Obtaining a Master in Criminal Justice (MCJ) degree is the next step for all those individuals who are looking to advance their careers in this field. This degree is intended to help students focus on a particular aspect of the field.  That involves taking a deeper look at the administration of justice in society, and examining the numerous personal and societal issues that influence crime and the administration of criminal justice.

Featured Programs and Schools

Online programs in criminal justice afford busy individuals with the chance to further their qualifications on their own time, without restrictions. If you’re interested in online MCJ programs, read on to find out more.

Program Details

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.

Master’s in Criminal Justice

Why MCJ?

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

Program Requirements

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)

The M.S.C.J, as the name suggests, has a stronger focus on the sciences. It offers students the option of specializing in areas such as forensic psychology, cyber-crime and behavior analysis.

Common courses that make up the curriculum of the M.S.C.J include:

  • Policing in democratic society
  • Forensic behavior analysis
  • Gender and justice
  • Terrorism
  • Victimology
  • Criminology
  • White collar crimes
  • History of criminal justice

Master of Arts in Criminal Justice (M.A.C.J)

The M.A.C.J program has a stronger focus on the humanities. It offers students an in-depth understanding of the administration of law enforcement, public policy, and legal studies. This program also explores the many ethical and moral issues involved in the understanding of social responsibility.

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
  • Cybercrime

Master of Criminal Justice (M.C.J)

The M.C.J combines both the science and humanities aspect of criminal justice.

Common courses that make up the curriculum of the M.C.J include:

  • Terrorism
  • Criminal justice management
  • Juvenile crime
  • Quantitative research methods
  • Forensic science
  • The judicial process
  • Constitutional law
  • Drug abuse

Career Prospects

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:

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 2022 made an annual median salary of:

  • Forensic science technicians – $63,740; the top 10% earned $104,330
  • Detectives and Criminal Investigators – $86,280; the top 10% earned $150,570
  • Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers – $65,790; the top 10% earned $104,100
  • Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists – $59,860; the top 10% earned $101,080
  • Correctional officers and Jailers – $49,610; the top 10% earned $82,600

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.