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Master of Criminal Justice (MSCJ): Policing Degree Overview

Students interested in studying policing at the graduate level can choose to enroll in a Master of Science in Criminal Justice program, which may feature a concentration option in policing. Learn about career and salary information.

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Essential Information

A few schools offer a master's degree program in policing as a standalone area of study, however it is more common to find master's degree programs in criminal justice with a specialization in policing. These programs are usually designed for law enforcement professionals who wish to advance their skills and training. Some institutions offer an option for undergraduates to enter a 5-year program, in which students can transfer directly from a bachelor's degree program to a master's degree program and complete their graduate studies in less time than usual. A bachelor's degree is required for graduate studies and some programs require previous study of statistics and introductory criminology courses. Students may participate in internships in judicial and law enforcement settings, and a thesis project may be required.


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Master's Degree in Criminal Justice: Policing

A master's degree program in criminal justice and policing may introduce techniques in research and data analysis and can addresses contemporary policing challenges, such as racial profiling, occupational hazards, counter-terrorism methods and use of force. Students might learn about criminal justice system practices, parole and probation systems. Some additional courses can include:

  • Ethics in policing
  • Operational procedures and practice
  • Crime prevention and community safety
  • Policing and youth
  • Race, gender and justice
  • Corrections systems

Popular Career Options

Graduates of master's degree programs in criminal justice and policing will typically have built upon undergraduate coursework or professional knowledge in order to advance their professional careers in law enforcement. Aspiring federal agents, victim's advocates, caseworkers, law enforcement officers and administrators could apply their skills and knowledge in variety of settings. Individuals may pursue advanced positions at the federal, state and local levels. Some possible job titles for criminal justice or policing program graduates could include:

  • Police administrator
  • Probation officer
  • Correctional counselor
  • Case manager

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, first-line supervisors of police and detectives were projected to see a four percent increase in employment opportunities from 2014-2024. The mean annual salary for these workers was $85,810, and the top paying industry was the federal executive branch as of May 2015.

Continuing Education Information

Beyond the master's degree level, professionals may continue their studies of criminal justice at the doctoral level through a Ph.D. program. These programs, which may also include the study of criminology, are typically designed to prepare students for work in academia and research. Coursework may include criminal justice policy, ethics and issues in law enforcement, and students must typically complete a dissertation for graduation.

Individuals seeking a career as a supervisor of police or detectives may want to pursue a master's degree in criminal justice with a concentration in policing. This program offers students exposure to research, data analysis, and challenges that may occur.

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