Criminal Justice and the Master’s Degree

The master’s degree in criminal justice is meant to take you from a daily operational role in the criminal justice system and into management and/or research. A master’s in criminal justice may also find you a role in a corporate environment if the company is in some fashion needs the development and management of a comprehensive security system for its own facilities or contracts with some subsection of the criminal justice apparatus.

Graduate work in criminal justice will provide you with leadership skills for law enforcement, probation and parole departments, corrections, court services and public safety. Research and statistics play an important role in criminal justice and it is at the master’s level that you will qualify professionally for projects in this field.

A quick look at online job postings in this area showed an interesting mix. There was a position as “research scientist” for the Texas Juvenile Crime Prevention Center. In Ohio, the Cuyahoga County Justice System Reform Project was looking for a director. The Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center needed a manager for a criminal justice research project.

All of these jobs are for agencies that are government funded. All of them would involve extensive collection and analysis of data, requiring some computer skills. All of them are to some degree, focused on system reform. All of them are open to an individual with a master’s degree in criminal justice.

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To that end, the master’s program at Capella University includes core courses in Survey and Research of Adult Development and Behavior; Ethnic and Cultural Awareness; and Survey of Research Methodology. Specialization areas include Social Change and Public Policy; History of the Juvenile Justice System; and Practices of Probation, Parole and Community Corrections (a partial list). The academic orientation for some of these course tracks is clear.

This is not to suggest that the master’s program in criminal justice won’t immerse you in study of the crime-stopping skills. The master’s level curriculum at University of Phoenix Online includes: Cyber crime and Information Systems Security; Forensic Science and Psychological Profiling; Management of Institutional Risk; Critical Incident Management; and Legal Issues in Justice and Security.

As with other areas of study, the master’s in criminal justice means management. In law enforcement, a high score on the civil service exam is no longer sufficient to move into the command ranks. Graduate studies are often required. That is why the continuing education programs for criminal justice that many online schools offer are populated with working professionals: beat cops and probation officers who want to move into management and systems analysis.

Criminal Justice and the Master's Degree

Managing criminal justice personnel is perhaps a more complex challenge than management in a corporate or some other public service area that does not involve sworn personnel. Police work takes courage, patience, tolerance, toughness and a good deal of psychological insight. There is a high burnout factor among police officers and many develop cynical attitudes.

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Police work is also high profile work and often subject to public criticism. That is why so many police departments are organizations made up of courageous individuals that have morale problems. It’s a seeming contradiction, but it punctuates the fact that management of people in the law enforcement environment is going to take polished skills of many types.