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Masters in Criminal Justice Degree Requirements

Masters in Criminal Justice Degree Requirements

Some of the more career oriented graduate programs in criminal justice have a number of degrees or degree concentrations from which to choose. In some schools the Masters in Criminal Justice provides the stepping stone to a PhD program as with many graduate degrees. However in criminal justice there is a substantial number of students who are mid-career law enforcement professionals who are back to school for an advanced degree preparatory to pursuing a senior management position. For that reason there are professional variations of the degree that provide a concentration in law enforcement or in forensics. In some cases there are separate masters programs for these fields.

Traditional Masters in Criminal Justice Requirements

Universities differentiate in a variety of ways between the traditional, academically oriented Masters in Criminal Justice and the career-oriented graduate program in criminal justice designed for law enforcement personnel. Virginia Commonwealth University offers an extensive, fifteen credit graduate certificate program for mid career law enforcement personnel. The full scale Master of Criminal Justice degree requires 36 credit hours of classroom work and a comprehensive exam at the completion of the coursework. Courses include Comparative Criminal Justice Systems, Research Basis of Criminal Justice, Criminology, and a Seminar in Legal Processes.

Masters in Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement Management Requirements

In the late 1960s the federal government introduced a funding program designed to promote the development of formal education programs for law enforcement personnel. Out of this effort and several pieces of legislation came the Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP) which provided student loans for officers willing to attend or return to college; if after completion of the degree they rendered five years of law enforcement service the loan was forgiven. In response to this coordinated federal effort public universities developed undergraduate and graduate programs in criminal justice that were designed for the law enforcement professional.

The program at California State University in Sacramento is an example. This Master of Science in Criminal Justice requires a baccalaureate, preferably but not necessarily in criminal justice. There are a few academic prerequisites including a course in statistics. The curriculum for the program is based on the philosophy that, "...The functions of the professional criminal justice practitioner and educator are to aid the orderly development of society, to contribute significantly to the improvement of the quality of criminal justice services, and to advance the criminal justice system..." The 30 credit curriculum includes Contemporary Issues in Policing, Management of Complex Justice Organizations, and a Graduate Seminar in Corrections.

Masters in Forensic Science Requirements

This degree option is not readily found as a stand-alone degree; in the schools that do offer it however the science behind this branch of law enforcement becomes a paramount academic concern. Michigan State University offers this degree with concentrations in Forensic Chemistry, Forensic Biology and Forensic Anthropology. Each of these options has a thesis requirement, and each has its own set of academic prerequisites. In this program 32 credits are allowed for required coursework and 6 credits applied to thesis research, writing and defense. There are few core courses; between 17 and 25 credits are devoted to the area of concentration. With the exception of one introductory course, the balance of the classroom work is put to electives.

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