Online doctorate in criminal justice programs are a flexible option to expand your legal, criminal justice, and criminology expertise. They are designed to hone advanced investigative skills and legal knowledge and may result in a PhD, JD, SJD or PsyD degree. Through a combination of online coursework and independent research, students may delve into specific aspects of the legal and justice system, matching their online criminal justice doctoral program to their goals. Possible concentrations include Criminalistics, Homeland Security, Law Enforcement and Legal Studies.
Online doctorate in criminal justice programs are fairly wide-ranging. After all, criminal justice impacts different types of communities in different ways and has many applications. What they share in common is a focus on law, crime and public safety. While curriculum will vary depending on area of interest, most require students to complete a foundation of core coursework, followed by electives to further tailor programs to student interests.
As these are doctoral programs, they may also require some amount of independent research and inquiry. This research element might be supported by coursework in statistical analysis and field-specific research methodologies. Some programs may ask students to complete a dissertation, while others culminate with a capstone project. The type of final project may depend on whether the program focuses on academic or practical applications. Typically, a full time student might complete their coursework in 3-4 years, with additional time for final projects.
Most programs ask applicants to hold a masters degree, though this might not have to be in criminal justice or legal studies. GRE scores, professional experience and a relevant bachelors degree may be also required. Each program may have their own requirements so contact an admission advisor to ensure your application is complete.
Online doctorate in criminal justice programs may offer several unique concentration options or specialties. Often, these are designed to support specific career paths, with a focus on leadership roles. For example, one online criminal justice doctoral program could focus on the operations of law enforcement agencies. Another might aim toward practicing law. Still more might look at community leadership or policy development.
Below are listed several examples of the types of subject area concentrations you might pursue.
The broadest category, online criminal justice and criminalistics programs generally center on how to apply and enforce the law in different kinds of communities. Students might develop expertise in how the criminal justice system works and pursue research in how criminal justice issues impact different people and social groups. Courses could also look at the court system, or different ways to punish or rehabilitate criminals. What all these programs have in common is a central emphasis on keeping communities safe, preventing crime, and helping victims of crime.
Some online doctoral programs in criminal justice or criminalistics offer students the option to further specialize their curriculum. That may include the following examples.
If you choose to pursue any of the above concentration options, remember that individual programs may vary. That means that while many programs may align with the descriptions above, it’s possible that the one you choose may be different. For more information about this and other potential concentration options, contact your online criminal justice doctoral program of choice.
Interested in earning a PhD in Homeland Security Online? This unique specialty focuses on understanding how intelligence, the military, technology, and leadership come together to address crucial national security concerns. Some online homeland security doctoral programs may look toward research roles—that is, using scholarly expertise to study and understand why these homeland security issues arise, measure the effectiveness of countermeasures, and examine the impact on communities across the country. Other programs may look more at leadership roles within homeland security, leading defense programs and making strategic decisions. Studying homeland security at the doctoral level may also share some course topics with related programs, such as public administration, crisis management, military history, and international relations.
Online law enforcement doctoral programs go by a few different names, depending on how they approach the topic of maintaining order. For example, you could find some called Strategic Security, and others called Policing and Investigation. In general, this topic focuses on investigating crimes, keeping the public safe, and and how to manage teams in those contexts. Programs may also discuss how to lead a security firm to protect people and areas. Or they could look at applying investigation skills in areas like counterterrorism, intelligence operations, and more.
Online legal studies doctoral programs may come in several forms but are all concerned with the theories and institutions that form the backbone of the legal system. Generally, courses vary based on the objective. For example, some programs focus on developing one’s credentials to practice law in the courtroom. These might focus on prosecutorial or defense roles; however, some programs may apply to judicial ones as well, or legal analysis. Other programs, meanwhile, may concentrate on analyzing the legal system and its impact on people and communities from a scholarly standpoint. That could, for example, entail an examination of how the law is enforced in urban communities versus suburban or rural ones, or the rate of conviction of certain crimes in different populations. Online legal studies doctoral programs may also be found to help you work toward lecturing about law in a college setting as a professor. Or you might focus on developing expertise on a certain type of law. While many of these types of legal studies doctoral programs online may focus on criminal law, some may look closely at constitutional issues, corporate law, or even international law. Due to the wide variety of programs, it is important to read descriptions carefully. Contact schools directly with questions.
Online criminal justice doctoral programs may confer any of several different degree types. Each one of these types of doctorates could tell you something about how that program’s curriculum is put together and the types of skills they may emphasize. Additionally, the options available could depends heavily on the concentration you choose to study.
Below are listed some of the more commonly awarded degree types in criminal justice.
As you search for your potential online doctorate in criminal justice programs, keep in mind that, while the above list might be a useful guide, it may not be comprehensive. Over the course of your search, you may encounter programs that vary from these descriptions, or even degree types not listed here. If that’s the case, reach out to that school for more information.
Studying in an online doctorate in criminal justice program may be an attractive option for those who need to balance their education with outside responsibilities. Coursework is typically delivered through a digital learning platform, with assignments, lectures and other resources available 24/7. Some programs are self-paced. That would mean you’d have additional freedom to decide how much coursework you can handle at any given time, and the ability to work at different times to accommodate your schedule.
For those seeking a more traditional classroom experience, synchronous programs could be offered. This type of online criminal justice doctoral program may enable you to participate in real time, attending a streaming or interactive lecture from the comfort of your home - or wherever you have internet access.
Studying online also removes geographic barriers. Not only does that mean you could apply to programs across the country. It also means you could study alongside criminal justice students and professionals from all walks of life and different types of communities. That kind of learning experience—getting to hear about these issues and how they impact real communities and people outside of your area, could enhance your educational experience.
Studying criminal justice may support a wide range of potential career paths, including criminal law enforcement, criminal investigations, rehabilitation, and more! Because many entry level employment could be found with prior degrees like bachelors or masters, many doctoral candidates have already begun their criminal justice careers by the time they enroll. (One notable exception to this rule is practicing law.) An online doctorate in criminal justice program could help these professionals enhance their career and pursue leadership or research positions.
Below are listed several example criminal justice career paths, with additional salary information.
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