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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
Applicant must be a full-time undergraduate or graduate student (enrolled in at least 12 semester hours, or equivalent per term) at an accredited four-year college or university pursing a declared major in either accounting, business and finance, or criminal science. Junior college, community college, and high school students including graduating seniors are not eligible to apply. Application, official transcript, three letters of recommendation (including one from a Certified Fraud Examiner or local Association chapter), original essay explaining why applicant deserves the scholarship, and how fraud awareness will affect his or her professional career development, are required to be submitted.
Applicant must be a senior who has a minimum 3.0 GPA and who has demonstrated the finest qualities of leadership through participation in campus organizations and has rendered service of significant benefit to the campus community.
Applicants must be full-time students in their junior year at Jacksonville State University. Students must be majoring in criminal justice and be from the Calhoun/Clebourne County area.
Applicant must be enrolled in a four-year college or university program in the United States with an interest in the legal or criminal justice fields. Applicant must be actively pursuing a degree in one of the following areas of study: communications, criminal justice, English, history, journalism, political science, or pre-law studies. Essay required.
Applicants must be enrolled in college, law school or other masters level equivalent and pursuing a career in the criminal justice field. Students must create a video explaining how they plan on using their education to make an impact on the criminal justice field.
Applicant must be a U.S. citizen. The present emphasis is in probation and parole, and it may include related correctional services.
Applicants must be enrolled as full-time students at the University of Arizona. Students must be entering their junior or senior year or be a transfer student. Applicants must be majoring in criminal justice studies and demonstrate financial need and an interest to work in the criminal justice field.
Applicants must be currently enrolled at Jacksonville State University as an undergraduate majoring in criminal justice with an emphasis on corrections. Students must attend classes in at least one of the summer sessions between May and August. Applicants must submit application along with essays.
Applicant must be a United States citizen or permanent resident who is a graduating high school senior or currently enrolled in a college or university pursuing an associates or bachelor's degree in one of the following areas: computer forensics, corrections, criminal justice, forensic psychology, homeland security, law enforcement, and sociology with law/criminal emphasis.
Applicants must be currently enrolled as graduate students in criminal justice at Jacksonville State University. Students must attend classes in at least one summer session between May and August. Applicants must submit essays along with the application.
Applicant must be a student currently enrolled in an accredited undergraduate, graduate or law program in the United States. Applicant must possess an interest in social justice. Minimum 3.0 GPA, resume, essay, and unofficial transcript required.
Applicants must be currently enrolled at Jacksonville State University seeking a degree in criminal justice with a concentration in law enforcement. Students must attend classes in at least one summer session between May and August. Applicants must submit essays along with application.
Applicants must be undergraduate students at Jacksonville State University and majoring in criminal justice. Students should have a concentration in forensic investigations. Applicants must attend classes in at least one of the summer sessions between May and August. Students must submit essays along with their application.
Applicant must have 64 credits and be able to demonstrate academic achievement and financial need.
Applicant must be currently enrolled in post-secondary education or a high school senior/recent high school graduate pursuing post-secondary education in the criminal justice field. Minimum 3.0 GPA required.
Applicant must be a graduating high school senior interested in pursuing a career in crimial justice or law enforcement.
Applicant must identify as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgender and be pursuing a career in law enforcement by attending a basic training program.
Applicant must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and a minimum combined SAT I score of 1500 (composite ACT score of 21).
Applicant must be a first-time freshman who is majoring in one of the following areas: anthropology, criminal justice, economics, geography, health administration, political science, social psychology, social work, or sociology.
Applicant must be enrolling as a college senior or above at a four-year public or nonprofit college or university in Oregon pursuing a degree in accounting, business, criminal justice, finance, law, law enforcement, or risk management. Minimum 3.25 GPA required.
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
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
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
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
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.