At the graduate level, a criminal justice degree may provide students with the opportunity to deepen their knowledge and engage in research on issues involving crime, justice and law enforcement. Criminal justice is a social science concerned with the practices and systems of government who are directed to uphold societal control of crime, deter and mitigate crime, and punish offenders.
The criminal justice system itself has three main facets. These are law enforcement, the courts, and corrections. Each of these subjects can become the focus of a degree in criminal justice, as might several others. Among these are criminalistics and forensic science, criminal psychology, and criminology.
written by Rana Waxman
A criminal justice degree is an program of study that may lead to a graduate certificate, masters or doctorate degree. The focus of a criminal justice degree is often on the theory, causes, and prevention of different types of crime. Many programs also discuss ethics, legal processes and the treatment and rehabilitation of offenders. Students who pursue a degree in criminal justice are likely to choose a program that mirrors personal and professional interests. This might be a desire to explore the U.S. criminal justice system, crime causation, corrections, criminal behavior, criminal evidence or policy analysis.
A criminal justice major might study any number of topics, from behavior sciences to management. Criminal justice degree programs often use an interdisciplinary style. They may blend courses in legal studies, sociology, political science, psychology, forensic science, public administration, urban studies, and philosophy. Most criminal justice graduate programs include core classes and elective courses along with research methods and applied projects. Some students may want to add an area of emphasis to further focus their studies.
DID YOU KNOW?
Criminal investigators need to be able to think critically, actively listen, and solve complex problems.i
Masters in Criminal Justice programs can take many forms, aside from the Master of Science (MS) in Criminal Justice. Some of these are other MS programs along with Master of Public Administration (MPA), Master of Business Administration (MBA), and Master of Arts (MA) in Psychology. Criminal justice might be at center stage – as in the case of a Master of Science in Criminal Justice. Or, it will be an emphasis area within the context of another discipline – such as business administration or forensic psychology. As a result, admissions material is likely to vary. Students may need to have earned their bachelors degree in a related field, as well as meet school-specific requirements such as minimum GPA.
A criminal justice and criminalistics major who continues their education with a masters degree may be prepared to pursue career advancement, and/or doctoral research. Masters programs tend to provide courses in research methods, statistical and policy analysis, strategy, and management. Most programs also require completion of a capstone course, as well as a research paper or thesis on criminal justice policies and practices.
A Master of Science in Criminal Justice may consist of about 36 credits, allotted to core topics and electives. In contrast to the MBA, the core topics tend to revolve around criminal justice specifically. Also, students may get to choose around 6 electives which may help them to build a professional identity, or anchor future research. Terrorism, hostage negotiations, criminal sexual behavior, psychopathology of criminal behavior and crime scene investigation are some examples. To get a sense of core criminal justice topics, see below.
A MPA in criminal justice degree is often a multi-disciplinary program that may help students develop their grasp of organizational management and public policy. In some universities, the MPA is a 36-credit program. However, some schools do offer an accelerated track for mid-career adults. Most MPA programs require a series of core courses. These may help students grasp how to make decisions, strategize, and manage finances in the public sector. Also, coursework may address professional ethics, public service, leadership techniques and human resources management. Along with this, students take courses specifically tuned into criminal justice issues. For instance, they might study emergency management, community engagement, and justice administration.
A MBA in criminal justice may help students develop analytic and managerial skills needed for a variety of law enforcement settings. In some universities, students may have to complete about 30 credit hours, which could take a full-time student about 16 months to complete. That said, program lengths vary, and a school may allow students to take 5 years to finish their program. A hallmark of the MBA is that students typically take a well-rounded set of core business courses (e.g. strategy, finance, operations). These are designed to help them to critically assess best practices in their discipline. Alongside their core, students may explore topics such as the juvenile offender, organized crime and a survey of forensic sciences.
Students interested in a terminal degree in criminal justice may find several options at this level. Some of these could include a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Criminal Justice, Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) in Criminology, and Doctor of Social Work (DSW). Applicants to some criminal justice PhD programs may need to have earned a masters degree in a related field, and meet school-specific requisites.
Doctorate programs in criminal justice often prepare students to pursue careers in postsecondary education, research, or public policy.ii While the focus of each program will vary, they often seek answers and solutions for better crime control. Students are usually exposed to advanced research methods and criminal justice theory. In addition to all the core coursework, students typically complete a dissertation prior to graduation.
The PhD in Criminal Justice is a research-focused doctoral degree. In some universities, students may be required to take 60 to 96 credits, which are allotted to core courses, statistical analysis, research methods and dissertation work. Also, due to the nature of a PhD, it is common for students to choose an area of emphasis. Leadership, behavioral sciences and juvenile justice are some examples. While core PhD courses are set by the school, a few possible topics are itemized below.
The DSW in Criminal Justice is a professional doctorate that may be aimed at social work professionals who work in public safety fields. Coursework is likely to take on advanced social work theory and best practices for both offenders and victims. This may help students develop the intervention skills used in individual and group therapy. At the same time, students might explore courses in policy analysis, as well as some of the social issues that contribute to criminal behavior.
The DBA is a professional doctorate degree in business administration that allows students to pursue a track in criminal justice. This type of degree might appeal to current executives who hope to pursue senior leadership. Like the MBA, the DBA program requires students to take a set of core business topics (e.g. strategy and management theory). In addition, students usually take courses in research methods and analysis. For the emphasis in criminal justice, coursework might explore topics such as juvenile delinquency, adult crimes, crime families, and gangs. In addition, subjects such as law enforcement practices, criminal profiling and ethics may be discussed with a point of view towards solutions and critical analysis.
The PsyD in Criminology and Justice Studies is a professional doctorate with a strong focus on research in the behavioral sciences. One of the key elements of this degree is that it covers the biological bases of behavior along with courses in family systems theory and group process. Coursework usually delves into adult psychopathology, treatment and assessment. Moreover, this type of program may foster insight into the juvenile justice system, and criminal justice processes. Students may have the opportunity to explore the various links between crime and mental health, drugs, and addiction.
Graduate certificates in criminal justice may aim to provide students from various academic backgrounds some key knowledge of a single topic in the field. Consequently, they may be helpful to those already employed within the system. For instance, a few themed courses in social justice might help a student acquire a better grasp of current research, theories and practices at play in the American criminal justice system.
Often about 15 credits, a graduate certificate in criminal justice is usually shorter-term than a full degree. Most programs include a set sequence which may allow students to pursue one or two electives. Certificate programs may also be used to earn credits toward a criminal justice graduate degree. The ability to transfer credit varies by school, so follow up directly to learn more.
Those whose justice degree is a platform for potential career advancement or focused research might want to choose a program with a specific area of interest. Potential options include financial crime, social justice, behavior analysis or legal studies. The point is that each school offers something unique which may help you personalize your studies to mirror your goals.
Students who pursue a criminal justice degree in corrections are likely to explore the law enforcement leadership skills that are needed to manage complex risks and disasters. Coursework might discuss issues such as prison reform, special populations and the legal mandates of correctional facilities. Some corrections programs also explore topics such as the juvenile justice system and the social context of delinquency.
There are many options for those who want to focus their criminal justice degree in criminal psychology. As a broad field, criminal psychology includes programs in behavior analysis, criminology and forensic psychology. Some programs are designed to broaden insight and skills into the biological, psychological, and social factors that impact criminal behavior. Students may be able to focus their degree to learn about family violence, sex offender behavior, cybercrimes, terrorism and police psychology.
Criminology is the scientific study of crime as a social phenomenon. Graduate study in criminal justice and criminology might go in-depth into a discussion of the administration of justice in the U.S. Coursework for this major might delve into the causes of crime, as well as different types of crime and their consequences. For instance, students might explore the factors that contribute to gang formation, gang activities, and the various policy and other responses to gangs. In addition, courses might cover forensic sciences topics. For instance, analytical methods of criminalistics and crime scene analysis and records.
Whether you earn your criminal justice degree online or on-campus, look for programs that are offered from regionally accredited institutions. Accreditation is a voluntary process for schools. They put themselves under scrutiny of an outside agency who vets their curriculum, financial stability, faculty and student services. If a school meets the set of standards, it is approved for a period. Secondary approval might come from outside professional agencies. The Accreditation Council of Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) is one example. These bodies accredit schools and programs with an eye to a specific field of study. To learn more about schools' accreditation, contact programs directly or visit the accrediting organization's website.
Criminal justice and criminalistics is a dynamic field of study with many options for graduate study. Find the criminal justice degree to match your needs. All you do is refine by subject (criminal justice, corrections, criminal psychology or criminology). Then, filter by degree (certificate, masters or doctorate), and format (online, on campus). Or, you can just search for criminal justice & criminalistics degree programs by location. A list of programs will be generated. Easily compare them, follow the link for details and just as simply, contact the providers with the on-page form. Take the next step now!
[i] onetonline.org/link/summary/33-3021.03 | [ii] onetonline.org/link/summary/25-1111.00