Master's Degree in Criminal Justice


Am I qualified to get into an online criminal justice master’s program?






2+ Letters

At least two letters of recommendation from professors or former employers

Writing Samples

Brief Statement

A brief statement of intent regarding your degree program timetable and career aspirations



While the field-specific test mentioned above is the most commonly required test, some schools require the standard GRE exam in addition to or in place of the field-specific test.

  • Average Score: The average score of applicants for criminal justice programs is not reported. Minimum scores vary by program.
Major Field Test for Criminal Justice

This subject-specific test, overseen by the ETS, is accepted by nearly all criminal justice master's programs, but not required by all. The multiple-choice tests focuses on questions specific to the field, along with some statistics and data analysis work.

Additional Requirements

Prerequisite Courses

Some schools require applicants to have completed courses covering law enforcement, the legal system, and criminological theory.

Mathematics Prerequisites

Some programs also require applicants to have passed a certain level of mathematics, such as an introductory statistics course.

What undergraduate degrees do criminal justice students typically hold?

  • Criminal Justice/Criminology
  • Pre-law
  • Political Science
  • Sociology
  • Psychology

What can I do to better my chances of getting into an online master’s program in criminal justice?

  • Carefully research the field of criminal justice as a whole to determine the specific sub-field that interests you the most (i.e., law enforcement, probation, or legal representation).
  • Contact local police departments and other law enforcement agencies about participating in voluntary activities, such as ‘ride-alongs’ with officers.
  • Investigate local training programs that award certification for competencies related to criminal justice and law enforcement, such as CPR/first aid and firearm safety.
  • Inquire about campus law enforcement and safety-related employment opportunities at your undergraduate institution.
  • Reach out to professors who teach courses in all of your prospective institutions to discuss curriculum, specializations, and other specific aspects of the program; this will help you choose the program that most closely matches your career goals.

Financial Aid

What scholarships and grants are available to online criminal justice master’s students?

  • Ritchie Jennings Memorial Scholarship Program: The ACFE Foundation manages this scholarship, which provides four different awards ($10,000, $5,000, $2,500 and $1,000) to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing careers in fraud examination.
  • WIFLE Scholarship: Designed to promote gender equality within the federal law enforcement sector, this scholarship awards $1,500 per academic year to each female recipient.
  • ACJA LAE National Student Paper Competition: This contest (which awards $150 to the first-place winner) is open to any undergraduate- or graduate-level law enforcement student who is also a current member of the American Criminal Justice Association/Lambda Alpha Epsilon student organization.
  • National Criminal Justice Reference Service’s Grants & Funding: This portal of federal grants affiliated with criminal justice initiative on a national scale takes you through the basic federal grant distinctions and then lists out departments funding criminal justice research.
  • Ford Foundation – Reforming Civil and Criminal Justice Systems: Grants dedicated to reforming the justice system are found here. These grants support advocacy groups and nonprofits committed to reform in both the United States and in China.
  • Community Oriented Policing Services’ Grants & Funding: COPS grants revolve around initiatives that contribute to police force efforts to reduce crime and to increase community and officer safety. Much of their funding is given to people and organizations focused on anti-drug or minority advocacy.
  • Office of Justice Programs’ Grants 101: This portal explores the ins and outs of the many grants awarded through, or connected to, the U.S. Department of Justice.

Careers & Salary

Upon graduation from an online criminal justice master’s degree program, what skills will I have?

  • Qualifications to compete for the many jobs in the field that require advanced degrees (criminologists, forensics psychologist, police profiler)
  • Ability to work alongside and advise policymakers with respect to the regulation and enforcement of crime
  • Ability to analyze and identify or dismiss alleged trends in crime statistics and criminal behavior/tendencies
  • Advanced knowledge of the history of organized criminal justice efforts and the efficacy of those efforts at all levels of society

Once I’ve earned my online master’s in criminal justice, what will my job prospects look like?

  • Paralegals and Legal Assistant

    • Annual Mean Wage

    • Total Jobs, 2013

    • Total Jobs, 2022

    • Job Outlook, 2013-22

    • State with Higest Pay

      California — $59,030
    • City with Highest Pay

      San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA — $70,410
    • State with Highest Job Concentration

      Delaware — $50,870
    • City with Highest Job Concentration

      Charleston, WV — $40,220
  • Lawyers

    • Annual Mean Wage

    • Total Jobs, 2013

    • Total Jobs, 2022

    • Job Outlook, 2013-22

    • State with Higest Pay

      California — $155,740
    • City with Highest Pay

      San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA — $184,660
    • State with Highest Job Concentration

      New York — $150,510
    • City with Highest Job Concentration

      Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV — $157,770
  • Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officer

    • Annual Mean Wage

    • Total Jobs, 2013

    • Total Jobs, 2022

    • Job Outlook, 2013-22

    • State with Higest Pay

      California — $78,690
    • City with Highest Pay

      San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA — $95,000
    • State with Highest Job Concentration

      Mississippi — $31,170
    • City with Highest Job Concentration

      Ocean City, NJ — $70,410
  • Detectives and Criminal Investigator

    • Annual Mean Wage

    • Total Jobs, 2013

    • Total Jobs, 2022

    • Job Outlook, 2013-22

    • State with Higest Pay

      Alaska — $109,930
    • City with Highest Pay

      San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA — $119,530
    • State with Highest Job Concentration

      New Mexico — $80,090
    • City with Highest Job Concentration

      El Centro, CA — $85,360

Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook and Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor and Statistics; Collected July 2014

* Highest concentration of jobs refers to the location with the highest number of jobs (by field) for every thousand jobs. Average annual wage is then identified for the career in each location.


What are some of the most important publications in the criminal justice field today?

  • Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice: Published since 1978, this journal strives to provide a “cogent, thorough, and timely exploration” of criminology and law enforcement through the examination of current issues and trends.
  • NIJ Journal: This biannual publication from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) features articles geared toward criminal justice policy makers and lawmakers.
  • American Journal of Criminal Justice: This publication from the Southern Criminal Justice Association focuses on issues that directly affect U.S. citizens, such as the country’s policies regarding immigration and capital punishment.
  • Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice and Criminology: This open-access publication from Sam Houston State University (which first appeared last year) features original research studies and book reviews.
  • American Society of Criminology: The ASC maintains a list of more than 100 criminal justice and criminology journals from across the globe.

What RSS feeds related to criminal justice are worth subscribing to?

  • U.S. Department of Justice: The USDOJ maintains dozens of RSS newsfeeds; some are categorized by content (i.e., ‘News’ and ‘Civil Case Filings’), while others focus on the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshals, and other federal law enforcement agencies.
  • Sage Journals: The popular online journal aggregator provides five different RSS news feeds pertaining to the fields of criminal justice and criminology.
  • Oxford Journals: The academic publisher provides RSS newsfeeds related to international criminal justice practices.
  • Pew Research Center: Pew manages a list of trending news articles and editorials pertaining to criminal justice (and primarily focused on U.S.-specific topics).
  • CNN: As one of the nation’s most prominent news sources, CNN’s ‘Justice’ RSS news feed features dozens of law- and criminal justice-related stories each day.


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