These crimes ranged from loitering to first-degree murder. But no matter the crime, these cases each required an investigation to understand the motives and particulars of the crime. Experts in criminology help with these important tasks.
What is criminology?
Criminology is the study of crimes, including the motivations behind those crimes and means of preventing them. Criminology focuses on the social impact of crime and the ways crime and community relate to each other. Research performed in our best online master’s in criminology programs focuses on criminal behaviors, victimology, and crisis management.
How much money can I earn working in criminology?
Criminology salaries can vary greatly, due to the variance in career trajectories for criminology graduates. Some go on to work in teaching, training, or community service positions, addressing the causes of crime at their roots. Training and development managers made more than $110,000 per year in 2018. Others move on to law enforcement careers, such as police work. Police officers made an average of $63,380 per year in 2018.
These fields are growing reasonably quickly, though not aggressively. Police officer positions are projected to grow at 7% over the next decade, while training and development positions should grow about 10%.
Why choose a master’s in criminology?
A criminology master’s program student should be interested in the reasons behind crimes, rather than simple crime and punishment. Those with analytical, systematic approaches to problems will succeed in their programs as well as many follow-up careers. As many of these professions involve working with victims and vulnerable individuals, compassion can also go a long way.
What are the 19 best master’s in criminology degree programs?
If a criminology degree is in your future, consider using these rankings to narrow down your school choices. These rankings use a mix of institutional merit, student fulfillment, and return on investment. A school will rank highly if it has a solid student-to-faculty ratio, a large endowment, or excellent outcomes for graduating students. Reports of satisfaction from current and former students also improve a school’s overall rank.
The schools in these rankings came out as above-average on most if not all of these factors, and stand out from their peers on both career outcomes and overall value. If you want to pursue criminology without emptying your bank account, give these programs a look.
See our rankings methodology page.
University of Pennsylvania
College Choice Score: 100
Average Net Price: $22,944
The University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League research university located in Philadelphia, PA. UPenn was one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution, having been founded in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin. Pennsylvania now has a student body of around 25,000 students.
Pennsylvania offers a Master of Science degree in Criminology. The program lasts only one year and includes courses in topics such as:
- Quantitative Methods for Policy Analysis
- Proseminar in Criminology
- Research Methods/Crime Analysis
- Evidence-based Crime Prevention
The program has a capstone course for the end of a student’s study, which is called Academic and Applied Criminology. This course brings in faculty from this and other universities to discuss research, along with government officials who discuss policy and practice settings.
Penn emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach, drawing in faculty from the schools of business, law, medicine, nursing, and others. Penn offers joint degrees to go along with the MS in Criminology, including programs with Penn’s law school and the Fels Institute of Government.
University of Maryland, College Park
College Choice Score: 96.13
Average Net Price: $15,757
The University of Maryland, College Park, is a public research university located in College Park, MD. As the flagship institution of the state’s public school system, the university is often referred to simply as Maryland. The school has often been referred to as one of the Public Ivies, being a public school that offers an educational quality on par with Ivy League schools such as Harvard.
The University of Maryland, College Park offers a Master’s degree program in Criminology & Criminal Justice. The program requires completion of ten graduate-level courses, for a total of 30 credit-hours. Some of the courses available in the program are:
- Fundamentals for Criminological Research
- General Linear Methods
- Seminar in Criminal Justice
- Master’s Thesis Research
Students must pass each class with a grade of at least B to count towards graduation. Elective courses must be chosen in consultation with a student’s faculty advisor.
The University of Maryland offers a number of unique Master’s degree programs through their Criminology & Criminal Justice Department. This includes the joint MA/JD program with Maryland’s law school. Students may also pursue a Professional Masters degree in China or Vietnam. The professional degree programs are generally intended for those who already have significant work experience in the field.
University of Florida
College Choice Score: 94.59
Average Net Price: $14,761
The University of Florida, based in Gainesville, has been in operation for more than a century. With more than half of its students graduating without student debt and a 70% employment rate within the state of Florida after graduation, the University of Florida has proven itself to have excellent outcomes for students.
Florida offers a Master of Arts degree in Criminology, Law, and Society. This is a 36-credit hour program with either a thesis or non-thesis option. Required courses for both of these options include:
- Law and Society
- Introduction to Quantitative Methods
- Research Methods in Crime, Law, and Justice
- Proseminar in Crime, Law, and Justice
The master’s thesis must show independent investigation and be of publishable quality. The non-thesis paper should be of an equally high quality, but may not be published.
Florida has a PhD program in Criminology. Graduates from the MA program are eligible for the doctoral program, and their 30 credits count toward the 90 required for the PhD. Florida also offers a joint MA/JD program through their law school for students interested in both the legal and academic aspects of criminology.
College Choice Score: 91.25
Average Net Price: $29,998
Northeastern University is a private university located in Boston, MA. Northeastern programs are known to utilize the co-op method, which mixes in class learning with real-world experience. They have over 1,600 academic staff members and a student population of around 25,000. Approximately 7,500 of those students are postgraduates.
Northeastern University offers a Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice degree program. Students are required to complete 32 credit-hours of coursework within one year. This coursework includes classes such as:
- The Criminal Justice Process
- Computational Social Science
- Experimental Integration
Depending on if a student enters in the spring or fall semesters, the order that these classes are taken in may change. Students will take four classes each semester, with each class being worth a total of four credits.
Northeastern also offers an Experimental Opportunities option for this degree. This option will extended the length of the program by 6 months to 18 months. The experimental opportunities available are the Graduate Co-op experience and Research Lab or Center Experience. Students take courses during the summer semester as a part of this experimental opportunity.
University of Texas at Dallas
College Choice Score: 90.04
Average Net Price: $10,254
University of Texas at Dallas is a public university located in Richardson, TX. The school was founded in 1961 as the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest. It is sometimes referred to as either “UTD” or “UT Dallas.” They have around 1,300 academic staff members and a student population of 28,000, including just over 9,000 postgraduates. Their endowment is approximately $500 million.
The University of Texas at Dallas offers a Master of Science degree in Criminology. The program is offered through their school of Economic, Political, and Policy Sciences. It is a 36-credit program. Graduates from the program have pursued careers in:
- Local and Federal Law Enforcement
- Court and Victims Services
- Further Higher Education in Criminology (Doctoral Level)
- Law School
The program is billed as being an interdisciplinary, research-oriented program. It was one of the first criminology programs offered in the state of Texas.
Applicants to the program should have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.2 on a 4.0 scale. Students are required to have a combined quantitative and verbal score of at least 300 on the GRE. They should also possess a Bachelor’s degree in criminology, sociology, or a related field.
University of Delaware
College Choice Score: 88.46
Average Net Price: $15,894
The University of Delaware is a hybrid public-private university located in Newark, DE. The hybrid designation means that the school is governed privately, but that they receive public funding as a state-sponsored research institution. They have around 22,000 total students and an endowment of more than $1.2 billion. It is the largest university in the state of Delaware.
Delaware offers a Master of Arts degree in Criminology. Students choose between the Master’s Thesis option and the Master’s Examination option. Both options require introductory classes in subjects such as Data Collection. They then diverge into classes such as:
- Theories and Approaches in Social Deviance
- Topics in Law and Society
- Criminology and Systems of Criminal Justice
- Application of Criminological Theory and Empirical Tests
The main difference between the two options is that the Master’s Examination path requires students to take two extra elective courses, in place of their thesis hours.
Delaware also has a PhD program in Criminology, which graduates of the MA program are eligible to apply for. They also have MA and PhD programs offered in Sociology, which is a shared department with Criminology at Delaware. These two programs have some course overlap and also share faculty members.
University of South Florida
College Choice Score: 84.21
Average Net Price: $11,398
The University of South Florida, often referred to as USF, is a public university located in Tampa, FL. Classes began at USF in 1960, and it has since become one of the largest universities in the state of Florida. They have a student population of more than 40,000, as well as endowment of over $400 million. Students may choose from 80 undergraduate degree programs, as well as over 130 graduate and doctoral degree programs.
The University of South Florida offers a Master of Arts degree in Criminology. Students are required to complete 33 hours of graduate study. Coursework will vary depending on the student’s course of study, but may include classes such as:
- Criminal Justice and Public Policy
- Quantitative Analysis I & II
- Pro Seminar in Criminology
- Research Methods
Students may choose to pursue a course of study that leads to a final comprehensive exam, a final project, or the completion of a thesis.
The final comprehensive exam track is best for students pursuing non-research positions in the field of criminal justice. The Master’s project suits students who will seek research positions without pursuing a PhD. Students planning on pursuing a doctoral program generally choose to pursue the thesis track.
College Choice Score: 82.50
Average Net Price: $31,758
American University is a private university located in Washington, DC. The school has an affiliation with the United Methodist Church, and is often referred to as “AU” or simply “American” by students and faculty. They have around 13,000 total students, including 5,400 postgraduates. They have seven schools and colleges and an endowment of a little over $576 million.
American University offers a Master of Science degree in Justice, Law, and Criminology. The program requires 33 credit hours of graduate level study, including 18 credits at the 600-level. Students are required to choose a concentration from the following list of options:
- Jurisprudence and Social Thought
- Justice and Public Policy
- Law and Society
- Terrorism and Security Policy
Students are required to complete a three-hour comprehensive examination in their chosen concentration area. There are also unique research requirements for each concentration.
Courses in the program are divided between foundation, research, and concentration courses. Foundation courses include Concept of Justice and Seminar on National Security Policy. Research courses include The Rule of Law and Due Process and Foundation of Knowledge. Concentration courses vary based on the concentration chosen.
University of Miami
College Choice Score: 81.84
Average Net Price: $37,424
The University of Miami, also called “U of M” or “The U,” is a public university in Coral Gables, FL. They have 12 different schools and colleges, which help to educate 16,800 students, a majority of whom are undergraduates. There endowment is just short of $1 billion and the school is home to a number of celebrated sports programs, including in football and basketball.
Miami has a Master of Science degree program in Criminology and Criminal Justice. It is a 30 credit-hour program, which is divided between core, elective, and completion classes. The program’s core classes are:
- Social Statistics
- Advanced Research Methods
- Theories in Criminology and Criminal Methods
- The Criminal Justice System
- Criminology and Public Policy
Completion classes vary based on the concentration that students choose to pursue. Available concentrations include Research and Statistics, Geographic Information Systems, Legal Issues in Criminal Justice, and Public Administration.
In addition to the concentration options, Miami also offers a number of different degree tracks. Students who do not wish to pursue graduate study further can complete their degree with a comprehensive exam. Students looking for work experience may pursue an internship and accompanying paper/report. And finally, students wishing to continue in academia may pursue a Master’s thesis.
Sam Houston State University
College Choice Score: 81.40
Average Net Price: $12,365
Sam Houston State University is a public university located in Huntsville, TX. Sam Houston began as the Sam Houston Normal Institute in 1879, educating teachers for the state of Texas. It is the third oldest public university in the state of Texas. SHSU has more than 20,000 students and offers almost 70 different graduate degree programs.
Sam Houston State University offers a Master of Arts degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology. It is a 36 credit hour program, which begins each year in the fall and is available solely on campus. Courses offered in the program include:
- Critical Analysis of Justice Administration
- Perspectives in Criminology
- Legal Aspects of the Criminal Justice System
- Statistics for Criminal Justice Research
Students work with their academic advisor to choose elective courses that suit their particular career interests.
Sam Houston State University also offers a PhD program in Criminal Justice & Criminology, which Master’s graduates are eligible to apply for. Students complete their degree program with Thesis Practicum & Thesis courses. Once enrolled in a Thesis course, students must continue to enroll in one until graduation.
Pennsylvania State University
College Choice Score: 80.46
Average Net Price: $25,055
Pennsylvania State University is a public doctoral university with its main campus being located in University Park, PA. Penn State is often dubbed to be one of the “Public Ivies”, as being as public school that offers a quality of education comparable to an Ivy-League institution. Penn State has a student population of almost 100,000, including almost 15,000 postgraduate students.
Penn State has a Master of Arts degree program in Criminology. Students in the program are required to complete more than 30 hours of coursework, as well as a Master’s thesis. The required courses include, among others:
- Two courses in statistical methods
- A crime theory course
- A course on the criminal justice system
- An elective seminar in sociology
- At least four 500-level substantive criminology courses
The MA Candidate will earn/complete the final six thesis credits while working on their thesis, in consolation with their director.
Around five to six new students enter the program each year, which helps to ensure close student to faculty interaction. All admitted students receive a full-tuition waiver. The program is limited to full-time students who wish to pursue the PhD. As a result, admission is highly selective.
Washington State University
College Choice Score: 79.67
Average Net Price: $17,815
Washington State University is a public university located in Pullman, WA. WSU is sometimes referred to as “Wazzu” by students and alumni. The school opened in 1982 as the Washington Agricultural College and School of Science. The university has other campuses across the state in areas such as Spokane and Vancouver, as well as an online campus, through all of which they enroll almost 30,000 students.
Washington State University offers a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice and Criminology. The program is offered at both the Pullman and Spokane campuses. Courses from the program include:
- Research Methods in Criminal Justice and Criminology
- Foundations of Quantitative Methods in Criminal Justice
Students are required to complete a comprehensive MA final exam in addition to the core course requirements.
Students enrolled in the MA program have the option of pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Global Justice and Security. To receive the certificate, students must successfully complete ten courses in the CRM J MA program. The minimum GPA for application to the MA program as a whole is 3.0, but a GPA of 3.5 or higher is preferred.
Florida State University
College Choice Score: 79.19
Average Net Price: $16,506
Florida State University is a public research university located in Tallahassee, FL. FSU is the oldest continuous institute of higher learning in the state of Florida, having been founded in 1851. More than 40,000 students attend Florida State annually, including almost 10,000 postgraduates. They have around 6,000 academic staff members and an endowment of $652 million.
Florida State has both a Master of Science program and a Master of Arts program offered through the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Students in both programs must complete 33 credits of coursework and maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0. Coursework options include:
- Survey of Criminal Justice Theories
- Statistics I
- Survey of Criminological Theories
- Theory in Criminology and Criminal Justice
Students in the Master of Arts program must complete six hours in humanities courses, which are not required for the MS program.
There are three degree tracks that students may follow in either program: coursework-only, area paper, and thesis. Students completing the coursework-only option are not eligible for the FSU PhD in Criminology. The area paper requires completion of a literature review and critique on a specific area of interest. The thesis is a report of original research, normally based on secondary analysis of an existing dataset.
Loyola University New Orleans
College Choice Score: 79.15
Average Net Price: $24,119
Loyola University New Orleans is a private university located in New Orleans, LA. They have an affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church and the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. They have around 5,000 students, which includes about 3,000 undergraduates. The school is divided between five colleges, including colleges of Business and Law.
Loyola has a Masters program in Criminology & Justice. It is a 30-credit online program that can be completed in as little as one year. Courses are taught year round, and include options such as:
- Seminar in Criminology
- Program Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation
- Directed Readings in Criminal Justice
- Seminar in Criminal Justice
Students complete their course of study in a Master’s Research and Practicum course that brings together their classroom knowledge and the research skills that they have developed throughout the program.
Students will also take a course in graduate level statistics, as well as in research and statistical methods. There are also courses on Theories in Criminal Behavior and the Seminar in Criminal Justice Administration. The program responds to the need for well-trained criminal justice administrators, planners, and researchers.
George Mason University
College Choice Score: 77.49
Average Net Price: $18,032
George Mason University is a public research university located in Fairfax, VA. George Mason is the largest research university in the state of Virginia, with around 35,000 students and 2,600 academic staff. In addition to offering a diverse range of academic programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels, George Mason also recognizes more than 500 students groups and 41 fraternities and sororities.
George Mason offers a Master of Arts in Criminology, Law, and Society. This is a 30-credit degree program, which requires a mixture of core and analytical courses. Examples of these courses are:
- Law and Social Science
- Justice Organizations
- Evidence-Based Crime Policy
- Values, Ethics, and Criminal Justice Policy
These courses make up 24 credits of the degree requirements. The additional six credits come from the student’s pursuit of a Master’s Thesis. The thesis is defended orally in front of a committee of three faculty members.
George Mason previously offered a Policy and Practice concentration within its MA in Criminology, Law, and Society. This concentration is no longer offered and is instead being replaced by the MS in Criminal Justice program. This program is beginning in the Fall of 2018.
College Choice Score: 77.45
Average Net Price: $26,505
Regis University, previously known as Regis College, is a private university located in Denver, CO. Regis is a Roman Catholic university, specifically of the Jesuit congregation. RU is divided into five colleges, including the College of Contemporary Liberal Studies and The Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions. Regis has a student population of around 11,400 and employs just under 2,000 academic staff.
Regis University offers a Master of Science degree in Criminology. This is a 36 credit-hour program, with classes offered online, on-campus, or some combination of both. Sample courses from the program include:
- Transnational Crime
- Leadership Principles in Criminology
- Crime Prediction and Prevention
- Animal Exploitation
- Criminal Psychopathology
Students complete the program by completing either a Capstone Project or a Master’s Comprehensive Course.
Regis offers a number of optional focus areas for this degree. Available focus areas include Leadership, Human Behavior, and Cybercrime/Terrorism. Regis also offers a cybersecurity certificate which students can earn after completing the degree program or concurrently with the MS degree.
Arizona State University-West
College Choice Score: 75.44
Average Net Price: $8,692
Arizona State University-West is a public university located on the border between Glendale and Phoenix, AZ. It is one of the six campuses of the Arizona State University system, which share students, faculty, and administrative employees. There are around 6,100 full-time students who attend classes at the West Campus. They have recently begun to integrate with the Thunderbird School of Global Management.
Arizona State offers a Master of Science degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice. It is a 30-credit program that requires 24 hours of coursework and six hours of thesis work. The program is intended to give students a thorough understanding of theoretical knowledge about crime and criminal justice. Students take courses including:
- Seminar in Criminology
- Seminar in Criminal Justice
- Research Methods in Criminal Justice
- Statistical Tools for Criminal Justice
- Advanced Statistical Analysis
Students gain important research skills, which prepare them for careers in criminal justice research or for continuation into doctoral program in criminology.
Arizona State has a doctoral program in Criminology & Criminal Justice, which graduates of the MS program are eligible to apply for. The program application deadline is January 15th, and the program only has Fall admission at present. Nine hours of the credit requirement will be made up of electives chosen by the student.
University of Illinois at Chicago
College Choice Score: 73.67
Average Net Price: $11,571
The University of Illinois at Chicago is a public university located in Chicago, IL. The school is sometimes referred to as “UIC” and is the largest university in the Chicago area. It is comprised of 15 colleges, which help to educate a student population of around 30,000. Around one-third of these students are postgraduates and traditionally most students commute to the school.
Illinois Chicago offers a Master of Arts degree in Criminology, Law, and Justice. The Graduate College requires students to complete a minimum of 40 credit-hours. During which a student may take courses such as:
- Quantitative Methods and Design
- Violence and Victimization
- Legal Discourse and Culture in Law and Society
- Criminological Society
Students will also take a comprehensive exam at the end of their course of study. Students also choose between a thesis, project, or course-work-only route for their degree.
To be admitted to the program, students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. They should also possess a baccalaureate degree in criminology, law, and justice (or a related field). Students are also required to meet minimum English proficiency standards and to submit letters of recommendation and a personal statement.
California State University, Fresno
College Choice Score: 70.97
Average Net Price: $6,177
California State University, Fresno is a public university located in Fresno, CA. Often referred to as “Fresno State”, the school has around 1,200 academic staff members and a $154 million endowment. Their student population is just over 24,000, including around 2,200 postgraduate students. They offer over 45 Master’s degree programs and three doctoral degrees.
Fresno State offers a Master of Science degree in Criminology. It is a 30-credit program intended for students pursuing a specialized area of interest within criminology. Students have three options for completion of the degree:
- A final project involving a committee of at least two graduate faculty
- A thesis involving a minimum three-person committee
- A final comprehensive exam
The comprehensive examination option is recommended for students who do not plan to pursue graduate education beyond the MS degree. Students planning to pursue a doctorate in Criminology are generally advised to choose the thesis option.
Graduates from the program are prepared for a diverse range of occupations, including in-service education, jobs within the criminal justice system, and community college teaching. Students who have not taken core undergraduate courses in Criminology may be required to complete certain prerequisites before beginning the Master’s program.