Online Masters Degree in Criminology with Course Information

Find out about online criminology courses and in which master's degree programs they're most commonly offered. Get course descriptions, program info and online requirements to make an informed decision.

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Essential Information

Online master's degree programs in criminology are often designed for working professionals who need scheduling flexibility. These programs can equip students for leadership positions in different areas of the criminal justice system.

Master's programs typically take two years to complete, though some online criminology degrees can be earned in a year if students adhere to a rigorous, full-time schedule. In addition to coursework, some programs include practica. Distance learning programs in this area of study often lead to a Master of Science in Criminology or a Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Prospective students seeking admission to a criminology master's program must have a bachelor's degree, which may need to be in criminal justice, criminology or another relevant field. Some schools require applicants to submit resumes documenting their work experience as well as an essay outlining their educational and professional goals.

Common Coursework

Like those held on campus, online master's degree in criminology programs focus on various factors that shape the criminal justice system in the United States. Some of these factors include historical, philosophical, economic and political influences. Distance learners could be given the option to complete a thesis or non-thesis degree plan, the latter of which usually requires additional coursework and/or a final project. Most master's degree programs in criminology have the following basic courses in common.

Criminal Law

Students learn about selected rules, doctrines and principles of criminal law. Other topics include how to define a criminal, the sources of substantive criminal law and how common law principles of criminal responsibility have developed historically.

Criminological Theory

This course focuses on different aspects of criminological theory. Students will be exposed to empirical research that both supports and challenges the hypothesis and central concept behind each theory.

Criminal Justice Systems

Students are exposed to the structures, functions and processes of the criminal justice system. Students explore how the components of the criminal justice system, such as law enforcement, the courts, juvenile justice and corrections, are interrelated.


Victimology, which is the study of crime victims, is a relatively new field. This course covers the concepts and principles of victimology, an analysis of patterns and trends of victimization and an examination of the consequences associated with victimization.

Learning Environment

Students enrolled in an online degree program will use a number of technologies that approximate the experience of learning in the traditional classroom setting. They complete assignments and view lectures housed within a learning management system, such as WebCT or Blackboard. Tools used to facilitate interaction and participation in distance learning programs include the following:

  • Web-based VoIP
  • E-mail
  • Message boards
  • Chat rooms
  • Streaming video
  • Videoconferencing

Online master's programs in criminology may be completed totally through distance learning means. However, some schools may give students the option to complete a thesis or a practicum as a culminating experience, which would require on-site participation.

In conclusion, online master's degree programs in criminology offer flexibility in both scheduling and curriculum. Aside from a few fundamental courses in the field, students have the opportunity to tailor the program to their individual interests and needs.

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