A Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice can lead to a variety of advanced careers in the field of law enforcement at the local, state and federal level. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in protective service occupations is expected to grow by 3% in the years from 2019 to 2029, which will result in an addition of nearly 95,200 new jobs. If you want to become a part of this growing career field, getting a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice can be a way to do that.
The following guide provides detailed data on a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice, including admission requirements, curriculum and potential career options.
Should I Get a Master’s in Criminal Justice?
A Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice degree can help students develop a variety of career-enhancing skills that can eventually enable them to land more advanced jobs. Most master’s programs place a strong emphasis on research methodology and statistical analysis, though specializations and curriculum would vary greatly by school. Some programs also offer concentration options such as forensics, homeland security, cybercrime or policing. In addition to that, master’s level degrees often require the completion of a research project or thesis.
With an advanced level degree such as a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice, graduates can gain a competitive advantage in the job market, which can ultimately result in higher salaries and better career prospects.
What Can I Do with a Master’s in Criminal Justice?
A Master’s in Criminal Justice prepares graduates to take on roles in a broad range of fields, such as law enforcement, forensic science, information security and postsecondary education. Government agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) prefer hiring graduates of advanced degrees in criminal justice or a related science. Let’s take a look at some of the most common career options that graduates of a Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree would have.
- Information Security Analysts: These professionals plan and design security measures to protect an organization’s network and systems. They are involved in helping their organization create a robust security plan, along with a comprehensive disaster recovery plan.
- Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary: These professionals teach coursework in criminal justice, law enforcement, administration and corrections. This category includes individuals who are purely involved in teaching and also those who are involved in researching along with teaching.
- Police and Detectives: These professional law enforcement personnel are responsible for protecting the life and property of people in their jurisdiction. Depending on the exact job title, police and detectives perform a wide variety of duties, such as responding to emergency calls, patrolling assigned areas and observing activities of suspects.
- Forensic Science Technicians: These professionals are responsible for helping with criminal investigations by collecting, analyzing and documenting evidence from a crime scene. Many technicians specialize in crime scene investigation or laboratory analysis. Typical job duties of forensic science technicians include taking photographs of a crime scene, recording observations, collecting evidence and reconstructing crime scenes. In laboratories, they may perform chemical and microscopic analyses on evidence collected from the crime scene along with exploring potential links between criminal activity and suspects.
How to Choose a Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree?
While looking for a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice, there are several factors that students must keep in mind. Thorough research into the available programs must be done before reaching a decision to enroll in a particular criminal justice program. Let’s take a look at some of the important aspects that aspiring graduates should keep in mind.
- Accreditation Status: Accreditation is one of the most important things to look for when choosing a criminal justice degree. Employers tend to look for applicants who have degrees from accredited institutes. In addition to that, accreditation is a must if you plan to apply for a federal student loan. The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) is one of the most well-known accrediting organizations for bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice.
- Cost of the Degree: Another major deciding factor when selecting a master’s degree in criminal justice is the cost of the program. The cost of a degree can vary widely depending on the program and location. Tuition fees vary greatly between public and private institutions, with private colleges being relatively more expensive.
- Length of the Degree: Students enrolled in a full-time master’s degree in criminal justice can complete the program in two years. However, those enrolled in part-time programs might be spending a longer than standard time in completing their degree requirements. Students who have family commitments to take care of might prefer going for part-time programs or online programs that allow remote learning and greater flexibility.
- Format of the Degree: A master’s degree in criminal justice can be earned in a traditional on-campus format, online or a hybrid format, depending on the student preference.
Admission Requirements for a Master’s in Criminal Justice Program
The admission process for a Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree can seem daunting at first. However, starting early and staying on top of all admission requirements and deadlines can make the entire process simple and straightforward. Students will typically be required to have a bachelor’s degree in majors such as criminal justice, business, technology or liberal arts. In addition to that, some programs might require students to have a certain amount of professional experience, along with meeting a minimum GPA criteria.
Aspiring criminal justice graduates will have to ensure that they provide the university with all relevant admission materials. These would include documents like the application form, official transcripts, test scores and letters of recommendation. Students will also have to submit an application fee.
Aspiring graduates are advised to check the admission requirements for the program they intend to apply to, since these requirements tend to vary from institute to institute.
Concentrations offered for a Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree
Master’s Degrees in Criminal Justice typically offer a common set of foundational courses along with the option for a specialized concentration in any of the major areas of criminal justice. Concentration options would vary from school to school. Some common options include concentrations in Cybersecurity and Cybercrime, Homeland Security, Public Administration, Forensic Technology and Corrections. Students can go for a specialization that interests them and is also offered by the university they intend to enroll in.
Coursework in a Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree
Most Master’s in Criminal Justice Degrees would require completion of a number of core courses in statistics, theory and research methodologies. Typical curriculum you can expect to find in a 2-year long master’s degree in criminal justice would include courses such as Cybercrime, Research Methodology in Criminal Justice, Policing in Society, Race, Crime and Justice and the Correctional System in the US. Please note that the coursework of a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice would vary from institute to institute, therefore, students are advised to get in touch with the admission boards of the schools they intend to apply to.
How Long Does it Take to Complete a Master’s in Criminal Justice?
Typically, a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice would take 2 years to complete. Some students opt for the fast track option that may take as low as 18 months to complete. Part-time and online study options are also available with this degree, which typically take 2 years or longer to complete, depending on the exact program specifications. Coursework for a traditional master’s degree typically ranges between 30 and 40 credits. The length of the program would ultimately depend on the specific program requirements and the number of courses a student completes in each term.
How Much Can I earn with a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice?
The amount of money you can earn after completing a master’s degree in criminal justice depends on the career path you choose and the amount of experience you have. Let’s take a look at the salary data for some of the common career paths after a criminal justice degree.
- Information Security Analysts: As per data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analysts made an annual mean income of $107,580 in May 2020. The top paying industry for this occupation was Electronic Shopping and Mail-Order Houses, with an annual mean wage of $132,150. The state that paid the highest amount to these professionals was California, with an annual mean wage of $125,990.
- Detectives and Criminal Investigators: According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Detectives and Criminal Investigators made an annual mean income of $89,300 in May 2020. The highest paying industry for this occupation was the BLS category Federal Executive Branch, with an annual mean wage of $111,880. The top paying state for these professionals was Alaska, with an annual mean wage of $126,340 in May 2020.
- Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary: As per the latest statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary made an annual mean income of $74,740 in May 2020. The highest paying industry for this occupation was Junior Colleges, with an annual mean wage of $77,890. The top paying state for this occupation was California, with an annual mean wage of $123,990 in May 2020.