PhD in Criminal Justice

PhD in Criminal Justice

Earning a PhD in criminal justice can help you to develop the advanced competencies needed to pursue leadership positions in criminal justice, law enforcement, and related fields. A doctorate in criminal justice is required for careers in research, teaching, and scholarship, and typically takes around three to four years of study and research beyond a master’s degree. If you would like to undergo rigorous training in the criminal justice field and advance your career, learn more about criminal justice doctoral programs.

Prerequisites for a Doctorate in Criminal Justice

To qualify for admission to a doctoral program in criminal justice, you typically need to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in criminal justice, law, sociology, social work or a related field. Additional admissions requirements may include a minimum required GPA, minimum required GRE scores, and letters of recommendation.

Students have the flexibility to develop an appropriate degree plan based on their academic and career goals. PhD students must prove that they have achieved a high level of proficiency in independent research and scholarship. Areas of specialization that doctoral students in criminal justice may pursue include forensic science; probation and parole; policy, oversight, and administration; criminology; corrections; policing; and crime prevention.

Curriculum of Criminal Justice Doctoral Programs

PhD candidates are required to complete approximately 60 credits in order to earn their PhD. Students typically use an interdisciplinary approach to study crime in order to determine its cause and learn how to prevent it. They may also learn how to identify criminal behavior patterns and uncover ways for society to control delinquency and crime. The curriculum of a PhD program might cover the following topics:

  • Foundations of criminological theory
  • Statistics
  • Research methods
  • Criminal justice policy
  • Law and social order
  • Theories of crime & deviance
  • Advanced methods in criminal justice
  • Criminal justice research & evaluation
  • Police and society
  • Prosecution & adjudication

In addition to meeting course requirements, PhD students are typically required to pass a qualifying exam and successfully defend a dissertation, which is a manuscript-length original work that is initiated and completed independently. Many criminal justice PhD programs are offered online, allowing you to balance doctoral coursework with other responsibilities. Online PhD programs are a popular choice for busy working professionals.

Jobs for Criminal Justice PhD Holders

PhD students graduate with an in-depth understanding of crime and the criminal justice system. Common jobs for those with a PhD in criminal justice include college professor, researcher, consultant, and policy analyst. PhD holders can also pursue upper-level jobs in criminal justice administration, criminology or criminal investigation.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of college professors is expected to increase by 17% from 2010 to 2020. Job growth for college professors is tied with rising enrollments at postsecondary institutions. In 2012, postsecondary criminal justice and law enforcement teachers earned a median annual wage of $58,040.

PhD programs in criminal justice give you the opportunity to initiate, complete, present, and publish original research in an area of the field that interests you. If you are a criminal justice professional who seeks an advanced education or would like to pursue a career in academia or research, consider earning a PhD in criminal justice.