People have been shown to be consistently fascinated by crime, whether they like to get their fix from their favorite podcast or TV. But those who find themselves trying to solve the latest case thrust into the public eye might consider redirecting their fascination into education by obtaining an online degree in the field of criminology.
For those who want to make a career out of solving crime, an online degree in criminology is the right fit. It’d be a crime not to keep reading to find out the ins and outs of earning an online master’s in criminology.
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The Difference between Criminology and Criminal Justice Degrees
One of the main questions students have regarding a criminology degree is: What is the difference between a degree in criminology and a degree in criminal justice? Although they are intertwined, there are significant differences between both degrees.
Criminology is the study of crime. More specifically, criminology strives to identify the root causes of crime through research. On the other hand, criminal justice is the study of criminal behavior and society’s ability to control crime through punishment, law enforcement, criminal courts and corrections, and criminal justice systems.
The study of criminology covers a broad spectrum of subjects, including biology, psychology, philosophy, legal theory, and social factors. An online master’s delves into not only why crimes are committed but also how they can be prevented in the future.
Degrees in criminal justice typically prepare students for careers as police administrators, cybersecurity managers, or victim advocates. However, a graduate of a criminology degree program can go on to become statisticians, sociologists, forensic scientists, and intelligence analysts.
Master’s in Criminology Curriculum
An online criminology curriculum typically consists of 33 to 36 credit hours. Many criminology programs are customizable to a student’s interests and career pursuits. Most programs have general education requirements and elective courses. Additionally, online criminology programs usually culminate in a hands-on capstone project.
These are some courses typically found in an online criminology curriculum:
Crime prediction and prevention: In this course, students analyze the history and future of crime prevention through theories and methods used by the police. Students also use statistics, intelligence, and technology to compare law enforcement and other crime-related fields.
Cyber criminology: In this course, students explore cybercrimes, including hacking, terrorism, fraud, and embezzlement. They dive deep into the cyber world by learning about the psychology and tactics that cybercriminals use. Future forensic scientists and intelligence analysts will find this course especially interesting.
Applied statistics in criminology: This course is used as a basis for researching and predicting criminal behavior through quantitative and qualitative methods. The statistical techniques students learn in this course will be used to prevent crime.
Ethical issues in criminology: This course covers the ethics of collecting and presenting criminal research and statistics. Ethical dilemmas that criminal researchers deal with on a daily basis are explored. This class is recommended for those seeking a position as researcher, sociologist, and statistician.
How Long Does It Take to Earn an Online Degree in Criminology?
An online master’s in criminology can be completed in as little as one year, but the length of the program will be determined by several factors. One of the allures of pursuing higher education online is the flexibility. Students can choose to join a full-time or part-time program. The latter is a popular option as many students have work and life obligations. Often, students will be able to choose between entirely online programs and hybrids of online and in-person courses. This will be an important factor to consider as one format may be faster than the other, allowing the student to graduate sooner.
Another thing to consider is whether the course will be taken in an individual or cohort format. Keep in mind that in a cohort format the classes are scheduled for a specific time, which may slow the student down.
Finally, you should know that distance learners who have previously taken criminology courses can speed up their degree with transferable credits.
Best Online Criminology Programs
Many factors influence our school rankings, including, but not limited to, the quality of the program, college awards, and faculty reputation.
Florida State University
Florida State University is at the top of any list of online master’s degrees in criminology. Its College of Criminology and Criminal Justice offers a fully online master’s in criminology. Criminology theories, as well as research methods, are applied throughout the program. Florida residents and non-residents pay the same tuition.
University of California-Irvine
The University of California-Irvine has one of the best criminology programs in the US. A master’s degree in criminology, law, and society from the University of California-Irvine can be completed entirely online except for one in-person course that introduces students to criminology, law, and society. This is an accelerated program offered over 13 weeks, where students choose between a graduate thesis and a non-thesis route.
University of Texas at Dallas
The University of Texas at Dallas also has one of the best criminology programs in the US, including an entirely online criminology master’s degree for maximum flexibility. The program consists of 36 hours of coursework. After students complete the core and elective coursework, they go on to carry out six hours of independent research or take non-criminology elective topics. A minimum 3.0-grade point average is required to graduate.
Careers in Criminology
An online master’s in criminology prepares students for a variety of careers in scientific and scholarly fields. Here are some of the many careers that online graduates can pursue.
Median yearly salary: $79,750
Projected growth rate: Zero percent
Sociology is the study of people and groups and the understanding of human behavior, society, and culture. Criminologists can be categorized into the broader category of sociologists. A sociologist must have at least a master’s degree and a background working with statistics and research methods.
Median yearly salary: $83,420
Projected growth rate: 9 percent
Statisticians work to identify trends using data collected through surveys and polls. The data is used as evidence to support law and policy. A background using statistical software that assists in data collection is a must for any professional in this field.
Crime Scene Investigator
Median yearly salary: $50,510
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Projected growth rate: 8 percent
CSI isn’t just a popular TV show; it’s also a potential career for graduates with criminology degrees. CSIs use science to secure and study evidence that can be used in a court of law. CSIs can be found working in the lab and the courtroom, as they are often called to testify in court.
Forensic Science Technicians
Median yearly salary: $59,150
Projected growth rate: 14 percent
These professionals assist with criminal investigations through the collection of evidence on crime scenes or in laboratories. They use this information to reconstruct crimes and figure out how they unfolded. A bachelor’s degree is required to pursue a career in this field and on-the-job training for both crime scene and lab specialties is a must.
Median yearly salary: $65,170
Projected growth rate: 5 percent
Detectives, also known as agents or special agents, work to gather facts and collect evidence. These professionals—which include intelligence analysts, FBI agents, and police administrators—are specialists when it comes to investigating a crime. With a background in criminology, detectives delve into the minds of criminals.
How to Pay for an Online Master’s in Criminology
Financing an online master’s in criminology doesn’t have to be stressful. There are many opportunities for students who want to pursue higher education without high tuition rates. Although approximately 70 percent of college graduates have a substantial amount of student debt, there are several options to minimize indebtedness.
For students already working in the field of criminology, employers may offer tuition reimbursement. Public and private scholarships are another option for those who are not currently employed. It is also crucial for students to complete their FASFA form as this could qualify them for federal financial aid.
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