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For those already working in criminal justice or corrections eager to climb the career ladder, pursuing a master’s in corrections degree could be the key to achieving advanced positions and a higher earning potential. These programs are designed to elevate your understanding of the corrections system, honing the skills necessary for roles such as correctional treatment specialist, with a median salary of $59,860, and police officer, with a median salary of $69,170. While not a prerequisite, a graduate degree can distinguish you as a job candidate, offering the potential for leadership opportunities and the possibility of exceeding the average pay bracket – with the top 10% of police officers earning upwards of $109,580.

Completion times for these degrees vary from 18 months to two years, depending on whether you’re studying full-time or part-time. This commitment represents a significant investment in your future, with the average graduate tuition at $19,749 for the 2020-2021 academic year.

How to Choose a Master’s in Corrections Program

Choose your area of study

When considering an area of study for your master’s in corrections degree program, you should reflect on your career goals and the roles you’d like to pursue post-graduation. This self-awareness is crucial for tailoring your research and selecting a specialization that aligns with your professional objectives.

While specialization options may vary by institution, some options might include correctional administration for those interested in leadership and operational management; rehabilitation services, ideal for individuals enthusiastic about inmate rehabilitation and reentry programs; and legal and policy frameworks for those keen on shaping correctional policies or advocating for justice reform.

Research schools and programs

Researching schools and programs is critical now that you’ve chosen your specialization. To guide your research, consider the following questions:

  • Does a recognized accrediting body accredit the program?
  • What specific courses and electives are offered in my area of interest?
  • What are the faculty’s qualifications and research interests?
  • Are there opportunities for internships or practical experience?
  • What are the program’s graduation rates and alumni success stories?

The program’s official website is the most streamlined way to gather this information. Still, many students benefit from consulting with an admission counselor or attending an information session for the programs they’re interested in.

Prepare for tests and applications

To best prepare for tests and applications, you’ll need to start early and double-check each program’s deadlines, making sure you stay on track. Some students benefit from constructing a timeline, and while this may be slightly different depending on each institution’s requirements, a general timeline might look like this:

  • Six months before deadlines: Enroll in a test prep program if GRE scores are required.
  • Four months before: Begin drafting your personal statement, allowing plenty of time for revisions.
  • Three months before: Request transcripts and letters of recommendation, giving your recommenders enough time to write thoughtful responses.

Starting early and organizing your application process with these timelines can help reduce stress and increase your chances of submitting a strong application.

Select your program

The arrival of acceptance letters is always exciting, but it can mean you have a big decision to make.

Fortunately, you can simplify this process by revisiting your initial research criteria. Take some time to focus on what matters most to you in your educational experience – whether it be the faculty you’ll learn from, curriculum relevance, or the program’s alumni network. At the same time, consider the overall cost of attendance alongside any financial aid opportunities, including scholarships and assistantships.

Reflecting on these factors ensures that your chosen program aligns with your academic and professional goals while fitting your financial circumstances – ultimately leading to a more fulfilling academic journey.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

When earning your degree, you’ll want to avoid accruing significant debt. This may seem daunting, but there are many financial aid resources to help you navigate this part of the process.

Begin with scholarships and grants, which don’t require repayment, making them the most desirable option. Next, consider assistantships, which offer tuition waivers or stipends for research or teaching responsibilities. If you’re already employed in corrections, ask about employer tuition reimbursement programs, which can significantly reduce out-of-pocket expenses.

If you’re left with financial gaps, consider federal loans to help bridge those gaps. Just be sure to be mindful and only borrow what is necessary so you can avoid overborrowing.

Best 50 Accredited Master’s in Corrections Programs

Best Master's in Corrections Degree Programs_2024 badge
Intelligent Pick
Boston University
Best Public University
Eastern Kentucky University
Most Flexible
Northeastern University
Best Faculty
Albertus Magnus College

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How we rank schools

We reviewed many master’s in corrections degree programs, including both Master of Science (MS) and Master of Arts (MA) degrees. The list we compiled includes on-campus, online, and hybrid options.

All of the listed programs are offered by regionally accredited schools. Attending an accredited program guarantees the quality and acceptance of your degree.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

What Can You Expect From a Master’s in Corrections Program?

A master’s in corrections degree program provides specialized training for those wanting to secure leadership and administration positions within the corrections sector. Curriculums delve into the intricacies of the criminal justice system, correctional theory, rehabilitation methods, and the management of correctional facilities.

As a student, you’ll gain a significant understanding of policies, ethical considerations, and the psychological aspects of crime and rehabilitation. Upon graduation, you can expect to have acquired the skills necessary for critical decision-making, effective management, and strategic planning in correctional settings.

These programs often culminate in a thesis or capstone course required for graduation. This final project is designed for students to apply their learned concepts to real-world challenges, preparing them for high-level roles in corrections administration and policy-making.

Most programs can be completed within two years, depending on whether you enroll full- or part-time.

Potential courses you’ll take in a master’s in corrections program

  • Correctional Administration: A standard offering in most curriculums, this course covers the principles and practices of managing correctional institutions. Students learn about the complexities of facility management, including staff leadership, inmate rights, and operational challenges.
  • Rehabilitation and Reentry Strategies: Focusing on rehabilitating offenders and their successful reintegration into society, this class explores the various theories and practical approaches to reentry. Participants analyze case studies on rehabilitation programs and develop skills to design effective strategies that reduce recidivism and promote public safety.
  • Criminal Justice Policy and Reform: In this course, students examine the policies shaping the corrections system and the ongoing efforts toward criminal justice reform. Classes encourage critical analysis of policy effectiveness, sentencing disparities, and legislative changes’ impact on correctional practices.
  • Legal Issues in Corrections: Offering an in-depth look at the legal framework governing correctional operations, this course addresses inmates’ rights, staff legal responsibilities, and the impact of recent court decisions on corrections. Learners gain a comprehensive understanding of how legal standards are applied within correctional facilities, preparing them for roles that require navigating legal complexities.

Master’s in Corrections Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a master's in corrections degree program?

You’ll need to prepare an application package to apply for these programs. While specific requirements may vary by institution, common criteria include:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Official transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • A personal statement or essay
  • GRE scores, if required
  • Relevant professional experience, preferred by some programs

Be sure to review each program’s specific requirements and deadlines before applying. Additionally, contacting an admissions counselor early on can provide valuable insights and guidance, ensuring your application meets the program’s expectations.

How much does a master's in corrections degree cost?

For the 2020-2021 academic year, the average cost of graduate tuition was $19,749. However, this figure can differ depending on the program and institution you attend.

When budgeting for this degree, it’s essential to consider additional expenses beyond tuition — such as books, supplies, accommodation, and commuting costs. These costs can add up over time and aren’t typically included in a program’s tuition price, so you’ll want to budget for them accordingly.

How long does it take to earn a master's in corrections degree?

Completing this degree takes about 18 months to two years for full-time students. Those who opt for part-time enrollment may see completion timelines extending to three or four years due to a reduced course load each semester.

It’s also important to consider each program’s total number of required credits, as this figure varies by program and can directly influence your expected graduation date.

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