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.
The job outlook for individuals who complete this degree is positive. Nearly all published data supports faster-than-average growth through 2029. The most common professions sought by graduates of a master’s program in criminal justice include upper-level law enforcement (for example, chief of police or county sheriff), private investigators, victim advocates, and emergency management administrators.
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).
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.