Best Online PhD Degrees in Criminal Justice: 2017

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Exploring Education and Career Options in Criminal Justice

While solid work experience is essential to career advancement in criminal justice organizations, individuals who emerge as the most respected and qualified in the industry will back their experience with a doctoral degree as well. The online PhD in criminal justice is designed to allow students to pursue their degrees while continuing to work. Upon completion, this terminal degree allows professionals in criminal justice to move into upper-level positions in the field, including management, administration, teaching and research.

Timeline of an Online PhD in Criminal Justice Degree

Applying to Doctorate Programs

Choosing a short list of schools is the first step in a student’s quest to get into graduate school; applying to them is the next. Doctoral programs are competitive by nature, and it’s not always easy to secure a slot, but students can maximize their chances of admission if they follow all admissions guidelines, adhering to deadlines and turning in materials as early as possible. Here’s what most schools require:

  • Transcripts.

    Most schools will require students to hold a master’s degree in criminal justice or a related field; some will allow admission with an undergraduate degree. Transcripts will detail the level of education attained, courses taken, and the student’s grades and overall GPA.

  • GRE scores.

    Although GRE scores usually are not requested of students who hold a master’s degree, those who have earned only a bachelor’s degree may need to submit them.

  • Personal statement.

    This essay gives students an opportunity to explain why they want to attend a specific doctoral program in criminal justice, what they feel they can bring to that department, and what they intend to do upon completing their degrees.

  • Letters of recommendation.

    Three letters of recommendation are typically required. Some schools will ask the student to provide these, while others will simply ask for a list of references to contact. Both non-academic and academic resources may be used, but it is wise to choose people who have a familiarity with your work in the field of criminal justice, as well as your motivations for pursuing a doctorate.

  • Writing sample.

    Any industry-specific professional writing, such as articles in criminal justice journals and similar publications, can help a student stand out in a field of applicants.

  • Interview.

    A school’s final candidates are often asked to interview with an admissions representative or committee. This can be conducted via Skype or other video chat for those who are applying for an online PhD in criminal justice program.

Keep in mind that other things might be required; always check with the admissions office to be certain of what is expected, and to find the proper deadlines for each requirement.

Year 1

Once a student has gained admission to a program, the hard work begins. The first year of the PhD program entails a rigorous schedule of foundational courses, such as research methods and statistical analysis; students will also take several electives that pertain to their chosen concentrations, which can include juvenile justice, cybercrime investigation or public safety.

Year 2

During the second year, students delve deeply into their concentrations, taking courses that are tailored to their particular interests or educational needs. They also complete courses in advanced theory, such as those in criminal law and policy. A comprehensive exam at the end of this year may be required to ensure the student is on track with the proper knowledge and skills. Students can also expect to do significant planning and research as the dissertation process begins.

Year 3

This year is dedicated to researching and writing a dissertation. After the dissertation is finished, the student will present it in-person to a committee, usually consisting of criminal justice professors. This process can take several hours as committee members ask questions about the research; students are expected to defend their work through oral arguments.

Though many students complete the dissertation within this third year, some need additional time; many doctoral criminal justice programs allow up to seven years for completion of the coursework and dissertation.

Testing and Graduation Requirements

Students who complete their coursework with the minimum GPA are well on their way to graduation, but there are other components that must be in place before they are awarded the degree. Here is what most online PhD in criminal justice programs require:

  • Comprehensive exam.

    After finishing all required courses, students often take an exam. This determines whether they have learned what was expected during their years of study, and a passing score allows them to continue on to the dissertation. This exam will likely cover area like theory, statistics and methods, and will be graded by a tea of faculty members.

  • Dissertation.

    This extensive project proves students’ ability to research and present their theories, and then apply those theories to real-life practice. It is defended before a committee before the degree can be awarded. As the crowning achievement of the program, the dissertation is often a publishable work.

  • Application.

    Students may need to present an application for graduation. This will include proof the student has completed all required elements of the program, and will then be evaluated by a committee. Although usually just a formality, this application process should nonetheless be completed fully and promptly.

Criminal Justice – PhD: Best Online Schools in 2017

An online PhD in criminal justice will put you on the path to furthering your career, without having to sacrifice your job. There are many options available, but it’s important to find a program that meets your state’s needs for application to the bar exam. Students can also choose from a number of concentrations in order to work toward what meets their personal interests and career goals. To find the right program, check out the top online PhD program in criminal justice for 2017.

University Name Score Net Price Financial aid percent Online Programs Aavailable Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateUniversity Information Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services
Nova Southeastern University Score86.73
Net Price
Financial aid %94%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate42%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less

Search Online Doctorate Degrees in Criminal Justice

Searching through potential programs for a doctoral degree in criminal justice may feel like an overwhelming task. Where to begin? Our search tool simplifies the process by allowing students to filter schools by criteria such as tuition rate, school type, geographical location and ratings.

Student Population:
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Routes to a Doctorate Degree in CJ

The Online Criminal Justice Doctorate

The PhD in criminal justice prepares students to move into administration, teaching and research positions within the CJ and law enforcement fields. Though the PhD is often considered a research-oriented degree, the skills and knowledge learned often apply to the daily, practical responsibilities encountered in this line of work. Graduates of a PhD program may move into law enforcement positions—especially administration—or assume various roles in the legal system. They may also work in areas such as consulting or training.

Earning the online PhD in criminal justice typically requires students to already hold a master’s degree; however, some schools will accept those who have only an undergraduate degree. Coursework usually focuses on research-based practice, but there are also options for students to choose more hands-on concentrations.

The Impact of a PhD on Salary & Careers

An online criminal justice PhD can be the necessary step to career advancement; indeed, many administrative, research and management positions require the terminal degree. Just where that degree takes the student depends upon the concentration or specialization. The following concentrations are among the most common in the PhD programs in criminal justice:

Concentrations
Juvenile Justice

This concentration prepares students to work with troubled youths. Courses include those in crime research, gang dynamics, juvenile crime prevention, behavioral analysis, influence of peers, and the legal and ethical issues surrounding juvenile detention.

Career:
juvenile detention center director
juvenile detention center director

As overseers of juvenile detention centers, these managers are tasked with establishing policies; hiring and firing employees; understanding recent research and methods for dealing with troubled juveniles; providing guidance and support for programs that target at-risk juveniles; and serving as liaisons between the center and the public or media.

policy advisor
policy advisor

These research experts collect and analyze data on crimes, identify issues that need to be addressed, and formulate a plan to do so. They frequently work in concert with those who are in a position to make changes, such as lawmakers and those at the higher levels of the criminal justice system.

consultant
consultant

Consultants work with a variety of private and public organizations; clients might include schools, think tanks, private security companies, small and large businesses, and government entities. They analyze crime data, look for recent trends in crime, and formulate solutions to address them.

Homeland Security

Keeping the nation safe is the ultimate goal with this concentration, which includes research on domestic crimes, terror threats, civil rights and freedoms, legal and ethical duties to citizens, and the law as it pertains to both domestic and international threats.

Career:
criminologist
criminologist

These researchers analyze crime from a variety of perspectives to formulate theories of criminal behavior, with the goal of preventing it. Their work has the potential to influence new laws and procedures in the criminal justice system.

Police Chief
Police Chief

This leader of the police force oversees the operations of a police department, including human resource responsibilities, finances and officer duties. The goal is to keep a community safe and secure by addressing existing crime, as well as by anticipating possible criminal acts and putting prevention measures in place.

Criminal Investigator
Criminal Investigator

These individuals work to solve crimes; responsibilities may include collecting and analyzing evidence, and preparing evidence and testimony for trial. They often work in cooperation with other law enforcement officers.

Federal Agent
Federal Agent

In positions with federal government agencies, such as the FBI or the CIA, these individuals work to prevent crime, apprehend fugitives, and otherwise keep the public safe and secure. Though a PhD is not required to become a federal agent, those who hold one have greater opportunities for advancement.

Law and Policy

This concentration is designed for those who want to influence public policy and legislation, and includes studies in legal concepts, public policy, public engagement and participation, and analysis of legal cases. The concentration often leads to jobs in the public policy realm of government, or to positions consulting for private organizations.

Career:
Consultant
Consultant

Consultants work with a variety of private and public organizations; clients might include schools, think tanks, private security companies, small and large businesses, and government entities. They analyze crime data, look for recent trends in crime, and formulate solutions to address them.

Criminologist
Criminologist

These researchers analyze crime from a variety of perspectives to formulate theories of criminal behavior, with the goal of preventing it. Their work has the potential to influence new laws and procedures in the criminal justice system.

Policy Adviser
Policy Adviser

These research experts collect and analyze data on crimes, identify issues that need to be addressed, and formulate a plan to do so. They frequently work in concert with those who are in a position to make changes, such as lawmakers and those at the higher levels of the criminal justice system.

Justice Administration

This concentration focuses on an understanding of the overall justice system, including how criminals are housed and treated, the court process, victims’ rights, the theoretical and practical reasons why crime happens, and innovative ways to interact with prisoners to promote rehabilitation.

Career:
Criminologist
Criminologist

These researchers analyze crime from a variety of perspectives to formulate theories of criminal behavior, with the goal of preventing it. Their work has the potential to influence new laws and procedures in the criminal justice system.

Policy Adviser
Policy Adviser

These research experts collect and analyze data on crimes, identify issues that need to be addressed, and formulate a plan to do so. They frequently work in concert with those who are in a position to make changes, such as lawmakers and those at the higher levels of the criminal justice system.

Police Chief
Police Chief

This leader of the police force oversees the operations of a police department, including human resource responsibilities, finances and officer duties. The goal is to keep a community safe and secure by addressing existing crime, as well as by anticipating possible criminal acts and putting prevention measures in place.

Behavioral Sciences

Mental health issues figure prominently in the world of criminal justice; this concentration focuses on mental illnesses, sexual crimes, risk assessment, psychological trauma, analysis and assessment methods, potential treatments and interventions, and the way the legal system responds to mentally ill people who have committed crimes.

Career:
Forensic Psychologist
Forensic Psychologist

These criminal justice experts are also psychologists. Their jobs may take them into the courts as they work closely with attorneys, judges and law enforcement officials to explain certain issues—especially those related to mental health—pertaining to criminals, criminal acts, and victims.

Consultant
Consultant

Consultants work with a variety of private and public organizations; clients might include schools, think tanks, private security companies, small and large businesses, and government entities. They analyze crime data, look for recent trends in crime, and formulate solutions to address them.

Criminologist
Criminologist

These researchers analyze crime from a variety of perspectives to formulate theories of criminal behavior, with the goal of preventing it. Their work has the potential to influence new laws and procedures in the criminal justice system.

Federal Agent
Federal Agent

In positions with federal government agencies, such as the FBI or the CIA, these individuals work to prevent crime, apprehend fugitives, and otherwise keep the public safe and secure. Though a PhD is not required to become a federal agent, those who hold one have greater opportunities for advancement.

Potential Salary Increases with a Doctoral Degree

Those who have earned their doctoral degree in criminal justice typically can look forward to higher-level positions, better job security, and pay increases. The following careers offer potentially higher pay for those with the PhD; keep in mind, however, that earnings generally hinge upon both education and the level of experience.

Career Lower 10% Median Salary Upper 10%
Police Chief $47,720 $80,930 $128,970
Criminal Investigator $40,780 $79,870 $127,400
Forensic Psychologist $42,230 $92,110 $120,670
Criminal Justice Teacher $30,370 $57,200 $100,300
Juvenile Detention Director $32,810 $49,060 $83,920

Additional Resources & Links

As students prepare to attend an online criminal justice PhD program, these resources can prove helpful in learning more about the field:

  • Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences

    This website features information on membership and certification, access to journals and publications, message boards and more.

  • American Correctional Association

    Dedicated to helping correctional professionals throughout their careers by offering opportunities for professional development, publications, and information on government and public affairs.

  • ASIS International

    This organization focuses on security solutions for companies, organizations and even government entities. Explore the site to find information on certification, education and events.

  • Association of Doctoral Programs in Criminology and Criminal Justice

    This site provides an overview of schools that offer a doctoral degree in criminal justice; it includes surveys, reports, a job directory and other resources of interest to aspiring doctoral students.

  • National Sheriffs’ Association

    Dedicated to law enforcement officers across the nation, this site offers in-depth information on training and events, programs, government affairs and more.

  • The American Society of Criminology

    Members of this organization enjoy many perks; the website has information on topics ranging from ethics to mentoring programs to awards.