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Can You Get a Master's in Criminal Justice? 

A functional criminal justice system is essential to every city, state and country. The unbiased and fair delivery of justice helps keep communities safe and provides victims with a mechanism for restitution and healing. Effective criminal justice systems also offer rehabilitative pathways to reenter society for those who have committed crimes.

However, no existing criminal justice system is perfect. New challenges like cybercrime are emerging, and new ideas about how best to prevent crime and rehabilitate wrong-doers are constantly emerging. 

For both professionals in the field and career changers seeking to enter criminal justice, a master’s degree offers a unique opportunity to develop the knowledge and practical tools to address complex problems and create equitable solutions. 

Who Can Earn a Master’s in Criminal Justice?

Requirements for enrolling in a criminal justice master’s degree program vary by school. Before you can earn a master’s degree, you will need to hold a bachelor’s degree—but generally speaking, that degree does not need to be in the criminal justice field. 

Some schools require prerequisite coursework, entry exams like the GRE or professional experience in the field. Franklin University’s Master of Arts in Criminal Justice Administration program does not require specific work experience, test scores or coursework for admission. 

Applicants to master’s degree programs in criminal justice are often mid-career professionals in law enforcement or related careers. However, a master’s degree in criminal justice also offers a pathway into the field for career changers without prior related experience. 

How Long Does a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice Take and What Does it Cost? 

Different criminal justice master’s programs carry different costs and take differing amounts of time to complete. Typically, these programs take one to two years to complete, though you can complete Franklin’s program in as few as 14 months. For many professionals currently working in law enforcement and related careers, online degrees offer the flexibility needed to accommodate unpredictable schedules and non-traditional workdays. According to Lightcast, a leading labor analytics firm, 85% of 2021 graduates completed their master’s degree in criminal justice online.

While master’s degree programs can be costly, especially at private universities, Franklin’s master’s in criminal justice is competitively priced, with a total cost of less than $25,000. 

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What Are the Benefits of a Master's in Criminal Justice? 

If you wish to advance in the criminal justice field, earning a master’s degree offers numerous benefits. These include:

  • Developing your understanding of critical issues surrounding criminal justice reform
  • Understanding the concerns and viewpoints of all parties in the system, including citizens, victims, the community, law enforcement and the courts
  • Building the leadership skills you need to manage in high-stress, public-facing roles
  • Learning to apply theories of crime prevention and causation to a variety of situation
  • Developing skills in advanced policing, intelligence analysis, penology, victimology and more
  • Preparing for promotion and gaining a credential for community college teaching

As Dr. Chenelle Jones, chair of public safety programs at Franklin University, said, “An advanced understanding of theory allows students to critically analyze the causes and correlates of crime. This in turn, allows students to develop and implement practical solutions for crime prevention and intervention.”

What Can You Do with a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice?

Unfortunately, crime is a reality of life, and from 2022-2032, jobs in criminal justice administration are expected to increase by 7%, according to Lightcast. 

A master’s degree in criminal justice prepares students for advancement in the state and federal systems. Many graduates go on to work in law enforcement as investigators, sheriffs, police chiefs or specialized agents for government agencies, like the FBI, ATF and DEA.

Others work with convicted criminals as probation officers or criminologists. This degree also lends itself to emergency management positions, which involve coordinating local, state and federal resources to respond to disasters.

For more experienced criminal justice professionals, earning a master’s degree in the field opens the door to teaching at the community college level after retirement.

Common job titles for professionals who hold this degree include:

  • Sheriff
  • Police Chief
  • FBI Agent
  • DEA Agent
  • ATF Agent
  • Federal Probation Officer
  • Criminal Intelligence Analyst
  • Community College Professor
  • Emergency Management Director

Is a Master's in Criminal Justice Right for You?

Before you invest time and money in a master’s degree, it’s important to carefully consider whether the program and career are right for you. Answering these questions can help you gain clarity and confidence in your path forward.

Are you already working in the criminal justice field?

For early and mid-career professionals, a master's can help provide a solid path toward promotion. For later-career professionals, it offers a pivot toward a retirement career teaching criminal justice. 

If you’re seeking to transition into criminal justice from another field, it’s especially important to research specific roles and consider how a master’s will fit into your career and personal goals. 

Are you aiming to advance into a leadership position? 

If you hope to move into a management or leadership position, such as police chief or emergency management director, a master's degree offers a unique opportunity to develop leadership skills and can help you stand out from other candidates. 

Are you interested in exploring emerging challenges in the field?

Criminal justice master's programs aren’t just about learning how to apply the law. They ask students to engage with the most complex and challenging ethical and logistical quandaries the system faces. If you find these questions interesting, a master’s program is an excellent opportunity to dive into emerging research and learn to develop effective solutions. 

Are you comfortable using your critical thinking and analytical skills to manage nuanced situations?

Criminal justice leadership positions require the ability to consider a complex series of legal and ethical issues, often in high-pressure situations. If you enjoy problem solving and thinking on your feet, you may be well suited to these roles.

Attributes needed for success in this field include:

  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Active listening
  • Writing
  • Problem solving
  • Time management
  • Digital literacy
  • Ethical reasoning
  • Empathy

Advance Your Career with a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice

Are you ready to take the next step as a criminal justice professional? Franklin University’s master’s in criminal justice administration is offered 100% online and you can complete it in as few as 14 months. 

In this program, you’ll learn to analyze and solve societal and criminal justice issues by applying both theory and tactical strategies. This hands-on degree program includes optional field experiences and required assignments that include criminal trial analysis, agency analysis and research. You’ll explore key legal and ethical issues alongside faculty with years of lived experience in the field, providing you with insights you can’t learn from books alone.

Learn more about Franklin’s online master’s degree in criminal justice administration.

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