What is a Master of Criminal Justice?

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Criminal JusticeA Master of Criminal Justice is a graduate level degree that prepares students to work in corrections, law enforcement and homeland security. This degree is becoming popular because of rising concerns over public safety and national security.

Degree Highlights

Master of Criminal Justice degree programs are designed to provide students with the qualifications required to enter the rapidly changing field of criminal justice. These programs analyze the motivational causes behind criminal behaviors and social deviance. Most programs focus on the organizational leadership and structural management of court systems and law enforcement agencies. Criminal justice degree programs teach students research methods, how to design and conduct applied research and evaluation complex data. These programs also introduce students to legislation changes and litigation scenarios to explore civil rights, criminal procedures and employment laws.

Degree Coursework

Master of Criminal Justice degree programs typically start out teaching students about criminal justice policies and systems through examining certain government agencies. For instance, one program may examine the critical issues that are impacting the courts and corrections systems. Students gain an in-depth understanding of historical criminology theories and modern approaches to public policies related to criminology. Master's programs will provide assessments of groundbreaking social-psychology research to teach students about applied designs and analytical models. There will be advanced coursework on the theoretical framework of the legal system and its functions. All programs will involve a final capstone project, which requires students to demonstrate their academic competency through conducting independent research and writing a final project.

Degree Possibilities

Most master's degree programs offer specializations. Students may study forensics, leadership, home land security, public safety and administration. The most common concentrations include law, corrections and global criminal justice. A law specialization addresses the complex issues related to the interpretation and functionality substantive criminal laws and violations. A corrections concentration will analyze the contemporary problems that face the correctional system through studying recidivism, legal mandates and prison reform. Students who wish to become parole officers and help rehabilitation offenders should take classes on community-based corrections programs. Global criminal justice programs focus on different kinds of transnational crimes, such as terrorism, money laundering and human and narcotics trafficking.

Career Possibilities

There are many career possibilities with a master's degree in criminal justice. Graduates may go on to work as university professors or law enforcement trainers. Others choose to work as field, private and insurance investigators. Private security jobs are available as security managers and loss prevention specialists. Correctional jobs include counselor, parole officer and prison warden, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Public security jobs include intelligence specialist, evidence technician and law enforcement officer. There are also very unique career possibilities, such as polygraph operator, social service worker, railroad police officer and vocational rehabilitation supervisor.

Potential Career Locations

There are standard career locations for graduates with master's of criminal justice. Government agencies include the U.S. Departments of the Justice, Treasury, Secret Service, Customs Service and Citizen and Immigration Services (CIS). All military branches employ law enforcement field agents and detectives. Additional potential government agencies include the Bureaus of Prison, Land Management and Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (AFT). Jobs are also available through corporate security firms.

Related Resource: 50 Best Online Masters Degree Programs

A Master of Criminal Justice is an excellent academic choice for students who want to serve their country and protect their communities.