The MCJ is an advanced post-graduate degree, which teaches students how to analyze data regarding the criminal justice system, interpret what it means, and project trends. These skills are an important aspect of understanding how the system works. Management level jobs require individuals to have such an understanding.
Most programs are made up of certain fundamental, core courses as well as electives. Students may also choose to pursue the MCJ with a concentration in homeland security, terrorism, or cybercrime. Core courses build upon the basics of the criminal justice system.
Electives offer students the ability to take a certain number of courses of their own choosing. These may be chosen out of pure interest or because they are beneficial for particular career objectives.
If you’re wondering whether or not to pursue a master’s in criminal justice, here are a few points that might help you out.
The MCJ is a good degree to consider if:
- You want to specialize in a specific aspect of the criminal justice system
- You want to increase your job prospects and earning potential
- You want to seek out top-tier management positions
- You are interested in teaching criminal justice at university
- You are interested in pursuing doctoral studies in criminal justice
Candidates must do careful research into the universities, which offer online MCJ program. Determine what foundation courses, elective courses, and practical requirements each university has before making your decision. Another very important thing to consider is accreditation. In order for your degree to be recognized and your credits to be transferable, the university and its program must be accredited by the appropriate regional body.
In order to be accepted into a master’s program in criminal justice, applicants will typically need to have the following:
- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
- 2 or more letters of recommendation
- GRE scores
- Statement of intent explaining your interest in this program
If your application is successful, it is likely that the college or university that you are applying to will ask you to appear for an interview.
What to Expect from an Online Program
Online programs are just as, if not more, rigorous than traditional on-campus programs. Students are expected to carry out advanced research, stay abreast of all current happenings in the criminal justice system, and undertake a wide range of challenging and demanding courses.
Students are given access to study materials online. This includes lectures, access to online libraries, discussion forums, etc.
In addition, just like traditional programs, online MCJ program also has comprehensive examinations, practical tests, and final thesis.
A master’s in criminal justice typically takes around 2 years to complete. It typically requires 30 to 45 credit hours of coursework. Programs are made up of core courses and electives.
There are 3 different types of master’s in criminal justice and each has a different curriculum.
Master of Science in Criminal Justice (M.S.C.J)
Common courses that make up the curriculum of the M.S.C.J include:
- Policing in democratic society
- Forensic behavior analysis
- Gender and justice
- White collar crimes
- History of criminal justice
Master of Arts in Criminal Justice (M.A.C.J)
Common courses that make up the curriculum of the M.A.C.J include:
- Research methods in criminal justice
- Juvenile justice
- Community corrections
- Prosecution and adjudication
- Criminological theory
Master of Criminal Justice (M.C.J)
Common courses that make up the curriculum of the M.C.J include:
- Criminal justice management
- Juvenile crime
- Quantitative research methods
- Forensic science
- The judicial process
- Constitutional law
- Drug abuse
With the M.C.J, graduates generally have access to higher job positions and the potential for higher wages. An online master’s degree in criminal justice from an accredited institution may lead to job opportunities that include:
- Police captain or sergeant
- Corporate security manager
- Critical incident manager
- Forensic psychologist
- Crime scene investigator
- Criminal profiler
- University or college criminal justice instructor
- Forensic science technician
- Private investigator
- Correctional treatment specialist
It is important to note that some of these positions may require candidates to have additional work experience or qualifications.
Job Outlook and Salary
The field of criminal justice has the benefit of being a relatively stable field. This is due to the fact that social order and public security are two very important objectives for governments at the local, state, and federal levels.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following professionals in 2012 made an annual median salary of:
- Forensic science technicians – $52,840; the top 10% earned $85,210
- Police and detectives – $56,980; the top 10% earned $93,450
- Private detectives and investigators – $45,740; the top 10% earned $79,790
- Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists – $48,190; the top 10% earned $83,410
- Correctional officers – $39,040; the top 10% earned $69,610
Earning a master’s degree in criminal justice is an important step towards advancing your career opportunities and earning potential. The program is composed of many intellectually demanding and stimulating courses, all designed to give candidates a thorough appreciation of the complex dynamics of the criminal justice system. There are a number of quality online universities and colleges, which offer the M.C.J degree. This option is particularly suited to those candidates who, due to time constraints, cannot afford to attend on-campus classes.