Doctorate in Criminal Justice programs, legal studies, and related programs, prepare students to create, interpret, and enforce the law in their communities. This discipline incorporates many unique concentrations, which may support a variety of legal and protective roles. For example, a Doctorate in Criminal Justice degree could help you in pursuit of your goals whether you’re a lawyer or legislator looking to advance your skills, an academic in pursuit of research opportunities, or work in law enforcement to keep your community safe.
Criminal justice and legal studies programs may not only discuss legal matters in theory, but also hone the leadership chops to put that knowledge into action.
Broadly, Doctorate in Criminal Justice Programs and legal studies programs, focus on the law. They discuss how it’s created, how it’s applied and enforced, and the impact it has on different communities. As this is such a large topic, many programs are designed more narrowly, instead focusing on one particular concentration area. Often, these concentration areas map to different applications of legal expertise. For example, some might skew toward law enforcement, while others focus on research or lawmaking.
Criminal Justice and criminalistics doctoral programs focus on the application of law as it relates to crime and law enforcement. Students might study the criminal justice system as a whole, including the courts, corrections, and crime prevention. Some programs may be designed to facilitate an active role in these systems. Others might take a more academic track, focusing on studying the impact of crime and law enforcement on individuals and communities.
Some doctorate programs in criminal justice or criminalistics offer students the option to further concentrate their curriculum. That may include the following examples.
These three concentrations may not be the only ones out there. Individual schools and programs may have a variety of potential tracks of study not listed here. For more information on these subjects areas and others, reach out to the school in question.
Forensic Science doctoral programs focus on the application of chemistry, biology, and related scientific disciplines in criminal investigations, court cases, and, to a lesser degree, civil cases. This highly technical field might take a variety of approaches and support an array of forensic science roles. For example, some might look specifically at analyzing and gathering evidence at a crime scene. Others might focus on chemical analysis in the lab. Still more might examine the human and behavioral element, as with forensic psychology. Forensic science may also have applications outside the realm of criminal investigation. It could be used in business, anthropology, and medicine for example. As such, potential students might find a diverse range of possibilities when searching for forensic science doctoral programs.
Doctorate in Homeland Security Programs bring together intelligence, security, military defense, technology and organizational studies. Doctoral programs may take a scholarly approach, using research methodologies to evaluate real domestic and international security concerns, and the strategies used to combat them. Or they might focus on taking that research data and applying it constructively, to formulate new defense strategies. Homeland security doctoral programs may also touch on related topics like military history, international security, and emergency and crisis management.
At the doctoral level, law enforcement programs are often referred to as Strategic Security. This dynamic field combines some elements of criminal justice and criminology with leadership and organizational knowledge, and topics like counterterrorism, intelligence, and protection management. Law enforcement doctoral programs often look toward potential leadership roles in government, nonprofits, and private defense corporations—meaning the curriculum may emphasize developing those types of skills and knowledge.
Legal studies doctoral programs could take a few different approaches to exploring the legal system. Many programs may focus on the practice of law in a courtroom setting. These could support those pursuing a career as a lawyer, or enhance the skills of experienced lawyers. However, that’s not the only option. Many doctorate in legal studies programs also take a scholarly approach. This means developing a deep understanding of the legal system or one aspect of it. Programs may entail researching those topics to examine how the criminal justice system plays out in today’s society. Others may look at how law enforcement impacts different communities. Programs may also focus specifically on academic pursuits. One example of this would be teaching about law in a university setting. Other programs might support political action, research about specific topics like ethnic or cultural experiences, or focus on the law as it applies in certain industries.
Depending on the doctorate in criminal justice program you enroll in, you might be able to earn several different types of degrees. In many cases, the type of doctorate in criminal justice degree being awarded has a direct relationship with the approach taken by the curriculum, or the type of expertise developed in that program. As such, depending on your personal or professional goals, you may have a strong preference for one over the others.
In addition to the above, on a case by case basis, you may encounter other types of degrees being awarded. This could include a Doctor of Public Administration, or a Doctor of Social Work, among others. As with the examples listed above, these may emphasize particular skills and knowledge unique to that degree type. For more information on the types of degrees you might be able to work toward in a program, and how that degree type influences the curriculum, reach out to the schools in question.
One major component in determining the right criminal justice doctoral programs for you—whether it fits into your life. Each doctoral candidate has different needs, responsibilities, and ways of learning, so not every program might offer the types of things you’re looking for. By identifying what format you prefer, you could narrow the list of contenders down to the ones that could really help you succeed.
In most cases, entry level employment in criminal justice, protective services, and legal professions could be found prior to the doctoral level. Some fields may only require an undergraduate degree or specialized training in order to get started. As such, many students pursuing a doctorate in criminal justice do so to support their ongoing careers, enhance their skills, or to move into a more advanced role.
Because criminal justice is so broad, a diverse range of career paths may be available. Many of these may have unique requirements or expectations. These could include on the job training, certification or licensure, which could vary from state to state.
A few examples of the types of careers one might pursue include the following.
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[i] bls.gov/oes/current/oes251111.htm | [ii] bls.gov/oes/current/oes333021.htm | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/legal/judges-and-hearing-officers.htm | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/legal/lawyers.htm