Written By - Shannon L.

Edited By Darryl S.

Review & Contribution By Dr. Jonathan Barnes

The online criminology master’s degree educates students to investigate and understand criminal profiles and crimes and documents the social impact of crimes on victims and the communities they are a part of. Graduates of the Master in Criminology online find employment in law enforcement, the education system, consulting, and the correctional facility system. This guide will give details of the master in criminology online program, including the specializations available, career prospects on graduating, average costs involved, funding options, and more.

Master’s in Criminology

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Southern New Hampshire University

PROGRAM: Online Masters Degrees in Criminal Justice with Counter Terrorism Concentration

Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students, making us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, we’ve been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and have gained national recognition for our dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.

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Best Master’s in Criminology Online Programs

The best master’s in criminology programs online are tricky to list out. To draw up rankings, one must consider several factors such as accreditation, availability of financial aid, fees vs. career prospects, admission requirements, program requirements, graduation rates, quality of the faculty, infrastructure, and many more. Based on these and other critical factors, teams at OMC have put together a list of the best master’s in criminology programs online:

<a href="https://www.onlinemasterscolleges.com/masters-in-criminology-online/">Criminology</a>

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College Name & AddressTuitionGraduation Rate
University of California-Irvine
501 Aldrich Hall, Irvine, California 92697
Sam Houston State University
1806 Ave J, Huntsville, Texas 77340
University of Massachusetts-Lowell
1 University Ave, Lowell, Massachusetts 01854
Boston University
One Silber Way, Boston, Massachusetts 02215
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan 48824
Regis University
3333 Regis Blvd, Denver, Colorado 80221
Florida State University
222 S. Copeland Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32306
The University of Texas at Dallas
800 West Campbell Road, Richardson, Texas 75080
Western Kentucky University
1906 College Heights Blvd, Bowling Green, Kentucky 42101
San Jose State University
One Washington Square, San Jose, California 95192
California State University-Long Beach
1250 Bellflower Blvd, Long Beach, California 90840
Florida International University
11200 S. W. 8 Street, Miami, Florida 33199
The University of West Florida
11000 University Parkway, Pensacola, Florida 32514
Missouri State University-Springfield
901 S National Avenue, Springfield, Missouri 65897
West Liberty University
208 University Drive, West Liberty, West Virginia 26074
California University of Pennsylvania
250 University Ave, California, Pennsylvania 15419
Indiana State University
210 N 7th St, Terre Haute, Indiana 47809
Loyola University New Orleans
6363 Saint Charles Ave, New Orleans, Louisiana 70118
Kent State University at Kent
Executive Office, 2nd Floor Library, Kent, Ohio 44242
East Tennessee State University
1276 Gilbreath Drive, Johnson City, Tennessee 37614

Source – Integrated Post Secondary Education Data System & University Data
*Tuition rates are for in-state and per year. Program specific rates may apply.
**NA – data not available

Understanding Master’s in Criminology Programs

Crime is primarily studied in a criminology degree program. Students majoring in criminology study the biological, psychological, or social causes of crime in various settings, from local communities to foreign nations. Throughout the criminology master’s, they will examine those crimes, strengthen their research skills, and receive instruction on the criminal justice system’s function in preventing crime. Some colleges offer a major that combines criminology and criminal justice.

The master in criminology online is typically a 30 to 36-credit graduate-level study that students can take up entirely online, in-person, or in the hybrid model combining the two. Introductions to criminology and criminal justice are part of a criminology major’s course load, as are courses on the sociopolitical aspects of crime, such as deviance & social control, the death penalty, and public policy analysis. In the final capstone research project of a criminology master’s, students research a particular topic, write a research paper about it, and present their findings.

Curriculum and Skills Gained in Master’s in Criminology Online Programs

Apart from studying crime and justice, students of an online master’s in criminology may take courses on crime analysis, which examine how social factors, psychology, and biology affect crime. To improve their research abilities, criminology students can also anticipate taking a few classes in data science, statistics, and field methods for sociological research. Apart from core courses, one must choose from electives and finish a capstone project towards the end of the program. Here are a few examples of criminology courses students can expect:

Criminological Theory
This course is a multidisciplinary examination of biogenic, psychogenic, and sociogenic explanations for criminal behavior relevant to criminal justice policy and practice.

The Nature of Crime
This course investigates the extent, distribution, and correlation of criminal offending and crime patterns. It analyzes, reviews, and applies recent empirical research to develop crime causation theories, crime prevention programs, and public policy.

Risk Assessment and Prediction in Criminal Justice
This course investigates the theories, applications, and research about assessing and predicting adverse events and threats in the criminal justice system. It examines the evidence for the effectiveness of classification and assessment tools. Students also learn about the principles that govern the identification, classification, evaluation, and potential interventions of high-risk individuals and groups.

White-Collar Crime
This course is a theoretical and empirical examination of the physical and financial harm caused by negligent corporations and business employees. The focus is on ethics, theory, legal decision-making, regulatory oversight, and control of illegal corporate activity.

Courses in an online master in criminology can also include:

  • Research in Criminology & Criminal Justice: Methods & Concepts
  • Evidence-Based Crime Prevention
  • Criminal Violence
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Statistical Criminology Applications
  • Contemporary Issues in Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Professional Development in Criminology
  • Legal Issues in Criminology
  • Policy Analysis in Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Data Analysis & Interpretation
  • Criminology Research and Analysis
  • Diversity in Crime
  • Measures And Correlates of Crime
  • Mass Incarceration and Collateral Consequences
  • Prevention of Crime and Delinquency
  • Policing Communities
  • Crime Prevention
  • Foundations of Criminal Justice
  • Women, Crime, and Justice
  • Effective Correctional Practices
  • Juvenile Delinquency
  • Victims of Crime

After graduating with a criminology master’s, students can successfully perform the duties of a criminologist. Among the many skills, they would have acquired the ability to:

  • interview crime victims and offenders and show emotional resilience when doing so;
  • effectively communicate to various sections of society across communities, age groups, and social barriers;
  • Identify diversity and human rights issues concerning the criminal justice system and criminology;
  • assess and analyze the essential quality of research in criminology, criminal justice publications, and other media;
  • demonstrate academic and research proficiency in core criminology areas;
  • demonstrate excellent problem-solving, critical thinking, analytical, and interpersonal skills;
  • evaluate ethical issues related to criminology and the criminal justice system, and
  • show flexibility and adaptability, and work effortlessly in teams.

Criminology vs. Criminal Justice – What is the Difference?

Criminology and Criminal Justice both deal with crime, issues that lead to crime, and the consequences of crime. Since there are so many similarities, the degrees, master’s in criminology and master’s in criminal justice, are often swapped. However, there are distinct and subtle differences between both degrees.

A master’s degree in criminology covers criminal behavior’s psychological and sociological causes. It also covers the reasons why criminals commit crimes. Criminology studies the various types of crimes, the nature of criminal offenders, and the prevalence of these crimes in society. Graduates of a master of criminology usually pursue employment opportunities in research, education, consulting, and law enforcement.
An online master’s in criminal justice focuses on law enforcement systems and their operations. This will include judicial and penal institutions. Criminal justice primarily studies how the criminal justice system works. Graduates with a master’s in criminal justice often pursue judiciary and law enforcement careers.

Master’s in Criminology Degree Types

Online master’s in criminology degrees encompass the scientific analysis of crime, justice, and the societal controls crime falls under. These degrees could be a Master of Arts in Criminology online or a Master of Science in Criminology online. The difference between MA Criminology and MS Criminology is mainly to obtain the degree and the course requirements during the program.

Master of Science in Criminology

A Master of Science in Criminology or MS in Criminology online is taken up by students who want a solid theoretical background with complementary practical skills to further their careers in law enforcement and its supporting agencies. At most colleges, the MS criminology does not require a thesis to be submitted as part of the program requirements.

Master of Arts in Criminology

A Master of Arts in Criminology or MA in Criminology online is taken up by students primarily interested in research. Students will prepare for a Ph.D. in criminology or take up academic positions upon completing this degree. Most colleges require a thesis to be submitted as part of the program requirements for the MA in criminology.

Specializations in Master’s in Criminology Programs

Specializations are an excellent way to drill down into a subject and gain specific knowledge and expertise in a concentrated area, leading to niche careers and better pay. Some criminology specializations students can choose when pursuing their criminology master’s degree include:

Area of Specialization Description 
Global SecurityCriminologists specializing in global security have the knowledge and skills to protect the nation from international threats. They develop and implement policies and protocols to detect, counter, and reduce the effects of global threats.
Corrections ManagementCriminologists specializing in corrections management are involved in managing prisons and correctional facilities. They develop and implement programs to meaningfully reintegrate offenders into the community again. The aim is to reduce the repetition of crime by offenders through such programs.
VictimologyCriminologists who specialize in victimology are equipped to treat victims. They develop and implement measures and programs to help victims navigate the legal system, reduce victim trauma, and institute clear, unambiguous victim rights and protections.
CybercrimeCriminologists who specialize in cybercrime are equipped to think like information criminals. They use technological tools to detect, review, and prevent cybercrime.
TerrorismCriminologists specializing in terrorism are equipped to identify and deal with terrorism challenges and threats. They develop and implement measures and programs to detect, counter, and reduce the impact of domestic and international terrorist threats.
Juvenile Delinquency Criminologists who specialize in juvenile delinquency are equipped to treat juvenile delinquents. They develop and implement measures and programs to reduce juvenile delinquency and prevent the youth from committing crimes.

Examples of other specializations include:

  • Policing
  • Leadership 
  • Forensics 
  • Juvenile Justice 

Timeline for graduation from Online Master’s in Criminology Programs

A master’s in criminology online usually comprises 30 to 36 credits. Students enrolled full-time can complete their programs in about two years. However, some online master’s in criminology degrees can be completed in twelve to eighteen months, depending on the coursework, specialization, and college chosen. Part-time programs offered by some colleges will allow students to complete their programs within 3 to 5 years.

Accelerated Online Criminology Programs

Accelerated master’s in criminology online allows students to complete their master’s degrees more quickly. While some schools combine an undergraduate and master’s degree in criminology, allowing students to complete the program in 5 years instead of 6, others offer fast-track programs that can be completed in about one year. For example, the Master of Science in Criminal Justice online program at the University of Southern California (USC)1 can be completed on a 1-year or 2-year track. Another example of a fast-track program is Florida State University’s 2 one year Master of Science in Criminology.

Master’s in Criminology Online Programs Admission Requirements

The admission requirements for a master’s in criminology online are similar to those for most graduate programs. The following are the most common criminology master admissions requirements at most colleges:

  • Online application for the chosen university, along with the application fee
  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university
  • Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least 2.8 on a scale of 4.0 (varies by school)
  • Official academic transcripts that show completion of the most recent completed bachelor’s degree**
  • A Graduate Résumé
  • A Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement
  • At least 2 Letters of Recommendation
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) Scores
  • College-specific requirements – some colleges will have specific requirements. Students must check with the admissions office at the college/s to which they are applying for exact requirements.

**An unofficial copy of the transcripts indicating completion of the bachelor’s degree can be submitted during the application process. The official copy of the transcript must be submitted once admission is received.

No GRE Master’s in Criminology Online Programs

The most common standardized tests are the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Most U.S. schools require standardized test scores for students to complete admission. However, some online master’s in criminology programs have no requirements for GRE or  GMAT scores. For example, Florida State University3 offers an online master’s in criminology with no GRE programs to those with five years of experience in a criminal justice-related field. Students should check with the university’s criminology or criminal justice departments to which they are applying to seek information on no GRE programs and GRE waivers.

Read the GMAT vs. GRE guide to understand their similarities and differences.

Accreditation for Master’s in Criminology Online Programs

When pursuing an online master’s in criminology, it is always better to choose accredited criminology colleges. When a school is accredited, it means that the school is found to have gone through a high educational quality assurance procedure and has been evaluated by one or more independent accrediting organizations recognized by the U.S Department of Education (UDSE)4  and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)5. While national agencies may accredit colleges, they are more usually accredited by six regional accrediting bodies, namely the:

More information on accreditation is available in the Accreditation Guide.

Free Criminology Courses Online

Several free master’s in Criminology online courses are available from various sources. These courses provide additional knowledge of new practices in the field of criminology. Although they may provide additional support to students in their studies and exams, they are not all recognized or accredited and thus cannot replace a full online master’s in criminology degree program. A few such free courses are listed below:

Course Provided by Description 
Forensic Psychology: Witness Investigation6Future Learn This course explores the psychology of eyewitness testimony by using videos of witnesses recorded from behind the scenes of a police investigation.
Critical Criminology and the Social Sciences7Open LearnThis course gives students insight into some primary disciplines within the social sciences, focusing on critical criminology. The course outlines some defining characteristics of the social science disciplines of psychology, law, sociology, and critical criminology.
Criminology Beyond Crime8Open Learn This course studies the idea of ‘social harm’ as an alternative to the legal definition of “crime.” The course considers developments in “green criminology,” which examines global environmental harm and the myriad interactions between human beings and the natural environment.

How to Pay for a Master’s in Criminology Online Program

The cost of a master’s in criminology online varies from about $9,000 to $25,000 but varies from school to school. Prospective students can seek financial assistance from a variety of sources to help them pay for their graduate studies. Examples of financial aid are scholarships, grants, student loans, the FAFSA, and graduate assistantships. Here are a few funding options to consider:


Many students pursuing an online master’s degree in criminology may be eligible for scholarships. Scholarships are typically merit-based, with the award amount determined by gender, minority status, major chosen, and academic achievements. Students must exercise caution when they apply and avail of scholarships, as there are numerous Scholarship Scams.


The cost of a criminology master’s can be covered entirely or partially by grants that a student may be eligible for. Grants are typically not merit-based or based on the student’s accomplishments and academic prowess but instead on the student’s financial need.

Graduate Assistantships 

Graduate assistantships are yet another way to reduce the cost of an online criminology master’s degree. They are also an excellent way to gain experience and establish a network of people and information sources that will benefit the student long after completing the program. Graduate assistants have many responsibilities, such as assisting with teaching or research and earning a stipend or fee waiver for their work.


FAFSA, short for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, can help students mark down the price of a master’s in criminology online. Students can apply to FAFSA to check their eligibility for financial aid from the federal government.

It is advisable to consult the Financial Aid Guide to choose the most suitable financial aid.

Scholarships for Master’s in Criminology Online Programs

Graduate School Scholarships are an excellent way to offset the high costs of a master’s in criminology online program. Students with an excellent academic track record usually qualify to apply for most scholarships. Although specific scholarships for criminology may be hard to come by, those meant for sociology, human services, criminal justice, etc., would also accept applications from criminology students.

Careers and Salary Outlook for Master’s in Criminology Graduates

Criminology frequently investigates questions about what should be done after a crime occurs, so scholars in this field debate what types of criminal punishments are most appropriate. As a result, a criminology degree is useful in a variety of jobs because understanding how and why crime occurs is useful in many contexts, including:

  • Criminal Prosecutor
  • Field Investigator
  • Criminal Profiler
  • Private Investigator
  • Social Worker
  • Criminology Professor or Researcher
  • Correctional Officer
  • Fire Inspector
  • Criminal Investigator
  • Forensic Psychologist
  • Parole Officer
  • Internal Affairs Investigator
  • City Administrator
  • Detective
  • Crime Scene Examiners
  • Police Officer
  • Criminal Defense Attorney
  • Loss Prevention Specialist
  • Investigative Analyst
  • Criminologist
  • Investigative Reporter
  • Policy Analyst
  • Probationary Officer

Given the variety of career options available to criminology graduates, the path chosen will impact earnings. For instance, in 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median annual salary for police and detectives in the country was $69,160[9]. By 2032, the bureau projects a 3% increase in employment in those positions. Some possible career options, their job descriptions, annual median pay, and potential growth are listed below:

OccupationMedian Annual Salary Job Growth (up to 2030) Job Description 
Police Officers and Detectives9$69,1603% (as fast as average)The primary responsibilities of police officers are to protect lives and property. Police detectives and criminal investigators collect facts and amass evidence of possible crimes.
Correctional and Probationary Officers10$59,8603% (as fast as average)Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists assist law offenders in their rehabilitation. They also assist with custody and help offenders on probation or parole.
Sociologists11$98,5905% (faster than average)Sociologists investigate society and social behavior by investigating the groups, cultures, social institutions, and processes that emerge when people interact and collaborate. They examine the impact of social influences and devise research projects to test theories about social issues.
Court Reporters12$63,5603% (as fast as average)Court reporters play an essential role in legal proceedings that require an exact record of what happened. They create word-for-word transcriptions at depositions, trials, hearings, and other legal proceedings.

Certifications and Licensing for Criminology Graduates

Certification is a formal process in which an organization’s community of knowledgeable, experienced, and skilled representatives confirms an individual’s competency demonstrated through knowledge, education, and experience in a specific profession. Although currently, there are no particular criminology certifications, students could consider certifications that enhance resumes, making graduates more competitive in a diverse job market.

As for licensure, criminology graduates employed with most government departments will undergo automatic training and be deemed “licensed to operate” until they are in active service.

Additional Resources for Criminology Professionals

A criminology future will depend on the broad overview of criminology’s key concepts and theories that blend several subjects, including psychology, history, sociology, and law. After completing an online master’s degree in criminology, graduates and professionals must liaise and coordinate between various departments as part of their responsibilities. They will also need to keep up with the most recent developments in the field to stay ahead of crime and prevent it. To prepare for this, they may use a variety of resources, such as:

  1. American Society of Criminology (ASC)
    The American Society of Criminology (ASC) is an organization that promotes cooperation and coordination among its members. Members can avail of journals, newsletters, and websites that list, discuss, and analyze the latest innovations and protocols in law enforcement, forensics, and laws.
  2. Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) 
    The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) is an international organization that promotes research, education of the judicial system, and policy analysis within the criminology field and fosters information sharing and ideas. ACJS memberships are available to institutions, professionals, and students.
  3. National Criminal Justice Association (NSJA) 
    The National Criminal Justice Association (NSJA) promotes the development of justice systems that enhance public safety. NSJA provides training and technical assistance, strategic planning, etc., and offers its members internships and career opportunities.
  4. American Correctional Association (ACA)
    The American Correctional Association is the oldest organization founded specifically for correctional professionals. It is a professional organization for all public and private individuals and groups to improve the justice system. Members of ACA have access to conferences, webinars & plenaries, publications, etc
  5. International Association for the Study of Organized Crime (IASOC)
    The International Association for the Study of Organized Crime (IASOC), run by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC), aims to advance the study of organized crime and illicit enterprise through a network of focused academics, professionals, and students.

FAQs About Master’s in Criminology Online Programs

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a master’s in criminology?

A master’s degree in criminology teaches students to investigate and understand criminal profiles and crimes. Through the criminology master’s, students study and document the social impact of crimes on victims and the communities they are a part of. The master’s in criminology online degree is taught using theoretical classes, research, and practical methods.

Is a master’s in criminology online?

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

How long is a criminology master?

Is a criminology master worth it?

Criminology or Criminal Justice – which is better?

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