Criminal Justice Master's Programs
What Is a Master of Science in Criminal Justice?
Masters in Criminal Justice and Legal Studies programs represent two sides of the legal system, and depending on your interests, either might provide the foundation for beginning, or expanding, your career. This degree is designed for those interested in developing or advancing administrative skills used in criminal justice.
Crime takes place in our neighborhoods, in the international sphere, in business and in cyberspace. All these sectors need a host of well-trained professionals including those who investigate crime, understand the criminal mind, create and uphold public policy and safety, and work in the legal and paralegal systems. Pursuing a Masters degree in Criminal Justice and Legal Studies may be a great fit if you are interested in advanced and relevant knowledge in any of these fascinating areas.
Masters in Criminal Justice and Legal Studies: Overview
Masters in Criminal Justice and Legal Studies programs comprise a host of possibilities. You might choose to study about law enforcement, corrections, first responders, politics, paralegal or legal fields. Each program may have its own prerequisites and admissions requirements, and may build on your prior undergraduate education. Graduate programs may be designed for current criminal justice administrators or those who seek a comprehensive understanding of legal procedures and how the judicial system operates. Some masters degrees are used as stepping-stones to PhD in Criminal Justice and Legal Studies fields, it all just depends on what you are studying.
Is Legal Studies the Same as Criminal Justice?
There may be a difference in these programs. A criminal justice degree often focuses on criminal behavior as well as treatment for it and its causes. A legal studies degree usually focuses on the law aspects of the process.
Did You Know? Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators are usually lawyers, retired judges, or business professionals with expertise in a particular field, such as insurance according to BLS.
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Choosing a Masters in Criminal Justice and Legal Studies Program
By the time you get to graduate school, you may already have a strong sense of what direction you want to take for your masters’ degree. It is important to differentiate between a Master of Science in Criminal Justice with an Emphasis in Legal Studies versus other Masters degrees in the category of ‘Criminal Justice and Legal Studies’.
What is a Master of Science in Criminal Justice program with an Emphasis in Legal Studies? This type of degree is designed for law enforcement, corrections, probation, and parole officers aspiring to other potential career opportunities, as well as individuals who want to learn about the law, social order, and justice in a more in-depth manner. Your program likely involves a capstone project and/or final written proposal, coursework in Legal studies such as international law and methods of legal research.
Some of the other subjects that students in this type of Criminal Justice Masters program might study could include:
- Law enforcement management
- Criminal justice theories and their applications
- Principles of police administration
- Leadership in the criminal justice system,
- Restorative justice versus
- Traditional punishment,
- Procedures for criminal investigations
- Psychology in the legal system, including
- Understanding the roles of expert witnesses, jury consultants, and criminal profilers
- Crisis management
- Criminal law and the criminal justice process
What Other Criminal Justice and Legal Studies Masters Programs are there?
As you might see from the subject selection, if you are interested in furthering your learning with an additional two-year commitment, you might choose accredited master’s programs that delve into any number of complex criminal justice topics.
Criminal Justice Masters programs might involve pursuing either a Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) with concentrations in various areas such as:
- Masters of Criminal Justice & Criminalistics Programs
- Masters of Forensic Science Programs
- Masters of Homeland Security & National Defense Programs
- Masters of Law Enforcement, Policing & Investigation Programs
- Masters of Legal Studies Programs
- Masters of Paralegal Programs
Masters in Legal Studies and Law Degrees
If you aspire to a career in the courtroom, you might pursue a Master of Law (LL.M.), Juris Doctor, Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) or look into a joint MS/JD program from an accredited school. These degrees fall within the category of ‘Masters in Criminal Justice and Legal” but they are profession-specific academic paths.
Fact: “Becoming a lawyer usually takes 7 years of full-time study after high school—4 years of undergraduate study, followed by 3 years of law school” according to BLS.
Campus or Online Masters in Criminal Justice & Legal Studies?
Once you have determined your field of study, consider whether you are looking at a graduate school you can physically attend, or whether distance-learning is more convenient. Many graduate schools offer online degrees that are the same as their campus format with the exception of the delivery method via web, to appeal to current professionals. It is certainly personal, but keep in mind:
If you are studying something like Forensic Science or Cybersecurity where there is likely some laboratory work, you may not get a fully online program.
Campus programs build interpersonal skills, team building and other necessary skills, so in some cases you might benefit more from being onsite.
Some of the listings you might explore could include:
What Can You Do with a Master’s in Criminal Justice?
This degree may enable a person to work as a cybersecurity investigator, forensic examiner, policy analyst, cyber defensive operator, or intelligence analyst, depending on the focus of their educational path.
Common question: ”What can I do with a legal studies (or fill in the blank) degree? Well, here’s the thing, a degree isn’t a guarantee of a job, but since crime doesn’t stop…you may be interested in some of these statistics:
- Employment growth for Forensic Science Technicians is projected to grow 16% from 2020 to 2030. (Source: BLS.gov)
- Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 12% from 2020 to 2030. (Source: BLS.gov)
Is It Worth Getting a Criminal Justice Masters Degree?
This is up to your personal goals within the career path. Some students may earn more. Others may qualify for a more advanced position than they have now. Below are the annual median salary and employment for the top metro areas in this field.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics actually has a fantastic PDF of potential careers in homeland security. Words of advice? Research the career then choose the academic path that is considered the best preparation.
Whether you are drawn to corrections, law enforcement, research, the behavior of criminals, the patterns of crime, DNA testing or legal work, there are numerous directions to take for advanced study. Why not investigate your options for a Masters degree in Criminal Justice or a Masters in Legal Studies degree and find one that aligns with your personal or professional goals!
Popular Schools with Masters in Criminal Justice
GradSchools.com offers 520 Criminal Justice Master’s Programs
Colorado State University Global
University of the Southwest
Johns Hopkins University
Southern New Hampshire University
Nova Southeastern University
California State University, Long Beach
Northeastern State University