There are numerous college programs offering graduate degrees in criminal justice (CJ). Many are available online for the convenience of many who are in the process of advancing their education. There are online programs that full-time students can complete in as few as 18 months. Part-time students will take longer to complete the degree.

DegreeQuery reported on the Top 25 Online Master’s Degree Programs in Criminal Justice in 2016. We also wrote about other topics related to CJ in subsequent posts. We will provide these at the bottom of this report.

The typical 30-33 credit hour graduate program in CJ exposes you to a variety of subjects, including criminology, social control, corrections, law enforcement, and juvenile justice. Of course, the classes will vary depending on the particular school’s required and elective courses. Here are examples of classes you can expect:

Foundations in Homeland Security

Studies the definition of terrorism and terrorist groups, including the fundamental principles of emergency management and homeland security; historical perspectives and modern threats; public health, and environmental protections.

Design and Analysis of CJ Research

This class explores the scientific methods in criminal justice research. Studies the design, data collection and analysis, interpretation of findings, and ethical concerns with respect to computer use in data analysis.

Globalization of Crime

The class examines international crimes and organized crime, as well as the pervasive nature of human trafficking, namely in women, children, and body parts. The material may also look at related problems that transcend national boundaries, such as firearm violence, money laundering, and corruption.

Theory and Practice of Crime Prevention

This class will explore the various approaches to reducing crime and the theories that inform those approaches. The course aims to provide an understanding of the empirical evidence regarding the distribution of crime across offenders, victims, and places/spaces. You also study various theoretical explanations for these patterns, with most emphasis on those theories that form the underpinnings of situational crime prevention. The course may include the practical techniques for preventing crime using situational approaches, community-based approaches, social developmental approaches, and criminal justice system-based approaches.

Correctional Rehabilitation

This course examines theories, techniques, and policies of correctional treatment from applied, planning, and evaluation perspectives. It provides a better understanding of correctional rehabilitation, and more specifically the use of evidence based programs and practices designed to reduce recidivism.

Crime Mapping

This class provides students with the theoretical, analytical, and technical skills necessary for studying crime in a geographic context. The course will involve a combination of approaches to the subject including the development of base maps, geocoding (pin mapping), hot spot and choropleth mapping, spatial analysis, and layouts including map books. (Choropleth mapping is a thematic map in which areas are shaded or patterned in proportion to the measurement of the statistical variable being displayed on the map.)

Criminal Homicide

The class covers the components of statutory definitions of homicide; theories of homicide; homicide rates over time and across jurisdictions; trends and patterns in homicide characteristics; and cross-cultural comparisons.

Criminal Mind and Behavior

This course addresses a broad range of topics relevant to criminal behavior and the development of the alleged criminal personality. The class explores the factors considered to influence the evolution of criminal mentality. In addition, it studies the past and current response of the criminal justice system to repeat offenders.

masters CJ smart

The menu of classes may influence your decision on which school seems preferable for your current future career. Another factor is whether to choose a Master of Arts or Science in Criminal Justice. Either degree will serve students who:

  • Seek a master’s degree as a prerequisite for entry into the criminal justice field.
  • Are currently in service in the criminal justice system and wish to broaden their skills by obtaining job-related knowledge and expertise.
  • Are currently working in the criminal justice system and are seeking to specialize and/or work in some other area of the system.
  • Are currently working in the criminal justice system or soon will be and are looking to obtain the training and expertise necessary for teaching criminal justice courses.

The two degrees usually differ based on focus. A Master of Arts program may concentrate on skills that are considered arts. Languages, writing, composing music, communications, and English are just a few examples of typical majors of arts-based programs. These classes may be part of the requirements prior to the selection of the electives or core courses.

A Master of Science program may include scientific applications such as chemistry, mathematics, technology, engineering, and other technical fields. Again, we encourage you to review your list of schools’ curriculum. The curriculum in most of the arts and science programs generally adheres to criminal justice and associated topics.

Additional Resources

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What is a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice?

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