Masters in Criminology, Criminalistics, Criminal Justice Programs

If you are fascinated by forensics, detecting crime and apprehending criminals, Masters in Criminal Justice Programs have a lot to offer you in terms of different degree tracks and potential career choices. Criminal Justice as an academic field, studies the system of practices and the governmental institutions that are delegated with upholding social control, deterring crime and sanctioning criminals. If your mind went to homeland security, criminal investigators, law enforcement and the judicial system you are on the right track. But there is so much more to be aware of. Crime affects more than just the perpetrator; it can also have severe consequences for the victims, families and other citizens. From criminology and criminalistics to administration and management, read on to take a look inside a Masters in Criminal Justice (MCJ) Program.

Masters in Criminal Justice Programs Information

Masters in Criminal Justice Programs: Essentials

The main prerequisites you need to apply into a Masters in Criminal Justice Program are a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related major, your GRE scores, letter of recommendation and your resume. Your program may involve coursework, a thesis or research project, and an internship. Many Masters in Criminal Justice Programs are designed to teach you about the research methods and theories in advanced criminal justice and criminology needed for leadership positions in public service. But before we go forward and examine the different masters degrees in criminal justice and how to find the ‘right’ program, let’s define some terms.

FUN FACT: Employment for Forensic Science Technicians in projected to grow 27% from 2014-2024![i]

Criminology and Criminalistics: What is the Difference?

While both criminology and criminalistics are both focused around law enforcement, there are a few differences that you should understand. In fact, it may

help you to actually choose the direction for your Masters in Criminal Justice Degree.


  • Explores the nature of crime and prevention
  • Focuses on criminals, criminal behavior and their treatment
  • Students learn about the criminal justice system
  • Develop new theories for dealing with crime and also its causes
  • Study the effect of crime on individuals & society

Topics of interest might include: deviance, juvenile delinquency, punishment, criminological theory and social research.

FACT: Criminologists focus on the social/psychological traits of offenders to uncover behavioral patterns , and use these to identify suspects and make progress with investigations.


  • Involves the collection and analysis of evidence
  • Is also known as forensic science
  • Students learn to collect crime scene evidence & prove causes of accidents
  • Test crime scene evidence in labs
  • Understanding criminal procedures & the U.S. criminal justice system

Topics of interest might include: crime scene investigation, drug analysis, genetics, physics and organic chemistry. You may want to see whether your program prepares you with the American board of criminalistics (ABC).

FACT: Criminalists concentrate on evidence to link offenders to crimes

Criminal Justice Masters Degree Concentrations

Subject matter is actually a pretty important part to choosing a Masters in Criminal Justice program, because you ought to select a degree that matches the type of career you aspire to. is organized so you can actually select your subject first, and then look into program formats next. There are different Masters Degrees in Criminal Justice Tracks. For instance:

Are you interested in law enforcement? If so, look through the Corrections masters degrees.

Are you interested in understanding the criminal mind? Check out Criminal Psychology Masters Programs.

Are you interested in analyzing illegal human behaviors and crime prevention methods? If so, a Masters in Criminology might be a good fit.

Are you interested in management, criminal investigation, working in a federal agency or informing public policy? If so, review Masters in Criminal Justice Programs.

Looking for “the best criminal justice schools” or Online CJ Grad Schools?

If you have narrowed down the concentration area, you can then turn to whether you prefer to search for a graduate school with an on-site program, or an if online criminal justice masters degree is more realistic. There are pluses to each; on-campus programs give you a social learning environment with access to the facilities. Distance-learning, while more of an independent study format, may be more convenient for your schedule. To look for graduate schools, simply use the location tabs to find programs in your city, state or abroad. Some of the schools may have online programs although you can specify this format to yield specific results. Some programs may be partially online, or hybrid.

What Types of Masters in Criminal Justice Degrees are there?

Good question. There are different tracks, and as we mentioned, you want to select one that is career specific. That means, if you haven't figured out your area of concentration (as per above), do a little homework in advance in order to ensure you pick the right school and the right degree.  

Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ)

The Master of Science option typically includes more science in the curriculum and fewer liberal arts courses. Concentrations such as forensic science, forensic psychology, criminology, cyber-crime and behavior analysis are usually offered as part of a MSCJ Program.

Master of Arts in Criminal Justice

The MA option often includes a focus on law enforcement administration, organizational security, legal studies, homeland security, terrorism and mediation and public policy.

Master of Public Administration in Criminal Justice 

The focus of MPA in Criminal Justice programs is to highlight the leadership abilities students will need to excel in the field. You might find more of a security intelligence and administration, criminal statistical analysis, organizational theory, and crisis management orientation.

Master of Business Administration in Criminal Justice

An MBA in Criminal Justice might focus on the management, marketing, leadership and financial aspects as they pertain to criminal justice.

MS/JD Criminal Justice/Law Degree Programs

Students of a master's program in criminal justice may also enroll in a dual-degree program that allows them to simultaneously study law and earn a Juris Doctor degree. If you wish to take state bar exams and become licensed, practicing lawyers, this option may be worth investigating

Some of the listings on might include: MA in Criminology and Justice with Sociology MS/JD Criminal Justice/Law, MS Criminal Justice, Master of Public Administration: Criminal Justice Concentration and MA Criminal Justice. Just to show you the diversity!

Masters In Criminal Justice: Potential Courses and Curriculum

From the different types of Masters Degrees in Criminal Justice, it is fair to assume that the curriculums are going to vary. There may be some overlap in foundational courses such as:

  • Criminology
  • Statistics
  • Forensic Science
  • Research Methodology
  • Understanding the legal system

We recommend that you request information from each school.

Masters in Criminal Justice Degree and Career Search

Are you wondering: “what can I do with a Masters in Criminal Justice?”.  There are a variety of potential career paths. Here are a few:

  • Forensic Science Technician
  • Criminalist
  • Crime Scene Investigator
  • Forensic Computer examiner
  • Digital Forensics Analyst
  • Business Continuity Manager
  • Emergency Management Director
  • Law Enforcement

DID YOU KNOW? (FBI) agents are the federal government's principal investigators, responsible for enforcing more than 200 categories of federal statutes and conducting sensitive national security investigations[ii].

Take the Next Step

If you are ready to consider a Masters in Criminal Justice, you are able to choose from general to very career-oriented programs. Depending on what you want to do down the road, or whether you are in the process of working towards career advancement in a current role, take the next step! Check out our directory and find the program that aligns with your goals and interests!

Sources: [i] || [ii] |

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