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It is important for criminal justice professionals to be well-versed in the many types of crime, the laws and procedures intended to enforce crime, and the best ways to deal with criminals and victims. A master's degree in law & criminal justice can help one gain that knowledge. Depending on the school, students pursuing a master's degree program may work toward a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Arts (MA) in criminal justice or justice administration or simply a Master of Criminal Justice (MCJ). Prospective students are generally required to have a bachelor's degree before entering a master's degree program.

Online Master's Degree in Criminal Justice: Coursework and Overview

Over the two years that it typically takes to complete the degree program, students explore specialized courses in criminal justice to better prepare themselves for their intended career. Although available courses vary by school, there are several that are common to many schools. Below are some examples:

  • Criminological theory: Students study theory and theoretical applications of criminal behavior as well as explanations for criminal behavior. Criminological theory courses typically apply sociological, psychological, and political concepts to crime.
  • White collar crime: Students learn the definition of white collar crime, the different types of white collar crime, and the laws and procedures used to enforce and prevent it. Topics commonly covered include fraud, money laundering, and cyber crime.
  • Victimology: Students study the behavior and struggles of victims and learn about how the criminal justice system deals with victims in terms of treatment, restitution, and policy. Students may also explore how victims are portrayed in society and the media.
  • Juvenile justice: Students examine the nature and policies surrounding crimes committed by or against juveniles. Such courses also analyze why juveniles commit crimes as well as how the criminal justice system handles these offenses.
  • Criminal justice statistics: Students analyze quantitative data using statistical concepts such as sampling and learn how to apply those concepts to research methods in criminal justice.

Potential Careers for Graduates with a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice

A graduate-level education in criminal justice offers individuals the chance to develop a specialized skill set that may benefit those seeking advanced positions. Some positions that individuals may qualify for after earning their degree are reviewed below:

  • Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with offenders who are in custody, on probation, or on parole, and they also develop recommendations for rehabilitation plans. Specializing in corrections and taking courses that examine the nature and behavior of offenders (e.g., criminology) can help students gain knowledge that individuals may need for probation and corrections careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) notes that a master's degree may be helpful or required for advancement in probation or corrections roles.
  • First-line supervisors of correctional officers oversee and coordinate the activities of correctional officers and jailers. These professionals may gain skills in effective communication in a supervisory role through leadership courses.
  • First-line supervisors of police and detectives manage the activities of members of the police force. Students may gain a deeper understanding of potential types of crime that individuals in this career deal with through specialized classes on such subjects as juvenile justice and white collar crime. Bls.gov reports that police officers may become eligible for promotion after a probationary period. These professionals usually graduate from an agency training academy, and some may also need college coursework.
  • Emergency management directors coordinate disaster response or crisis management activities, provide disaster management training, and develop emergency plans for hostage situations or for natural, wartime, or technological disasters. Students interested in this career may gain skills in disaster response through homeland security courses. Supplementing one's criminal justice degree with courses outside of the program may also improve one's understanding of potential crises that emergency management directors face.

Completing a master's degree program in criminal justice may provide individuals with an in-depth knowledge of the criminal justice system useful for potential careers. For this reason, earning a graduate criminal justice degree may expand one's career options despite the fact that it is not always required.

Additional Resources for Individuals with a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice:
Emergency Management Directors, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, 2012
First-Line Supervisors of Correctional Officers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, 2012
First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, 2012
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012
Police and Detectives, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012

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