Why This Matters

  • PURSUE OVER A HALF-DOZEN DIFFERENT CAREERS

    Studying the fundamental questions of crime can lead to a diverse array of careers. Work as a probation officer, corrections officer, lecturer, consultant, investigator, or intelligence analyst.

  • DEMAND FOR SOCIOLOGISTS IS GROWING 4%

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the demand for sociologists will grow 4% from 2019 to 2029. This growth includes criminal justice sociologists, which a Master’s in Criminology can help prepare you for.

  • EARN NEARLY $7,000 MORE EACH YEAR

    The average yearly salary for criminologists who have a master’s degree is $67,159, according to Payscale. In comparison, those who have only a bachelor’s in the field earn $60,332 on average.

Our Research

We reviewed many Master’s in Criminology degree programs, including both Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MS) programs. MA programs tend to be more rooted in humanities, while MS programs are usually research-based. Consider your personal preferences and career aspirations as you choose between these two options.

Our list also includes online, traditional, and hybrid options. Online programs sometimes have a brief in-person component. All of the programs listed are from regionally accredited schools. Many have national accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission as well.

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. Our top picks for the best Master’s in Criminology Degree program are affordable, respected, and flexible. (For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 52 hours to write this article
  • 66 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 142 education programs we compared

The Top 27 Master’s in Criminology Degree Programs

Best Master's in Criminology Degree Programs
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What You Should Know About This Degree

The fields of criminology and criminal justice are distinct fields, and there are differences between them. Criminology researches social behaviors as they relate to crime, and it’s a subset of sociology. Criminal justice looks at the actual systems of courts, law enforcement, and corrections more directly. Criminal justice is the more traditional path for individuals who want to become police officers, although some criminology students ultimately do pursue that career path.

While a Master’s in Criminology is an advanced degree, many people who complete this type of program continue academic studies and earn a PhD. A PhD further develops the research skills learned in a master’s program, and the doctoral degree is required for many research and college-level teaching positions.

After completing a Master’s in Criminology, a law degree is another viable option. A criminology degree and a law degree paired together is solid preparation for work in criminal law.

A significant number of criminology positions, including both officer positions and research positions, require passing a background check. Minor infractions can often be overlooked, but a significant felony conviction from the past could preclude you from securing certain jobs.

What’s Next?

Consider these two questions as you evaluate Master’s in Criminology degree programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? Master’s degrees commonly require an undergraduate degree. Some of these master’s programs will accept any bachelor’s degree, while others want applicants to have a bachelor’s in criminology or a related field. Find out what a program’s academic requirements are for admittance, and make sure you meet them prior to applying.
  • What licensing or certifications are required? Working as a criminologist doesn’t require any specific license or certification. Instead, an individuals’s research in the field is usually used to established credentials.

When you identify programs of interest, find out what the admissions process entails. You can learn about admissions materials and deadlines on a program’s website or by contacting the school directly.

Also consider the cost of attending a program. Talk with programs about financial aid, stipends, and scholarships that they offer. You might also be able to get tuition reimbursement from an employer.