Top 10 Masters in Criminal Justice Jobs & Programs in 2024

Best Criminal Justice
Masters Degree Jobs & Programs

Learn step-by-step everything you need to know about getting master’s degree in Criminal Justice.
Get details on the top 10 best Criminal Justice master’s degree Jobs.

Table of Contents

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Top 10 Criminal Justice Master's Degree Programs

  • University of Phoenix
  • Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)
  • University of Maryland
  • Walden University
  • Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU)
  • Capella University
  • Sam Houston State University
  • Liberty University
  • Arizona State University (ASU)
  • University of San Diego
  • Michigan State (MSU)

Master's in Criminal Justice Curriculum

  • Behavioral Sciences
  • Cybercrimes
  • Emergency Management
  • Homeland Security Policy and Coordination
  • International/Global Criminal Justice Issues
  • Law and Public Policy
  • Public Management and Leadership
  • Terrorism, Mediation, and Peace
  • Analysis of Criminal Justice Systems
  • Criminal Justice Leadership

Pay Scale & Average Salary For Potential Master's Degree Graduates*

Detective/Criminal Investigator
Federal Agent (FBI, DEA, DHS)
First-Line Corrections Supervisor
Anti-Money Laundering Investigator
Security Manager
$ 64,765

*Criminal Justice career jobs above will likely require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of a master’s degree program.

1. Average Detective or Criminal Investigator Salary (n.d.). PayScale. Retrieved January 4, 2019, from
2. Average Federal Agent Salary (n.d.). PayScale. Retrieved December 20, 2018, from
3. First-Line Supervisor of Correctional Officers (n.d.). Recruiter. Retrieved January 4, 2019, from
4. Glassdoor (2018). “Anti-Money Laundering Investigator Salaries.” Retrieved December 20, 2018, from,16.htm
Average Security Manager Salary (n.d.) PayScale. Retrieved December 20, 2018, from

Best Masters in Criminal Justice Career Jobs

*Criminal Justice career jobs below will likely require additional experience, training, or other factors
beyond the successful completion of a master’s degree program.

  • Border patrol agent
  • Customs agent
  • Deputy sheriff
  • Detective Gang
  • crimes investigator
  • Narcotics officer
  • Private investigator
  • Director, security management
  • Director, corporate security
  • Security director
  • District loss prevention manager
  • Chief of police
  • Lieutenant

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I get a masters degree in criminal justice?

Unless you are planning to get a research position with a government agency, you probably do not need to spend the time and money that it takes to earn a masters online or on campus. Masters degrees are not required for most careers because work experience is more highly valued. However, you can pursue a degree if it will help you to earn a promotion or if you want to eventually earn a PhD.

As you look for a masters degree school, look for programs that match your career interests so that you can apply your professional experience to what you learn. Remember that you can earn both traditional and online masters degrees in criminal justice, and you will need a bachelors degree from an accredited school in order to apply.

What kinds of masters degrees can I earn?

Whether you decide to earn your master degree online or at a brick-and-mortar school, you will be able to choose between earning a master of arts (MA) or a master of science (MS) in criminal justice. There are significant differences between these programs, so you should clearly understand why you are pursuing a masters degree before you choose a degree program.

The master of arts degree in criminal justice will teach you to analyze particular aspects of the justice system, such as law enforcement, the courts, corrections or the causes of crime. There is a strong emphasis on research in MA  programs, so this is a good choice if you want to earn a PhD in criminal justice in the future.

You can also earn a master of science in criminal justice, and you will learn to apply criminal justice theories to professional careers in law enforcement, the judicial system and corrections. The MS in criminal justice is preferable if you are interested in working in the criminal justice system, although you can also go on to earn a doctoral degree with a degree from a MS program.

How long does it take to earn a masters degree?

The precise amount of time that it takes to earn a masters degree can vary according to the program that you choose. However, students can usually complete traditional or online masters degree program in 2 to 3 years. Most masters degrees in this field require about 30 credit hours.

What classes will I take in my masters degree program?

As you are investigating the course requirements at the schools you are considering, keep in mind that the courses you take will vary depending on a couple of factors. For instance, whether you choose to earn an MA or MS might affect your classes, as well as whether you study at a traditional school or choose to take criminal justice classes online through an accredited online masters degree.

That said, most masters degrees consist of courses like criminal procedure, criminal law, research methods and statistics. Depending on your focus, you can also take electives like criminology, corrections administration, judicial administration, investigative techniques and white collar crime.

Can I earn my masters degree in criminal justice online?

You can earn online masters degrees, which are appealing to many adults who want to increase their education without forsaking their family or career obligations. But even though the top online masters degree in criminal justice programs seem like a good idea, it is generally not recommended to earn your masters degree online. Graduate degrees require students to conduct intensive research and to foster close relationships with faculty advisors. You will not be able to build relationships easily in this learning platform, even if you attend 1 of the best online masters programs.

What kinds of jobs can I get with a masters degree in criminal justice?

Generally speaking, earning your masters degree online or through traditional programs does not significantly increase your job opportunities in this field. However, an online master degree in criminal justice may help you get a research-based position with a government agency or private organization. And even though a bachelors degree is usually enough to find employment, getting your brick-and-mortar or online masters degree can help you to earn a promotion in law enforcement and corrections careers.

The Difference between Undergraduate and Graduate Criminal Justice Programs

How are graduate programs in different from undergraduate programs?

Undergraduate degrees can prepare you for many jobs in the field where you will be on the front lines of crime prevention, such as working as a law enforcement officer or with convicted criminals in correctional facilities. But there is another side as well, which deals with the academic aspects of the field. In other words, if you enroll in the top graduate schools, you will take courses that focus on the social sciences.

If you choose to attend graduate school, you can earn degrees at 2 different levels. The most common option is to earn a traditional or online masters degree in criminal justice. But you can also earn a doctorate if you choose to get a PhD in criminal justice. No matter which option you choose, you need to be aware that graduate school will be very different from your undergraduate education. In the top criminal justice graduate programs, you will be challenged with more difficult classes and a busier schedule as you try to meet your career goals through an advanced degree.

What will my graduate courses be like?

If you want to further your education through a graduate program, you will need to adjust your ideas about what college courses are like. Your graduate courses will differ in both subject matter and presentation from your undergraduate courses.

For instance, the point of an undergraduate degree is to give students a well-rounded education in the broad field of their choice. But graduate programs in criminal justice are designed to give students a thorough education in 1 aspect of their field. Therefore, you will choose a specialization or concentration within criminal justice to focus on.

There are many different concentrations that you can choose from. For example, you could focus on law enforcement, the root causes of crime or the role of the corrections system, to name a few possible specializations. Generally, your classes will not focus on what criminal justice is, but why systems work the way they do and how they can be improved.

As a graduate student, you will be in charge of directing your learning. You cannot simply complete the assignments that your teachers give you. Instead, you will be expected to actively participate in your classes at grad schools. Not only will you listen to the insights that your instructor provides, you will also use your professional experience to contribute your own ideas and come to original conclusions as you conduct independent research.

How are criminal justice graduate students different from criminal justice undergraduate students?

Each student is different, but generally speaking, graduate students are more mature, analytical and focused on their studies than undergraduates. Students in graduate school tend to have different goals and reasons for pursuing their degree than undergraduate students. While undergrads earn a degree in order to qualify for entry-level jobs, grad students usually have a specific career goal in mind, like a promotion, that requires them to earn an advanced education. They attend school to increase their theoretical knowledge of their field and to examine the criminal justice system critically in order to improve it.

What will my daily routine be like in my criminal justice graduate program?

A common mistake that first-year graduate students make is to think that life as a grad student will be like their years as an undergrad. They often face a rude awakening during their first semester when they realize how different the experience is.

If you attend the best graduate programs, you can expect to be much more engrossed in your studies than you were as an undergraduate student. And if you come to your program from a professional job, you will still experience a major change in your routine. You may not have class every day, but when you are not in a classroom, you will be expected to keep up on challenging reading assignments as you conduct your own research. You should expect to treat your graduate degree like a job where you work 40 hours per week or more.

Naturally, the rest of your life won’t stop just because you are in school. Therefore, you will have to learn to balance school with your other obligations to your family or your significant other. That doesn’t mean that you have to abandon your hobbies, but you will need to make some compromises in order to finish your masters or doctoral degree.

Is the same kind of funding available for both graduate and undergraduate programs?

Funding works differently for graduate degrees than undergraduate degrees. In an undergraduate program, students commonly take on work-study jobs or student loans in order to pay for school. But financial aid is available for graduate students from different sources.

For instance, accredited criminal justice graduate schools usually have at least some teaching assistantships or graduate assistantships available, which offer tuition waivers in exchange for teaching a class or helping a professor conduct research. However, these types of financial aid are only common at brick-and-mortar institutions, so you will need to either pay for the cost of your education on your own or seek student loans if you plan to earn your education through online graduate programs.

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