Daily news headlines highlight the ever-increasing need for criminal justice professionals who can keep up with the changes in the field and have what it takes to bring criminals to justice — whether on the local, state or federal level.

Earning an online master's degree in criminal justice is one way to ensure you're on the front lines of this field and doing all you can to protect your community and its citizens from crimes. In addition, these degrees give you the expertise to help those who have already been victimized get the justice they deserve, as well as the resources they may need to help them recover from the experience.

Even related fields, such as information technology and financial services, have a need for highly-qualified investigators and criminal justice professionals with advanced degrees. Although the most obvious careers associated with this degree program often fall under the umbrella of criminal justice, there are several additional industries that employ graduates with advanced degrees in criminal justice, such as computer science, information technology security, finance and forensic science.

Whether you want to pursue a criminal justice profession or put your skills to use in another field, an online master's degree can help you achieve your goals. Continue reading for more information about these programs and what jobs you can get with a criminal justice degree.

Frequently Asked Questions

Generally, when you enroll in a master's in criminal justice degree program, you're able to take all of your classes online. However, it depends on the program. In some cases, students may be required to go to campus periodically to complete a capstone course or other special projects.

Yes. Criminal justice master's degree programs teach you advanced concepts in areas such as victimology, criminal behavior and crime causation and prevention, which make you more attractive when you pursue higher-level jobs. As a result, you have the potential to move up the ladder of your career and command higher salaries if you complete this advanced degree.

The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) is the agency that provides accreditation to criminal justice master's degree programs.


Master's in Criminal Justice Program Overview

Every criminal justice organization needs professionals who are knowledgeable about the nature of different types of crimes and how the people who commit them think. Criminal justice master's degree programs give you this insight so you can play a critical role in the justice system and help ensure that your community is safe. By taking coursework in cybercrime law, criminology theory, drug abuse policy and policing, you can learn advanced concepts and skills that employers look for when filling lucrative positions.

The following section outlines what is entailed in earning a criminal justice master's degree so you can make an informed decision about whether this program is the right choice for you.

Earning an Online Master's Degree in Criminal Justice

How long does an online Criminal Justice degree program take?

Depending on the program, you may be able to finish a master's degree in criminal justice online in about a year and a half to two years. If you enroll on a part-time basis, it takes around three years or more.

What are the requirements to start an online master's Criminal Justice degree?

If you're considering an online master's program, you should first plan on earning a criminal justice bachelor degree. Qualifying for a master's program depends a lot on each particular school's requirements. For example, some criminal justice master's programs have a minimum GPA requirement, usually 3.0, while others may insist you earn a B or better in prerequisite courses, such as research methods or criminal justice theory.

Why earn a master's online Criminal Justice degree?

An online criminal justice master's is a great way for you to advance your skills and knowledge. The program allows you to draw on your previous education and work experience in order to expand your career horizons.

Degree Timeline

Years one and two

During the first year of an online degree in criminal justice program, you can take general classes in order to learn the advanced theories and latest research. From constitutional law to cybercrime to corrections, this is an opportunity for you to get a diverse look at the field.

When you move on to the second year of the program, you can work on coursework in the specialization you choose, as well as elective classes.

Choose a specialization and take elective courses:

You can choose a specialization that can allow you to build on your general knowledge of criminal justice and focus on one specific area of the field. Also, a criminal justice master's degree program has electives available so you can explore other topics outside of your specialization to enhance your overall knowledge and make you a well-rounded professional.

Dissertation/Capstone Projects:

Depending on the online master's degree in criminal justice that you choose, you may be required to complete a capstone project. This project can be a culmination of all the work you completed throughout the program, where you can be required to demonstrate your understanding of the material.

Masters in Criminal Justice Concentrations

Online master's in criminal justice programs allow you to choose a concentration based on your interests and goals. The following are examples of some specializations that may be available in your department.

Fraud management. In the fraud management concentration, you can learn the anatomy of a fraud investigation and the methods that are used to conduct them, as well as prevent different types of fraud. You may take classes about fraud data analysis, finance and the specific laws governing fraud-related crimes.

Behavioral sciences. Students who want to understand why criminals do what they do can enroll in this specialization to get into the minds of those they're trying to apprehend. In addition, this concentration can allow you to get a better understanding of crime victims, so you can provide them with the assistance they need as you fight for their justice.

Crime analysis. Investigations and policy decisions are made based on data. Students who want to understand how data informs the criminal justice field can enroll in this specialization to learn the policies and procedures related to data-driven criminal justice strategies. They may take classes about data mining, intelligence analysis, information structures and algorithms.

Emergency management. If you're interested in applying your criminal justice knowledge to an emergency management career, this concentration can teach you about how to handle security-related issues that arise from natural disasters, accidents and other hazards.

Law and public policy. If you want to get a deep understanding of the law and how people in the criminal justice field navigate it, this specialization can allow you to learn about legal concepts and trends that impact the field. Coursework may address criminal justice research, issues currently being seen in the courts and victimology.

Career Outlook

What Can You Do with Master's in Criminal Justice?

Information Security Analyst Information security analysts with a criminal justice background usually focus on preventing and detecting cybersecurity threats, data breaches and other issues related to network security. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these workers provide corporations and government entities with the tools needed to keep their networks and data safe. However, job responsibilities are constantly changing due to the developing nature of cyberattacks and crimes.

Financial Examiner Financial examiners use their knowledge of complex data and financial instruments to detect criminal activities within the sphere of corporate or individual finance. They investigate financial fraud and help build a case against perpetrators using their knowledge of both the financial and the criminal justice fields. According to the BLS, many financial examiners work for government entities.

Forensic Science Technician Forensic science technicians work alongside criminal investigators and forensic scientists to find physical and biological evidence that can be used to prosecute criminals. These workers gather physical samples from crime scenes, take photos of evidence and document crucial details of crimes that have been committed in hopes of catching the perpetrator. Some forensic science technicians work in laboratories as opposed to crime scenes. Workers in this role take care of the brunt of evidence examination and analysis with the goal of building a case prosecutors can use during a criminal trial.

Chief of Police As police chief, professionals are responsible for overseeing all of the activities of a police department. Responsibilities include assigning activities to specific officers, creating budgets for the department and monitoring how the money is being used, forming and implementing crime prevention programs and developing the polices workers are expected to adhere to on the job.

Criminologist Criminologists take a deep dive into the minds of offenders in order to understand why they engage in illegal activities. These professionals conduct surveys, help lawmakers create policies on handling crime in a community, compile statistical data and make sense of it, and help leaders implement strategies to ensure that people on parole do not reoffend after release.

Criminal Justice Salaries by State

State NameAverage SalaryAnnual Job OpeningsProjected Job Growth Potential
New York$92,6007008.2%
Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Financial Aid for a Master's in Criminal Justice

Chances are, as you look for a criminal justice program that can meet your needs, you're also looking for a way to pay for it. Review the following table in order to find information about different avenues you can take for financial aid.

Source: Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of CollegeXpress, a division of Carnegie Dartlet. Copyright © 2020 by CollegeXpress.

Master's in Criminal Justice Certifications

Certified Paralegal

Offered by the NALA, this credential is designed for professionals who want to demonstrate their knowledge and dedication to the field.

Requirements: Paralegal training is required

Exam format: 120 multiple choice questions and an essay

How long does the certification last? One year

Certified Corrections Manager

The CCM, offered by the American Correctional Association, is for people in leadership positions who are responsible for the creation of policy and procedures, and the management of staff, within a corrections unit or program.

Requirements: Must be in a management position for at least two years

Exam format: 200 multiple choice questions

How long does the certification last? Three years

Certified Emergency Manager

International Association of Emergency Managers offers this certification for people who want recognition for their knowledge and experience.

Requirements: Must have at least an undergraduate degree and emergency management experience

Exam format: 100 multiple choice questions

How long does the certification last? One year

Certified Jail Supervisor

People who want to demonstrate their expertise in communications, management issues, equipment and support services can earn this certification from the American Jail Association.

Requirements: Must be a jail supervisor for a minimum of one year

Exam format: 250 multiple choice questions

How long does the certification last? Four years

Associations for Master's in Criminal Justice

In order to connect with other members of the criminal justice community, you may want to join industry organizations that allow you to keep abreast of what's going on in the field and network with other professionals.

The American Society of Criminology is dedicated to the needs of criminology practitioners and scholars. The association provides education resources and networking events to its members.

The IACP has been serving the needs of the policing community since 1893. Members of the group receive access to news, a magazine dedicated to the issues that matter most to police chiefs and opportunities to connect with each other at events.
This group offers information systems security education programs, career development services and networking opportunities from the international to the local chapter levels.
Founded in 1948, the AAFS has been offering services to diverse members of the forensic science profession, including document examiners, attorneys, criminalists, educators and digital evidence experts. The association has education, networking and awards for excellence in the field.