Masters Degrees in Criminal Science: Overview of Options

Apr 07, 2021

Essential Information

A master's degree program in criminal justice gives students an in-depth look at justice and research methodology. Students acquire the leadership skills and knowledge needed to work in managerial law enforcement positions. Courses cover a variety of topics, including correctional institutions, victimology, family violence and the judicial system. Students also study qualitative research and data analysis and get hands-on training in the field.

Master's programs in forensic science give students advanced knowledge in evidence-gathering and the analytical methods that can be used to solve crimes. Students may be allowed to choose a concentration, such as forensic chemistry, forensic biology or forensic anthropology. Coursework covers topics like crime scene investigation and genetics. Laboratory work is essential, and many programs require students to complete internships.

Applicants to these programs must hold a bachelor's degree, sometimes in a related field. Personal statements, GRE scores and letters of recommendation are sometimes requested. Most programs take two years to complete.

Master's Degrees in Criminal Justice

A master's degree program in criminal justice is offered as a Master of Science or a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice. The program focuses on current management issues in criminal justice. Through lecture, research and practical experiences, students will investigate criminal law, criminal justice statistics and criminal ethics. Students also learn how to implement a variety of law enforcement, security and correctional policies. Criminal justice programs may require a capstone research project, as well as a thesis or internship. Popular course topics include:

  • Criminal justice system history
  • Criminal law
  • Criminal policies
  • Theory of criminal justice
  • Investigative criminal justice

Master of Science in Forensic Science

Within the program, students learn the skills necessary to develop a strong ethical background and an expertise in forensic technology. Scholars are trained to use advanced tools for analyzing evidence to solve crimes. Through lecture and practical training, students are introduced to advanced investigative procedures, evidence analysis, legal procedures and professional ethics.

The coursework prepares students to analyze and identify evidence. Students may take courses in chemistry, law and biology. The forensic science program may include research projects and an internship. Course topics may include:

  • Forensic pattern analysis
  • Crime scene investigation
  • Genetics
  • Trace analysis
  • Toxicology

Popular Career Options

Responsibilities of a job within the criminal justice field include enforcing laws, completing legal research and keeping up with current events within the criminal justice field. A master's degree program in criminal justice lays the groundwork for a number of careers within the criminal justice field including:

  • Postsecondary criminal justice teacher
  • Special criminal agent
  • Associate justice

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), forensic science technicians can expect employment growth of 14% from 2019-2029. Additionally, the BLS reported that these professionals earned a mean annual salary of $64,890 in May 2020 (

Continuing Education Information

Students interested in advancing their education in the criminal justice field may pursue a doctoral program in criminal justice. With advanced skills in criminology, criminal justice policy and administration, students are prepared for advanced careers in research or academia.

Students interested in advancing their forensic science studies beyond a master's degree may pursue a Ph.D. program in criminology. Students may also choose to complete a doctoral program in criminal justice with an emphasis in forensic science. Graduates of a Ph.D. program are prepared for careers as forensic scientists and researchers.

Depending on your previous education and specific area of interest in criminal science, you can choose to pursue a master's degree in either criminal justice or forensic science.

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