Master of Criminal Justice (MSCJ): Degree Overview

A Master of Criminal Justice or Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ) program can teach students about the research methods and advanced criminal justice and criminology theories needed to qualify for leadership positions in public service.

Essential Information

MSCJ degrees enhance student understanding of the systemic, ethical and reintegration aspects of the criminal justice system. Individuals who earn this type of graduate degree might work at a management level in a variety of career areas, ranging from parole or probation to criminal investigation. Institutions that need this expertise range from police departments and federal agencies to social service organizations.

Prerequisites include a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or related major, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, letters of recommendation and a resume.

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Master's degree programs include courses in the theory and application of criminal justice, with some schools offering online curricula for working professionals. The core curriculum includes research-related coursework, such as research methods and statistics. Students may also receive training in targeting offenders, creating policies and assisting criminals with rehabilitation, and they may choose to specialize in a type of crime or offender, such as drugs or juveniles. Elective coursework might focus on specific forms of crime or crime prevention. Programs also require a thesis or research project and maybe an internship. Common courses that students might encounter include:

  • Crime and criminal justice
  • Public policy
  • Criminal justice ethics
  • Criminal justice administration
  • History of criminal justice

Popular Career Options

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated that while many individuals with criminal justice degrees work for government organizations, private sector opportunities are available ( Possible career options include:

  • Probation officer
  • Police officer
  • FBI agent
  • Crime analyst
  • Policy researcher

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Police and sheriff's patrol officers were projected to see a 5% increase in employment opportunities from 2014 to 2024, stated the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most workers in this profession earned salaries between $33,430 and $96,110 as of May 2015, with a median wage of $58,320. Detectives and criminal investigators were projected to see a 1% decline in employment. Most of these professionals earned between $41,200 and $128,690 per year as of May 2015.

Continuing Education

Because many criminal justice jobs are with government organizations, individuals typically have to meet state or federal regulations. States might require applicants to complete a training program and pass qualifying exams, such as a physical fitness test. Additionally, students considering academia or research pursuits within criminal justice can complete a doctoral degree in criminal justice.

Students interested careers in criminal justice or law enforcement can look into either a Master of Criminal Justice or Master of Science in Criminal Justice program. In these programs, students learn essential topics and skills for managerial positions as police officers, detectives and other criminal justice workers.

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