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Criminal Justice Leadership Degree Program Information

Bachelor's and master's degree programs in criminal justice leadership and administration exist to prepare students for local, state and federal supervisory positions at law enforcement offices and agencies.

Essential Information

Working individuals might choose a bachelor's degree program which, in addition to criminology and court systems studies, includes an internship and an independent study opportunity. At the master's level, students might become prepared for more advanced positions. In addition to criminal justice management- and leadership-related topics, this program could feature a research project or a master's thesis.

Typically, only a high school diploma or GED is required for admission at the undergraduate level. Some schools expect applicants to have previous college credit or professional experience. For master's level education, most schools require candidates to hold a bachelor's degree, and some request a criminal justice major. Some programs designed for law enforcement professionals expect some previous work experience. Often, professional or academic recommendations must be submitted.


Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership

Bachelor's programs in criminal justice leadership, administration and management have evolved to include updated studies related to national and global security issues. These four-year undergraduate programs are primarily designed for those currently employed in the role of law or court enforcement officers. Coursework and training within the program expands current knowledge and skills, preparing graduates for entry into leadership positions with greater responsibility.

Coursework within an undergraduate criminal justice leadership program may lean toward training police and law enforcement officials or provide more study in court systems and correctional officers. Several programs offer students practical experience through an internship opportunity and encourage related research with significant independent study projects. Criminal justice leadership classes may include:

  • Victim and evidence assessment and handling
  • Terrorism and homeland security
  • Adult and juvenile corrections procedures
  • Psychology, organizational and management issues
  • Modern technology in legal, enforcement and public agencies
  • Governmental and legal regulations in law enforcement

Master's Degree in Criminal Justice Leadership

A master's program in criminal justice leadership or administration is tailored to prepare individuals for managerial and supervisory positions in criminal justice-related organizations. The curriculum of these two-year programs offers training for administration of public and private agencies such as police departments, court agencies, corrections departments and private security firms. Some schools offer online, evening or weekend classes for working professionals. Students may find dual master's degree programs offering both a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Science in Criminal Justice.

Typical coursework combines criminal justice, public administration and management education. Many graduate programs include an option to participate in an internship opportunity or complete a master's thesis, research project or an increased number of elective courses. Classes may include:

  • Organizational and ethical leadership
  • Criminal justice agency evaluation
  • Legal issues in criminal justice
  • Human resources and financial management
  • Criminal justice research methods

Popular Career Options

Earning a bachelor's degree in criminal justice leadership often prepares individuals for advancement in a current law enforcement-related career. Broad training offered through the program also prepares graduates for entry into additional fields in U.S. courts, federal agencies or political offices. Possible career options include:

  • Police officer or detective
  • Homeland security enforcement agent
  • Prison corrections officer
  • Juvenile court advocate or officer
  • Fish and game warden
  • Private investigator

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

A master's degree in criminal justice leadership may lead to career advancement involving administrative and management responsibilities. Additionally, some corrections and law enforcement agencies may recommend earning a master's degree for positions such as parole or probation officer, especially for those with no prior work experience. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates four percent overall employment growth for first-line supervisors of police and detectives during the 2014-2024 decade, along with just three percent growth projected for supervisors of correctional officers.

Salaries vary somewhat among criminal justice leadership positions. The BLS reports that first-line supervisors of correctional officers bring in a median annual wage of $59,720 while the median salary for management roles over police and detectives is reported at $82,090 per year as of May 2015. Those employed in federal agencies typically receive higher salaries, incentives and benefits, depending on the workload, location and occupation.

Continuing Education

Some professions, such as private investigator, may require state licensure. Law enforcement, court officers and state agencies have varying conditions for employment, such as specialized training or credentials, background checks, weapons permits or physical and psychological testing. Graduates looking to progress to supervisory and management positions may also seek advanced studies in a criminal justice leadership or administration master's program.

Many schools tailor a master's program in criminal justice to segue into earning a Juris Doctor law degree or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in a related field. Several schools offer Ph.D. programs in criminal justice or criminology for those interested in research or academia.

Those with experience as a law or court enforcement officers, who wish to move up into a leadership position, my seek a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership. A master's degree in criminal justice leadership can prepare students for administrative and supervisory positions in public and private criminal justice agencies.


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