35 Best Master’s Degrees in Criminal Justice

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Many colleges and universities offer master's degrees in criminal justice. This article is a review of the 35 best programs in the United States.

Students with graduate degrees in this field qualify for careers as supervisors at correctional institutions, police departments, and other law enforcement operations. These positions feature annual salaries between $62,000 and $88,000, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Other jobs for criminal justice master's degree holders include forensic psychologist, forensic examiner, criminologist, criminal profiler, criminal investigations supervisor, and investigator for an attorney general or district attorney. Additional possibilities are careers in emergency and security management. The bureau predicts that employment opportunities in criminal justice will expand by 1,000 to 5,000 positions between 2016 and 2026, a faster rate than the average occupation.

Among the common admission requirements for these master's programs are a high school diploma, a bachelor's degree, and an acceptable score on the Graduate Record Examination Aptitude Test (or the Test of English as a Foreign Language, for international students). Applicants typically must provide school transcripts, letters of recommendation and personal statements. They may have to submit to personal interviews.

Ranking Methodology: "It's science!"

The researchers and writers at Best Master's Degrees don't make recommendations based upon preference– we back our rankings with science. Here's a quick breakdown of how we organize ranking data:

  • Finances (40%)
  • Academic Rigor (35%)
  • Student Gratification (25%)

Nearly half of the data used to score each ranking involves finances and are acquired from sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Education, Glassdoor, and PayScale. Financial data encompasses the cost of tuition, fees, and class supplied; the average price of living; access to financial aid and social services; and lastly, the projected annual salary acquired from degree outcomes and income for loan repayment. The second largest category of information involves the quality of education, how competitive degree applicants should be for consideration, and how exclusive a degree program is overall. The final 25 percent of collected data is dependent on student and alumni reviews from sources such as PayScale, Rate My Professor, and Students Review.

Want to Learn More?

The amount of information available for specific degrees is plentiful, and Best Master's Degrees aims to provide as many resources as we can. Check out our Methodology page for more information and resource links.

#35 — Washington State University

Master of Arts in Criminal Justice and Criminology

Vancouver, Washington

Nearly 30,000 students attend classes on WSU's five campuses.

Program Website

Established as the state's first land-grant university in 1890, WSU has grown into a diverse institution where students from 91 countries are enrolled in 80 graduate degree programs. The school has a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1. It ranks among the top 31 universities for policies supportive of LGBTQ students, according to the Campus Pride Index. Master's degree students have the option of earning a certificate in global justice and security, which expands their career opportunities. Seventy percent of the university's criminal justice master's graduates have jobs in the field. They work in federal law enforcement, the Secret Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security, corrections and police departments. WSU offers a doctorate program in criminal justice, as well. There are campuses in Vancouver, Pullman, Spokane, the Tri-Cities and Everett.

#34 — Monroe College

Master of Criminal Justice

Bronx, New York

The teaching faculty at this school has earned a 90 percent approval rating from students.

Program Website

Founded in 1933, Monroe College is a small private school with 6,600 students on its four campuses. U.S. News & World Report, in its rankings for 2019, listed the school No. 90 among the best institutions of higher learning in the northern part of the country. Monroe accepts more than half of the high school graduates who apply for admission. The college is proud of its relatively small class sizes and lack of large lecture halls. Among the faculty members are former New York Police Department detectives, who bring real-world experience to the School of Criminal Justice (established in 2003 in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.). The master's program in criminal justice at Monroe's King Graduate School is available on campus and online. The required 37 credit hours take at least four semesters to complete. There are eight core courses, and many electives from which to choose. Classes focus on issues such as terrorism, international crime, research methods, causes of crime and crime-reduction strategies. Students may specialize in human services or urban crime policy.

#33 — Lewis University

Master of Criminal and Social Justice

Romeoville, Illinois

This private, Catholic school, founded in 1932, provides what it calls a "values-centered curriculum in Mission values."

Program Website

With campuses in the suburbs southwest of Chicago, as well as in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Lewis boasts a teacher-student ratio of 13:1. Fifty-four percent of applicants earn admittance to bachelor's degree programs, and 97 percent of them qualify for financial aid. Racial minorities comprise about a third of the 6,500-member study body. U.S. News rates Lewis as the 20th best university in the Midwest. The university expanded to include criminal-justice studies in 2003, when it launched a bachelor's degree program in forensic criminal investigation. A master's in criminal and social justice is now available. The program is a member of the Academic Alliance of the FBI Academy Associates. More than 40 of the graduate school alumni are police chiefs. Others hold jobs with the FBI, the Secret Service and the Homeland Security Department. Master's degree sessions begin every eight weeks throughout the year, which allows students considerable flexibility in planning their studies.

#32 — University of Memphis

Master of Arts in Criminal Justice

Memphis, Tennessee

This public research university has an enrollment of more that 21,000, including 4,000 students in 50 graduate programs.

Program Website

U of M, with roots dating to 1912, attained full university status 45 years later. In 1983, it became the first postsecondary school in Tennessee to earn full accreditation. The campus is about five miles east of downtown Memphis. The urban area is known for its music scenes and other cultural amenities. The School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy, within the College of Arts and Sciences, offers a highly regarded master's program in criminal justice. Admission requirements include a baccalaureate degree with a grade-point average of 3.0 or better, and an "acceptable score" on the GRE. Getting a master's degree entails 30 semester hours, as well as the writing and defense of a thesis. Core courses are research methods, advanced statistics, public-policy statistics, criminal justice administration, intervention strategies, criminal theory and causes of crime. Other classes concern policing strategies, corrections, capital punishment, violence, gangs, addictions, international crime and social justice.

#31 — University of Central Missouri

Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology

Warrensburg, Missouri

Ninety-seven percent of UCM graduates get jobs in their fields of study or continue their education within six months.

Program Website

This university, which traces its history to 1871, has received praise for its affordability and high graduation rate. The main campus, in Warrensburg, is about 50 miles southeast of Kansas City. Other locations are in Lee's Summit and at Whiteman Air Force Base. Online studies are also available. Ninety percent of UCMO's 12,300 students are Missourians. The Department of Criminal Justice, established in 1962, offers a master's program of 36 credit hours. Students complete 21 of the hours by taking courses in criminal justice philosophy and policy, causes of crime, comparative and international criminal justice systems, administration, legal aspects, statistics and research methods. The remaining hours involve research projects. Graduate students present papers at academic conferences of organizations like the American Society of Criminology and the Academy of Criminal Justice Studies. The graduate program has thesis and non-thesis options. Requirements include a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field with a 3.0 GPA.

#30 — Troy University

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Troy, Alabama

This school has campuses in four Alabama cities, but more than half of the students earn their degrees online.

Program Website

Founded in 1887, Troy provides higher education in small communities. According to U.S. News, it is among the 140 best regional universities in the southern United States. Students who complete the master's program in criminal justice get jobs as law-enforcement professors and instructors, criminal profilers, federal probation officers, criminologists and criminal investigators. Some earn cybersecurity certificates to enhance their employment prospects. The required courses are principles of administration, current trends in criminal law, a seminar in the administration of justice, criminological theory and research methods. Students also must take four elective classes. Thirty-six credit hours for the thesis program, and 30 hours for a non-thesis alternative, are mandated. To get into the master's program, a student should hold a baccalaureate degree (with a 3.0 GPA) in criminal justice, police administration, law enforcement or corrections. Those with a bachelor's in another field must do additional coursework, though admissions authorities take professional experience into account.

#29 — Columbia College

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Columbia, Missouri

This institution has 20,000 students on more than 30 campuses, including a site in Cuba.

Program Website

A private, nonprofit school founded in 1851, Columbia College has small classes and an impressive student-teacher ratio of 11:1. Though it is affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the school is nonsectarian and welcomes people of all faiths. The enrollment includes nearly 1,200 graduate students. The master's degree program in criminal justice is available online, as well as at campuses in Missouri, Florida, Georgia, New York and Texas. Students choose one of two management tracks, in law-enforcement administration or corrections administration. They must successfully complete three of four designated graduate courses. Required foundation classes are research design, legal and ethical issues, and legal aspects of criminal justice management. Core courses are criminal justice policy development and evaluation, human resources management and theory, budgeting and planning for criminal justice managers, crisis intervention, and emergent issues in criminal justice management. Some students go on to earn doctorates in criminal justice or law degrees.

#28 — University of North Texas

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Denton, Texas

UNT hosts one of the country's most affordable graduate degree program in criminal justice.

Program Website

This public school's main campus is 36 miles north of Dallas-Fort Worth, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the United States. More than 38,000 students attend classes in Denton, where 88 master's degrees are available. Established in 1890, UNT has won accolades for its research programs, affordability, ethnic diversity, "green" qualities and student safety. The Military Times ranks the university No. 17 in the nation for its treatment of students in the armed forces. Denton has been rated as the seventh-best college town in the United States. The College of Health and Public Services offers a criminal justice master's degree entailing 36 credit hours of coursework and internships. Studies may select from a menu of multiple specialized areas of study. Students have the opportunity to assist faculty in research projects regarding capital punishment, homeland security, juvenile delinquency, police operations and tactics, prison violence, victimization, and white-collar crime. Graduates qualify for management positions in various law-enforcement and security operations.

#27 — Indiana State University

Master of Arts/Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice

Terre Haute, Indiana

Program Website

More than 13,000 students are enrolled at ISU, which Washington Monthly ranks No. 71 in the nation. The university offers more than 75 graduate and professional programs, including a pair of master's degrees in criminal justice. Core courses in the master of art program concern communications and research, while master of science classes focus on criminological theories, ethics, and research. Available on campus and online, the programs require 33 credit hours (including nine hours of research). Required courses are ethics in criminal justice, criminological theories, law and society, and law and criminal justice administration. Students also must take six credit hours of elective classes, and three hours of additional study inside or outside the department. A thesis is required. To qualify for the program, a student must have earned a baccalaureate GPA of at least 2.75; and completed 12 credit hours in sociology, psychology or political science. Among the master's specialties are cyber criminology and security, and intelligence analysis.

#26 — Bowling Green State University

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Bowling Green, Ohio

U.S. News ranks BGSU as the 215th best university, and No. 121 among public schools, in the United States.

Program Website

Founded in 1910, this university enrolls more than 19,000 students from all 50 states and 70 countries. Classes on the campus, 85 miles south of Detroit, have a student-to-teacher ratio of 18:1. Ninety-seven percent of graduates are employed, enrolled in graduate school or starting their own businesses within six months after earning diplomas. Business Insider rates BGSU as Ohio's best postsecondary school in terms of "quality and affordability." Classes in the criminal justice master's program average 30 or fewer students. Studies may be done online. Core courses concentrate on government, law, psychology and sociology. There are also classes in investigations, forensic science, digital crime, and evidence. Students must take some courses in other departments, as well. They may specialize in forensic investigation or victims and offenders. The 33 credit hours required for a master's degree may be completed in three semesters full time or six semesters part time. Programs start in the spring, summer and fall.

#25 — Slippery Rock University

Master of Arts in Criminal Justice

Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania

Slippery Rock University - 30 Online Master's English

This school offers "rock solid academics [in a] safe, small-town setting," according to U.S. News.

Program Website

About 50 miles north of Pittsburgh lies a community of just 3,500 year-round residents that features a university with about 8,500 students. SRU, casually known as "The Rock," began as a teachers college in 1889. U.S. News ranks the school No. 90 among all universities in the northern United States and the 25th-best public educational institution in the region. Slippery Rock offers more than 40 master's degrees. The criminal justice program involves 30 credit hours, 24 in coursework and six in research, that students typically finish within 12-18 months. Students select one of three tracks – general, thesis and research – which they can take full time or half time. Core courses cover criminal justice theory, practical skills, statistical methodologies, and research. Other required classes are the administration of justice, advanced criminological theory, critical issues in corrections, contemporary issues in policing, criminal justice ethics, statistical methods, and criminological research.

#24 — Missouri State University

Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice

Springfield, Missouri

MSU "blends the best of small-town coziness and big-city amenities," according to U.S. News.

Program Website

Formerly called Southwest Missouri State University, this school has the second-largest enrollment in the state (more than 26,000 students, including 3,700 in graduate studies).MSU was founded in 1905, and has since grown to three campuses in Missouri and one site in China. The main campus, in the state capital of Springfield, is 215 miles from St. Louis. The university accepts 86 percent of the high school graduates who apply for admittance. U.S. News ranks MSU No. 32 among public postsecondary institutions in the Midwest. The program in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice requires 33 credit hours. Core courses are criminal justice policy, foundations of homeland defense and security, law enforcement and community, and correctional theory and practice. Students benefit from internships and community partnerships. They must have a 3.0 GPA, conduct research and pass a comprehensive exam to qualify for master's degrees. The university also offers certificate programs in community corrections, and homeland security and defense.

#23 — University of Louisville

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Louisville, Kentucky

U.S. News ranks Louisville No. 171 in the nation overall and No. 91 among public universities.

Program Website

This state-supported research university, which has roots reaching back to 1798, is three miles from downtown Louisville. The 17th-largest metropolitan area in the country affords a range of cultural opportunities for students. The enrollment exceeds 22,000, about 6,000 of whom are in graduate school. Those who gain admittance have an average high school ACT score of 25.4. They select from more than 170 areas of study. The Campus Pride Index lists Louisville among the 16 most "LGBTQ-friendly" universities in the United States. The criminal justice master's degree program entails 36 credit hours, with thesis and non-thesis options. Students must maintain a GPA of at least 3.0. Core courses are theories of crime and delinquency, applied statistics in criminal justice, and research methods. Electives include classes in social work, public administration, law and business. Students may study online or attend evening classes on campus. Those who opt for the accelerated BS-MS program can earn graduate hours during their fourth year in baccalaureate school.

#22 — Rowan University

Master of Arts in Criminal Justice

Glassboro, New Jersey

Rowan is the 19th-best university and No. 3 among public schools in the northern United States, according to U.S. News.

Program Website

Founded in 1923 as a teachers college, this institution earned university status in 1997. More than 18,500 students attend classes in 12 colleges and schools. Rowan accepts 71 percent of student applicants and graduates 64 percent of them. The university offers more than 60 master's programs, including a criminal justice degree that may be earned full time, part time or in an accelerated online format. There are thesis and non-thesis options. Rowan's website explains that students learn about "preventing and controlling crime; causes of crime; the impact of law on society; and contemporary issues in policing, courts and corrections." Required courses are contemporary issues in criminal justice, law and society, research methods, contemporary developments in theory and criminal justice policy analysis. In addition, students have to complete four of 14 possible electives. Graduate school applicants must have earned a GPA of 2.5 or better in their bachelor's studies. The university "highly recommends" an introductory class in criminal justice, research methods or statistics.

#21 — Nova Southeastern University

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Davie, Florida

OnlineColleges.com rates this university No. 1 in the country for its remote-learning programs, while U.S. News ranks it 191st overall.

Program Website

NSU is a private, nonprofit institution with a teacher-student ratio of 17:1. More than 24,000 students (19,000 pursuing graduate degrees) choose from among 150 areas of study. The university is one of the top five in the country for awarding graduate degrees to racial minorities. Students must have a GPA of at least 2.5 in their bachelor's degree studies to qualify for graduate school. The criminal justice master's is available only online, with 20 percent scholarships for law-enforcement professionals, veterans and active members of the military, and first responders. The 30 required credit hours include five core courses: survey issues, social administration, legal issues, program evaluation and investigative processes. Students must select at least one of the following specialities: legal perspectives, behavioral science, business administration, public administration, substance abuse, strategic community planning, information systems, conflict and crisis management, child protection and juvenile justice, information security, investigative forensic technology and emergency preparedness leadership.

#20 — University of the Cumberlands

Master's in Criminal Justice Administration

Williamsburg, Kentucky

Founded in 1888 by a group of Baptist ministers, this private university is ranked among the best Christian colleges in the United States.

Program Website

Cumberland's enrollment of 11,700 includes 9,000 graduate degree seekers. Students represent 36 states and 38 countries. The school accepts 68 percent of applicants and awards degrees to 36 percent of them. The average student has a 3.2 high school GPA and a 22.2 ACT score. Everyone getting an education at Cumberland must do 40 hours of community service. U.S. News lists the university among the top 300 in the country and 167th in high school guidance counselor rankings. The online master's program in criminal justice involves 31 credit hours and mandates a 3.0 GPA. Students are required to successfully complete core courses, two specialties and an independent research project. The core classes are foundations in justice administration; criminological theories; research, design and analysis; statistical applications; ethical issues; human resource management; leadership fundamentals; legal issues; and a capstone course. Specialization track options are law enforcement, corrections, homeland security, juvenile justice, family services, investigations and addiction studies.

#19 — Regis University

Master of Science in Criminology

Denver, Colorado

Regis stresses "Jesuit-Christian traditions, which emphasize the importance of critical thinking, having a global perspective and standing up for those who do not have a voice."

Program Website

A private school established by exiled Italian priests in 1877, Regis welcomes students of all faiths. The university has four campuses in Colorado, with a faculty-to-student ratio of 14:1. Fifty-three percent of the 3,500-plus enrollees receive financial aid. They have 132 degree programs (80 online) from which to choose. Eighty-nine percent of graduates get jobs within six months. The master's program in criminology offers three career tracks: leadership, human behavior, and cybercrime and terrorism. Areas of focus include human trafficking, public safety and victim advocacy. Faculty members design personalized coursework. According the university's website, "students aim to answer questions like: ‘Is criminal behavior learned or inherent?; how can cognitive and behavioral psychology help prevent future crime?; and how can educational institutions prevent school violence?'" The required 36 credit hours of study may be completed on campus, online or in a combination. Five- and eight-week terms begin six times a year.

#18 — University of Wisconsin-Platteville

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Platteville, Wisconsin

This school, which lies in a rural setting, bills itself as "one of the safest campuses in the nation."

Program Website

UW-Platteville, founded in 1866, is the oldest public institution of higher learning in Wisconsin. It attained university status in 1959 with the merger of Wisconsin State College-Platteville and the Wisconsin Institute of Technology. The school accepts 94 percent of applicants and graduates 52 percent of them. The 8,900 students attend classes with an average size of just 25 students. Three colleges offer 41 majors. U.S. News ranks the university No. 111, and 32nd among public schools, in the Midwest. The online master's in criminal justice, established in 1999, has been rated by others as one of the 50 best such programs in the country. Students select one of three concentrations: theory, management, or victim and offender services. Customized focus areas of study are criminal law, criminology research, statistical methods, advanced criminal justice theory, organizational management, and child advocacy. To be accepted for the graduate program, a student must have a bachelor's degree in any field and an acceptable score on either the GRE or the Graduate Management Admission Test.

#17 — Liberty University

Master's in Criminal Justice

Lynchburg, Virginia

This school "emphasizes a Christian worldview" and "encourages students to follow God's calling," according to its website.

Program Website

Founded in 1971 by televangelist Jerry Falwell, LU is a private evangelical Christian institution in central Virginia. Most of the 100,000 students are enrolled in 280 online degree programs. Nearly a third of the student body are members of the military, and 88 percent receive financial aid. Students represent all 50 states and more than 80 countries. There are 600-plus areas of study in 17 colleges and schools. U.S. News includes Liberty on its list of the top 300 universities in the country. Graduate programs have an outstanding student-to-teacher ratio of 8:1. The online master's degree in criminal justice requires 36 credit hours, which takes the average participant 18 months to complete. Core courses cover administration of justice organization; human resources management; and leadership, ethics and policing. Specialization options are forensic psychology, homeland security and public administration.

#16 — University of Massachusetts-Lowell

Master of Arts in Criminal Justice and Criminology

Lowell, Massachusetts

Graduates of this school earn an average mid-career salary of $105,000.

Program Website

UML is a national research university with more than 17,000 students in six colleges. U.S. News lists it as the No. 157 (and No. 80 among public schools) in the country. The school reportedly has the 35th-best return on investment in the United States. The average student who earns admittance posts a 3.5 high school GPA and a 1225 SAT score. Graduate tuition rates are $15,060 for Massachusetts residents and $26,840 for out-of-state students. The master's program in criminal justice offers full-time, part-time and online choices. Another option, a combined B.S./M.A. program, takes five years to complete. Among the graduate school admission requirements are a high school GPA of at least 2.8, and an acceptable score on either the GRE or Miller's Analogy Test. The 33 credit hours include core courses in the foundations of criminological theory, administration of justice, statistics, research design, and law and public policy. Students also must take electives. They may substitute two additional classes for the thesis requirement.

#15 — Florida International University

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

University Park, Florida


This school's 54,000-member student body is 85 percent minority, including 61 percent Latino.

Program Website

FIU is one of the ten largest U.S. postsecondary schools, in terms of enrollment. Students have more than 190 degree options on two campuses in Miami-Dade County. The university accepts 50 percent of applicants and awards degrees to 54 percent of them. U.S. News ranks FIU 187th on its list of the best colleges, and No. 100 among public schools. The university's criminal justice program is No. 2, according to Best Colleges. Master's degree seekers must complete 36 credit hours: five core courses, four criminal justice elective classes and three general electives. The core curriculum consists of criminological theory, research methods, data analysis, transnational crime and national security, and criminal justice policy analysis. Internships provide practical experience, and there is a research requirement for prospective doctoral students. FIU also offers a combined bachelor's and master's program in criminal justice. Students must have at least a 3.0 baccalaureate GPA and maintain the same level throughout graduate school.

#14 — California State University-Bernardino

Master of Arts in Criminal Justice

San Bernardino, California

CSUB is one of "America's coolest schools," according to the Sierra Club.

Program Website

This public university enrolls more than 20,400 students, 61 percent of whom are Latino. About two-thirds of those who apply for admission are accepted, and 48 percent of them graduate. The Collegiate Learning Assessment lists CSUB in the top 4 percent in the country in terms of "value added." U.S. News ranks the university No. 14 among public postsecondary schools in the western United States. According to Washington Monthly, the master's degree offerings at CSUB are the third-best in the nation. The criminal justice master's program requires a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA in criminal justice, psychology, administration, anthropology, sociology or social sciences. The core master's courses are advanced techniques of basic and applied research; statistical analysis; criminological theory; and seminars in criminal justice, corrections and policing. In addition, students must successfully complete 16 units of electives. They have 14 courses from which to choose. There are thesis and exam options and a 3.0 GPA requirement for the master's degree.

#13 — Arizona State University

Master of Arts in Criminal Justice

Tempe, Arizona

This university's prestigious faculty features four Nobel laureates and six Pulitzer Prize winners.

Program Website

With more than 80,000 students, ASU is one of the largest universities in the country. It has four campuses in the Phoenix metropolitan area. The school, which traces its history to 1885, has become one of the nation's premier public research institutions. It consists of 17 colleges with 350 degree programs. U.S. News ranks the university No. 115 in the country overall and No. 1 in innovation. According to Washington Monthly, ASU has the third-best master's programs in the United States. The online criminal justice master's degree requires 45 units of study, including courses in applied data analysis, criminal justice planning and program evaluation; and seminars in criminal justice and criminology. In addition, students must complete 18 elective credit hours (six classes) and three credit hours of research. Specialization options are policing, corrections and management. To qualify for the master's program, a student must have a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA in criminal justice or a "closely related field."

#12 — University of Oklahoma

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Norman, Oklahoma

OU places third in QS International University's ranking of the "happiest student bodies" in the United States.

Program Website

Founded in 1890, 17 years before Oklahoma became a state, this university has grown into a huge institution that awards degrees in 170 majors. More than 31,000 students attend classes on three campuses: Oklahoma, Italy and Mexico, and Brazil, as well as online. No other U.S. public university can claim more national merit scholars. OU accepts 78 percent of applicants and graduates two-thirds of them. The school has a racially diverse student body, which includes many Native Americans. U.S. News ranks the university as the 124th best in the nation. There are 160 master's programs, including one in criminal justice that entails 33 credit hours which take 16 weeks to complete. Students may take classes onsite or online. Their degree topic options are theoretical foundations of criminal justice, ethical decision making, restorative justice, drug abuse policy and criminal justice policy development. Concentrations provide certificates in corrections management, restorative justice, and administrative leadership.

#11 — University of Colorado Denver

Master of Criminal Justice

Denver, Colorado

U.S. News ranks CU Denver School of Public Affairs as the No. 25 Public Affairs school in its 2020 Best Graduate Schools Rankings.

Program Website

15,000 students are enrolled at the University of Colorado Denver, where students can earn a Master of Criminal Justice through the School of Public Affairs. The university consists of eight colleges and schools that award degrees for bachelors, masters, or doctoral. Founded in 1876, CU Denver has become a favorite of students who wish to combine urban culture with outdoor recreation. Ninety-three percent of the institution's alumni are either employed or in graduate school within six months after earning their degree. The MSCJ features core courses in criminal justice systems; policies and practices; criminology theory; research methods; statistics; and law and society. Available Criminal Justice concentrations include Crime Analyst, Gender-Based Violence; Hazards and Emergency Management; and Emergency Management and Homeland Security. Students of CU Denver can participate in an internship in addition to completing a capstone project or a master's thesis. 

#10 — University of Cincinnati

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Cincinnati, Ohio

Forbes Magazine has praised UC for having one of the "most beautiful" campuses in the world because of its Gothic architecture and lush landscaping.

Program Website

This public research university has a long history that goes all the way back to 1819. The enrollment totals more than 44,000 students. The acceptance rate is 76 percent. According to U.S. News, UC is the 147th-best postsecondary institution in the country. The newspaper ranks the university's criminal justice program No. 3. The program is one of four schools in the College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Resources, which features students from all 50 states and 73 countries. The college's student-to-faculty ratio is 14:1. UC has been awarding master's degrees in criminal justice since 1978. Students may conduct their studies on campus, online or in a hybrid format. They can pursue a "general track" or choose one of three specialties: analysis of criminal behavior, corrections and offender rehabilitation, or law enforcement and crime prevention. Among the entrance requirements is a baccalaureate GPA of at least 3.0.

#9 — University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice

Lincoln, Nebraska

UNL is ranked as the 85th safest college in the United States, and the Fiske Guide has called it one of the country's 20 "best buys" in higher education.

Program Website

A public university established in 1869, this school is rated as a "top-tier" public research university. It has an enrollment of about 21,000 undergraduates, in addition to graduate students, who select from about 150 majors. U.S. News classifies UNL as "more selective," as evidenced by the 3.65 average high school GPA of incoming freshmen. The newspaper ranks the university 129th on its "best colleges" list. The criminal justice master's program is available on campus and online. It involves 36 credit hours (11 courses plus a research class), which take 18 months to finish. No GRE is required, but students must have had a 3.0 GPA during at least two years of undergraduate study. Mandated master's courses are the nature of crime, research theory and methodology, and statistical applications in criminal justice and public administration. Students also must attend seminars in the administration of justice, women and criminal justice, and race and ethnicity. Specializations are available in public administration and counseling.

#8 — East Carolina University

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Greenville, North Carolina

ECU's main campus sports a Spanish Mission architectural style, as a result of the university's founder having spent time in South America.

Program Website

Created in 1907 as a training school for teachers, ECU has grown into a large institution with 29,000 students in a dozen colleges. The student-to-faculty ratio is 18:1. The university accepts 79 percent of those who apply for admission. U.S. News ranks ECU as the 194th best postsecondary school overall, and No. 106 among public universities, in the country. There are more than 75 master's programs. Getting a master's degree in criminal justice requires 36 credit hours of study. Core courses are criminal justice principles, principles of criminal justice administration and management, a seminar in research methods and statistical interpretation, and a seminar in criminal behavior. Students also must complete an evaluation of the program and write a professional paper. They may earn a certification in security studies, public management and leadership, or criminal justice education. Internships are available. Qualifications for the master's program include a 2.7 baccalaureate GPA, a "satisfactory" score on either the GRE or TOEFL, and a "statement of purpose."

#7 — Sam Houston State University

MA in Criminal Justice and Criminology (on campus)

MS in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management (both)

Huntsville, Texas

SHSU began in 1879 as the first teacher-training school in the Southwest.

Program Website

This public university, about 70 miles north of Houston, enrolls more than 20,000 students. It has an acceptance rate of 73 percent and a graduate rate of 53 percent. Fifty-nine types of master's degrees are available. U.S. News ranks SHSU's criminal justice school, one of the oldest in the United States, as the 20th best. Students have access to a number of resources. Huntsville is the home of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and several prisons. The state's execution chamber is two blocks north of campus. The university's College of Criminal Justice houses the headquarters of the Texas Forensic Science Commission and the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas. The campus even features a working courtroom, where students can witness the criminal justice system in action. The master's degree programs require the successful completion of 36 credit hours of courses. Sessions take place in the spring and fall.

#6 — Boston University

Master of Criminal Justice

Boston, Massachusetts

U.S. News ranks NU as the No. 44 university in the country and the Princeton Review considers the school's internship programs the best.

Program Website

Founded in 1839 as a theological school, this private non-profit research university is still affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The main campus is in a bohemian neighborhood with several museums, the Fenway Park baseball stadium, and other cultural and historical attractions. BU's 33,000 students attend classes in 17 colleges and schools. The university accepts only 22 percent of student applications. Those who win admittance have an average high school GPA of 3.8 and a median SAT score of 1468. At least four college-ranking organizations include BU in their lists of the top 100 universities in the world. Alumni include eight Nobel laureates and 23 Pulitzer Prize winners. The criminal justice master's program, available on campus and online, requires 40 credit hours to be completed within five years. Core courses are criminology, victimology, white-collar crime, analytical methods, research methods, and criminal justice administration. There are two concentration options: cybercrime investigation and cybersecurity, and strategic management.

#5 — Northeastern University

Master's in Criminology and Criminal Justice

Boston, Massachusetts

MSU has one of the largest enrollments, and the most extensive student-housing system, in the United States.

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Another renowned Boston-based institution, this university has come a long way since its founding in 1898 as the Evening Institute for Younger Men. NU is a private research university that enrolls about 22,000 students, including 8,000 pursuing graduate degrees. More than half of those attending classes are international students who represent 147 countries. NU is among the top ten universities in terms of student applications, but it accepts only 19 percent of them. In 2017, U.S. News rated the school's criminology graduate programs the 12th best in the country. The master's degree, available onsite and online, "concentrates both on the problem of crime as a form of deviant behavior, and on the criminal justice and private security systems that deal with it," according to the university's website. Earning the degree requires the successful completion of 32 credit hours. Core courses are the criminal justice process, social science research methods, criminology, computational social science and statistical analysis. An experiential opportunities option involves six to 18 months in an internship or research project.

#4 — Michigan State University

Master's in Criminal Justice

East Lansing, Michigan

MSU is among the 70 best universities in the world, according to the Wall Street Journal / Times Higher Education survey.

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This public research institution dates to 1855, when it was founded as the first school to teach scientific agriculture. Today, more than 50,000 students represent all 50 states and 141 countries. Two-thirds of applicants gain admittance and 79 percent of them earn degrees. The average student comes with a high school GPA of 3.5 to 3.9 and an ACT score between 23 and 29. There are more than 200 areas of study from which to choose. "Education abroad" programs provide opportunities to study in 60 countries. In the latest U.S. News rankings, MSU placed 85th in the country. The School of Criminal Justice, established in 1935, offers two master's programs. The master's in criminal justice requires 30 credit hours, with core courses in crime causation, prevention and control; design and analysis in criminal justice research; criminal justice management; and quantitative methods in criminal justice. There are thesis and non-thesis options, and a specialization in security management is available.

#3 — University of Central Florida

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Orlando, Florida

No U.S. university boasts a larger on-campus enrollment than this school, where more than 66,000 students represent 157 countries.

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UCF ranks as the 165th best institution of higher learning in the United States, according to U.S. News. The main campus is 13 miles east of downtown Orlando. The university grants admission to only 49 percent of applicants, but awards degrees to 70 percent of those it accepts. Racial minorities make up about 45 percent of the student body. The master of science in criminal justice, available on campus and online, involves 36 credit hours. Core courses are the nature of crime, administration of justice, research methods, data analysis, policy analysis and criminal justice organization. Students also must attend a proseminar (a capstone course in the last semester); and take two of the following elective classes: foundations of correction, foundations of law enforcement, juvenile justice, law and social control, and American criminal courts. Graduate certificate programs allow for specializations in corrections leadership, crime analysis, juvenile justice leadership and police leadership. UCF also offers a dual master of science in criminal justice and public administration.

#2 — Florida State University

MS and MA in Criminal Justice

Tallahassee, Florida

The Westcott building on FSU's main campus is the oldest continuous site of higher education in Florida, dating to 1851.

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Located in the northern panhandle of the Sunshine State, this university is comprised of 16 colleges with more than 360 areas of study. The 42,000-member student body comes from 132 countries. They have an average high school GPA over 4.0 and a median ACT score of 30. Only 56 percent of applicants are accepted, but the school's graduation rate is 68 percent. The student-to-faculty ratio is 22:1. U.S. News ranks FSU as the 26th best public college in the country. The master of science and master of arts degrees in criminal justice both require completing 33 credit hours of coursework within seven years. MA degree students also must take six semester hours in humanities classes. There are three degree track options: coursework only, the writing of an area paper, and the drafting and defense of a master's thesis. Required core classes cover criminology and criminal justice theory, a survey of criminal justice studies, a survey of criminological theories, research methods, and statistics.

#1 — University of California-Irvine

Master of Advanced Study in Criminology, Law and Society

Irvine, California

UC-Irvine has a high completion rate of 86% for students who are accepted into one of their 192 different degree programs.

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The No. 33 university on U.S. News' "best colleges" list, UC Irvine sits in a suburban area consistently ranked among the safest communities in the country. It's within a short drive of the ocean and mountains. The school accepts only 41 percent of applicants, limiting admissions to high school students who post an average GPA of 3.4 in college-prep courses. Eighty-six percent of enrollees successfully complete one of UCI's 192 different degree programs. The criminology master's program requires 52 units of coursework in the criminal justice or legal fields, which takes two years. Required classes cover research methods; applied statistics; and social problems, law, and policy. Sessions begin in the spring, fall and winter. The university recommends an optional one-week, in-residence introductory course that immediately precedes the fall quarter. Students may choose a thesis or capstone course option.