Master’s in Criminal Justice (MCJ) Career Guide

Overview

What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s Criminal Justice Program?

An online master’s in criminal justice explores legal and law
enforcement topics to enable future careers in law, policing and
forensics. Criminal justice degrees dig into the reasons behind laws,
the ways those laws are most beneficially upheld and the impact of
enforcement. Many entry-level criminal justice jobs can be filled by
individuals with a bachelor’s degree in that field, while continued
studies towards a master’s enable candidates to enter higher-level
positions. An online degree in criminal justice allows students to
continue in the job they already hold while completing studies to
advance in their current field or change careers entirely. In addition,
the flexibility of an online master’s in criminal justice allows for
studies to be completed during the time students have available and
without the hassle of having to relocate to take classes.Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Criminal Justice

CONCENTRATION DESCRIPTION CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR
Behavioral Analysis/Management Behavioral analysis and management concentrations help students understand how behaviors are evaluated and which techniques and paradigms lead to successful behavioral issue resolutions. Behavioral analyst, forensic investigator
Federal Law Enforcement The federal law enforcement concentration prepares students to work in law and legal enforcement at the federal level, particularly exploring the operation of various federal agencies. FBI, CIA, DIA or DOJ agent
Intelligence An intelligence concentration allows students to hone investigative skills through the study of trends and patterns, as well as statistical analysis, to lead to successful operations, criminal resolutions and crime prevention. Intelligence officer
Homeland Security A concentration in homeland security grounds students in the best approaches to conducting safety and security analyses and developing encompassing plans for threat responses and proactive threat preparedness. Homeland security agent, ICE agent, TSA officer
Cybercrime/Cybersecurity The cybercrime/cybersecurity concentration focuses on cyber legalities and policies, cyber investigations and forensic investigations in the cyber realm. Criminologist, cybercrime investigator

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Criminal Justice

A master’s in criminal justice involves core competency courses that
enable both breadth and depth of understanding of legal and law
enforcement issues. Those core classes then become the basis for the
electives or concentrations a criminal justice student selects to best
prepare for specific roles in the future. This degree field typically
features two specific names: a master’s in criminal justice or a
master’s in criminal justice and law enforcement. In nearly every case,
the degree is a master’s of science due to the inclusion of math,
statistical and scientific courses. A smaller group of universities
offering an online master’s in criminal justice confer that degree as a
master’s of arts. Some universities that offer a PhD in criminal justice
and a master’s in the same field sometimes offer a stepping stone to
the next level degree through a thesis-track program.

Your master’s in criminal justice coursework may include some of the following classes:

COURSES DESCRIPTION
Criminology Theory Delves into the sociology, psychology and biology that lead to the commission of crimes, allowing for the development of proactive programs and policies related to crime prevention.
Criminal Justice Policy Development An exploratory course that enables students to understand how best to examine current polices and events and develop new policies to best enable the mission of legal and law enforcement entities.
Restorative Justice A learning experience that includes using empirical data to enable restorative justice to be utilized as a legal and policing paradigm through the study of stakeholders in the criminal justice process.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice?

Students can achieve an online master’s in criminal justice by
earning between 36 and 48 credit hours to complete their degree. Most
online programs offering this degree explain that those credits can
often be earned in 18 to 36 months of study. Several universities that
students can choose to further their criminal justice master’s offer
asynchronous classes that enable students to work largely at their own
pace. This allows ambitious learners to cut the time necessary to
complete all courses while also enabling other learners to stretch out
courses over a longer timeline as suits their time availability and
preference. Most colleges require all studies for a master’s in criminal
justice to be completed within five years of their initial start date.

Many different concentrations are offered toward this graduate degree
in criminal justice, and students may extend their time of study to
explore more than one specialty area. Depending on the school a student
chooses, they may have the option of taking a capstone course in
criminal justice that revolves around the creation and completion of a
project related to the degree. Other options include spending one or
more semesters in an internship or completing a thesis toward one day
teaching at the college level or going on to earn a PhD.Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Prepares For

CONCENTRATION CERTIFICATION
Certified Criminal Justice Addiction Professional This prominent law enforcement certification requires the completion of a master’s degree in criminal justice plus 2000 hours of criminal justice experience within the last 10 years, 60 hours of direct supervision and 100 hours of continuing education, specifically in areas related to addiction.
Private Investigator License Regulated at the state level, individuals can apply for private investigator licensure by completing their education, working in an investigative field for five years, completing a background check and passing a written exam.
State-Level Peace Officer Certification Most states require police officers to not only earn entry-level peace officer certification but to complete ongoing continuing education programs, continuing their time in service with a police agency and upholding state peace officer standards.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degrees

Earning accreditation for a school and the degrees it offers show
potential students that curriculum and programs have been thoroughly
vetted by an outside agency. Schools may attain accreditation through
federal programs, regional accrediting bodies and program-specific
entities. As you research different learning institutions, you may find
that some have received accreditation for their master’s in criminal
justice degree from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. Other accrediting bodies that schools offering this degree may possess include the:

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Criminal Justice GraduatesJob Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

Many careers in law enforcement allow candidates to apply after
earning their bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, including police
officers and investigators. Higher-level positions within the legal
field and law enforcement, including detectives, forensics
investigators, criminal justice educators and supervisory personnel, are
open to those with a bachelor’s and many years on the job or
professionals with a master’s degree and less hands-on experience.Expected Salary

Law enforcement is a vast career field, employing hundreds of thousands of individuals in municipal, county, state and federal agencies. The career outlook for these professions is positive, with expected growth ranging between 7 and 13 percent over the next 10 years. Salaries vary widely by geographical location as well as position type.

Law enforcement professionals are employed by many different types of
agencies and institutions. In addition to local, state and federal
government bodies, a police officer, detective or other investigative
personnel may also be employed by schools and higher learning
institutions. Some non-law enforcement state agencies and private sector
organizations also employ police personnel.

The chart below captures the split in employment numbers between various industries and the mean annual wages of police and sherrif’s patrol officers.

Career Opportunities

A master’s in criminal justice opens many doors for professionals in
the legal and law enforcement fields, particularly those that include
higher-level research and investigations as well as supervisory roles.

JOB TITLE JOB DESCRIPTION MEDIAN SALARY PROJECTED GROWTH RATE
First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives In this position, the incumbent is responsible for supervising and directing the activities of lower-ranked law enforcement professionals. $87,910 per year 7%
Detectives and Criminal Investigators Detectives and Criminal Investigators research suspected crimes and violations of local, state or federal laws. $79,970 per year 7%
Private Detectives and Investigators Working outside of law enforcement agencies but sometimes in cooperation with then, Private Detectives and Investigators look into matters on behalf of clients, conduct research and provide background checks. $50,700 per year 11%

Professional Organizations

Many different organizations represent, enable and augment the work
done by professionals in the law enforcement and legal fields. In
addition to these national organizations, most police agencies have
their own associations, including unions, educational groups and groups
that cover officers with legal representation.

National Association of Police Organizations:
NAPO is one of the largest associations a law enforcement professional
can join, and this organization also offers guidance for smaller groups
that represent officers locally. NAPO holds several conferences annually
and offers continuing education for various types of law enforcement
personnel.

Fraternal Order of Police:
The FOP is part advocacy, part support and part education in its
mission to help law enforcement officers with any work-related needs
throughout the United States. It also provides legal defense services to
members, should that need arise due to on-the-job issues.

Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association/Federal Criminal Investigators Association:
These sister organizations represent law enforcement and legal
professionals working for any of 65 different agencies within the
federal government.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree

An online master’s in criminal justice is likely to charge fewer
per-credit-hour fees and associated costs to students than a traditional
in-person higher education experience. Fortunately, criminal justice
master’s students have many options available to help defray the cost of
their education.

Students can begin the process of securing financial aid by filling
out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form
helps determine the type of aid students are eligible to receive. It
must be filled out for each academic year in which a student is pursuing
their degree, using data from the prior year’s tax forms. Once this is
completed, students can learn about the various types of aid the
government offers, including scholarships, grants, work-study
arrangements and loans.

Outside of federal financial aid, students may be eligible for grants
and scholarships offered by the school of their choice, outside
philanthropic organizations and industry associations related to law
enforcement. These types of financial aid can be very competitive.
Students should apply promptly within guidelines and seek out various
types of aid to minimize the amount of money paid out of pocket or
financed by federal or private loans

Certain loans used to pay for criminal justice graduate-level studies
may be eligible for debt forgiveness through the Public Service Loan
Forgiveness Program, if the student attains a role in law enforcement
with a governmental agency.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

Academy of Criminal Justice Studies

Award: $600

Deadline: December 1

Eligibility: Two graduate students are selected annually to attend the ACJS conference and present a paper while there.

Kush Arora Federal Criminal Justice Reform Scholarship

Award: $500

Deadline: December 15

Eligibility: Students must submit a 1000-page paper on criminal justice policy reform, transcript and resume.