Graduates of an online Master of Criminal Justice degree program can compete for the vast range of in-demand criminal justice job opportunities. There’s a demand for professionals with an insight into the legal, sociological, practical, and theoretical areas of law enforcement. Students in effective Master’s of Criminal Justice degree programs gain the skills they need to obtain leadership positions in administration of criminal justice agencies.
A Criminal Justice Master degree gives people the advantage they need to obtain a variety of jobs within the criminal justice system. Depending on the college or university, students may obtain a Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ), a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice (MACJ), or a Master of Criminal Justice (MCJ) degree.
Graduate criminal justice degree programs go above and beyond the scope of undergraduate learning. These programs combine the fundamental tenets of law and psychology to prepare students to manage criminals, to become the front line of criminal investigations, and to understand the inner workings of the justice system.
Professionals with a Criminal Justice Master degree have the choice of entering different kinds of law enforcement, criminal investigation, and crime prevention occupations, such as:
- Probation and Correctional Officers
- U.S. Marshals
- Correctional Treatment Specialists and Rehabilitation Counselors
- Emergency Management Directors
- First-line Supervisors of Police Officers and Detectives
The online Master of Criminal Justice programs vary across the schools providing the programs; however, most MCJ programs offer a core course of study, specializations, and electives. The core programs include topics such as criminal justice theory and policy, law enforcement, statistics, research, and criminology. Typically, most Master’s in Criminal Justice degree programs offer areas of concentration such as terrorism, homeland security, forensics, or emergency management.
Online Master of Criminal Justice Degree Program Ranking Guidelines
We selected the online Master of Criminal Justice programs based on the quality of the program, the types of courses offered, the faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation, including the school’s reputation for effectively providing online degree programs. RANKING METHODOLOGY
The University of Cincinnati (UC), founded in 1819, prides itself on a rich history and as a leader in higher education with major contributions in the areas of science, education, and more.
The University of Cincinnati provides an online Master in Criminal Justice (MCJ) program. All MCJ students are required to take eleven courses: five core courses and six electives. The program can be completed in 33 semester hours or one year of full-time study.
Students in the online Master of Criminal Justice program may choose to pursue a general track without a concentration or select from three concentration options, including Analysis of Criminal Behavior, Law Enforcement & Crime Prevention, and Corrections and Offender Rehabilitation. Some of the program electives include seminars in social control, sex offenders, and juvenile justice.
The Master in Criminal Justice program includes core courses such as:
- Seminar in Criminal Justice
- Seminar in Criminology
- Applied Statistics in Criminal Justice
- Basic Research Methods in Criminal Justice
- Demonstration Research Project
UC is categorized at the top level of higher education as a Doctoral/Research University by the Carnegie Commission, which honors achievements of faculty and program accreditations. The University of Cincinnati was ranked the #1 faculty nationally in the Southwest Journal of Criminal Justice (2010). The University of Cincinnati School of Criminal Justice was ranked #3 by U.S. News & World Report (2010).
The University of Cincinnati has received regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Florida State University (FSU) had its beginning as early as1823 and is one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the State University System of Florida. FSU offers roughly 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in a numerous fields, including business, medicine, and law.
Florida State University, a premier graduate research university, attracts roughly $200 million a year in research dollars.
Florida State University College of Criminology & Criminal Justice provides an online Master of Criminal Justice Studies program. FSU’s College of Criminology & Criminal Justice is widely known for its excellence in cutting-edge research, rigorous coursework, and vibrant intellectual community. The FSU criminology program enrolls more international students than any other U.S. university and has been ranked # 1 in the nation for faculty research.
The online Master of Criminal Justice program requires a total of 36 hours of graduate credit. This includes 15 hours of core courses and 21 elective credits.
The core courses include:
- Survey Criminological Theories
- Survey of Criminal Justice Theory & Research
- Computer Applications in Criminal Justice
- Research Methods in Criminology
- Applied Statistics in Criminology
The Journal of Criminal Justice Education ranked Florida State’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice #1 in the nation. U.S. News & World Report named FSU’s College of Criminology & Criminal Justice graduate program #7 in the nation (2009). The same magazine also named Florida State University the most efficient university in the country (2012). Princeton Review and USA Today have both ranked Florida State #4 in “Best Value” public university in the nation (2012). Florida State University was also included in Princeton Review’s 377 Best Colleges (2013).
3Michigan State University
(East Lansing, Michigan)
Michigan State University (MSU), established in 1855 and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, is known as one of the most prestigious research universities in the world with 200 programs offering undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees. MSU prides itself as being one of the greenest campuses in the country and is home to a diverse community of students, scholars, and leaders.
The MSU School of Criminal Justice is considered one of the oldest and most distinguished research programs in the nation offering bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees. In 1998, the School of Criminal Justice began offering its online Masters of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ) program. Students must complete 30 credits of coursework to obtain a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice.
The Master in Criminal Justice degree program includes core courses such as:
- Crime Causation, Prevention, and Control
- Pro-seminar in Criminal Justice
- Design and Analysis in Criminal Justice Research
- Criminal Justice Management Seminar
- Quantitative Methods in Criminal Justice Research
- Policy Analysis Under Conditions of Change
Students also take approved electives such as terrorism, counterterrorism, policing, and anti-counterfeit strategy.
To complete the program, students can choose to take just the general requirements for the Masters in Criminal Justice, focus in security management, or to continue with an international program.
U.S. News & World Report ranks MSU #7 for top graduate schools in criminology (2009) and #28 in America’s Best Colleges among the nation’s public universities (2013). MSU is also ranked in the top 100 on the Top Universities by Reputation list published by Times Higher Education (2013), and is recognized in Princeton Review‘s Guide to 322 Green Colleges (2013). The Chronicle of Higher Education ranks MSU 14th nationally for research and 7th among public institutions.
Arizona State University (ASU) was originally founded in Tempe, Arizona, as the “Territorial Normal School” in 1885. Since then, ASU (accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools) is now located in the vibrant area of Glendale and has become one of the nation’s largest public universities by enrollment, offering more than 250 undergraduate degree programs and 100 graduate degree programs.
ASU offers undergraduate programs in the fields of health science, technological management, criminal justice, and family and human development, to name just a few.
ASU offers the online Master of Arts in Criminal Justice program (MACJ). The MACJ program, as part of The College of Public Programs, is a comprehensive program designed to offer criminal justice professionals training and coursework in criminology, criminal justice system operations, research methods and statistics, program management, policy analysis, and evaluation.
Students need to complete a 33-credit hour program, including a capstone course in which they compose a research paper focusing on a criminal justice practice or policy.
ASU’s graduate schools in criminology has been ranked #12 by U.S. News & World Report (2009). ASU was also listed in U.S. News & World Report as a top-tier U.S. University, and has been named one of “America’s Best College Buys” by Forbes magazine.
Founded in 1890, Washington State University (WSU) is the state’s largest land-grant university providing excellence in education to more than 26,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.
Additionally, WSU is recognized for high research activity by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
The WSU criminal justice program is the second-oldest academic program in the nation and established the founding chapter of the Alpha Phi Sigma criminal justice honor society. Washington State University’s online Master in Criminal Justice program (MACJ) provides the necessary training and applied research education for those working in criminal justice, students planning to enter the field, and those with a general interest about criminal justice policy.
WSU’s online criminal justice master’s degree program requires 27 credits broken down into core, institutional, and elective courses, as well as four credits aimed at specifically developing and defending a writing portfolio. The core courses in the online Master degree in criminal justice include:
- Research Methods in Criminal Justice
- Introductory Quantitative Methods in Criminal Justice
- Criminal Justice: Processes and Institutions
- Seminar in Criminal Justice Research and Evaluation
- Seminar in Criminological Theory
U.S News & Word Report ranked Washington State University #19 among the best graduate programs in Criminal Justice (2009). The magazine also ranks Washington State University among the nation’s “Best Colleges” (2013). In addition, WSU was ranked #57 among public universities and #6 in Top Online Bachelor’s Programs: Student Services and Technology, by U.S. News & World Report (2011).
6Sam Houston State University
Sam Houston State University (SHSU), founded in 1879, is the third-oldest public institution of higher learning in Texas. Sam Houston University is a member of the Texas State University System.
The school provides more than 80 bachelor’s degree programs, over 50 master’s degree programs, and 6 doctoral programs.
The Carnegie Commission on Higher Education classifies Sam Houston State University as a “Doctoral Research University.” The Carnegie Commission on Higher Education also classifies SHSU as a “Community Engaged” university.
The Sam Houston State University College of Criminal Justice is one of the nation’s largest and oldest criminal justice programs. The College of Criminal Justice includes the headquarters of the Texas Forensic Science Commission.
The College of Criminal Justice online Master in Criminal Justice degree program is designed for individuals with and without work experience in the criminal justice field. Students can complete the degree in two years.
Students are prepared for careers in various areas of criminal justice, including administration, field positions, social policy, and organizational management. The Master of Criminal Justice degree is a 36-hour degree.
The online Master’s in Criminal Justice degree program provides classes such as:
- Research Methods and Quantitative Analysis in Criminal Justice
- Computer Technology Applications in Criminal Justice
- Community Theory and the Administration of Justice
- Perspectives in Criminology
- Courts as Organizations
- Law and Forensic Sciences
- Legal Research
Sam Houston State University was ranked the #22 top graduate schools for Criminology in 2009 by U.S. News & World Report.
In 1863, the University of Massachusetts, or UMass, was first established as the Massachusetts Agricultural College. Years later in 1947, it finally became the University of Massachusetts. During this growth, and up to the present, UMass has historically been recognized as an affordable, high-quality research institution for more than 140 years.
UMass educates more than 68,000 students a year and delivers an impressive 14,000 degrees at its five campuses located in Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell, and Worcester. All campuses are accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
UMass Online is one of the oldest and largest online departments of any top-tier, traditional campus-based university in the country.
UMass Online’s Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice offers students the necessary professional skills and rigorous training to work in local, state, and federal criminal justice agencies. This program serves to help students manage current employment, acquire leadership positions, and/or continue advanced training in criminal justice.
Students must complete 33 credit hours and 11 courses to attain the online Master of Arts in Criminal Justice degree (MACJ). The core courses consist of:
- Criminal Justice Scholarship
- Managing Criminal Justice Organizations
- Law and Public Policy
- Criminal Justice Administration
- Criminological Theory
- Descriptive and Inferential Statistics
- Research Methods in Criminal Justice
Beyond the core courses, online MACJ students must take electives which include courses such as emergency management, criminal profiling, and forensic psychology.
UMass was ranked #42 by U.S. News & World Report in its list of “Top Public Schools” (2012), and the Times Higher Education Supplement of London ranked the school as the 45th best university in the world and 22nd best in North America.
Boston University (BU), founded in 1839 and one of the largest independent non-profit universities in the United State, boasts over 250 fields of study with 33,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 140 countries. Many students refer to BU as “a city within a city” with world-class facilities and a diverse student population.
The online Master of Criminal Justice (MCJ) program at the Boston University Metropolitan College is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. The program is designed for students seeking to advance in the field of criminal justice and learn leadership skills in the criminal justice community.
The BU Online Master of Criminal Justice degree consists of ten courses including Criminology, Victimology, Youth Crime Problems, White Collar Crime, Terrorism, Crime and Punishment, Analytical Methods, Research Methods, and Forensic Behavior Analysis. Candidates are allowed to select one course from two electives including a special elective and criminal justice administration.
Boston University received the 2010 Sloan-C Award for Excellence in Institution-Wide Online Education and a Silver Best Practices Award for Distance Learning programming from the United States Distance Learning Association (2010). Boston University ranked #51 in the U.S. News & World Report 2013 edition of Best Colleges and #71 in the “Academic Ranking of World Universities,” a publication established by Shanghai Jia Tong University.
Founded in 1851 by the Society of Jesus, St. Joseph’s University (SJU) is among the only 153 schools in the nation with a Phi Beta Kappa chapter and AACSB business school accreditation. SJU currently has 4,600 traditional undergraduate students and 3,550 graduate and doctoral students.
With a 450-year Jesuit tradition of service, SJU is recognized as a demanding, supportive, premier Catholic university in the Northeast.
The university has received accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The online Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ) program from Saint Joseph’s University is designed for students to fully understand the latest research trends and administrative strategies in the criminal justice system and put them into practice. To finish the Criminal Justice Master’s degree program, students must complete 30 credit hours with the option of specialization in areas such as Homeland Security, Behavior Analysis, and Federal Law Enforcement.
The four mandatory MSCJ core courses include:
- Research Methods
- Criminological Theory
- Ethics and Criminal Justice
- Professional Writing for Law Enforcement
Students may also take electives as part of the curriculum in areas such as juvenile delinquency and diversity in criminal justice.
Saint Joseph’s was ranked #8 in the Master’s Universities (North) category (2012) by U.S. News & World Report. Forbes ranked Saint Joseph’s as the 180th best college in the country in 2012. Princeton Review also ranked SJU’s Haub School of Business as one of the Best 290 Business Schools (2010).
University of Colorado Denver (UCD), a public research university, is part of the University of Colorado system. UCD is the largest research institution in the state and a thriving urban education center offering more than 130 degree programs.
Founded in 1972, the UCD Master degree in Criminal Justice is a challenging academic program that provides students with an interdisciplinary education on criminology and the criminal justice system. The online Master in Criminal Justice degree program centers on topics such as law enforcement and the formulation of laws and codes.
The program specializes in preparing students not only to work in the criminal justice system, but also to evaluate and rework it so the criminal justice system fits the needs of the community. The online master degree in criminal justice degree program includes 36 total credit hours. Students must complete a Capstone course or a thesis/exam to finish the program.
The core courses of the online Master degree in Criminal Justice include:
- Criminal Justice Systems, Policies & Practices
- Criminological Theory
- Research Methods
- Law & Society
The University of Colorado Denver was ranked #34 on Forbes Magazine‘s public colleges list and Princeton Review included UCD in its Best in the West edition in 2008. University of Colorado Denver was also ranked the #108 in the Top Public Schools list by U.S. News & World Report.
(New Orlean, Louisiana)
Originally established in 1904 and chartered in 1912, Loyola University New Orleans (Loyola) is a private, Jesuit university located in the eclectic and vibrant city of New Orleans.
Loyola enrolls 5000 students, making it one of the largest universities in the southern region of the United States. The university is accredited by the Commission of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Loyola University New Orleans takes great pride in being ranked Top 10 Southern regional schools by U.S. News & World Report for the last 22 years and ranked top 27 nationally in service learning initiatives in America’s Best Colleges (2013).
Loyola University New Orleans’s online master’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration program provides students with the necessary knowledge and leadership skills needed to succeed in the demanding criminal justice administration system. Students gain comprehensive understanding in areas such as organizational administration, theories of crime prevention, and budget planning. The online master’s in Criminal Justice degree includes a 36-credit curriculum.
All students must take the following six core courses:
- Crime and Organizational Theory into Practice
- Crisis Management and Media Relations
- Budget Analysis
- Assessing Organizational Performance
- Applied Data Analysis and Decision-Making
- Ethics and the Administration of Justice
The remaining courses are divided into electives and specialization options such as Cyber Forensics, Justice Administration, and Forensic Science Administration.
Loyola was ranked #9 Best Regional University in the South in America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report. The university was also ranked #9 in Great Schools, Great Prices category (2013). The university was named a 2011–2012 Best Value Private College by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and named a Best Buy in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2012.
12University of Louisville
Founded in 1798, the University of Louisville (U of L), a premiere metropolitan university, is a state- supported research institution with three campuses in the Louisville area. The University of Louisville has more than 22,000 students.
The University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The Department of Justice Administration at the U of L offers an online Master of Science in the Administration of Justice (MS/ADJ) degree. The online program provides students with a comprehensive education of the criminal justice system to prepare them to continue advanced studies or enter criminal justice positions. To attain the MS/ADJ degree, students must complete 36 graduate credit hours and a professional paper.
The Master of Criminal Justice program core courses include courses such as:
- The Criminal Justice System
- Theories of Crime and Delinquency
- Legal Aspects of Criminal Justice Management
- Applied Statistics in Criminal Justice
- Research Methods in Criminal Justice
The University of Louisville has been ranked #160 in the 2013 edition of Best Colleges in National Universities by U.S. News & World Report.
13Western Oregon University
Established in 1856, Western Oregon University (WOU) is Oregon’s oldest public university, is home to the renowned Teaching Research Institute, and is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. WOU’s student body is comprised of about 6,200 undergraduate and 400 graduate students.
The university, a public liberal arts institution, is dedicated to improving communities.
The WOU online Master of Arts in Criminal Justice (MACJ) program is organized specifically for candidates currently working in the criminal justice system; however, qualified non-practitioners may apply to the program. The goal of the online Master’s in Criminal Justice degree program is to provide students with the skills necessary for managerial and other professional occupations in criminal justice.
In order to complete the program, students need 45 credit hours ending with a thesis or a special individual studies course and comprehensive exam. Some of the electives cover topics such as theory of criminal law and offender treatment.
The Master of Criminal Justice degree provides core courses such as:
- Research in Criminal Justice
- Criminal Justice Administration/Organizational Behavior
- Ethics and Leadership in Criminal Justice
- Theory and Research in Crime and Delinquency
U.S. News & World Report ranks Western Oregon University # 81 in the 2013 edition of Best Colleges in Regional Universities (West) and #34 in Top Public Schools.
Tiffin University, an independent, coeducational university, has about 6,800 students in undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Tiffin University’s programs are authorized by the Ohio Board of Regents and are fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
The Master of Criminal Justice online degree program consists of core courses and special concentrations in areas such as Homeland Security, Criminal Behavior, Crime Analysis, and Justice Administration. The degree can be completed in 30 semester hours and some concentrations do not require a thesis or exam but may require a Professional Practice Portfolio.
U.S. News & World Report ranked Tiffin University #102 in Best Online Bachelor’s programs and #98 in Best Online Graduate Business programs (2013).
Liberty University, an affordable private university located in Virginia, is one of the world’s largest online educators. Training champions for Christ since 1971, and pioneering distance education since 1985, Liberty University now enrolls more than 90,000 students from around the world in its thriving online program. With more than 160 fully accredited programs of study, Liberty University Online offers degrees from the certificate to the postgraduate level.
Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to grant undergraduate and graduate level degrees.
The online Master of Science in Criminal Justice – Public Administration (part of the Helms School of Government) prepares candidates for a professional career in the criminal justice public administration system. The goal of the program is to combine these online graduate courses with the ethics, Christian values, and strong leadership skills taught at Liberty University to prepare students to face the challenges of the criminal justice system and its policies.
Graduation requirements include 36 total credit hours. Students must complete the program in five years. Some of the Public Administration cognate courses include Public Policy Analysis and Communication and Conflict.
The Master of criminal Justine online degree program provides core courses such as:
- Criminal Justice Integration
- Criminal Justice Program Evaluation
- Leadership, Ethics, and Policing
- Administration of Justice Organizations
- Human Resources Management in Criminal Justice Organizations
- Topics and Trends in Criminal Justice
In 2012, U.S. News & World Report ranked Liberty University 64th Best Colleges of Regional Universities in the South and in 2012 Forbes‘s list of America’s Top Colleges ranked Liberty University 584 overall.
Grand Canyon University (GCU), founded in 1949 and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, is a private, Christian University providing both campus-based and online programs through its seven colleges. GCU is known for its Christian values and worldview, for its Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching, and for being recognized as a top 5 online schools for entrepreneurs by Fortune Magazine.
The online Master of Criminal Justice with an Emphasis in Law Enforcement program at GCU is designed for those who work in law enforcement and seek advancement into criminal justice management positions. The Criminal Justice Master’s degree program with an Emphasis in Law Enforcement features online courses in criminal investigation procedures, criminal justice methodology, law and public policy, ethics, collection and preservation of evidence, and the latest in research.
To graduate from the program students must take a total of 40 credits and complete a Capstone course, including a professional portfolio and a final written proposal.
The Master of Criminal Justice program provides courses such as:
- Forensic Psychology
- Restorative Justice
- Ethics for Policing and Corrections
- Terrorism and Homeland Security
- Criminal Investigations
(Colorado Springs, Colorado)
Colorado Technical University (CTU), a for-profit university, is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Colorado Technical University specializes in undergraduate and graduate programs in technology, management, and business, mostly online.
Colorado Technical University’s Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ) degree program is designed for professionals looking to further their education and opportunities in law enforcement and the criminal justice systems and industry. Course content includes areas in homeland security, leadership, and law-enforcement management.
The online Master degree in Criminal Justice provides courses such as:
- Criminology and Public Policy
- Court Services Management
- Operational Human Resource Management
- Issues of Diversity in Criminal Justice
- Corrections Management
The CTU online master’s program in criminal justice provides students a foundation of knowledge in the research and trends of criminal justice, law, and policy analysis, as well as problem-solving leadership skills.
Kaplan University, a for-profit, regionally accredited university, is owned by Kaplan, Inc. Kaplan University is mostly an online university offering both undergraduate and graduate programs for more than 60,000 online and on-campus students.
The Kaplan online Master in Criminal Justice program is designed to give students the tools required for advancement in their respective criminal justice field. Upon graduation, students will be able to identify causes of criminal behavior, focus on management and leadership in criminal justice institutions, and use advanced research methods to conduct research and evaluate data.
The online Master’s in Criminal Justice degree program consists of core courses with exam, specializations, and electives totaling 55 credits. Some of the specializations include Law, Global Issues, and Critical issues in Corrections.
The online Master of Criminal Justice degree program provides core courses such as:
- Critical Legal Issues In Criminal Justice
- Criminological Theory
- Organizational Behavior
- Critical Issues In Criminal Justice
- Academic Communications In Public Safety
Established in 1970, Walden is a private, accredited, for-profit university offering mostly online programs to both undergraduate and graduate students in a variety of fields. Walden University consists of five colleges.
The Master of Science in Criminal Justice degree program allows students to gain a significant understanding of the criminal justice system. The Walden University online program educates students with a comprehensive combination of homeland security, technological. and management skills which students can transfer to their existing criminal justice occupation or use to advance within the justice system.
To graduate without a specialization, students must complete 46 total credits including core classes and electives. If students specialize in a particular criminal justice field, they may choose from a variety of topics such as Emergency Management, Policy Analysis, and Law and Public Policy.
Capella University, a regionally accredited university founded in 1993, is owned by the Capella Education Company and offers over 145 specialized online undergraduate and graduate programs to more than 36,000 students from all 50 states.
Capella University’s online Master in Criminal Justice program is designed to advance student’s careers in the fields of criminal justice, corrections, and the overall judicial system. The program covers topics such as cultural awareness, public policy, corrections systems, and the causes of criminal behavior such as addiction.
To complete the Master of Science in Public Safety program, a student must take 48 total program credits.
Graduates of the program can specialize in areas such as Criminal Justice, Emergency Management, and Public Safety Leadership.
The Online Master of Criminal Justice degree program provides core criminal justice courses such as:
- Collaboration, Communication, and Case Analysis for Master’s Learners
- Introduction to Research Methodology
- Public Safety Ethnic and Cultural Awareness
In 2010, the online university was awarded the CHEA Award for Outstanding Institutional Practice in Student Learning Outcomes by The Council for Higher Education Accreditation.