Online MSCJ Degree Program Overviews

Dec 04, 2019

Essential Information

Many schools offer Master of Science programs in criminal justice that can be completed entirely through online studies.

Applicants need to have a bachelor's degree. Some programs require a graduate school entrance exam and current employment or experience in the criminal justice field. Programs may allow students to choose a concentration such as law enforcement or corrections administration.

Students in a master's program in criminal justice get foundational knowledge through courses in organizational management, research, ethics and criminal justice policy. They can choose electives according to their career goals and interests. A thesis or capstone project may be required.

Learning Environment

The time needed to earn a Master of Science in Criminal Justice is generally two years. Many programs can be completed fully online with no in-person components.

Students can download lessons and review course materials whenever their schedules allow, as long as they comply with established due dates for assignments. They typically access course materials through a Web-based platform, such as Blackboard. Lectures may be in video format, or they may be a PowerPoint presentation with a voice over. Students keep in touch with their professors and fellow students through e-mail, discussion boards and chat rooms.

Common Coursework

Students enrolled in MSCJ programs are generally required to take 36 semester hours of coursework to earn their degrees, with 24 of those hours being required classes and the other 12 being electives. Students enrolled in such programs strengthen their research and analysis, writing, leadership, administrative and presentation skills. Common subjects covered include criminology, law enforcement, the legal system and corrections.

Research Methods in Criminal Justice

Students learn how to conduct criminal justice studies and analyze the results. Some of the topics covered include sampling, the scientific method, research design, psychometry, observation, data collection and interpretation.

Ethics in Criminal Justice

Lessons in this course cover ethical issues in the criminal justice field, such as corruption and misconduct. Students are encouraged to advocate change in their professional lives when policies are deemed unethical.

Criminal Justice Policy

Students analyze and evaluate policies in different areas of the criminal justice field, such as corrections and policing. The course places emphasis on research and how it can be used to evaluate existing policies and assist in the creation of new ones.

Criminal Justice Systems

In this course, students take a look at criminal justice systems all over the world. Ways of reaching common goals within these systems despite their differences are discussed.

Career Information

After earning an MSCJ, graduates may seek advanced position in corrections, homeland security, court services, crime analysis and prevention, public safety and security management. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists earned a median salary of $53,020 in 2018. The BLS reported that from 2018-2028, employment in these areas is projected to increase by 3%, which is slower than average when compared to the national average.

Continuing Education

After graduation, students looking to further their education may choose to pursue a doctoral degree in criminal justice. These programs are sometimes offered online. Graduate certificates are another option open to those seeking further education, particularly in a specialized area like forensics or informatics, and they are offered online as well.

Individuals working in the criminal justice system who want to seek advanced employment may opt to purse a MSCJ. Offered completely online, these master's programs allow students to learn about legal ethics, criminal justice policies and criminal justice administration.

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