Master’s in Criminology Career Guide
What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Criminology Program?
Online master’s in criminology programs focus on the cause, effect
and social impact of crime. Criminology is rooted in sociology and
psychology, so students receive a multidisciplinary understanding of why
crime happens and how it can be prevented. Online master’s programs are
available through traditional universities with the same degree of
professionalism as on-campus classes. These programs are designed for
full-time graduate students or working professionals pursuing their
master’s part-time who want to earn their master’s at their own pace or
at an accelerated rate. Online master’s in criminology programs vary in
many aspects, so it’s important to compare programs to find one that
meets your career goals.
Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Criminology
Online master’s in law enforcement administration programs offer a
variety of concentrations that help improve your crime prevention,
personnel management and leadership skills. Most programs are designed
for mid-level to upper-level law enforcement professionals, but the
curriculum varies. Compare program details and choose one with courses
that align with your career goals, especially when you seek advancement
into supervisory roles.
|CONCENTRATION||DESCRIPTION||POSSIBLE CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR|
|Criminologist||Equips graduates with an overall understanding of crime and criminal behavior and offers a wide variety of career opportunities in academia, law enforcement, corrections, science and government.||Forensic scientist, intelligence analyst, criminal profiler, criminology professor, private investigator, police officer, corrections officer, social worker|
|Forensic Criminology||Focuses on the legal aspects of forensics and criminology and may lead graduates into criminal investigation, predominately collecting and analyzing evidence.||Crime scene photographer, forensic photographer, expert photo analyst, crime scene specialist|
|Human Behavior||Examines why people commit crimes or why certain individuals become victims and may encourage career paths in counseling or other sociology-based professions.||Criminal profiler, crime analyst, victimology expert, law enforcement, victim advocate, counselor|
|Cybercrime||Provides graduates with an understanding of the social and behavioral aspects of cybercrime while developing skills in digital forensic science and cybercrime investigation.||Cybercrime investigator, information security crime investigator, forensics expert, FBI computer forensic examiner, counterterrorism consultant|
Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Criminology
Many online master’s in criminology programs allow you to complete
your degree completely online, but a few require a limited amount of
on-campus attendance. All criminology programs focus on crime and
criminal behavior, but some are customizable to suit your professional
aspirations. When choosing an online program, compare your career goals
to the curriculum to determine whether a program meets your specific
No two online criminology master’s degrees are exactly alike. Some
programs focus strictly on core subjects directly related to
criminology, while others offer a combination of core courses and
electives that may or may not relate to criminology, depending on the
program and whether you want to specialize in one aspect of criminology.
Always choose programs with coursework that directly correlates to your
career goals. Here are examples of core courses you might encounter in a
|Research Methods in Criminology||Criminological studies with focus on data collection methods and measuring the validity and reliability of the data collected.|
|Victimology||Scientific study of victims, including victim types, patterns, characteristics and impacts.|
|Criminal Profiling||An overview of the development of perpetrators of violent crimes, often combined with an analytical understanding of the unique characteristics of serial criminals and their methodologies.|
|Cybercriminology||An understanding of cybercrime tactics and the social and psychological aspects of a cybercriminal, which can be beneficial when pursuing careers in forensic science or intelligence analysis.|
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Criminology?
Completion of an online master’s degree in criminology varies based
on the type of program you choose and your motivation level. Programs in
a collaborative learning environment use a cohort-based model that
requires all students to take classes as a group at scheduled times,
which will take longer to complete, whereas motivated students enrolled
in programs offered in an individually paced format can complete their
Depending on the program, earning an online master’s in criminology
could require completing anywhere from 30 to 56 credits. Most programs
take about two years or four semesters to complete; however,
institutions that offer accelerated programs allow students to finish
sooner. Full-time students may be able to earn their degree through an
accelerated program in one year to 18 months. Professionals pursuing
their degree part-time may take considerably longer, especially if their
career and/or family obligations allow little time to dedicate to their
Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Criminology Prepares For
Certifications and licenses aren’t typically necessary for
entry-level criminology positions, but voluntary certifications are
available to provide credentials of expertise in the field and could
help in career development. However, some states and many law
enforcement agencies do require their own professional licensing through
a licensure exam. Check with your local law enforcement agencies,
secretary of state office or professional licensing department to learn
specific requirements in your state.
|Private Investigator||If your criminology career goal is to become a private investigator, most states do require you to obtain a state-issued license, which requires passing an exam. Earning a master’s in criminology can prepare you to pass this exam.|
Accreditation for Online Master’s in Criminology Degrees
To protect yourself from fraudulent or subpar schools, always ensure
the college or university and the online master’s in criminology program
are accredited. Accreditation demonstrates the school consistently
provides quality education that prepares graduates for careers in their
chosen field. Attending an unaccredited school will likely disqualify
you from federal and state financial aid and usually prevents you from
transferring earned credits to another learning institution.
Legitimate universities, colleges and online degree programs receive accreditation from agencies recognized by either the Department of Education or Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
While no single accreditation agency oversees all criminology programs,
some programs have obtained specialized accreditation through
organizations like the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. Look for information on the program’s website indicating accreditation, then verify this information with the agency listed.
Employment Outlook for Master’s in Criminology Graduates
Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s
Because many jobs in the criminology field are specialized and highly
competitive, obtaining a master’s degree over a bachelor’s degree makes
you a more desirable candidate. This is especially true in laboratory
settings, such as forensic science, or when you specialize in a niche
field, such as toxicology, ballistics or forensic odontology.
Earning a master’s in criminology can potentially boost your salary
by establishing new career paths and promoting career growth.
Entry-level positions in criminology seldom require a master’s, but many
advanced criminologist positions do. Many agencies often show
preference to candidates with advanced degrees, even in low-level
positions. To learn more about typical salaries, consider these salary
ranges for various positions you may qualify for with your master’s in
|Job Title||Salary Range|
Where you live can also have a huge impact on your salary in the criminology field. Detective and criminal investigators are some of the higher paid professionals in this field, but you could earn even more as a criminal investigator in one of these top-paying states.
Below is a map of mean wages for detectives and criminal investigators nationwide.
Based on your specialization, criminologists with an online master’s
degree can pursue highly varied career paths. Career opportunities can
be found on the local, state and federal levels and with private
companies, laboratories and research departments at educational
institutions. Law enforcement agencies and government employers
especially seek out criminologists possessing graduate degrees with
specialties in a variety of fields.
|JOB TITLE||JOB DESCRIPTION||MEDIAN SALARY||PROJECTED GROWTH RATE|
|Sociologist||Criminology is a discipline within the field of sociology, so sociologists who specialize in the scientific study and analysis of crime and criminal behavior are criminologists and often work in law enforcement, laboratories or academia.||$79,650 per year||7%|
|Forensic Scientist||Forensic science technicians aid criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing evidence for law enforcement agencies and often specialize in either crime scene investigation or laboratory analysis.||$57,850 per year||17%|
|Private Detectives & Investigators||Private detectives search for information about financial, legal and personal matters, often conducting surveillance and collecting evidence to present in court, and can work for individuals, lawyers or businesses.||$50,700 per year||11%|
|Detectives & Criminal Investigators||Detectives and criminal investigators investigate suspected criminal activity, collect evidence, conduct interviews, observe human behavior, make arrests and testify at trials. Criminal investigators can work on the local, state or national level and are typically referred to as agents or special agents at state and federal agencies.||$79,970 per year||5%|
Networking and making professional connections are important no
matter what field of expertise you pursue in criminology. Joining
professional organizations is one way to keep abreast of what’s going on
within the industry, find job opportunities and sometimes obtain
professional credentials. These are some of the top organizations for
individuals with a master’s in criminology.
American Board of Criminalistics:
This organization can help promote your professional development
through peer-based certification that recognizes you’ve attained the
necessary qualifications to work in one or more branches of criminology.
American Academy of Forensic Sciences:
This multidisciplinary organization provides leadership and promotes
professionalism, education, competency and integrity while fostering
research and encouraging collaboration in the forensic sciences.
American Society of Criminology:
This international organization maintains a professional employment
listing service on its website and conducts annual meetings to discuss
topics of general interest and sponsor an employment exchange. Members
also receive professional journals and a newsletter that contain
valuable industry information.
Financing Your Online Master’s in Criminology
Getting a master’s degree in criminology online is less expensive
than traditional on-campus classes, but many students still require
financial assistance. If you’re in need of financial aid, start with the
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to explore numerous
grants, loans and other financial aid options available through the
federal government. State-based financial assistance and private grants
and scholarships may also be available to cover the cost of
undergraduate and graduate studies in criminology. Read through the
resources below for information on various ways to finance your higher
|Financial Aid for Graduate Students|
|Knowing Your Options|
|State Financial Aid Programs|
|National Criminal Justice Reference Service Grants & Funding|
Deadline: December 31
Students enrolled in an accredited postgraduate program associated with the criminal justice field.
Deadline: March 1
Eligibility: Academically deserving undergraduate or graduate students in the College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University.
Eligibility: Graduate students at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who are recognized for academic excellence, leadership qualities and public service accomplishments through numerous internal scholarship opportunities.
Eligibility: Undergraduate or graduate students majoring in criminal justice or criminology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.