Online Graduate Degrees in Criminal Justice with Course Info

Find out about online criminal justice programs and in which graduate degrees they're most commonly offered. Get course descriptions, program info and online requirements to make an informed decision.

Essential Information

Criminal justice graduate studies are offered online at the master's and doctoral levels. Most distance learning graduate programs require students to produce a dissertation based on original research. While coursework is offered fully online, students may need to complete residencies on campus. Admission requirements typically include a bachelor's degree and qualifying scores from the GRE test.

Master's Degrees in Criminal Justice

Many accredited postsecondary institutions offer online master's degrees in criminal justice. Master of Arts and Master of Criminal Justice programs are generally for those who want to advance their existing position in the criminal justice field. In contrast, Master of Science programs are more research-intensive and offer students a foundation for continuing studies in a doctoral degree program. Students can usually earn a master's degree in 2-3 years.

Course Topics

A master's program in criminal justice incorporates studies in conceptual and theoretical frameworks. Students explore different subjects in political science, sociology and law and examine topics in civil liberties, offender rehabilitation and legal proceedings. Policy, procedures, institutions and administrative systems are discussed as well. Some schools may also offer studies in white-collar and youth crime. Course topics in a master's degree program may include:

  • Victimology
  • Penology
  • Forensic science
  • Police and society
  • Evidence and law
  • Statistics in criminology
  • Individual rights
  • Criminology research methods

Doctoral Degrees in Criminal Justice

While less common, online doctoral degrees are also available generally as a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program. Some programs may be solely focused on the study of criminal justice and offer specializations in such areas as organizational leadership, public administration, behavioral science or homeland security. Others may offer criminal justice as a concentration through a larger public safety or business administration Ph.D. program. Doctoral programs often require completion of at least 60 credits of graduate study.

Course Topics

Doctoral degree programs are designed to develop students' advanced research skills and knowledge of theories, trends and practices in the field. Individuals who complete a Ph.D. program can be prepared for work in academia, high-level administration or field-specific research. Course topics for a doctoral program may include:

  • Criminal law
  • Research design
  • Advanced statistics
  • Quantitative research methods
  • Qualitative research methods

Online Learning Requirements

In order to complete residency requirements, online graduate students often appear on campus a few times throughout their course of study to meet with faculty advisers and professors. Though students are often expected to complete assignments and course materials independently, some online programs may also require them to work in virtual groups to review case studies, with one leader appointed to submit assignments. Professors and peers are usually available through instant messaging and e-mail. In addition, participation in an online criminal justice graduate program involves utilizing everyday technologies, such as the Internet, Web cameras and video conferencing.

Graduate Admissions Requirements

Before starting an online graduate program, students need to hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Students seeking admission to a criminal justice graduate program might need to sit for the Graduate Record Examination; however, some programs don't require standardized test scores. A few online criminal justice graduate programs have applicants interview with an alumnus or faculty member.

Students can pursue online graduate degrees in criminal justice, though some residencies may be required. These master's and doctoral programs cover topics such as victimology, forensic science, criminal law, research methodology and statistical design.


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