A graduate degree in criminal justice will help to set you apart from the rest in the growing—but sometimes competitive—field of criminal justice. When choosing a graduate degree in criminal justice, it is very important to accurately define your goals and reasons for pursuing a higher degree. In order to find the graduate criminal justice degree that’s right for you, roll up your sleeves and conduct an investigation! A good place to start is with the faculty at each criminal justice program you are considering. What are their interests? Do they correlate with your own? Since graduate school is about becoming a specialist, you’ll want to find criminal justice programs that are explicitly aligned with your interests.
Graduate criminal justice programs exist at both the master’s and doctoral level, as well as in continuing education for criminal justice programs, with available programs including the following:
- Master’s in Public Administration
- Master’s in Criminology and Criminal Justice
- Master’s in Justice, Law, and Crime Policy
- M.A. in Criminal Justice
- M.S. in Criminal Justice
The decision to pursue one degree over another should tie directly to your goals. If you aspire to be a parole officer or corrections specialist, then a master’s degree should set you ahead of the pack. On the other hand, high-profile government positions involving public policy might demand a doctorate of applicants.
Criminal Justice Graduate Degrees Emphasize Research
Wherever you go, you can count on conducting a good amount of research as a graduate criminal justice student. After all, as a criminal justice professional you will play a role in shaping the policy and criminal justice processes that help maintain social order and safety. For that reason, many graduate programs emphasize both statistical and scientific analysis.
Note that graduated degrees in criminal justice or criminology extended education are often offered within the graduate programs of other disciplines. For instance, sociology departments, which often take a theoretical tact, tend to offer a criminal justice concentration that focuses on the causes and impacts of crime. Public affairs and political science programs also commonly offer options for the study of criminal justice. If you are unsure as to whether this type of educational background suits your career goals, don’t be afraid to ask. Most graduate programs are very straightforward about the career options available to graduates.
Consider Your Goals
By shaping your educational decisions around your career goals, you’ll have a ready-made system by which to make those all-important decisions about course selection, research topics, and area of concentration. Choose your program wisely, pay heed to its accreditation (approved accrediting agencies can be researched on the U.S. Department of Education Web site), and prepare for an exciting next step in your educational journey.