The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics has confirmed that there are many career options for correctional officers and specialists, further noting that positions are projected to increase as much as 19 percent in the next few years. For those looking to start or advance their career in corrections, there exist an array of Criminal Justice graduate programs that concentrate in correctional policy and leadership. Most programs offer a Master of Science, though some provide Master of Arts. We've been sure to differentiate those below. One last thing to note is that the tuition rates listed below reflect the cost of the entire program, start to finish. Our data comes from the university and colleges' websites as well as nationally recognized U.S. News and World Report and The National Center for Education Statistics.
See our rankings methodology page.
Albertus Magnus College
The thirty-three credit Master of Science in Criminal Justice graduate program at Albertus Magnus College provides correctional studies as one of two concentrations for its students. Albertus Magnus is a Catholic, private, liberal arts college located in New Haven, Connecticut with a broad online learning platform; students can choose to take all online classes when earning their MS in Criminal Justice, or a blend of online and campus classes. The curriculum covers general criminal justice study—criminology, issues in the justice system, research methodology, and more—and the corrections concentration introduces students to issues in correctional supervision, the history of corrections, the future of American corrections, and community-based corrections (probation and parole). Both an internship and thesis are required.
University of Cincinnati
The Master of Science in Criminal Justice program at the University of Cincinnati, a large public research institution, is renowned, named the third best criminology school by the U.S. News and World Report and its faculty the most published by the Journal of Criminal Justice. Students have the option of concentrating in corrections and offender rehabilitation and can complete the program in as little time as one year. The program at the University of Cincinnati stands apart from many of the others on our list in that they offer unique courses, such as: white-collar crime, cybercrime and digital security, biosocial factors in serial offending, and more.
Kent State University
Kent State University is a public research institution with its main campus in Kent, Ohio and seven others regionally located throughout Northeast Ohio. Unlike many of the other programs on our list, which are Master of Science, Kent offers a Master of Arts in Criminology and Criminal Justice, with corrections as one of four possible concentrations. The degree takes approximately two years to complete and is thirty-three credits long, consisting of eleven courses, each seven weeks. This model is unique to Kent State, designed to allow students to focus on one course at a time, to keep class sizes small, and maximize collaboration.
University of Colorado Denver
The University of Colorado Denver is a public research institution that is part of the larger University of Colorado system. Their online Master of Criminal Justice is also well recognized, deemed the ninth best online Master in Criminology degree in the United States by U.S. News and World Report. They boast effective career training, having graduated over forty police chiefs in the state of Colorado, as well as FBI and CIA agents, leaders in the field, research faculty and professors, and more. Students can concentrate in correctional systems and take classes such as systems, politics, and practice; law and society; research methods, and more.
Grand Canyon University
Grand Canyon University is a private, for-profit Christian university located in Phoenix, Arizona and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Their Master of Science in Criminal Justice degree includes an emphasis on law enforcement that can be applied to careers in correctional management and leadership. Grand Canyon’s program focuses on an array of areas: criminology theories, law and public policy, research analysis and methodology, psychology, ethics and liability, restorative justice, and more. Further, each student creates a capstone portfolio that includes a curriculum vitae, writings from the courses, a statement of philosophy, a professional five-year plan, and a proposal on how to enact criminal justice in the community. This project will be of invaluable use in job attainment and advancement.
Eastern Kentucky University
Eastern Kentucky University is a research institution located in Richmond, Kentucky with more than forty online undergraduate and graduate degree options. Their Master of Science in Justice, Policy, and Leadership program can be taken fully online and offers students the option of concentrating in corrections policy and leadership. Classes covered under this concentration include: illicit offender networks, international responses to juvenile and adult offenders, mental health and substance abuse issues, law and ethics in dealing with offenders, and more. Graduates from Eastern Kentucky go on to become corrections officers or administrators, probation officers, jailers, bailiffs, caseworkers, counselors, and policy analysts among others.
Saint Leo University
Saint Leo University is a private, non-profit, Roman Catholic liberal arts university based in Saint Leo, Florida. They offer an online Master of Science in Criminal Justice degree with a corrections specialization. The faculty is known for its combined experience, the director himself having thirty years of experience in law enforcement, investigation, and first response. Since Saint Leo University is a leading military college, they boast over three decades of experience providing criminal justice education. This degree especially aims to advance those already immersed in law enforcement and corrections, designed for first responders, probation and parole officers, correctional officers, government officials, and criminal justice administrators looking to better understand the most up-to-date and current issues in twenty-first century corrections.
A private, liberal arts college located in Columbia, Missouri, Columbia College has a strong relationship with the US military and its respective military bases. They offer a Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration (MSCJ) degree that is designed for those working professionals who are looking to advance their career in an administrative direction. The program at Columbia College focuses on four foundational areas—trends in criminal justice, policy development and analysis, research design, and ethics in criminal justice—and includes a corrections administration track. Columbia College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is associated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Purdue University Global
Purdue University Global is a for-profit corporation that technically does not offer a Masters degree but a Corrections Certificate that provides students with the skills, knowledge, and qualifications needed to pursue entry-level positions in corrections. The requirements for the certificate include six five-credit courses and one six-credit elective. Courses covered include: introduction to the criminal justice system, criminology 1, introduction to corrections, introduction to constitutional law, juvenile delinquency, crime prevention, and the choice between applied criminal justice ethics or supervisory practices in criminal justice. The price of tuition is already inexpensive, and on top of that Purdue University Global offers a steep (over 50 percent) discount for active military, as well as discounts for veterans, international students, and spouses of active military. And for traditional students, there are scholarships and grants, making this certificate a highly affordable option.
Tuition: $13,356 / active military $5,940
University of the Cumberlands
A private, liberal arts college located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, the University of the Cumberlands is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, which is part of the Southern Baptist Convention. They provide an affordable, online Masters in Criminal Justice Administration degree with a specialization in corrections. Designed for both professionals and those looking to join the field of correctional administration, the program at University of the Cumberlands prepares students to work in both rural and urban correctional environments with an understanding of how state and federal agencies operate.