Accelerate Your Career with a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice

Many working professionals in criminal justice-related fields reach a point in their careers where they want a bigger role in determining policy and managing how a department is run. Earning a master’s degree in criminal justice opens the door for them to achieve those goals.

Excelsior College provides online education with working adults in mind. The College offers an online Master of Science in Criminal Justice program that gives graduates an opportunity to bolster their careers, qualify for advanced criminal justice jobs, and earn higher criminal justice salaries.

And because the master’s program in criminal justice is online, students can earn the degree while maintaining their current job.

Students in the program learn how to address workplace legal and ethical dilemmas, and conduct research and analyze crime statistics. Students also can quickly put what they learn to use on the job.

Nicole Lopez, who earned a Master of Science in Criminal Justice from Excelsior College in 2019, said the program immediately changed her standing at her job. “I can actually talk to my chiefs and upper management and use what [I learned] in my courses…and I’m applying it to my job. It was pretty cool just to get to do that.”

What You Can Do with a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice

There is a wide range of occupations required to ensure the criminal justice system functions smoothly. By earning a master’s degree in criminal justice, graduates are prepared for leadership positions in different career fields related to criminal justice. In addition to working for law enforcement, the courts, and corrections systems, graduates also can work for private companies, such as insurance companies and law firms, as well as nonprofits.

Some of the most popular careers that graduates enter are described below. All salary and job growth information comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Criminal Investigator

This field includes detectives and police officers who typically work with city police departments and transit and railroad police, sheriff’s deputies, and fish and game wardens. Those with a master’s degree can qualify for leadership jobs in these areas, such as police chief. Salary for criminal investigators reached $86,030 in May 2019. The BLS projects the number of criminal investigators to increase by 5 percent through 2029.

Emergency Management Director

Emergency management directors develop plans to respond to natural disasters and other emergencies. They also oversee emergency services during and after a disaster occurs. The salary for this occupation reached $82,530 in May 2019. The BLS projects the number of emergency management directors to increase by 4 percent by 2029.

Forensic Science Technician

This field is for those who have earned an undergraduate degree in forensic science or natural science like biology or chemistry. Earning a master’s degree positions graduates to lead departments that specialize in forensic science. Salaries for forensic science technicians reached $63,170 in May 2019. The BLS projects the number of forensic science technicians to grow 14 percent by 2029.

Protective Services

Earning a master’s degree prepares graduates to lead people who work in protective service occupations, including correctional officers and bailiffs, private detectives and investigators, security guards, and gambling surveillance officers. The BLS does not track management salaries in these fields.

Federal Agent

Graduates from a criminal justice master’s program can qualify for positions as special agents in different federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, DEA, ATF, and Secret Service. The BLS does not track salaries in these fields, however, you can download various law enforcement pay tables through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

What You’ll Learn in Public Service Master’s Degree Programs

Excelsior College’s online master’s programs in public service disciplines, including the master’s degree in criminal justice graduate program, is designed for working professionals who want to boost their criminal justice career or transition into it from another field.

Students earn 30 credit hours in the program. Excelsior’s generous credit transfer policy allows students to transfer up to 15 credits. Students graduate from the program with expertise in important areas of criminal justice, including the following:

  • Integrating criminological theories with the development of contemporary criminal justice policy;
  • Critiquing the criminal justice system and its policies through the application of theory and literature to contemporary issues;
  • Learning to gather and analyze quantitative and qualitative criminal justice data;
  • Interpreting constitutional law decisions as they impact criminal justice professionals; and
  • Evaluating ethical theory and its uses in criminal justice decision making.

Students learn the details of how police departments, the court system, and correction facilities operate. They also learn the history and science of criminology while conducting criminal justice research projects and writing data-based reports.

All this culminates in earning a graduate degree that improves the chances of getting a promotion and earning the jobs students aspire to hold in the criminal justice system.