Best Online Master’s Degrees in Criminal Justice: 2016

  1. You are here:
  2. Home
  3. »
  4. Degrees
  5. »
  6. Master's Programs
  7. »
  8. Best Online Master’s Degrees in Criminal Justice: 2016
Careers & Salaries with an Advanced Degree in Criminal Justice

The criminal justice field has expanded over the last decade to keep up with new security threats. Students who earn a master’s degree in criminal justice are now poised to snag entry-level jobs in the profession or advance to positions of higher responsibility in not only local law enforcement but also in homeland security and cybersecurity — and by earning their degree online, they can get there without sacrificing family or work responsibilities.

Timeline of an Online Master’s in Criminal Justice

Getting in: The Application Process

Once the list of viable online master’s programs has been narrowed down to a few of the most promising schools, it’s time to begin the application process. Each school sets firm deadlines and offers clear instructions about what it expects to see from applicants. Although the requirements vary from one program to another, most ask for at least some of the following:

  • Transcripts.

    Most online master’s programs require students to hold a bachelor’s degree before admission as well as a minimum GPA. There may be two requirements pertaining to GPA: a minimum for the overall undergraduate performance and a minimum based on classes that are prerequisites to the criminal justice master’s program.

  • GRE scores.

    The Graduate Record Examination is required of all incoming graduate students. This test can be taken more than once, and the highest scores can be sent to the colleges of the student’s choice. Students should take the GRE well before applying for an online master’s degree to ensure plenty of time for retakes if necessary.

  • Letters of recommendation.

    Most schools require three letters of recommendation from those who know the applicant well and can attest to her or his aptness for the criminal justice master’s program. References might include former professors, work colleagues or volunteer supervisors.

  • Statement of purpose.

    The point of this essay is for applicants to make clear why they are pursuing an online master’s in criminal justice program and to state why they would make excellent candidates worthy of placement in the program. Students may also mention their future career goals in the field.

  • Writing sample.

    This should be a sample of the applicant’s best work, preferably related to research within the criminal justice realm. Since communication is a key component of working in the criminal justice field, the writing sample must clearly convey relevant information and demonstrate that the candidate has an excellent grasp of grammar and language.

  • Interview.

    Applicants who make the school’s short list of potential students might be asked to sit for an interview with an advisor or admissions panel. Prospective students for online criminal justice master’s programs can usually interview via Skype or phone.

  • Financial statement.

    Some master’s programs also want assurances that students can afford to attend the school, so they may ask to see financial supporting documents, grant papers, proof of scholarships or similar documentation. When applying for the program, students should ask for clear instructions on exactly what financial information the school will need to see.

Year 1

Once students are accepted and begin the program, they will dive into core courses designed to prepare them for the more intense concentration courses in the second year. Courses help students understand the principles of criminology, law enforcement, juvenile justice and the legal system. Some programs will have students begin internships at the end of the first year.

Year 2

This is the year of intense study, during which students will pursue their concentration of choice, complete internships, wrap up a capstone or research project, and fulfill other graduation requirements. Courses taken the second year of an online criminal justice master’s program are all dedicated to a particular concentration, such as homeland security, corrections or leadership.

Testing & Graduation Requirements

In addition to completing the required courses in the concentration, students must also satisfactorily complete certain graduation requirements to be awarded the degree. These vary from one program to another but might include the following:

  • Capstone project.

    A capstone project includes in-depth research, a written report and possibly an oral presentation before a panel. The project is designed to ensure that students can apply what they have learned during the degree program to real-world applications of criminal justice.

  • Master’s thesis.

    Students are required to come up with original theories, complete their own research, compile the findings into a thesis paper and sometimes present that paper to a panel, which will then discuss the thesis with the student.

  • Internship.

    Internships are especially important for students who do not have prior law enforcement or criminal justice experience. Students must complete a given number of hours in a position to earn credit towards their online master’s program.

  • Comprehensive exam.

    Typically filled with multiple choice questions, this exam is given at the end of the second year and focuses on all the criminal justice skills, knowledge and concepts students should have gained during their time in the degree program.

Search Online Master’s Degrees in Criminal Justice

Looking for the best online criminal justice master’s degree but not sure where to begin? Our search tool makes it easy by allowing students to sort through specific criteria, including school type, location, school size, degree level and tuition.

Student Population:
School Type:
see map

Master’s in Criminal Justice Career & Salary Potential

After students enter an online criminal justice master’s program, they are expected to choose a concentration sometime during their first year. This concentration can lead to a job that puts their learned skills and knowledge to good use. Below are the most popular concentrations, as well as potential jobs for graduates in each.

Concentrations
Business and Leadership

The business and leadership concentration, which is designed for administrators, usually culminates in a MBA with a specialization in corrections and law enforcement. In addition to in-depth studies on law enforcement practice and policy, courses might cover budgeting and finance, strategic planning, communications, legal compliance and human resources.

Career:
Forensic Psychologist
Forensic Psychologist

Works in the legal field by serving as an expert witness, performing investigations, assessing the mental state of criminals and sometimes the victims, and collaborating with lawyers on jury selection.

Law Enforcement Administrator
Law Enforcement Administrator

Oversees the administration of law enforcement, including human resources, planning, field operations, training, emergency response and public policy.

Federal Officer
Federal Officer

Protects government interests by working at any number of high-level workplaces, such as the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, CIA or U.S. Marshal Service.

Computer Forensics

This concentration focuses on law enforcement’s hand in tracking down criminals who use computers or smartphones to commit crimes, or who have left a trail of information on their electronic devices. Courses focus not only on law enforcement, but also on investigations and computer science.

Career:
Cybersecurity Specialist
Cybersecurity Specialist

Protects businesses, government bodies and individuals from threats by using computer skills and knowledge to stop breaches and investigate them when they do happen.

Security Consultant
Security Consultant

Assesses security needs and provides protection for private individuals, small or large businesses, or government.

Loss Prevention Specialist
Loss Prevention Specialist

Usually works with private businesses to assess the damages from loss, such as embezzlement or shoplifting, determine how to prevent it, and instruct employees on how to report it.

Corrections and Rehabilitation

Courses in this concentration prepare students to work with current or recently released prisoners. Graduates should be prepared to move into management at the local, state or federal levels. Courses might touch on theories and operations in corrections, offender classifications, or social and political aspects of rehabilitation.

Career:
Parole Officer
Parole Officer

Helps recently released criminals adapt to life outside of prison and become contributing members of society.

Security Consultant
Security Consultant

Assesses security needs and provides protection for private individuals, small or large businesses, or government.

Victim Services Worker
Victim Services Worker

Advocates for crime victims by arranging court dates, preparing them to give testimony and securing proper counseling.

Criminology

What drives criminal behavior, and what can be done to stop it? This research-based concentration seeks to answer those questions through intense analysis. Courses typically touch on public policy, crime prevention, psychology or statistics.

Career:
Criminologist
Criminologist

Aims to get to the bottom of what causes criminal behavior and how to stop it, which includes conducting interviews and surveys and analyzing all the results.

Loss Prevention Specialist
Loss Prevention Specialist

Usually works with private businesses to assess the damages from loss, such as embezzlement or shoplifting, determine how to prevent it, and instruct employees on how to report it.

Forensic Psychologist
Forensic Psychologist

Works in the legal field by serving as an expert witness, performing investigations, assessing the mental state of criminals and sometimes the victims, and collaborating with lawyers on jury selection.

Law Enforcement

This concentration prepares students to move into higher-level positions in law enforcement, including homeland security and federal law enforcement. Courses focus strongly on law enforcement principles, management, public policy, criminal law, ethics and police procedures.

Career:
Federal Officer
Federal Officer

Protects government interests by working at any number of high-level workplaces, such as the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, CIA or U.S. Marshal Service.

Victim Services Worker
Victim Services Worker

Advocates for crime victims by arranging court dates, preparing them to give testimony and securing proper counseling.

Game Warden
Game Warden

Works in the field — perhaps literally — to protect wildlife and game lands and other state or federal areas. The job might include enforcing hunting laws, tracking down poachers or working to keep wild areas pristine.

Potential Salary Increases with a Master’s Degree

Those who choose to pursue the online master’s in criminal justice degree often do so to advance in their profession, whish may come with an increase in pay. Master’s degree holders might also qualify for higher-level entry positions in homeland security or government organizations such as the FBI or CIA.

Students who earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice make between $25,994 and $78,512 annually, according to PayScale.com, while students who earned a master’s degree saw a boost in pay, making between $42,081 and $91,475. Keep in mind that those numbers could go up depending upon the experience a person has in law enforcement before entering a master’s program. The numbers below apply specifically to probation and parole officers.

Average Salary $49,060

Additional Resources & Links

The following resources are an excellent way for students to learn more about the criminal justice world and can also benefit people who are already working in the field.

Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degrees

Earning a degree in criminal justice is hard work, but figuring out the best school shouldn’t be. To make it easier to filter through the many schools offering online programs, we have created a comprehensive ranking of the Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degrees for 2015-2016. Look through the rankings to find the best of the best.

And if you wonder how we came up with these particular schools, check out our methodology here.

RANK COLLEGE SCORE TEACHER/STUDENT RATIO COST GRADUATION RATE
1 University of Louisville 100.00 12:1 54%
2 East Carolina University 98.25 18:1 59%
3 Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale 95.00 12:1 55%
4 University of Colorado Colorado Springs 94.00 15:1 47%
4 New Mexico State University-Main Campus 94.00 17:1 46%
6 Bethel University 92.75 12:1 74%
7 University of Alaska Fairbanks 92.00 14:1 32%
8 Washburn University 91.75 14:1 34%
8 Lewis University 91.75 13:1 62%
8 Albany State University 91.75 16:1 40%
11 Mississippi College 91.50 15:1 54%
11 Dallas Baptist University 91.50 13:1 55%
13 Michigan State University 91.25 17:1 79%
13 University of Central Missouri 91.25 18:1 53%
15 Delta State University 91.00 13:1 32%
15 Chaminade University of Honolulu 91.00 11:1 49%
17 Salve Regina University 90.75 13:1 67%
18 DeSales University 90.50 14:1 71%
19 Fairmont State University 90.25 15:1 33%
20 Florida State University 90.00 26:1 79%
21 Rowan University 89.75 17:1 67%
22 University of Memphis 89.00 14:1 44%
23 Marian University 88.75 13:1 54%
24 Marymount University 88.50 13:1 51%
24 University of Central Florida 88.50 31:1 70%
26 Sul Ross State University 88.25 15:1 72%
27 Roger Williams University 88.00 15:1 62%
27 College of Saint Elizabeth 88.00 12:1 50%
29 Wilmington University 87.75 14:1 35%
30 Fayetteville State University 86.75 18:1 35%
30 University of Cincinnati-Main Campus 86.75 18:1 60%
32 Saint Leo University 86.50 15:1 45%
33 Missouri Southern State University 86.00 18:1 37%
34 Columbia College 85.75 17:1 23%
34 Armstrong Atlantic State University 85.75 17:1 30%
36 Sam Houston State University 85.50 21:1 53%
36 University of Northern Colorado 85.50 17:1 46%
38 Troy University 85.00 15:1 35%
39 Indiana Wesleyan University 84.75 16:1 63%
40 University of Arkansas at Little Rock 84.50 13:1 27%
41 Concordia University-Saint Paul 84.25 15:1 46%
42 Tarleton State University 83.75 19:1 45%
42 University of North Alabama 83.75 17:1 39%
44 Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania 83.25 22:1 67%
45 Youngstown State University 83.00 15:1 33%
46 Southeast Missouri State University 82.75 22:1 51%
46 Central Washington University 82.75 19:1 53%
48 University of Massachusetts-Lowell 82.75 18:1 54%
49 Wichita State University 80.25 18:1 44%