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Criminology Master’s Degrees: Best Programs, Jobs, and Salaries

Joyce Manrique - November 04, 2021


Moving up to management-level positions in law enforcement agencies require proven experience, credibility, and advanced knowledge in the field. One way to move up the ranks is to attend a master’s program in criminology. With many school options and unique program choices available, it is easier to move closer to your goal of obtaining a graduate degree.

This guide will introduce you to some of the notable universities and colleges that offer a Master’s Degree in Criminology. It will also cover the top careers for holders of a graduate degree and the average salaries associated with them.

What Is Criminology?

Criminology is the study of crimes. Classified as a sociology degree , this is the discipline that builds your ability to assess the intent of criminals and how certain behaviors come to be. Criminology comes from the perspective of someone assessing the individual within the context of the particular society.

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The primary question of criminology is to ask why a criminal commits a crime. It is also concerned with how a victim responds to a crime inflicted. This discipline is used in policy-making and the creation of rules and regulations.

What Is a Criminology Master’s Degree?

Graduate programs in criminology cover core courses such as criminological theory, law enforcement, and policy creation. It is an interdisciplinary program that combines criminology with other disciplines such as sociology, psychology, and law. Most master’s degree programs in criminology are research-oriented and will train you in a wide range of research and statistical methods.

Typically, this is a 36-credit master’s degree program that can be completed within two years. The length of your program will depend on whether you attend as a full-time or part-time student. Most programs offer flexible schedules as the students are usually also active law enforcement professionals.

Criminology Master’s Degree Requirements

The first requirement of a criminology master’s degree is your keen interest in the field, especially if you are gearing up for a management position. Undergraduate education is a must as this will determine if you are qualified and capable to take up a graduate program. Full-time students may need to take time off from work to devote their time to their studies.

Some universities and schools, such as those offering an online master’s degree , no longer require you to take a GRE or GMAT exam. To complete the program, you may be required to complete an internship, a thesis, or a research capstone project.

How Much Does a Criminology Master’s Degree Cost?

The rate may vary, but on average, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that graduate tuition at post-secondary institutions costs an average of $19,314 per year. A public university education costs $12,171 per year, while private university tuition costs an average of $14,208. To attend a non-profit private university, tuition costs, on average, $27,776 per year.

Criminology Master’s Degree Financing Options: How to Pay for Your Criminology Degree

Students may take advantage of installment arrangements within their universities if they cannot pay for their full tuition. There are graduate school scholarships , loans, and grants that you may apply for as well if you need further financial assistance to complete your studies.

Best Criminology Master’s Degree Programs and Schools: Overview

School Program Accreditation
Fresno State University Master of Science in Criminology California Board of Education, Western Association of Schools and Colleges
Indiana University of Pennsylvania Master of Arts in Criminology and Criminal Justice Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Northeastern University Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice New England Commission of Higher Education
Regis University Master of Science in Criminology Higher Learning Commission
St. John’s University Master of Arts in Criminology and Justice Middle States Commission on Higher Education
University of Delaware Master of Arts in Criminology Middle States Commission on Higher Education
University of Miami Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice Commission on Colleges of Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
University of Pennsylvania Master of Science in Criminology Middle States Commission on Higher Education
University of South Florida Master of Arts in Criminology Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
The University of Texas at San Antonio Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Best Colleges for Criminology: Top Criminology Master’s Degree Programs

As you look for more career options, you will need a credible educational background on top of relevant work experience. Earning an advanced degree in criminology is a rigorous education process especially since most of the programs are research-oriented. Here is a list of some of the top criminology master’s degrees available today.

Master of Science in Criminology | Fresno State University

Fresno State University offers a Master of Science in Criminology for students looking to advance their careers in law enforcement and corrections. This 30-unit program covers the foundations of criminology and provides a deeper perspective on criminal justice. Once you complete this program, you can pursue further studies at a doctoral stage.

Master of Arts in Criminology and Criminal Justice | Indiana University of Pennsylvania

This criminology master’s degree program at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania was started in 1973 and has a strong reputation in the industry. The program focuses on theories, research methods, statistics, including an option to take a cyber security elective. To complete your studies, you need to work on a thesis or synthesis project on a criminology topic.

Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice | Northeastern University

Northeastern University takes on a more practical approach to its criminology master’s degree through dealing with various real-life cases. Some of the topics that will be covered are human trafficking, drug abuse, racial profiling, and internet fraud. The program will improve your research, analysis, and problem-solving skills.

Master of Science in Criminology | Regis University

The Master of Science in Criminology program at Regis University deals with finding the right strategies to minimize crimes. You will be learning from a faculty with experience as they are former or current police, detectives, or consultants. There is also a required 16-week internship program to help you gain hands-on experience.

Master of Arts in Criminology and Justice | St. John’s University

You will learn through theory and practice in this master’s degree program. This program focuses on data and research related to crime so that you can build on your ability to analyze incidents and devise strategies. There is a thesis and non-thesis option, with a core of required 15 units covering statistics, criminal justice policies, criminological theory, and social research.

Master of Arts in Criminology | University of Delaware

This program by the University of Delaware enhances your capability in theory and research as it combines criminology and sociology. Your training will include topic coverage of disasters and environment, law, gender, society, and more. As this program deals with research, it is ideal for someone who wants to pursue academia or public service.

Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice | University of Miami

The University of Miami combines criminological theory with criminal justice and heavily focuses on research. Other than the usual foundational courses, the program also covers geographic information systems (GIS) which are important for location tracking and imaging. You need to complete an internship and a thesis to fully accomplish the program.

Master of Science in Criminology | University of Pennsylvania

This criminology master’s degree program takes an interdisciplinary approach through law, psychology, and statistics. This program trains you to examine various public policies that might be related to crime and how to better implement law enforcement. As this approach is research-oriented, then you can easily transition to a doctoral program degree.

Master of Arts in Criminology | University of South Florida

The University of South Florida offers a two-year Master of Arts in Criminology program that deals with the major issues in criminology. The program will hone your skills in inquiry methodologies, as well as build your theoretical knowledge. Upon completion of this program, you can immediately begin studying for a PhD in criminology.

Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice | The University of Texas at San Antonio

If you are interested in research and policy planning, this program will help develop your skills. The program also teaches skills in managing an agency or people and evaluating existing procedures. Other than the core of criminology, the goal of the program is to also strengthen your ability in writing, critical thinking, and public speaking.

Best Online Criminology Master’s Degree Programs and Schools: Overview

School Program Accreditation
California State University, Long Beach Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice WASC Senior College and University Commission
East Tennessee State University Master of Arts in Criminal Justice and Criminology Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Florida State University Master’s Degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Indiana State University Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice Higher Learning Commission
Loyola University New Orleans Master of Criminology and Justice Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Missouri State University Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools
Texas Christian University Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Thomas College Master of Science in Criminology New England Commission of Higher Education
University of California, Irvine Master of Advanced Study in Criminology, Law, and Society Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission
University of Nebraska, Omaha Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice Higher Learning Commission

Best Colleges for Criminology: Top Online Criminology Master’s Degree Programs

An online master’s program in criminology can be earned through credible academic institutions. Students who choose to learn online gain the same educational advantages as on-campus students. If you feel that an online setting is for you, these are some curriculums and schools that you can consider.

Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice | California State University, Long Beach

This online program is for individuals who are seeking to expand their research skills in the field of criminology. The topics covered include police organization, law and society, public policy, and ethics. You will also be trained in conducting stronger research through topics in methodologies and statistical analysis.

Master of Arts in Criminal Justice and Criminology | East Tennessee State University

This program is aimed at working professionals who want to expand their knowledge and techniques in criminology. This program is fully online and does not require a thesis to be completed. Your course of study will start with criminological theory, policing and corrections in the US, and how to conduct research in criminology.

Master’s Degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice | Florida State University

This online program by Florida State University requires you to complete a total of 36 credit hours of credits. The main topics covered deal with criminal justice theory, computer applications in criminology, as well as research and statistics. You can select electives such as criminal law procedures, crime prevention, and penology and victimology.

Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice | Indiana State University

Indiana State University offers a portfolio-based program that helps students build their credentials in different criminology fields. With a total of 36 hours of credits, you will learn more about law enforcement, investigations, and cyber crime. The core of the program focuses on criminological theories, research methods, and ethics.

Master of Criminology and Justice | Loyola University New Orleans

This online master of criminology program is made for students seeking leadership positions in the field. Your training will prepare you for work in administration and research in criminal justice. The program covers topics such as criminal behaviors, criminal justice, program planning, and research.

Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice | Missouri State University

Missouri State University’s criminology graduate program is focused on developing your skills in leadership, policy analysis, and decision making. The two-year program strengthens your management strategies to be an effective leader. You will be engaged in creating policies that are grounded in theories of criminal justice.

Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology | Texas Christian University

The goal of this criminology master’s degree program is to establish your analytical skills in critically examining criminal justice issues. The program is heavy on research relating to policy-making. You can begin this course of study even without a background in criminology or criminal justice.

Master of Science in Criminology | Thomas College

This program offers a career-focused curriculum that links criminology with other disciplines such as sociology, political science, and psychology. The program will develop your leadership skills for you to qualify for high positions in the criminology field. It covers topics such as criminological theory, organizational policy, police operations, youth crime, and statistical analysis.

Master of Advanced Study in Criminology, Law, and Society | University of California, Irvine

The University of California, Irvine provides training for aspiring professionals seeking leadership roles in criminal justice and law through this master’s program in criminology. The program covers topics on social policy, law, and crime control. Once you complete the program, you have a chance to secure jobs in police departments, court and law offices, and more.

Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice | University of Nebraska, Omaha

This 36-credit hour online program is made for working professionals who are looking for flexible schedules. The program develops students’ skills and competencies related to criminology and criminal justice. It also emphasizes the importance of criminological research, so expect to learn more about methods and techniques in this program.

What’s the Average Criminology Master’s Degree Salary?

A judge signs a set of documents. Criminology Master's Degrees
Criminology plays an important function in training individuals in law enforcement to ensure that justice always prevails.

Once you complete a criminology master’s degree, you can pursue higher-level legal or law enforcement careers. On average, legal occupations have a median salary range of $52,920 to $126,930 . Law enforcement or protective service occupations have a median salary range of $31,080 to $67,290 .

Top Criminology Master’s Degree Jobs and Salaries: Overview

Criminology Master’s Degree Jobs Average Salary
Lawyer $126,930
Judge $124,200
Sociologist $86,110
Psychologist $82,180
Criminology Professor $80,560
Police Officer/Detective $67,290
Forensic Scientist $60,590
Private Detective/Investigator $53,320
Correctional Officer $47,440
Head of Security $31,080

Best Criminology Master’s Degree Jobs Explained

Lawyer

Lawyers are authorized to represent an individual or business during disputes and cases filed in court, including criminal law. They communicate with clients, judges, and witnesses. Part of their responsibility is to uphold facts to ensure the correct process of law and justice.

Judge

Judges work in courts to oversee the proceedings of a legal case. With a background in law, they need to research a case, consider the facts presented, and make a decision. They also write opinions and decisions on a case or dispute in accordance with the law.

Psychologist

Psychologists study the behavior, emotions, and cognitive and social processes of an individual or group of people. As part of human psychology, criminal behavior is one of the specializations of a psychologist to understand the patterns and tendencies of a criminal.

Sociologist

Sociologists are involved in the study of human behavior, in a larger societal context. They may work in criminal behavior as several sociological techniques are used in criminological research. Their duty is to guarantee that their work is backed by data and reliable information.

Criminology Professor

Criminology professors are postsecondary teachers who work in academia teaching a specific subject. Teaching law enforcement and criminology is the main concentration of criminology professors, including writing research papers and advising on student theses.

Police Officer/Detective

Police officers and detectives are responsible for ensuring the safety of individuals and property. In certain cases, they will be involved in a criminal investigation to collect evidence for a crime. They must also respond to emergency cases when needed within the area they are assigned to.

Forensic Scientist

Forensic scientists are involved in criminal investigations, specifically in the collection and analysis of evidence. They need to have additional training to conduct laboratory analysis of materials collected from a crime scene.

Private Detective/Investigator

Private detectives and investigators conduct investigations into legal and financial matters to verify an individual’s background or information. They usually interview people, conduct online or physical searches or surveillance, and check for the criminal history of an individual.

Correctional Officer

  • Average Salary : $48,000
  • Job Outlook : -7%
  • Number of Jobs : 437,100
  • Highest-Paying States : Texas, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina

Correctional officers are usually assigned to a jail or prison to oversee those who have been arrested and awaiting trial. Similarly, bailiffs are assigned in a courtroom to ensure that rules are followed and security is implemented.

Head of Security

Heads of security are in charge of managing security guards and other administrative work. They are also expected to plan well-thought regulations and rules to ensure security within a property or vicinity.

Criminology Bootcamp vs Criminology Master’s Degree: Which Is Better?

A Master’s Degree in Criminology prepares you for a higher-level professional career. This is ideal for someone with professional criminology experience who wants to get promoted to a leadership or management role.

While there are no criminology bootcamps currently available, there are cyber security bootcamps if you are interested in a career in digital crimes. A bootcamp is a short program that usually takes a few weeks to train your core skills in a chosen field of study. Full-time students of bootcamps can often complete a program within 12 to 14 weeks.

Benefits of a Criminology Master’s Degree

  • Ideal for Leadership Positions . If you have professional criminology experience, then a master’s degree will help you get better at it to qualify for higher positions.
  • Interdisciplinary Curriculum . The curriculum of a criminology master’s degree usually covers sociology, psychology, law, digital forensics, and other specializations.
  • Made for Research-Oriented Students. Most universities that offer criminology master’s degrees are research-oriented, so this is a career fit for you if you want to delve into public policy and academics.
  • Prepare for a Doctoral Degree . A master’s degree is your pathway to a doctoral degree because it is where you can start and develop your research.
  • Work in the Academe . A master’s degree is often a requirement if you want a career in academia, especially if you want to teach as an instructor or professor in college.

Benefits of a Criminology Bootcamp

  • Short Program . A bootcamp program usually only takes 12 to 14 weeks to finish for full-time studies, and you already have the technical skills that you need.
  • Specific Skill Focus . The program curriculum is only focused on teaching the required skills related to a discipline, so you do not need to sit through other courses that might not be directly relevant.
  • Fewer Admission Requirements. Though there are requirements to meet to get into a bootcamp program, it is relatively lighter compared to an advanced program. Some students are not required to have finished college and submit an official transcript.
  • Good for Portfolio Building . There are several capstone experiences and other in-class activities that you can add to your portfolio that you can use for job hunting.
  • Career Services . There are networking opportunities and assistance extended by a bootcamp to its graduates to help you land a job as soon as possible.

Should You Get a Master’s Degree in Criminology?

Yes, you should if you want to pursue careers such as forensic scientist, criminal profilers, private investigators, crime analyst, and more. If you are interested in interdisciplinary fields, then you can get into psychology or sociology. A criminology career is far-reaching and continuously expanding, especially in the digital field with cyber crime.

Moreover, the job outlook for the jobs related to criminology is promising and the majority have a more-than-average trajectory. The career opportunities within the criminology field are growing, so this is a chance to gain additional educational credentials.

Criminology Master’s Degree FAQ

What can you do with a criminology master’s degree?

A criminology master’s degree will help launch you into advanced positions in your respective career. It molds your capabilities in law enforcement and introduces you to various skills and techniques. With most of the criminology master’s degrees being research-oriented, you will also be trained in new research methods and advanced data analysis.

Is a Master’s Degree in Criminology worth it?

If you are interested in gaining advanced research skills in the field of criminology, then a master’s degree is one way to get training on this. Through your studies, you will also develop critical thinking skills, communication skills, and statistical analysis. If your goal is to land a higher position or take up a doctoral degree, then you should consider a Master’s Degree in Criminology.

What is MS Criminology?

MS criminology, or a Master of Science in Criminology, is usually a 36-credit program that deals with core courses on criminological theory, law enforcement, and public policy. Some programs require that you have relevant work experience to qualify. Some accredited online college programs in criminology no longer require entrance exams such as GMAT or GRE.

How much does a criminologist make with a master’s degree?

A criminologist with a master’s degree can work in the legal or protective service field. The median salary range in the legal field is $52,920 to $126,930 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports that the protective services field has a median salary range of $31,080 to $67,290.

About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.

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Joyce Manrique

About the author: Joyce covers online courses, learning platforms, and tech careers for the Career Karma publication. She graduated with her AB in Philosophy and her BS in Management of Financial Institutions from De La Salle University. After graduation, she found immediate success in the finance sector of an oil and gas company. After some years, she decided to pursue her love of writing, leading her to join the Career Karma team in October 2020. Her work has been published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

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