Why This Matters

  • 2 MILLION ADULTS INCARCERATED IN THE U.S.

    The U.S. currently has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Correctional officers and other criminal justice personnel are needed to oversee prisons and related facilities, and serve the prison population.

  • 3,000 NEW CORRECTIONS SPECIALISTS NEEDED

    Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with individuals who are on probation or parole. Employment in this field is expected to continue growing throughout the next decade.

  • DEMAND FOR POLICE OFFICERS TO RISE BY 5%

    Individuals with a criminal justice degree as well as experience will have the best job opportunities in the protective services field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 37,500 job openings in the field by 2028.

Our Research

For this list, we sought graduate-level programs that offer a concentration in corrections. These programs award Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) degrees in criminal justice or criminology, with a corrections emphasis.

We also looked for programs that could be completed fully or primarily online, to ensure accessibility for students regardless of location and schedule.

We only reviewed programs that are offered by institutions with regional accreditation. This accreditation confirms that schools meet the highest standards of quality in secondary education. Degrees and credits from regionally accredited programs also tend to be more widely transferable and highly regarded by other institutions and employers.

Once we had a list of programs that met our criteria, we reviewed them for their cost, flexibility, outcomes, reputation, and faculty. Then we calculated an Intelligent Score for each program on a scale of 0 to 100. Our top picks for the best online master’s in corrections are well-respected, flexible, and a good value. (For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 72 hours to write this article
  • 126 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 273 education programs we compared

The Top 10 Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice

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What You Should Know About This Degree

Working in corrections can be challenging, as the job often requires working in high-pressure situations. Correctional officers and other personnel who work in correctional facilities must be capable of remaining calm and making sound decisions in stressful and sometimes dangerous situations. They must have good physical stamina, and be able to communicate effectively with a range of people. Before pursuing a degree in corrections and criminal justice, it’s important to reflect on your personal qualities, to make sure you are suited for this job.

Despite the significant prison population in the U.S., employment rates for correctional officers and bailiffs are projected to decline over the next 10 years. State and federal prisons depend on governmental funding to operate, and criminal justice reform has pushed for shorter sentences for a number of different crimes. Job prospects will be best for individuals who have a strong combination of education and experience.

The minimum education level for most correctional officer jobs is a high school diploma, although some higher-level positions seek candidates who have a bachelor’s degree. Therefore, earning a master’s degree typically does not lead to a significant pay increase, unless you are in a top administrative position at a correctional facility.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching Online Master’s in Corrections programs:

  • Am I eligible for this degree? Master’s programs typically seek students who have experience in the field of study, either through their bachelor’s degree, or prior work experience. When researching programs, review their eligibility requirements to make sure you have the necessary background for admission to the program.
  • How are courses in this program delivered? Online courses are typically delivered either synchronously or asynchronously. Students attend synchronous courses remotely, but at set meeting times. In asynchronous courses, students can access lessons and assignments on their own time. Find out how the program delivers its courses, so you can choose the type of program that best fits into your schedule.

Other important steps to take at this point include researching programs’ application deadlines, preparing application materials, and considering your options for funding your education. If you have questions about admissions requirements, you should contact the program directly, or speak to an admissions representative.

Funding options include student loans, scholarships, assistantships, and tuition assistance benefits from your employer, when available.