Graduates of degree programs in criminal justice and related fields go on to careers in education, corrections, government and public administration. A bachelor's degree program gives students general knowledge about criminology, the justice system, corrections and police work. Students also develop research skills and learn to use the information they've gathered to create policy.
Graduate programs may offer a Master of Science (M.S.) in Justice Policy and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Criminology and Criminal Justice. They focus on research that guides policy development. Master's level students study leadership and how to formulate effective policies, while doctoral students examine criminal justice policies as well as criminal justice theory and related areas.
Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
The curriculum for this four-year degree explores the American justice system, causes of crime, criminal justice theories and methods of developing criminal justice policies. Coursework subjects include corrections, policing, juvenile justice, criminal law and research methods. Studies in criminal justice planning examine policies that influence social programs, including crime deterrence, corrections improvement and inmate rehabilitation programs. Other areas of focus include criminal courts, probation and parole, statistics and prosecution. Admittance requires a high school diploma or GED certificate.
Coursework includes studies in delinquency, criminological theory, corrections management and criminal justice ethics. Topics of discussion in coursework include:
- Criminal cases
- Constitutional law
- Organizational behavior
- Justice administration
- Criminal behavior
Master of Science in Justice Policy
Designed for future leaders in justice policy planning, the curriculum focuses on management theory, criminal justice administration, facilities management and research methods that guide the planning and implementation of criminal justice policies. Topics of discussion include a survey of crime in America, crime causation, information systems, case studies and socioeconomic influences on crime. Other areas of focus might include restorative justice, organizational dynamics and the influence of gender on crime policies. Students conduct quantitative research, complete a master's thesis and take comprehensive examinations towards the close of the program.
Applicants are required to hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, preferably in a related area of study. Other admission requirements include satisfactory scores on the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) and 18 credits of prerequisite coursework in criminal justice.
Students prepare to be effective criminal justice policy planners through coursework in policy crafting, political decision-making and crime theories. Topics covered in the program include:
- Organizational dynamics
- Operational policies
- Agenda setting
- Crime control
- Systems analysis
Ph.D. in Criminology and Criminal Justice
The curriculum consists of studies in criminal justice policies and planning in the United States, including coursework on criminology and public policy, and the administration of justice. Research-intensive, the program explores criminological theories, crime policy analysis and the role that social status plays in acts of criminality. Other areas of focus include criminal justice policy debates, planning, implementation and testing. Ph.D. candidates conduct a substantial amount of academic research, including qualitative and quantitative research, and complete a doctoral dissertation at the culmination of the program.
Admission requirements include a master's degree in a related area of study, including criminal justice, criminology or sociology. Other requirements include satisfactory scores on the GRE, letters of reference, a personal statement essay and writing sample.
Coursework prepares students to utilize research methods to examine criminal justice policies and to develop plans for policy change or improvement. Course topics include topics such as:
- Empirical evidence
- Social stratification
- Case studies
Popular Career Options
Graduates of a bachelor's program go on to careers in a variety of settings, including corrections, policing, government and more. Popular career choices for graduates include:
- Corrections officer
- Parole officer
- Probation officer
Graduates of a master's program find employment opportunities in research, government, non-profit organizations and more. Job titles of recent graduates include:
- Corrections administrator
- Police department administrator
- Public administrator
Ph.D. graduates of the program go on to careers in education, research and public administration. Popular job titles for graduates include:
- Public safety director
Career and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 4% job growth for detectives and police in the decade 2014-2024. The BLS also reported in May 2015 that the median annual salary of police and sheriff's patrol officers was $58,320.
Students interested in careers as detectives, police or patrol officers may pursue a B.S. in Criminal Justice, where they will learn about the American justice system and the study of crime. Students who wish to pursue administrative or research-related positions in the field may need to earn a M.S. in Justice Policy or a Ph.D. in Criminology and Criminal Justice.