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Why Get a Masters in Criminal Justice Degree


Modern studies in criminal justice follow the global perspective that impacts the role of the internet in the crimes of today. By addressing crime studies in terms of local and international factors, each graduate can see how cultures and international laws affect criminal justice outcomes. By completing an advanced degree in this field, many prospective employers will value that knowledge and information, which has not been widely taught until recently.

  • Law Enforcement Administrator
  • Crime Prevention Specialist
  • Criminal Rehabilitation Counselor
  • Forensic Investigators
  • Customs Agents
  • Correctional Administrator
  • Cybersecurity Specialist
  • Criminal Justice
  • Fire Chief

All of these positions have responsibilities that would be better served by the kinds of skills and knowledge that is taught and developed through a master’s level degree in criminal justice. As such, getting to the leadership positions within the criminal justice sectors of our society will also find increased levels of responsibility and authority. With those will come increased salaries, as found when looking into the above career options for a graduate with a master’s degree in criminal justice.

According to CareerBuilder.com, the average national salaries for the above careers all ranged between the $70,000-$100,000 range. As with all averages, there will be some areas where people make a lot more, and in some areas they will make less. With more experience, also, an applicant would be on the higher end of the spectrum of salaries.

The following list is made up of some of the best online degree programs for someone considering a master’s degree in criminal justice. Along with the name of the degree and the name of the school, information is included that will give a better idea of some things that are offered in that program at that school.

Why Earn a Master’s in Criminal Justice?

Earning a master’s degree in criminal justice will exhibit your strong commitment to public service, and will increase the level of respect you get in your organization. This is true whether you are employed in law enforcement, corrections or rehabilitation.

Also, a master’s degree in criminal justice will usually be specialized in a certain area. This fact can help you to get a higher level, managerial position with a higher salary.

More benefits of a master’s in criminal justice include:

  • Leadership: Your master’s degree will often qualify you to move into a leadership position that could take you many years to earn with just a master’s degree. For example, a master’s degree in criminal justice can help you to qualify for a job as an FBI special agent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a bachelor’s degree holder has to have at least three years of work experience before they may qualify. You also will need to have a master’s degree generally to attain positions in upper level management in criminal justice, and as a public policy advisor.
  • Specialized skills: A bachelor’s in criminal justice gives you a general criminal justice education, but a master’s degree will require you to specialize in a single area of criminal justice. For instance, you may focus on criminal corrections to prepare you for a career as a corrections officer. Or, you may focus on studying the corrections system so you can gain employment as a researcher on offender rehabilitation programs.
  • Better qualifications: You will generally be better qualified than master’s holders for criminal justice-related jobs in the field than those with only a master’s degree. This will often provide you with an advantage for an entry level position in criminal justice.
  • Higher salary: Being able to work in a leadership role with your master’s degree usually means that you can start at a higher salary. For example, the median salary for a police officer with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can earn a median salary in the US of $48,500. A police lieutenant with a master’s can earn up to $65,700.

Featured Online Master’s in Criminal Justice

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    • Master of Science in Public Safety: This program has a criminal justice specialization at Capella University. This online degree program consists of 48 total credit hours, and covers the elements that comprise criminal behavior. From studying the criminal side,  the social environments, and the judicial system, a more thorough understanding and knowledge of these criminal activities can be gained.
    • Master of Science in Criminal Justice: Preparing future leaders of law enforcement disciplines is the goal of this graduate program offered at Kaplan University. The online program has four specializations that students can choose, including corrections, global issues, law, and leadership and executive management. The program involves 55 total program credits, with 30 from core classes, and 25 from specializations courses.
    • Master of Arts in Criminal Justice: This Keiser University degree program is to encourage independent learning of each student and to prepare them to use their skills to improve the criminal justice field. Their system teaches the strengths of using data and research to assess a unit’s ability to provide necessary services to their people. This ability to evaluate will be the skill used in the workplace in order to bring out effective improvements to all aspects of the criminal justice system.
    • Master of Science in Criminal Justice: Understanding of the criminal justice system is heightened by this program at Everest University Online. It covers theory, research and analysis, policy and administration. Completion of curriculum requirements will prepare a graduate for leadership positions in the criminal justice field. Students can also increase specific education of several fields that may interest them, such as criminal justice administration, corrections, juvenile justice, drug abuse, and abuse counseling.
    • Master of Science in Homeland Security: The Colorado Technical University is taking a very serious approach in the emerging field of Homeland Security. In their criminal justice area, they offer four areas of specialization within the heading of Homeland Security. These choices include disaster emergency planning, principles of disaster medicine, emergency management and communication in disasters, and introduction to public health. By leading this new field of study, graduates with this degree will find themselves in demand in agencies that work with these ideas. In addition, this school also offers the Master of Science in Criminal Justice degrees as most others listed.
    • Master of Science in Criminal JusticeMichigan State University began offering this online program 15 years ago, and has updated and modernized it to keep up with the ever changing field of criminal justice. Students can choose to specialize in security management or to follow an international focus. This program can be completed in two years, but some people take up to three years to finish it if they have more constraints on their time from jobs and/or family.
    • Master of Science in Criminal Justice:  The University of Cincinnati is a leader in the area of research and study of criminal justice. Their nationally recognized campus program is the same content and professors as the online program. This brings a top notch education to you, wherever you are, and with the time available that your schedule allows. The online classes contain Blackboard, an advanced online learning management system. This system incorporates all aspects of the educational experience into one, easy to use interface.
    • Master of Science in Criminal Justice: Students working towards this degree at St. Joseph’s University have the choice to specialize in homeland security or behavior analysis. The homeland security option deals with all things concerning citizen safety, not just terrorism. A good preparation for people interested in high-ranking government positions. The behavior analysis option fits better for those who want to work in the fields that identify and work with actions and criminal behaviors.

Popular Career Paths for Master’s in Criminal Justice

Correctional Officer or Bailiff

A correctional officer is responsible for the oversight of people who have been placed under arrest and are awaiting trial, or have received a criminal sentence to serve time in prison.

A bailiff is also known as a court officer, and are usually senior law enforcement officers who must maintain the safety of a courtroom. Their duties can vary depending upon the jurisdiction. They generally are responsible for enforcing the rules of the courtroom, helping judges, providing security for juries, and also providing security for the courthouse.

Common duties of correctional officers include:

  • Enforcing the rules that keep safety and order in prisons and jails
  • Supervise all of the activities of inmates
  • Help to rehabilitate and counsel inmates
  • Inspect prison facilities to make sure that they meet safety and security standards
  • Search inmates to determine if they are holding any illegal items
  • Provide reports on conduct of inmates

Correctional officers also must inspect facilities for contraband on a regular basis. Some jails and prisons require correctional officers to conduct several cell inspections on each shift. They also are often responsible for inspecting mail and visitors for any illegal items.

The job outlook in this profession is average, with 4% growth expected overall. There are some states that will have more prisoners to oversee in the future. However, some new drug laws are reducing the amount of jail time that convicts are receiving, and this is affecting how many correctional officers and bailiffs are employed in some jurisdictions.

The median pay for correctional officers was $40,500 in 2015, and was $41,670 for bailiffs in the same year. Many correctional officers in some states may get overtime so they can expect to earn a higher salary. The top 10% in these professions earn a salary of $73,000 on average. Most of those are senior level workers with master’s degrees.

Emergency Management Director

These public safety officials prepare plans and procedures to respond to natural disasters and various other emergencies, include terrorism. They also are responsible for leading public response after and during such emergencies. They must work closely with other public safety officials, public officials, government agencies and nonprofit groups.

Common duties include:

  • Assessing the hazards in the community and preparing plans for emergency response to reduce the risk to people and property
  • Conduct meetings with public safety officials and companies to get recommendations on the best responses to various emergencies
  • Set up emergency response training for volunteers, staff and other stakeholders
  • Conduct preparation and damage assessments after emergencies or disasters
  • Work to obtain federal funding for planning and emergency management exercises

Emergency management directors must plan and lead responses to terrorism acts and natural disasters to reduce the risk to the public. Directors have to analyze equipment, resources and staff that is available to respond to these emergencies. If equipment and resources are ever in short supply, directors have to either revise plans or get more resources from other states or communities.

After a public emergency, directors are in charge of assessing community damage and must work with other stakeholders to get help and supplies into the area as needed. Directors often need to obtain state and federal help to execute the emergency response plan and to give help to needy citizens.

Most directors will coordinate with police departments and emergency medical teams to find and share much needed equipment during emergencies.

The job outlook in this field is bright, with job increases in the area of 6% by 2024. Employments is increasing as local and state governments are putting more emphasis on being prepared for terrorist acts and natural disasters. Employment growth can be limited in some areas if budgets are being reduced.

Another area of potential job growth in in private companies. Emergency management directors are needed to help companies to provide important services and products after a natural disaster or terrorist emergency.

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