NOTE: Career options below may require additional experience,training, or other factors beyond the successful
completion of a PhD degree.
Can I get a PhD in criminal justice?
Doctoral programs are not especially common, but there are several schools that offer both traditional and online doctoral programs. The reason doctorate programs are not as common as masters degrees is because the primary function of this degree is not to prepare students for any criminal justice jobs in the field, but to become a professor. Therefore, you should not expect your criminal justice salary to improve dramatically if you earn your PhD.
However, if you want to become a professor at a college or 4-year university, you need to do your research in order to find the best doctorate for you. If you are unsure whether you want to teach or research, you would do well to find a program where you can earn a masters degree on the way to your PhD. That way, if you decide that you do not want an academic job after a few years of study, you can leave your program with a masters degree.
All doctoral programs result in a PhD. Top PhD in criminal justice programs will allow you to focus on concentrations within your subject area like crime control or justice administration. As you consider earning a PhD, keep in mind that you should only pursue this degree if you want to become a professor.
Since doctoral programs in general are very competitive, you will have a better chance of getting into accredited PhD programs if you have work experience in criminal justice or a related field, like psychology, sociology or criminology. And although most PhD programs do not require you to have a masters degree, if you have research experience you will have a stronger application.
The exact amount of time that it takes to complete PhD programs can vary according to your school and whether you earn an online PhD in criminal justice or complete a traditional program. However, most students take 5 to 7 years to complete their degrees. Depending on the depth of your program, you may be expected to complete 72 to 90 credit hours in order to graduate.
Doctorate programs require students to take many advanced courses in different areas of the field. For instance, some courses that are likely to be included in your core curriculum are criminal justice theory, criminal justice organizations, statistics and research methods. You will also be able to choose a focus area in your program and you will take classes related to your concentration. For example, you could elect to take classes like gender studies, race and ethnicity, psychology or sociology.
Some schools do offer doctoral programs online. However, you are strongly cautioned not to enroll in any PhD programs that take place entirely online. There are several reasons for this. For 1 thing, PhD programs are intended to prepare students to become professors. Therefore, PhD students are expected to teach undergraduates while they study. But in online PhD programs, you will not have this opportunity.
Next, consider that getting a job as a professor is difficult and you will need recommendations from highly regarded faculty advisors who can speak to your teaching ability and the quality of your research. But your online professors will not be qualified to judge these criteria if they have never seen you in action or built a relationship with you.
However, you may be able to find some hybrid PhD programs, which combine online coursework with residencies of a substantial length. These programs allow you to research independently, but you can collaborate with your peers and professors. Although they are not ideal, hybrid programs are preferable to completely online PhD programs.
If you earn a PhD, you will be qualified to teach at a university or college. Along with teaching, you will conduct academic research into issues of crime, crime prevention and the criminal justice system. If you would rather work in criminal justice administration, you should get a masters degree instead.