Why This Matters

  • 3% JOB GROWTH MEANS CANDIDATES NEED A COMPETITIVE EDGE

    The relatively slow 3% increase projected for law enforcement jobs means you’ll still need to stand out from the competition if you want to land a top-paying position.

  • CHOOSE FROM 10+ CAREER PATHS OR SPECIALTIES

    Criminal justice is a broad term that encompasses law enforcement, emergency management, corrections, forensics, and security. Join a prestigious organization or law enforcement team — or write your own ticket as a private investigator — with this degree.

  • JOIN THE ELITE 35,000 WHO WORK FOR THE FBI

    The FBI is the most prestigious organization in law enforcement, and they only employ about 35,000 people. A master’s degree in criminal justice makes you uniquely prepared to enter this elite government agency.

Our Research

This list features some of the best master’s in criminal justice degree programs at top colleges across the country. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions.

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation as well as the student resources provided for on-campus students. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of master’s in criminal justice degree programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report among others to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

The Top 28 Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Best Master's in Criminal Justice Degree Programs 2023
01
Intelligent Pick
Northeastern University
01
Best in the West
California State University, Long Beach
01
Most Affordable
San Diego State University
01
Best Private Institution
American University
01
Most Flexible Admissions
Texas State University
01
Best Public Institution
University of Central Florida
01
Best Accelerated Program
The University of Alabama
01
Best Specialization Option
Michigan State University - School of Criminal Justice
01
Best Research Institution
University of Pennsylvania
01
Best Non-Thesis Option
Florida State University
01

University of South Florida
01

California State University - Fresno
01

University of California, Irvine
01

George Mason University
01

Boston University
01

Sam Houston State University
01

East Carolina University
01

University of Cincinnati
01

University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs
01

University of Oklahoma College of Professional and Continuing Studies
01

Arizona State University Academic Programs
01

California State University, San Bernardino
01

Florida International University
01

University of Massachusetts Lowell
01

University of Wisconsin - Platteville
01

Regis University
01

Rowan University Global Learning and Partnerships
01

University of Louisville

What You Should Know About This Degree

A graduate criminal justice degree provides a spectrum of educational content relevant to the U.S. legal system, including the advanced study of sociology, criminal justice systems and policies, and in-depth research into crime and violence. Similar graduate programs include master’s and doctoral degrees in forensic science and psychology, homeland security, and law enforcement administration.

When you research prospective programs, look for active accreditations from HLC, SACSCOC, or MSCHE. These bodies lend credibility to the degree program’s content and ensure credits are transferable. Graduation from an accredited program shows potential employers that the quality of your education is verifiable.

There are no certification or licensing requirements for the degree itself, but some positions might ask for licensing as a condition of employment. Depending on your state of residence, you may need a license to be a private investigator, security instructor, or analyst. Some certifications to consider include Certified Law Enforcement Analyst (CLEA), Criminal Justice Addiction Professional (CJAP), and Global Certified Forensic Examiner (GCFE).

What’s Next?

Ask the following questions when researching criminal justice degree programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? A master’s degree program requires that you hold a bachelor’s degree upon admission. Depending on the school, you might also need to have a minimum undergraduate GPA and passing score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Though an undergraduate degree in criminal justice isn’t required, it can help your chances of acceptance to a master’s degree program.
  • How long does it take to complete this degree? Most master’s degree programs require completion of 30 to 36 credits of graduate-level coursework. Full-time students can complete this degree in about two years, while part-time students can expect to complete the program in three or four years.

During your research into the master’s degree in criminal justice, note any important dates, such as financial aid or application deadlines. Gather as many materials as possible to prepare for multiple application submissions. You will need official transcripts, GRE test scores, and written admission essays tailored to the school to which you’re applying.

Don’t forget to find out what financial aid may be available by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as possible. Also, contact the financial aid department at each college to inquire about school-specific scholarships and graduate assistantships that might help you pay for your degree.