Master of Science (MS): Criminal Justice Degree Overview

Oct 21, 2019

Essential Information

An M.S. in Criminal Justice program includes courses that explore social, ethical and legal issues within the judicial system, as well as policies in criminal justice, crime research methods, juvenile criminal behavior and cultural awareness. Students also learn to identify and analyze the effects of inequality and economics on crime within communities. Graduates typically qualify for leadership roles in law enforcement, crime prevention, crime research or forensics.

Programs usually take two years to complete, and applicants must have a related bachelor's degree to be admitted. Some programs also have prerequisite coursework requirements, such as criminal research or criminal theory.

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

During this 2-year program, students delve into topics such as sociology, psychology, research and leadership. They'll examine public administration, crime theory, drug abuse, serial crimes, forensics, corrections and the judicial system. In addition to coursework, students commonly need to complete independent studies and thesis. Course topics may include:

  • Research methodology in criminal justice
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Criminal investigations
  • Criminal justice statistics
  • Substance abuse
  • Justice administration

Popular Career Options

Graduates may be eligible for leadership roles in law enforcement or administrative justice. They can seek opportunities with police departments, probation facilities, correctional facilities, law firms or courthouses. Some possible job titles could include:

  • Crime prevention liaison
  • Criminal investigator
  • Law enforcement administrator
  • Juvenile justice case manager
  • Substance abuse specialist

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for private detectives and investigators were anticipated to increase by 8% from 2018-2028 ( The BLS also reported that these workers earned an average of $56,810 per year in 2018.

In 2018, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists earned an annual average income of $58,790, according to the BLS. From 2018-2028, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists are projected to see 3% increase in employment opportunities. However, competition for jobs should lessen as people leave this field.

Continuing Education

Graduates interested in academia or research can pursue a Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice. Some programs offer specializations, such as forensics or administration. Graduates can publish research findings in professional journals, make advances in criminal theories or teach at universities.

A Master of Science in Criminal Justice program is a great way to prepare to transition into a variety of advanced careers in the criminal justice system and law enforcement. These programs provide students with a comprehensive education in key elements of law, economics, political science and sociology.

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