Best Master's In Criminal Justice Degrees

A criminal justice degree can prepare you for many different careers. Here are a few (okay, more than a few) options: FBI Agent. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Become an agent of change and advance your career with a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice.

The field of criminal justice is changing fast. In the past, many criminal justice careers required little or no academic training.

But advancements in technology, combined with current national (and international) events, have created a need for experts in criminal justice. A master’s program can provide you with foundational knowledge in all aspects—sociological, legal, theoretical, and practical—of law enforcement.

No matter what sector you plan a career in, a Master’s in Criminal Justice improves your ability to take informed and thoughtful actions——as an administrator, scholar, investigator, police officer, probation officer or caseworker in the criminal justice system.

What kind of Criminal Justice Degree should you get?

Before you start looking for programs, you’ll need to determine what your career goals are. If you’re considering future doctoral studies, you don’t want to end up in a primarily practice-oriented program.

You’ll also need to decide whether to take your classes on campus or online. Most of us imagine the college experience taking place in brick and mortar buildings. But if that is not a feasible option for you, be sure to check out our list of the Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice.

Getting a degree online is no longer the shady proposition it may have seemed a decade or two ago. There are now many high-quality, accredited programs that are designed for nontraditional students. You’ll get the same credentials without having to uproot your entire life to attend school.

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How much money do people make with a Criminal Justice Degree?

Graduates of a Master’s in Criminal Justice program earn a highly marketable degree. Legal, law enforcement, criminal investigation, forensics and corrections jobs—to name a few—are in high demand. That being said, careers in criminal justice are not likely to make you rich.

Specific salaries vary widely for people in the Criminal Justice profession since there is such a wide range of career possibilities. Here are a few median salaries, though, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

What can you do with a Criminal Justice Degree?

Oh, so many things. This is a broad-based degree that can prepare you for many kinds of jobs in criminal justice. Here are a few (okay, more than a few) options:

The one major decision you should make before committing to a program is whether you are more interested in an academic career (probably involving future doctoral studies) or a professional career in the Criminal Justice field. This will help you eliminate programs that don’t serve your interest area (though many hold a dual focus on research and practice).


What are the requirements for a Criminal Justice Degree?

Entrance requirements vary depending on the school, but common admissions criteria include:

As you peruse this ranking, you’ll notice that program requirements vary widely as well. Some programs require a thesis, while others assign a capstone project or internship. Some programs give you the option. Most programs have a core of required courses with a number of electives for students to tailor their degree to their own interests.

What are the best Criminal Justice Degrees?

You need a degree that will give you a competitive edge—whether your career plans involve working as a law enforcement professional, or pursuing a doctorate. And we at College Choice have crunched the numbers to help you find a program that fits your needs.

We collect data from a wide range of sources, scouring the internet for essential criteria like reputation scores, tuition costs, early career earnings, and peer assessments. The composite score we end up with (our College Choice score) reflects academic excellence and the return on your tuition dollar.

Best Master's in Criminal Justice Programs

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. Missouri State University

    Springfield, MO



    Missouri State’s graduate degree in criminal justice focuses on the administrative end of law enforcement, preparing students for careers in upper-level positions. Part of the broader Master of Professional Studies program, the curriculum requires 33 hours of credits, including 12 in the criminal justice curriculum. Degree candidates must complete a research paper, and pass a comprehensive examination in the semester during which they graduate. The university designed the program for completion in three years, and applicants must hold at least a 3.0 GPA for admission. Students with an undergrad degree in a field other than criminal justice or sociology may need to take an additional 15 credits.

  2. Michigan State University

    East Lansing, MI



    The master’s degree in criminal justice at Michigan State combines case studies, work in the field, and an interdisciplinary approach in the classroom. Founded in 1956, the program emphasizes critical thinking, management skills, and research, readying graduates for further study or to step into the workforce. You can elect to specialize in security management and choose to pursue thesis or non-thesis options. The 30-credit course of study requires you to complete 24 credits in course work and six additional credits in research. Those who do choose to write a thesis will defend it orally at the culmination of the program.

  3. University of Nebraska

    Lincoln, NE



    A 36-hour program, the University of Omaha’s graduate degree in criminology and criminal justice includes 11 classes and a capstone course. Designed to fit the schedules of working professionals, the course of study revolves around evening courses and full-time students can earn their degree in 18 months or less. Specializations in public administration and counseling allow program participants to focus their study. UO places emphasis on community-based law enforcement, and the curriculum features many courses in diversity and gender. The university does not require the GRE for admission, but you must carry a GPA of 3.0 or better.

  4. Boston University

    Boston, MA



    Boston University designed its master of criminal justice program to help graduates advance their careers, prepare for law school, further their study for teaching, or pursue a doctorate. Participants study criminal behavior, leadership, and techniques of social control, and they can specialize in cybercrime and strategic management. The 40-credit curriculum splits between 24 credits of core requirements and 16 electives. To earn their degrees, all students must pass a comprehensive examination reviewing all they learned. BU requires that degree candidates maintain a 3.0 as they work their way through the program. A maximum of eight credits may transfer in from an accredited program.

  5. Arizona State University

    Tempe, AZ



    Arizona State University describes its master of science in criminology and criminal justice degree as a research program designed to give graduates the skills they need to move into careers in criminal justice research or into doctoral studies. You must earn 30 credits, and add a thesis or complete a capstone project. The curriculum stresses empirical skills, and features classes in statistics, data, and analysis. Many students elect to enroll in this course of study concurrent with public administration or public policy. Applicants must hold a 3.0 GPA and submit a resume, two letters of recommendation, and GRE scores.

  6. The University of Oklahoma

    Norman, OK



    Oklahoma University’s master of science in criminal justice takes you through a curriculum heavy on ethics, communication, decision making, problem solving, and front-line leadership skills. The customizable program provides participants with the option of specializing in three tracks: administration, restorative justice, and corrections. The 33-credit course of study follows an accelerated schedule, but degree candidates have up to five years to finish. OU does not accept work experience for credit but does grant credit for previous military and law-enforcement training. You must maintain a 3.0 during the program. On campus classes depend upon requisite enrollment numbers, so some courses may not be available every semester.

  7. East Carolina University

    Greenville, NC



    Students in Eastern Carolina’s master of science in criminal justice program can not only earn their graduate degree in law enforcement but they can also pick up valuable certifications in public management, security studies, and criminal justice education at the same time. The 36-credit, Greenville, North Carolina program provides participants with the opportunity to customize their degree in several ways. The curriculum divides neatly between 18 credits of core classes and the rest in electives. They can focus on area of interest, do international study, work on independent research, participate in graduate assistantships and field experiences, or join the national criminal justice honor society.

  8. Sam Houston State University

    Huntsville, TX



    The College of Criminal Justice at Texas’ Sam Houston State remains one of the oldest of its kind in the nation. The school prides itself on providing students with an education that combines the latest and best practices in criminal justice with a well-rounded liberal arts base. The schools master of arts in criminal justice and criminology takes and academic approach to law enforcement. The 36-credit curriculum encourages students to participate in research and make an impact on the future of criminal justice. It also prepares them for further study, heavily linked with the university’s doctoral program.

  9. Bowling Green State University

    Bowling Green, OH



    Bowling Green University set up its master of science in criminal justice with working law enforcement professionals in mind. Classes in the program meet from 6-9 p.m., allowing students to continue to work while they advance their careers. The 33-credit curriculum aims to equip graduates with the skills needed to pursue leadership roles in criminal justice and builds a base for future work at the doctoral level. Full-time degree candidates can complete their studies within one calendar year, while part-timers can finish in just two years. You have the option of starting in the spring, summer, or fall semesters.

  10. Florida State University

    Tallahassee, FL



    Florida State presents students in its master of criminal justice program with an array of options. You can enroll in a master of arts or a master of science program, prepare a thesis or not, or elect to do an “area paper.” These reports focus your studies in a certain direction. MA students must complete the same 33 credits as the MS students, but must have at least six credits in humanities work outside the criminal justice field. They must also fulfill a foreign language requirement. The college requires all degree candidates to maintain a C or better average and finish their studies within seven years.

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