Criminal Justice & Legal Studies Degree Programs
What Is a Criminal Justice Graduate Degree?
A criminal justice graduate degree is often found as a PhD or Masters in Criminal Justice. Such programs may touch on ways to enforce the law, national and cyber security issues.
At the master’s level, a criminal justice degree may also cover managerial topics. How to lead investigations or oversee emergencies. PhD and Doctor of Criminal Justice programs may place more weight on research and policy.
What Can You Do with a Criminal Justice Degree?
There are many different career paths where a criminal justice degree may be useful. Some of these are areas show faster than average growth which may translate to more jobs.
One area that is growing is cybersecurity. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), estimates that this field will grow by 35% over the next decade. Demand is high because cyberattacks are on the rise and there is a skills gap in the workforce.
Another area of faster than average growth is business continuity. In fact, the need for management analysts is growing by 11%, per the BLS. This is one way to apply skills to improve IT systems in health care or homeland security.
If you prefer sleuthing, it is also a perfect time to look for jobs in forensic science. The BLS also reported that the need for technicians is growing by 11% again, much faster than for other careers. Yet other jobs exist in law enforcement, investigation and criminalistics.
What are the Benefits of Getting a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice?
There are three reasons why earning a masters degree in criminal justice may be helpful.
For one, it may help you edge out the competition. One area where this applies is for careers in forensics. State and local governments intend to hire, and a master’s degree might help your resume stand out.
Programs at this level also focus less on intro courses and more on decision skills. As such, many employers today prefer candidates with masters or MBAs. This is happening with Info Sec analysts, management analysts and corporate jobs.
Third, a masters in criminal justice may help you earn more. One study compared average salaries of security analysts. It found that those with a grad degree earned 18% more than those with a bachelors degree.
Related to the above, is a future goal of continuing your education. At a certain level of professional experience, you may want to step into a teaching and research.
There is a growing need for schools for criminal justice and law enforcement teachers too. For jobs in postsecondary schools, people need a PhD.
|Metro Area||Annual Mean Salary||Employment|
|Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA||$93,310||70|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||$91,150||970|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||$80,430||220|
What Jobs Can You Get with a Criminal Justice Master’s Degree?
A masters or MBA in criminal justice may help you step into leadership careers in public, private and government sectors. It may also lead to career advancement and more opportunities. Below are some popular jobs and the average salary you might find for careers in schools for criminal justice.
Popular Criminal Justice Graduate Degrees
Criminal justice graduate degrees are reported by the National Center for Education Statistics under the category of homeland security, law enforcement, firefighting and related protective. Services.
What is the Difference Between a MS in Legal Studies and a MS in Criminal Justice?
Masters in legal studies and criminal justice degrees share many features. As sister fields, you may find overlapping courses. But there are some differences to watch for that may help you plan out your studies.
MS in Legal Studies
A masters in legal studies focuses on the laws and the system of justice. This includes anything to do with courtrooms, legal documents and proceedings. As a result, many students may use it as a precursor to law school.
If your interest still lies in criminal behavior you might pursue an MLS in criminal justice. This may mean central courses covering areas like contracts, torts and criminal law. You’d also likely take classes in juvenile law, human trafficking and victimology.
MS in Criminal Justice
A masters in criminal justice focuses on law enforcement. It often looks at issues that relate to law, crime and the administration of justice in society. This may studying areas such as corrections, juvenile justice, and homeland security
In taking this point of view, there’s also an administrative theme that weaves through. For instance, it may discuss ways to resolve issues through policy planning. Or the finer points of putting public policy into action.
Yet other themes are management-related. How to divide resources, deliver services, manage personnel and finances. So, while some may use the degree to prep for law school, it may also refine a capacity to lead and make hard decisions.
Criminal Justice Degree Guide
MS in Legal Studies
MS in Criminal Justice
Length of Program: 1.5 to 2 years full-time, 55 credits
Length of Program: 2 years full-time, 36 credits
This program studies the law, legal terminology, and procedures. It may help you develop analytical skills useful to research and problem solving.
This program studies issues that relate to crime, law and the administration of justice. It may help you develop managerial decision skills relating to finance, personnel and delivery of services.
Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission.
Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission.
No specific program accreditation but, member of the Academic Alliance of the FBI National Academy Associates, Inc. (FBINAA).
In sum, a masters in legal studies may prep you to understand the law. You’ll general study process and procedure, as well as how to resolve conflicts. The research aspect also may help you make sense of jurisprudence even if you decide not to practice law.
Masters in criminal justice tend to focus on criminal behavior. The reasons behind it, how to treat it and ways to address larger issues through policy and process. It may help you grow as a leader, able to resolve key issues within the public sectors.
Do you want to research law and public policy as a thought leader? A PhD in Criminal Justice may suit these goals. Other programs include Doctor of Business Administration and Doctor of Criminal Justice. DBA and DCJ degrees usually focus on advanced problem solving and executive decision skills.
What are Types of Criminal Justice Degrees?
Typical criminal justice degree programs draw content from many disciplines. Thus, there are many types of degrees at both the masters and doctoral levels.
In a general program, one often examines the system from top to bottom. Your courses may take the perspective of industry leaders. People who are at the forefront of decisions, policy and management. This means, you may take a look at both up-to-date research and tactics. Common core topics include:
- Criminological Theory
- Law Enforcement and Policing
- Crime Data Analysis
- Research, Policy, Planning and Judicial Process
|State||Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
The list below includes some common types of criminal justice degrees and concentrations. You may be able to combine areas of interest to shape your studies and career choice.
Criminal Investigation focuses on criminal acts and how to solve them. It usually explores different methods. This means learning about many types of violent crimes. From sexual deviance and environmental to juvenile crimes. Other courses may speak to themes like supervision. How to manage and investigative unit and processes.
Criminal Justice Management
Criminal Justice Management studies the field through the lens of business and policy. It may help you to understand the decision process. Things like setting a budget. Or how to hire and recruit, oversee personnel, divide resources and lead. You are also likely to study community relations and issues that relate to it.
Cybersecurity, Cyber Intelligence
Cybersecurity degree programs address crime that takes place online. It is a growing concern that takes skills in IT and leadership. Also called an information security degree, it may prep you to protect sensitive data. Securing computer networks and spotting problems before they happen is crucial too. Other topics may help you conduct a forensic analysis of cybercrime or financial crimes.
Forensic Science grad programs meld crime lab work with studies in variety of analytical methods. It relates to investigations and how to solve crime using science. As such, it often studies forensic biology and chemistry, toxicology and trace evidence.
In this category, you may also pursue an MS in Forensic Psychology. Forensic psychology studies criminal behavior and what motivates it. This type of program may suit those who work within the justice system. Or, with law enforcement, the courts, corrections, and departments of victim services.
A concentration in digital forensics may appeal to those who prefer fighting crime in the dark web. This type of investigations explores fraud, money-laundering, and more. Programs of this nature may prep you to pursue certifications as Certified Cyber Investigations Expert’s (CCIE’s).
Law Enforcement and Analysis
Law Enforcement and Analysis studies the causes of crime. It then translates these concepts to policy. In covering terrorism and homeland security it also explores topics in policing. Other courses help build decision skills for those who manage security ops. Related programs include emphasis in Federal Law Enforcement, Policing and Corrections.
Homeland Security and National Defense
National Security programs focus on big picture safety issues. They often help you gain the skills to tackle complex homeland security problems. This includes issues like terrorism and counterterrorism. But also relates to other threats that endanger the security of the United States. Cybercrime, political violence and religious crimes are a few.
Related concentrations include Leadership and Policy, Homeland Security and Emergency Management, International Affairs.
Legal studies graduate programs encompass several degrees. A Master of Legal Studies (MLS) studies the law and legal system. This usually includes classes in torts, ethics and contracts. For those who want a first degree in law, there are Juris Doctor (JD) law programs. If you already have a first degree in law, you might explore a Master of Laws (LLM) degree.
Paralegal studies degrees look at the inner workings of the U.S. legal process and apply that knowledge to litigation, trial, and settlement cases. You may also learn to apply this knowledge to litigation, trial, and settlement cases. Yet other coursework relates to legal research and writing.
What Should I know About Accreditation Criminal Justice Schools?
Many accredited criminal justice schools offer masters and doctoral programs. Studying at one of these schools, you may be able to:
- Use transfer credits
- Apply for federal financial aid
- Expect your program to adhere to quality standards
There is no one agency that accredits specific criminal justice graduate programs. That said, there is a certifying body in the field of cybersecurity. It is the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants, also known as EC-Council. Through this agency, one may pursue specific certifications such as:
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI)
- Network Security Administrator (ENSA)
- Certified Security Analyst (ECSA)
Also, some schools are National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE). This is through a joint sponsorship by two agencies. The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The CAE designation applies to cyber defense and cyber operations programs.
Related to this, some accredited schools are members of criminal justice associations. One is the Academic Alliance of the FBI National Academy Associates, Inc. (FBINAA). Its members offer degree programs for law enforcement executives.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Criminal Justice Graduate Degree?
Many masters in criminal justice programs take a full time student from one to two years to complete. Most range from 30 to 36 credits, so if you max your course load or have transfer credits it may take one year. Otherwise, the norm is two.
For a PhD, DBA or DCJ degree, you might need anywhere from 2 to six years. There are several variables including transfer credits, course load and extra research.
|University||# of Credits Required||Start Dates||Minimum Months to Complete|
18 – 20 months
How Much Does It Cost to Get A Criminal Justice Master’s Degree?
The average cost of Master’s in Criminal Justice degree from a public institution is $11,617 per year. This means you will be able to find programs both more affordable and more expensive than the average.
To give specific examples, this visualization shows graduate tuition costs of 4 institutions with Criminal Justice Graduate Programs as reported by the NCES. We have then compared those costs to the typically most affordable and most expensive college options, also as reported by NCES.
|Instate/Out Of State Tuition||School|
Average Public Institution University Tuition
Average Private For Profit Institution Tuition
Average Private Nonprofit Institution Tuition
What are the Costs per Credit for a Master’s or Doctorate in Criminal Justice?
Cost per credit of course is different at every College or University. State Universities are also likely to have in state costs vs out of state costs. Below are a few examples of the cost per credit as reported by each one of these institutions.
|University||# of Credits Required||Cost Per Credit||Tuition Cost|
written by Rana Waxman
Popular Schools with Criminal Justice Legal Studies
GradSchools.com offers 556 Graduate Schools with Criminal Justice Degree
Colorado State University Global
Grand Canyon University
Fairleigh Dickinson University
Michigan State University
University of Maryland Global Campus
Nova Southeastern University
Nova Southeastern University