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Graduate Programs in Criminal Justice & Criminology

Dec 17, 2018

Students interested in advanced positions and/or research-based careers in criminal justice and criminology may pursue a graduate degree in the field. Learn about different program options, graduation requirements and admission standards.

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Graduate programs in criminal justice and criminology are available at the master's and doctoral levels. Students in these programs may participate in research opportunities and/or further specialize in a particular area of the field. Some of the master's degree programs may be available in flexible formats. Explore some of the similarities and differences between a few of the different available graduate programs.

Types of Graduate Programs in Criminal Justice and Criminology

Master of Arts in Criminal Justice and Criminology

Master of Arts (MA) in Criminal Justice and Criminology degree programs are often flexible and available in full- or part-time formats, as well as in on-campus, hybrid or online formats. Students can usually complete these programs in 2 years and may be able to further specialize in areas such as global security, victimology or corrections. These degree programs generally require around 33 credits and may offer a thesis option for students interested in conducting a research project. Some common courses for these programs may include topics in research methods/design for the field, justice administration, criminology theory and law.

Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology

Master of Science (MS) in Criminal Justice and Criminology degree programs are generally designed to prepare students for study at the doctoral level and/or for administrative and managerial positions in criminal justice and criminology. Students in these programs are likely to take core courses in similar subjects as the MA degree programs, as courses cover topics in criminal justice research methods, statistics, criminology theory and criminal justice policy. MS programs also range from 30 to 36 credit hours, and usually offer students a thesis option. If students do not wish to complete a thesis, they must complete a comprehensive exam or another culminating experience, such as a demonstration project. Most programs are on-campus, but some can be found online.

Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice and Criminology

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Criminal Justice and Criminology degree programs typically require core courses in theory as well as research, varying elective hours, a comprehensive exam and a dissertation. Students usually take core classes pertaining to criminal justice policies, criminology theory, research design, statistical analysis and data analysis to prepare for careers in the field and/or careers in research and academia. Programs can range quite a bit in the number of credits, with some requiring a minimum of 60 credits and others requiring 84 credits. Programs with more credits may require students to add 1-2 options or focus areas to their studies, but these programs could also allow up to 30 hours of previous master's degree credits to apply.

Common Entrance Requirements

Students applying to graduate degree programs in criminal justice and criminology usually need to hold a bachelor's when applying to master's programs or hold a master's degree for doctoral degree programs. Most commonly these degree programs do not need to be specifically in criminal justice and criminology, but applicants may be expected to have prior coursework and/or experience in criminal justice and criminology. Typically, these programs require students to meet a minimum GPA, which may range from a 2.8 all the way to a 3.75, depending on the program, and ask students to submit current GRE scores. Other common application materials include official transcripts, letters of recommendation and a personal statement. Some programs may also request a resume or CV, a writing sample (usually at the doctoral level) and/or require an interview process.

Master's and doctoral degree programs in criminal justice and criminology are readily available for interested students and usually include a culminating project, whether an exam, project, thesis or dissertation, depending on the degree level. Course topics for these programs are similar, but doctoral programs provide more research- and analysis-based coursework.

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