career Options

A master's degree in criminal justice or criminology can prepare graduates for positions in many different fields related to corrections and human services, including:

  • Law enforcement
  • Policing
  • Victim services
  • Adult and juvenile services
  • Private security
  • Court administration
  • Drug treatment
  • Crime-related policymaking

Continuing Education

In addition to preparing students for professional careers, many master's degree programs in criminology and criminal justice provide the necessary research experience for students who want to enroll in Ph.D. programs in the field. Graduates of these programs typically pursue academic research jobs at colleges and universities.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Some graduates go on to pursue careers in law enforcement. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, police and detectives were projected to see a 5% growth in employment opportunities from 2018-2028. The mean annual salary for detectives and criminal investigators was $85,020 in May 2018.

In master's degree programs covering criminal justice and criminology, students study the theories that underpin these subjects, as well as their real-world applications. Graduates are prepared for a wide range of careers related to the implementation of justice.

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