Criminal justice is making sure the law is followed and punishing people who break it. At the master’s degree level, it is assumed that you already know a lot about criminal justice and are ready to talk about theories and ethical issues in the criminal justice system. In undergraduate criminal justice programs, you learn about the rules and logistics of law enforcement. In graduate programs, you understand why these rules are in place. A master’s program looks at the most progressive ideas in the field and prepares you for the highest-level jobs.
Why a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice?
The master’s degree is usually for criminal justice professionals who want to move up in their careers. The degree is perfect if you’re going to switch from being a law officer to being in charge of something. The advanced coursework in a master’s program prepares you for making decisions and designing programs, which are important parts of many administrative jobs in criminal justice. Also, if you get your master’s in criminal justice online, you can keep working while you’re in college. A master’s degree can also help you start a career in criminal justice if you already have a bachelor’s degree.
Inside a Master’s Degree Program in Criminal Justice
Most master’s programs in criminal justice require 30–60 course credit hours. Because of this, a master’s in criminal justice can take anywhere from one to three years to finish. Some may take longer to complete if you only go to school part-time, but many online programs in the field let you set your schedule, which is a huge benefit for people who already have jobs. You can expect to go to class each week in an online program by logging in or watching lessons. These lectures are often paired with reading assignments and other tasks, like research papers or exams. These projects are meant to help you practice researching, analyzing, and thinking critically and test your knowledge of what you’ve learned in class.
In a bachelor’s coursework, you take general education courses. In a master’s program, you go right into intermediate and advanced courses in criminal justice. You can expect to take a mix of major courses and electives related to them. Courses in policy analysis, program evaluation, research methods, statistical analysis, and advanced criminology are major classes. In many programs, you will also take a capstone class. In this class, you will focus on an independent research topic and write a final paper called a thesis to show what you’ve learned. Some online programs may have an option where you don’t have to do a thesis. Instead of presenting your thesis research, you take a comprehensive exam.
What’s Next for Master’s Degree Holders in Criminal Justice?
Even if you haven’t worked in crime control or the justice system before, a master’s can help you get a job in law enforcement or corrections at a high level. If you get enough experience, you might be able to move into administration. For professionals already working in criminal justice or law enforcement, earning a master’s degree can help them move up in their careers and take on leadership roles in policy and program development. It can also lead to a job in teaching or academia.
After getting a master’s degree in criminal justice, you can still go to education for more. Post-certificate master’s programs usually take less than a year to finish and let you specialise in a certain area of criminal justice. But you can also get a doctorate in criminal justice if you want to do research and teach in an academic setting.