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’s in criminology online find employment in law enforcement, the education system, consulting, and the correctional facility system. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the overall employment of police and detectives is projected to grow by 7% from 2020 to 2030. 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.
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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:
Crime is primarily studied in a criminology degree program. Students majoring in criminology study the biological, psychological, or social causes of crime in a variety of settings, from local communities to foreign nations. Throughout the criminology master’s degree, students 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’s in criminology online is typically a 30 to 36 credits 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 program, students conduct research on a particular topic, write a research paper about it, and present their findings.
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 in criminology degree covers the psychological and sociological causes of criminal behavior of criminals. 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 in 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 careers in the judiciary and law enforcement.
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 do with the objective of obtaining the degree and the course requirements during the program.
Master of Science in Criminology
A Master of Science 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 Criminology or MA in Criminology online is taken up by students primarily interested in research. Upon completing this degree, students will either prepare for Ph.D. in criminology or take up academic positions. 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
Criminologists specializing in global security have the knowledge and skills to keep the nation safe from international threats. They develop and implement policies and protocols to detect, counter and reduce the effects of global threats.
Criminologists specializing in corrections management are involved in the management of 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.
Criminologists 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.
Criminologists who specialize in cybercrime are equipped to think like information criminals. They use technological tools to detect, review and prevent cybercrime.
Criminologists 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.
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 taking to crime.
Examples of other specializations include:
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 look at 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 focuses on the analysis, review, and application of 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 CrimeThis 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’s in criminology can also include:
Research in Criminology & Criminal Justice: Methods & Concepts
Evidence-Based Crime Prevention
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
Foundations of Criminal Justice
Women, Crime, and Justice
Effective Correctional Practices
Victims of Crime
After graduating with a criminology master’s degree, 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.
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 (USDE) and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). While national agencies may accredit colleges, they are more usually accredited by six regional accrediting bodies, namely the:
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
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 in the degree can complete their programs in about two years. But 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.
Online Master’s in Criminology Programs Admission Requirements
The admission requirements for master’s in criminology online are similar to those for most graduate programs. The following are the most common criminology master’s 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**
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 Criminology Programs
The most common standardized tests are GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test). Most U.S. schools usually require standardized test scores for students to complete the admission process. However, some online master’s in criminology programs have no requirements for GRE or GMAT scores. For example, Florida State University offers online master’s in criminology no GRE programs to those with 5 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.
Accelerated Online Criminology Programs
Accelerated master’s in criminology online allow 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 1 year. For example, the master of science in criminal justice online program at the University of Southern California (USC) can be completed on a 1-year or 2-year track. Another example of a fast-track program is Florida State University’s one year master of science in criminology.
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:
This 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.
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 seeks to examine the problems of global environmental harm and the myriad interactions between human beings and the natural environment.
How to Pay for an Online Master’s in Criminology 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. It is advisable to consult the Financial Aid Guide to choose the most suitable financial aid. Here are a few 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 theyapply 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 rather on the student’s financial need.
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 the program is completed. Graduate assistants have many responsibilities, such as assisting with teaching or research, and earn a stipend or fee-waiver for the work they put in.
short for Free Application forFederal 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.
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. Here are some examples of such scholarships:
Florida State University (FSU)’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice has various scholarship programs for criminology and criminal justice students, such as the Robert L. Clark Scholarship, Charles Richter Reusing Scholarship, Eugene and Rosalind Czajkoski Scholarship Fund, and more.
The Hispanic Education Endowment Fund (HEEF)’s scholarship program provides scholarships to first-generation Hispanic students based on a combination of financial need, academic achievement, and other criteria
Closed for 2023 | TBA in October 2023 for 2023-2024
The Minnesota Social Service Association (MSSA) awards seven scholarships to students pursuing degrees in health and human service-related programs.
7 awards totaling $13,500
Closed for 2023 | TBA for 2023
FAQs about Criminology Programs
Q: What is master’s in criminology?
A: A master’s degree in criminology teaches students to investigate and understand criminal profiles and crimes. Through the criminology master’s program, students study and document the social impact of crimes on victims and the communities they are a part of. The criminology online degree is taught using theoretical classes, research, and practical methods.
Q: Is a master’s in criminology online?
A: Yes, completing a master’s in criminology online is possible. Several colleges and universities across the country provide entirely online or hybrid programs (combining offline and online classes). This page lists some of the best schools for an online master’s degree in criminology.
Q: What can you do with a master’s in criminology degree?
A: Graduates of the master’s in criminology find employment in law enforcement, the education system, social work, consulting, court systems, rehabilitation centers, forensic laboratories, and the correctional facility system. They can work as correctional officers, prison wardens, victims’ advocates, FBI agents, forensic experts, and more.
Q: How long is a criminology master’s?
A: A master’s degree in criminology online typically consists of 30 to 36 credits. Full-time students in the program can typically complete the degree in about two years. While part-time students may need three years or more to complete their programs, those who take more courses and skip breaks may be able to complete their programs in fifteen to eighteen months, depending on the coursework and college chosen.
Q: Is a criminology master’s worth it?
A: A master in criminology is worth it for those interested in understanding the psychological and sociological causes of criminal behavior of criminals and who would like to pursue a career in law enforcement and justice. Besides expecting good job growth, criminology graduates earn reasonably good salaries and command a lot of respect from citizens.
Q: Criminology or Criminal Justice – which is better?
A: A master’s degree in criminology covers the psychological and sociological causes of criminal behavior of criminals and the reasons why criminals commit crimes. It studies various types of crimes, the nature of criminal offenders, and the prevalence of these crimes in society. In contrast, a master’s in criminal justice focuses on law enforcement systems and their operations, including judicial and penal institutions. It examines how the criminal justice system works. Between the two degrees, one is not better than the other. Pursuing a criminology master’s or criminal justice master’s largely depends on an individual’s interests and career objectives.
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:
Criminology Professor or Researcher
Internal Affairs Investigator
Crime Scene Examiners
Criminal Defense Attorney
Loss Prevention Specialist
Given the variety of career options available to criminology graduates, the path chosen will impact earnings. For instance, in 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median annual salary for police and detectives in the country was $66,020. By 2030, the bureau projects a 7% increase in employment in those positions. Some possible career options, their job descriptions, annual median pay, and potential growth are listed below:
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 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 from the American Board of Criminalistics (ABC), such as the following:
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 will be required to liaison 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:
American Society of Criminology (ASC) – The American Society of Criminology (ASC) is an organization that promotes cooperation and coordination amongst its members. Members can avail of journals, newsletters, and its website that list, discuss, and analyze the latest innovations and protocols in law enforcement, forensics, and laws.
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 sharing of information and ideas. ACJS memberships are available to institutions, professionals, and students.
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.
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 with the common goal of improving the justice system. Members of ACA have access to conferences, webinars & plenaries, publications, etc.
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.
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