Best Master’s Degrees in Criminal Justice

Home/Best Master’s Degrees in Criminal Justice

Written by: Sarah Gardam
Published: September 9, 2020

Criminal justice programs focus on crime prevention, victims' rights, and offender rehabilitation. Concentration areas include law enforcement, the courts, and corrections. After earning a master's in criminal justice, graduates can qualify for diverse career opportunities.

A master's in criminal justice can lead to lucrative careers as federal investigators, police chiefs, and emergency management directors. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data cited in the following sections, positions for graduates of master's in criminal justice programs pay median salaries from $54,000 to $83,000 per year. According to the BLS, detectives and criminal investigators earn a median annual salary of $85,020. Additionally, the BLS projects an above-average job growth of 8% for private detectives and investigators from 2018 to 2028.

What Are the Goals of a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice?

Ideal for individuals passionate about justice and public safety, master's in criminal justice programs prepare students for a variety of careers. Learners can study criminal justice at various academic levels, and degree programs in the field typically offer concentration options. Master's-level criminal justice students explore the field from various perspectives, develop research and critical-thinking skills, and gain leadership abilities.

Master's students often specialize in an area such as strategic management, cybersecurity, crime analysis, or criminal rehabilitation. Many programs include hands-on learning experiences such as internships, projects, and lab work.

A master's degree in criminal justice can qualify graduates for high-level positions as prison wardens, investigators, criminologists, and emergency management directors.

Why Get a Degree in Criminal Justice?

Earning a master's degree in criminal justice can lead to career and salary advancement, networking opportunities, and improved job performance. Below are a few common benefits associated with master's-level education in the field.

  • Promotion: Earning a master's degree can help criminal justice professionals qualify for leadership positions such as warden, police chief, emergency manager, and correctional officer supervisor.
  • Salary Advancement: Advanced degrees often lead to higher earning potential. Federal employees can use their master's degree to qualify for higher salaries under the government's pay grade system.
  • Networking Opportunities: Master's students typically have opportunities to network with peers, professionals in the field, and potential employers. Master's programs often include internships, group projects, and local organization partnerships that can lead to networking opportunities.
  • New Skills: Criminal justice master's programs help working professionals acquire advanced skills that can improve job performance and qualify graduates for promotions or new careers.
  • Improved Job Satisfaction: By developing new skills, exploring career possibilities, and qualifying for higher pay, graduates of criminal justice master's programs often experience greater confidence and job satisfaction.

Accreditation for Online Master's in Criminal Justice

Students researching criminal justice master's programs should look for schools with accreditation from regionally accrediting agencies recognized by the Council of Higher Education Accreditation. While many professional and religious schools hold national accreditation, regional accreditation is the most prestigious form of accreditation. Accrediting agencies evaluate factors such as institutional performance, faculty credentials, and library resources.

The best criminal justice master's programs often hold programmatic accreditation from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. Students can use the U.S. Department of Education's online database to verify the accreditation status of prospective schools and programs. Online schools may also hold accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.

Learners must attend an accredited institution to qualify for federal financial aid. Additionally, regionally accredited schools typically only accept transfer credits and degrees from other regionally accredited institutions.

How Much Do Criminal Justice Majors Make?

Master's degree-holders often earn above-average salaries. However, pay varies considerably based on position, employer, and credentials. According to the BLS, correctional treatment specialists and correctional supervisors earn median annual salaries of $54,290 and $62,500, respectively.

Emergency management directors earned a median annual salary of $74,590 in 2019, according to the BLS, while detectives and criminal investigators earned a median salary of $79,970. The median salary for criminologists is $83,420 per year. Among criminal justice professionals, police and detective supervisors typically earn the highest salaries, with a median salary of $87,910 per year.

A relevant master's degree typically meets or exceeds the minimum education requirements for all the positions above. However, graduates may need additional credentials to contend for some of these competitive leadership roles. Professional certifications, on-the-job training, and professional experience can enhance hireability.


1. What can you do with a master's in criminal justice?
Criminal justice master's degrees usually meet or exceed education requirements for various specialist and manager positions in law enforcement, the legal system, and corrections.

2. How long does it take to get a master's degree in criminal justice?
Degree completion time varies based on program and enrollment status. However, most criminal justice master's degrees require 30-40 credits and take 1-2 years to complete.

3. What master degree can I get with a bachelor's in criminal justice?
Criminal justice bachelor's degrees can qualify students for master's programs in criminal justice or a related field, such as forensics, homeland security, law enforcement administration, or criminology.

4. What is the highest-paying job in criminal justice?
According to the BLS, police and detective supervisors are some of the highest-paid professionals in the field, with an average annual salary of $91,590.

Master's Degree Courses in Criminal Justice

Criminal justice master's degree programs usually require 30-40 credits, and learners typically graduate in 1-2 years. Curricula generally include coursework in core and specialized topics, along with research courses and a final project or thesis. Master's students acquire a deep understanding of crime and the criminal justice system. Learners also cultivate advanced research and analytical skills to prepare for research or leadership careers.

Master's students typically choose a concentration such as criminal behavior analysis, law enforcement and crime prevention, or corrections and rehabilitation. Specialized course offerings may include cybercrime, crime mapping, white-collar crime, and biosocial factors in serial offending. Below are descriptions of some courses common to criminal justice master's programs.

Criminal Law

This course analyzes the theory, history, and practices of law enforcement, the court system, and corrections. Students examine criminal justice principles such as the burden of proof and due process. Learners also study the decisions that move cases through the criminal justice system. This foundational class may serve as a prerequisite for other courses.

Criminal Justice Research Methods

This course explores the research methods used to study crime's origin and prevention. Learners discuss data collection and analysis, and they learn to apply these skills in criminology-related scenarios. The class examines complex social problems related to crime, along with ethical issues involved in researching and addressing crime. Coursework in research methods prepares students to produce a research project or thesis.

Computer Criminology: Cybercrime and Digital Security

This course provides a master's-level introduction to computer- and internet-related crimes. Coursework explores digital forensics techniques and cybercrime laws and policies. Learners apply criminological theories to digital crimes such as fraud, identity theft, privacy violation, and child pornography. Students may pursue a specialization or concentration in computer criminology.


Criminology courses evaluate major theories on the causes of crime. Students examine bio-social, feminist, critical thoery, and rational choice perspectives on criminality. Coursework may also consider theories related to an individual's life course, routine activities, and strain. Students examine the underlying assumptions, logic, and merits of various theories. Learners develop a nuanced understanding of crime's causes and possible prevention approaches.

Correctional Rehabilitation

This course focuses on corrections theories, policies, and methods. Learners explore rehabilitation approaches including family, behavioral, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Coursework examines how corrections systems perform risk and needs assessments. Students also learn about unique treatment approaches for special populations, including persons struggling with addiction or mental illness. This course provides foundational knowledge for students interested in corrections, rehabilitation, and treatment.

How to Become a Detective

According to the BLS, police officers and detectives must have at least a high school diploma or the equivalent and must graduate from a training academy and complete on-the-job training requirements. Police and detective training includes classroom learning on ethics, rights, and laws. Candidates also complete supervised training and experience in relevant physical skills, such as self-defense and weaponry.

Most individuals begin their careers as police officers before pursuing detective positions. Professionals receive departmental promotions based on examination and workplace performance.

Prospective federal agents undergo training at special law enforcement training centers. Federal agents need at least three years of relevant professional experience and a related bachelor's degree.

Career and Salary Outlook for Criminal Justice Majors

Because of the scope and complexity of the criminal justice system, master's students in the field have a variety of career options. Graduates can pursue academic or research-focused careers, while students who are passionate about offender rehabilitation can become correctional officers or social workers.

Students interested in crime prevention may specialize in a field such as cybersecurity, terrorism prevention, policing, or emergency managment. Below are descriptions of common careers for criminal justice master's graduates.

  • First-Line Supervisor of Correctional Officers: These professionals oversee the treatment of incarcerated persons. They also manage correctional officers and deputies. Supervisory duties often include employee hiring, training, scheduling, and performance evaluation. These supervisors investigate staff problems, mediate conflicts between staff members, and take disciplinary action when necessary. Correctional supervisors also delegate tasks and assignments and create reports.
    Median Annual Salary: $62,500

  • Criminologist: Criminologists include specialized sociologists, data scientists, and analysts who study crime causation. These professionals often gather, analyze, and report on related data. They work in research labs, government agencies, and law enforcement agencies. Criminologists often assist police investigations and affect law enforcement policy and practice. While conducting research, they may also interview criminal offenders.
    Median Annual Salary: $83,420

  • Probation Officer and Correctional Treatment Specialist: These professionals administer social services to help rehabilitate offenders. Typical duties include interviewing offenders and their friends and family members, creating treatment plans, providing resources, and fulfilling reporting and court responsibilities. Treatment specialists may evaluate offenders through psychological tests and arrange for social services including counseling, mental health and addictions treatment, housing, and job placement.
    Median Annual Salary: $54,290

  • FBI Agent: These specialized law enforcement agents investigate federal crimes. Agents within the Federal Bureau of Investigation may arrest and detain suspects, and they are usually assigned to a field office or regional headquarters. Investigations may involve collecting, analyzing, and reporting on evidence and findings. These agents may also interview suspects and witnesses.
    Median Annual Salary: $79,970

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Scholarships for Master's in Criminal Justice

Master's programs can be expensive, but many students offset expenses by applying for scholarships. Schools, governments, private donors, and professional organizations offer scholarships. Awards may be based on need, merit, identity, or a combination of these factors. The scholarships below are available to criminal justice students.

American Criminal Justice Association Lambda Alpha Epsilon Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Applicants must have U.S. citizenship and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Candidates must be attending a criminal justice program and must have a course load equalling at least two-thirds of full-time enrollment. Applicants must submit a written statement outlining their educational and career goals.
Amount: $100 to $400

Pi Gamma Mu Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be in their first four years of Pi Gammu Mu membership and in their first two years of a graduate program. Learners must be studying criminal justice, political science, social work, or a related field. Applicants submit a purpose statement, a resume, official transcripts, and three letters of recommendation.
Amount: $1,000 to $2,000

Ritchie Jennings Memorial Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners Foundation funds this scholarship for students pursuing anti-fraud careers. Full-time students pursuing a degree in criminal justice, business administration, finance, or accounting can apply. Candidates must attend an accredited, four-year school. Applicants must submit official transcripts and two recommendation letters.
Amount: $1,000 to $10,000, plus a one-year student membership with the association

Women in Federal Law Enforcement Regular Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Women in Federal Law Enforcement Foundation awards this scholarship to women pursuing degrees related to criminal justice. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and attend an accredited four-year college or university. Candidates must have completed at least one year of college, have a minimum 3.0 GPA, and be currently enrolled full time and on campus. Applicants submit a recommendation letter and a 500-word essay describing their community involvement.
Amount: Varies

The Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund
Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports progressive students working for economic and social justice. Candidates must demonstrate financial need and a history of activism. Applicants must be enrolled at an accredited U.S. school and submit a personal statement, two recommendation letters, official transcripts, and FAFSA information.
Amount: Up to $15,000 per year, with the option to reapply annually

Ranking Methodology

Our researchers and writers don't recommend programs based upon preference; we back our rankings with science. Here is 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. This data is acquired from sources including the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Education, Glassdoor, and PayScale. Financial information includes the cost of tuition, fees, and class supplies; the average cost of living; access to financial aid and social services; and the projected annual salary of graduates.

The second-largest data category involves the overall academic quality, application requirements, and the competitiveness of the program. We base the final 25% of consideration on student and alumni reviews from sources including 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. Review our methodology page for more information and resource links.

25 Best Master's Degrees in Criminal Justice

#1 — University of California, Irvine

Master of Advanced Study in Criminology, Law, and Society
Irvine, California
Program Website

UCI is based in a suburban area within a short drive of the ocean and mountains. The school accepts only 41% of applicants. Admitted students boast an average GPA of 3.4 in college-prep courses. UCI offers 192 degree programs and maintains an 86% graduation rate. The criminology master's program requires 52 units of coursework in the criminal justice or legal fields, which generally takes two years.

Required classes cover topics including research methods; applied statistics; and social problems, law, and policy. Sessions begin in the spring, fall, and winter. The university recommends that new students complete a one-week, in-residence introductory course. Students complete either a thesis or a capstone course.

#2 — Florida State University

MS and MA in Criminal Justice
Tallahassee, Florida
Program Website

Located in the northern panhandle of the Sunshine State, this university comprises 16 colleges and offers more than 360 areas of study. FSU enrolls 42,000 students from 132 countries. Accepted students have an average high school GPA above 4.0 and a median ACT score of 30. The university accepts 56% of applicants and maintains a graduation rate of 68%. FSU boasts a 22-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

The master of science and master of arts degrees in criminal justice each require 33 credits, which students must complete within seven years. The master of arts requires six credits of humanities classes. Learners can choose from three degree tracks: coursework only, area paper, and master's thesis. Required core classes explore criminology theory, criminal justice studies, research methods, and statistics.

#3 — University of Central Florida

Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Orlando, Florida
Program Website

With a main campus located 13 miles east of downtown Orlando, UCF admits 49% of applicants and boasts a 70% graduation rate. Racial minorities comprise about 45% of the student body. The master of science in criminal justice requires 36 credits and is available on campus and online. Core courses include data analysis, policy analysis, and criminal justice organization.

Students also attend a capstone seminar and choose from elective classes in foundations of correction, foundations of law enforcement, juvenile justice, law and social control, and American criminal courts. Learners can pursue a graduate certificate to specialize in corrections leadership, crime analysis, juvenile justice leadership, or police leadership. UCF also offers a dual master of science in criminal justice and public administration.

#4 — Michigan State University

Master's in Criminal Justice
East Lansing, Michigan
Program Website

This public research institution was founded in 1855 as the first school to teach scientific agriculture. Today, MSU enrolls more than 50,000 students, with learners from all 50 states and 141 countries. Two-thirds of applicants gain admittance, and 79% of MSU students graduate from the university. Admitted students typically boast a GPA of 3.5-3.9 and an ACT score of 23-29.

MSU offers more than 200 areas of study, and learners can study abroad in 60 countries. Established in 1935, the School of Criminal Justice offers two master's programs. The master's in criminal justice requires 30 credits. Core courses explore crime causation, prevention and control; design and analysis in criminal justice research; criminal justice management; and quantitative methods in criminal justice. Students choose from thesis and non-thesis options, and learners can pursue a specialization in security management.

#5 — Northeastern University

Master's in Criminology and Criminal Justice
Boston, Massachusetts
Program Website

Based in Boston, Northeastern was founded in 1898 as the Evening Institute for Younger Men. The private research university enrolls about 22,000 students, including 8,000 graduate students. More than half of the student population comprises international students, who represent 147 countries. Northeastern accepts only 19% of applicants. In 2018, U.S. News & World Report ranked Northeastern as the 13th best graduate school for criminology.

The master's degree is available on campus and online. Learners focus on the problem of crime and on the criminal justice and private security systems. The master's program requires 32 credits, including core coursework in the criminal justice process, social science research methods, and statistical analysis. Master's students can complete an optional internship or research project.

#6 — Boston University

Master of Criminal Justice
Boston, Massachusetts
Program Website

Founded in 1839 as a theological school, this private nonprofit research university is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The main campus is in close proximity to several museums, the Fenway Park baseball stadium, and other cultural and historical attractions. BU enrolls about 33,000 students and maintains 17 colleges and schools. The university accepts only 22% of applicants. Admitted students have an average high school GPA of 3.8 and a median SAT score of 1468.

Alumni include eight Nobel laureates and 23 Pulitzer Prize winners. The criminal justice master's program is available on campus and online. The program requires 40 credits, which learners must complete within five years. Core courses explore criminology, victimology, white-collar crime, analytical methods, research methods, and criminal justice administration. Students can pursue a concentration in cybercrime investigation and cybersecurity or strategic management.

#7 — Sam Houston State University

MA in Criminal Justice and Criminology (on campus)
MS in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management (both)
Huntsville, Texas
Program Website

Located about 70 miles north of Houston, this public university enrolls more than 20,000 students. SHSU has an acceptance rate of 73% and a graduate rate of 53%. The university offers 59 master's degrees.

Huntsville is the home of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and several prisons. 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 features a working courtroom where students can witness the criminal justice system in action. The master's degree programs each require 36 credits.

#8 — East Carolina University

Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Greenville, North Carolina
Program Website

Founded in 1907 as a training school for teachers, ECU currently enrolls 29,000 students and comprises 12 colleges. The university boasts an 18-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio and accepts 79% of applicants. ECU offers more than 75 master's programs, including a 36-credit master's degree in criminal justice. The program includes core coursework in criminal justice principles, principles of criminal justice administration and management, research methods and statistical interpretation, and criminal behavior.

Students must complete an evaluation of the program and write a professional paper. Learners can pursue a certificate in security studies, public management and leadership, or criminal justice education. Internships are available. Applicants to the master's program must have a minimum 2.7 undergraduate GPA, a satisfactory GRE or TOEFL score, and submit a statement of purpose.

#9 — University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice
Lincoln, Nebraska
Program Website

A public research university established in 1869, UNL enrolls about 21,000 undergraduate students. Incoming freshmen boast an average high school GPA of 3.65. The university also offers 150 graduate programs, including a criminal justice master's program. The program is available on campus and online and requires 36 credits. Learners complete 11 courses and a research class, and they typically graduate in 18 months.

UNL does not require applicants to submit GRE scores. However, applicants must have earned a minimum 3.0 GPA during at least two years of undergraduate study. The curriculum includes coursework in the nature of crime, research theory and methodology, and statistical applications in criminal justice and public administration. Students also attend seminars in the administration of justice, women and criminal justice, and race and ethnicity. Specializations options include public administration and counseling.

#10 — University of Cincinnati

Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Cincinnati, Ohio
Program Website

Founded in 1819, UC is a public research university enrolling more than 44,000 students. The university accepts 76% of applicants. The university enrolls students from all 50 states and 73 countries. It also maintains a 14-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

The university has awarded master's degrees in criminal justice since 1978. Students can pursue their degree on campus, online, or in a hybrid format. Specialization options include analysis of criminal behavior, corrections and offender rehabilitation, and law enforcement and crime prevention. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA.

#11 — University of Colorado Denver

Master of Criminal Justice
Denver, Colorado
Program Website

Founded in 1876, CU Denver enrolls about 15,000 students and offers a master of criminal justice through the School of Public Affairs. The university comprises eight colleges and schools, which award bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees.

The master of criminal justice program features core courses in criminal justice systems, policies and practices, criminology theory, research methods, and law and society. Available concentrations include crime analyst, gender-based violence, hazards and emergency management, and homeland security. Students can participate in an internship, and the program requires a capstone project or master's thesis.

#12 — University of Oklahoma

Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Norman, Oklahoma
Program Website

Founded in 1890, 17 years before Oklahoma became a state, OU awards degrees in 170 majors. More than 31,000 students attend classes on campus in Oklahoma, Italy, Mexico, Brazil, and online. OU accepts 78% of applicants, and two-thirds of freshmen graduate from the university. The school features a racially diverse student body and offers 160 master's programs.

The master of science in criminal justice requires 33 credits, which most students complete in 16 weeks. Learners can study on campus or online. Specialization options include theoretical foundations of criminal justice, ethical decision-making, and criminal justice policy development. Criminal justice students can earn certificates in corrections management, restorative justice, and administrative leadership.

#13 — Arizona State University

Master of Arts in Criminal Justice
Tempe, Arizona
Program Website

With more than 80,000 students, ASU is one of the largest universities in the country. The institution maintains four campuses in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Founded in 1885, ASU comprises 17 colleges and offers 350 degree programs.

The online criminal justice master's degree requires 45 credits, including coursework in applied data analysis and in criminal justice planning and program evaluation. Learners also complete 18 elective credits and three credits of research. Students can specialize in policing, corrections, or management. Applicants to the master's program need a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a closely related field, along with a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA.

#14 — California State University, San Bernardino

Master of Arts in Criminal Justice
San Bernardino, California
Program Website

This public university enrolls more than 20,400 students, 61% of whom are Latino. The university accepts about two-thirds of applicants and maintains a 48% graduation rate. Applicants to the criminal justice master's program must hold a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field, such as psychology or anthropology. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA.

The core curriculum includes advanced coursework in applied research, statistical analysis, and criminological theory. Learners also complete seminars in criminal justice, corrections and policing. Students choose from 14 courses to earn the 16 required elective credits. The program offers thesis and exam tracks.

#15 — Florida International University

Master of Science in Criminal Justice
University Park, Florida
Program Website

In terms of enrollment, FIU is one of the ten largest postsecondary schools in the United States. The university maintains two campuses in Miami-Dade County and offers more than 190 degree options. The university accepts 50% of applicants and has a 54% graduation rate. The master's degree in criminal justice requires 36 credits. Students complete five core courses, four criminal justice electives, and three general electives.

The core curriculum includes advanced coursework in applied research, statistical analysis, and criminological theory. Learners also complete seminars in criminal justice, corrections and policing. Students choose from 14 courses to earn the 16 required elective credits. The program offers thesis and exam tracks.

#16 — University of Massachusetts Lowell

Master of Arts in Criminal Justice and Criminology
Lowell, Massachusetts
Program Website

UMass Lowell is a national research university with more than 17,000 students. The university has six colleges. Admitted students boast an average 3.5 high school GPA and 1225 SAT score. The master's degree in criminology requires 33 credits. Core courses examine criminological theory, the administration of justice, statistics, research design, and public policy.

Students also complete electives and may substitute two additional classes for the thesis requirement. Learners can pursue the master's degree in criminal justice full time or part time. They can study on campus or online. UMass Lowell also offers a combined BS-MA program, which takes five years to complete. Applicants to the graduate school must have a high school GPA of at least 2.8 and an acceptable score on either the GRE or the Miller Analogies Test. Massachusetts residents pay significantly discounted graduate tuition rates.

#17 — Liberty University

Master's in Criminal Justice
Lynchburg, Virginia
Program Website

Founded in 1971 by televangelist Jerry Falwell, Liberty is a private evangelical Christian institution located in central Virginia. The majority of Liberty's 100,000 learners study online, and the university offers 280 online degree programs. Nearly a third of the student body comprises military members, and 88% of students receive financial aid. Liberty enrolls learners from all 50 states and more than 80 countries.

The university offers more than 600 areas of study through its 17 colleges and schools. Liberty also boasts an 18-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio in its graduate programs. The online master's degree in criminal justice requires 36 credits, which most students complete in 18 months. Core courses explore topics including administration of justice organization; human resources management; and leadership, ethics, and policing. Learners can specialize in forensic psychology, homeland security, or public administration.

#18 — University of Wisconsin Platteville

Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Platteville, Wisconsin
Program Website

Founded in 1866, UW-Platteville is the oldest public institution of higher learning in Wisconsin. UW-Platteville attained university status in 1959 with the merger of Wisconsin State College-Platteville and the Wisconsin Institute of Technology. The school accepts 94% of applicants and graduates 52% of students. The university enrolls 8,900 students and boasts an average class size of 25 students. UW-Platteville offers 41 majors through three colleges.

The university has offered its online master's degree in criminal justice since 1999. The program features concentration options in theory, management, and victim and offender services. Students can also focus on an area such as criminal law, criminology research, or child advocacy. Applicants to the graduate program must have a bachelor's degree and an acceptable GRE or GMAT score.

#19 — Regis University

Master of Science in Criminology
Denver, Colorado
Program Website

A private school established by exiled Italian priests in 1877, Regis welcomes students of all faiths. The university maintains four campuses in Colorado and boasts a 14-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. Of the university's more than 3,500 students, more than 50% receive financial aid. Learners can choose from 132 degree programs, including 80 online options.

The master's program in criminology offers three tracks: leadership, human behavior, and cybercrime and terrorism. Learners can pursue an area of focus such as human trafficking, public safety, or victim advocacy. Faculty members design personalized coursework to help students explore the nature of criminal behavior and strategies for crime prevention. The curriculum comprises 36 credits, which students can complete online, on campus, or in a hybrid format. Regis offers terms lasting five and eight weeks, and students choose from six annual start dates.

#20 — University of the Cumberlands

Master of Science in Criminology
Williamsburg, Kentucky
Program Website

Cumberlands enrolls about 11,700 students, including 9,000 graduate students. The student population represents 36 states and 38 countries. Cumberlands accepts 68% of applicants and maintains a 36% graduation rate. Admitted students have an average 3.2 high school GPA and 22.2 ACT score. All Cumberlands students must complete at least 40 hours of community service.

The online master's program in criminal justice requires 31 credits, and students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA. The curriculum includes core courses and an independent research project. Foundational coursework explores topics including justice administration, criminological theories, statistical applications, and leadership fundamentals. Learners must earn two specialties. Options include law enforcement, corrections, homeland security, juvenile justice, family services, investigations, and addiction studies.

#21 — Nova Southeastern University

Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Davie, Florida
Program Website

NSU is a private, nonprofit institution with a 17-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio. The university enrolls more than 24,000 students, including 19,000 graduate students. It offers 150 areas of study. Graduate-level applicants must have a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA. The criminal justice master's program is only available online. NSU offers scholarships for law-enforcement professionals, veterans, active military members, and first responders.

The master's program requires 30 credits, including core coursework in survey issues, social administration, legal issues, program evaluation, and investigative processes. Students must specialize in at least one area, such as legal perspectives, behavioral science, information systems, or conflict and crisis management.

#22 — Rowan University

Master of Arts in Criminal Justice
Glassboro, New Jersey
Program Website

Founded in 1923 as a teachers college, Rowan earned university status in 1997. The institution enrolls more than 18,500 students through 12 colleges and schools. Rowan accepts 71% of applicants and graduates 64% of students. The university offers more than 60 master's programs, including a criminal justice degree. Students can enroll in the program full time, part time, or in an accelerated online format. The criminal justice program includes thesis and non-thesis options.

Students learn about the prevention, causes, and impact of crime, along with modern issues related to law enforcement and corrections. Required courses include contemporary issues in criminal justice, law and society, and criminal justice policy analysis. Students also complete four electives. Applicants to the master's program must have a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA, and Rowan recommends applicants complete an introductory class in criminal justice, research methods, or statistics.

#23 — University of Louisville

Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Louisville, Kentucky
Program Website

With a history dating back to 1798, this state-supported research university is located three miles from downtown Louisville. The school's location in one of the country's largest metropolitan areas provides a variety of cultural opportunities for students. UofL enrolls more than 22,000 students, including about 6,000 graduate students, and it offers more than 170 areas of study. Admitted students have an average ACT score of 25.4. The Campus Pride Index awards UofL with the highest rating for LGBTQ-friendly institutions.

The criminal justice master's degree requires 36 credits and offers thesis and non-thesis options. Students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA. Core courses explore theories of crime and delinquency, applied statistics in criminal justice, and research methods. Elective options include classes in social work, public administration, law, and business. Learners can study online or attend evening classes on campus. The accelerated BS-to-MS program allows undergraduate students to earn graduate credits during their senior year.

#24 — Missouri State University

Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice
Springfield, Missouri
Program Website

Formerly Southwest Missouri State University, MSU has the second-largest enrollment in the state. The university enrolls more than 26,000 students, including 3,700 graduate students. Founded in 1905, MSU maintains three campuses in Missouri and one site in China. The university's main campus is located in the state capital of Springfield. MSU accepts 86% of applicants.

The master of science in criminology and criminal justice program requires 33 credits. Core coursework explores 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. To graduate, master's students must maintain a 3.0 GPA, conduct research, and pass a comprehensive exam. The university also offers certificate programs in community corrections and in homeland security and defense.

#25 — Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

Master of Arts in Criminal Justice
Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania
Program Website

Located about 50 miles north of Pittsburgh, Slippery Rock is home to 3,500 year-round residents. SRU enrolls about 8,500 students and was founded as a teachers college in 1889. SRU offers more than 40 master's degrees, including a master of arts in criminal justice. The criminal justice program requires 30 credits, which students typically complete in 12-18 months.

The curriculum comprises 24 credits of coursework and six research credits. Learners choose from general, thesis, and research tracks. Students can complete the program full time or half time. Core courses cover criminal justice theory, practical skills, statistical methodologies, and research. Learners also study the administration of justice, advanced criminological theory, critical issues in corrections, statistical methods, and criminological research.