A career in criminal justice allows people to engage in meaningful work that helps keep their communities safe and secure. There are numerous career opportunities to choose from, within the field. Depending on the specialization, degree holders can pursue a career as a corrections officer, criminologist, FBI agent, DEA agent, police officer, crime scene investigator, private investigator, or U.S. marshal. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job prospects in criminal justice related fields range from favorable to excellent.
Online colleges and criminal justice degree programs vary widely in terms of quality, name recognition, and value. To assist those looking for a high-quality, accredited online criminal justice degree program, we’ve put together this ranking of what we consider to be the very best online schools offering master of criminal justice degree programs for 2017. Our rankings of the top online schools offering master’s in criminal justice degrees are based on publicly available data evaluated according to several different criteria, including reputation, accreditation, student satisfaction, ratio of students to instructors, and tuition. You can read more about our rankings philosophy and find a list of our other top college and degree rankings on our rankings page.
What Are The Top Online Master of Criminal Justice (MCJ) Degree Programs?
VALUE OF A MASTER OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE (MCJ) DEGREE
Graduates from top accredited online master of criminal justice (MCJ) programs will be in an excellent position to take advantage of the growing demand for qualified leaders and administrators in the criminal justice system. A master’s degree in criminal justice will broaden and deepen your knowledge of all aspects of criminal justice and make you a more attractive candidate for promotions and salary raises, through the expansion of your professional competencies. A master’s degree is also a prerequisite for anyone interested in teaching criminal justice at the college level or pursuing a doctoral degree.
ADVANTAGES OF A MASTER’S IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE ONLINE DEGREE
Master’s degrees in criminal justice are actually one of the most popular degree programs online. And now, prospective students seeking their master’s in criminal justice have dozens of high quality online programs to choose from. In fact, many of the very best criminal justice programs in the country are now offered online. Among the many advantages of earning a master’s degree from a top online criminal justice program is that student’s can maintain their employment and/or family responsibilities while earning their degree. In 2016, students with a master’s in criminal justice earned a median salary of $61,600. Over the next ten years, overall job growth in criminal justice is expected to increase by 4%, but specified career options often have higher rates of growth. By earning your master’s in criminal justice online, you will open doors to careers in forensic psychology, criminology, and more.
Criminal Justice Salaries
As with any career, you can expect your salary to increase in correspondence to your experience in the field. The following chart details the mean salaries you can expect to earn as a graduate from an online master’s in criminal justice degree.
|Years in Field||Mean Salary|
Earning a master’s in criminal justice opens doors to career opportunities unavailable to those holding only a bachelor’s degree/certification in the field. Additionally, those holding an MA or MS in criminal justice often find that they make more money than those with less advanced degrees, even within the same position. See the table below to compare median wages of different careers in the field and the degree requirements needed for a given position.
Sample Careers and Salaries for CJ Students with a BS/BA
|Contract Manager||BS/BA in Criminal Justice||$62,500|
|Property Manager||BS/BA in Criminal Justice||$79,250|
Average Salaries per Year of Relevant Experience – Master’s in Criminal Justice
|Years Worked||Degree Earned||Median Salary|
A master’s in criminal justice is a broad degree option that leads to many different potential careers. While many of these occupations are available to professionals with a bachelor’s degree, it is often the case that those with a master’s will earn substantially more money in the same position than those with a less advanced degree.
There are many potential fields one can enter once earning their master’s in criminal justice. Some examples include correctional officers/bailiffs, EMT’s/paramedics, private detectives, security guards, and surveillance officers. Many of these positions can be entered with a minimum of a high school diploma, but those with higher levels of education can expect to make more money over the course of their career.
Professional Associations in Criminal Justice
Like many careers today, the field of law enforcement and criminal justice has become extremely competitive, with the vast majority of jobs going to “connected” candidates. Professional associations are a great option for students looking to get their foot in the door of a relevant industry. While a great academic record and on-the-job experience may get you an interview, it may be harder to land the job without being previously connected with those already established in the industry. Professional associations offer students the chance to join a group of professionals with years of experience and innumerable connections. These people not only help students learn about the industry firsthand, but also offer connections to potential employers and job opportunities. The following list consists of professional associations to consider when working to build a career in criminal justice.
- Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS)
- American Society of Criminology (ASC)
- American Correctional Association (ACA)
- American Probation and Parole Association (APPA)
To determine the best online Master of Criminal Justice (MCJ) programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the 9 best online Master of Criminal Justice (MCJ) programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.