Is a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice Worth It?

Jun 22, 2018

Determining if a master's degree in criminal justice is something you should pursue isn't just about your earning potential, but also how it could affect your career. Within this article we will explore each of these topics and touch upon the degree requirements.

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In determining whether to pursue a Master's in Criminal Justice you not only have to look at what type of earning potential it gives you, but also how it will aid in expanding your career choices. Read on to find out degree and program requirements and a breakdown of the salary for common jobs associated with this degree.

Degree Program Information

Those who wish to secure a Master's in Criminal Justice must typically have a GPA of 3.0 and often need to have their Bachelor's in Criminal Justice or a similar field of study. In addition, they are usually required to take 30 to 40 credit hours in courses like criminology, ethical leadership and public policy with an average cost of $23,000 and time requirement of two years. Credit hours and time will vary depending on the college and on how much time individuals devote to coursework.

Master's Degree in Criminal Justice: Salary/Jobs

Obtaining a master's in criminal justice gives job applicants a wide range of skills that will allow them to work in various associated fields. Individuals learn how laws were created and how to implement them as well as why certain individuals are prone to breaking them. Although some of the positions listed below only require a bachelor's degree, having the knowledge and skills learned in a Master's in Criminal Justice degree program may increase their earning potential and give them a better chance of promotions and raises. The table below provides a basic breakdown of the earning potential, job growth, and basic education level requirements for several pertinent criminal-justice related fields in which having a master's may prove beneficial.

Job Title Salary for Top 10% of Employees(2017)* Job Growth(2016-2026)* Entry-level Education Requirements
Forensic Psychologist $126,140 (psychologists, all other) 14% (psychologists, all other) Master's
Private Detectives and Investigators $86,730 11% Bachelor's
Forensic Science Technicians $95,600 15% Bachelor's
FBI Agent $119,611** 8% Bachelor's
Postsecondary Teachers $131,390 15% Master's

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

Master's Degree in Criminal Justice Careers

Forensic Psychologist

Forensic psychologists specialize in the study of the thoughts and behaviors of criminals. These psychologists research the reasons why individuals commit crimes in the first place to help police curve crime activity as well as determine how likely it is that a person will re-offend down the road. Having studied human behavior and how the mind works through their coursework, those with a master's will be well suited for this position. While the median salary is $77,030, the top ten percent within this field can expect to earn $126,140, according to the BLS.

Private Detectives and Investigators

Private detectives and investigators gather information related to personal finances or legal matters and analyze it in accordance with the task they are given. They often investigate cases involving insurance fraud and help law enforcement with filling in gaps in the information that they have already collected. Additionally, they use various surveillance techniques and other tactics that are sometimes out of the scope of normal law enforcement. Through studying the law and understanding criminal behavior, those with a master's will be well-equipped for this career.

Forensic Science Technicians

Forensic science technicians use the skills and tools they have learned through their education to assist in analyzing crime scenes to determine how evidence should be collected and cataloged within the system. In addition, individuals within this field use data to determine if there is a direct link between a suspect and a criminal act that has taken place. Having studied human behavior and learned how to create various data systems, those with a master's should be eligible for promotions more quickly than those without and will have the expertise to work on a wider range of cases.

FBI Agent

Graduates who go into this job will be tasked with gathering evidence along with observing the behavior of and interviewing potential suspects. They analyze data to determine the cause of criminal activity and help to coordinate the direction and focus of an investigation. With a master's degree, applicants will have educational training in the areas that are necessary for conducting day-to-day activities as an agent and they will have a deeper understanding of how and why crimes take place. Those who wish to pursue this job can expect to earn an average of $43,441, according to

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers help to develop and craft courses at a university level that are in line with the graduation requirements for their given university program. They routinely give lectures to undergraduate students as well as assist them with completing their graduate program, and also carry out new research into the field. A Master's in Criminal Justice is typically the minimum education required to teach this subject at the collegiate level.

Having a Master's in Criminal Justice will allow you to obtain the skills and tools necessary to expand your career choices. It will give you a more in-depth look at human criminal behavior and allow you to have a better understanding of how to analyze all points of data.

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