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Criminal Justice and Criminology, MS

Criminal Justice Master's Degree

Are you ready to move up from your entry-level criminal justice job? Do you want to advance toward a doctorate so you can teach or do research related to criminology? With a Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology from the University of Central Missouri, all of your goals are within reach — professionally, academically and financially. With a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0, you won’t be required to take the GRE to get in.

Learn from program faculty who pass along their extensive experience and expertise through engaging lectures and active mentorship. You’ll benefit from working side-by-side with them on critically important and meaningful research projects of contemporary cultural and social significance. You’ll also build connections that may help you earn that job promotion or advance your career in Criminal Justice and Criminology (CJC).

In fact, the expertise — and accessibility — of our decorated faculty members is one of the main reasons our graduate students say the Criminal Justice and Criminology master’s program at UCM is the best. You can take graduate classes from faculty with international law enforcement experience, a Missouri state municipal judge, a certified correctional officer, a juvenile probation officer, a victim’s advocate and even a contributor to a think tank for terrorism research.

In as little as two years of coursework, you can earn a highly relevant and marketable Criminal Justice master’s degree from a top-ranked Criminal Justice graduate program that’s consistently recognized for its value and affordability.

A flexible Criminal Justice and Criminology MS — available online or in person — to fit your lifestyle

We know you have priorities and commitments outside your academic goals, but your life doesn’t have to stop to achieve them. At the University of Central Missouri, you can earn your Criminal Justice and Criminology master’s degree in the way that works for you. Complete your 30 credits 100% online, choose to learn in person at our Warrensburg or Lee’s Summit campuses or get the best of both worlds with hybrid instruction. Rest assured that no matter how you choose to earn your master’s in Criminal Justice and Criminology, you’ll get the personal attention and support you need to succeed.

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Highly respected program founded in 1970

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#10 most affordable online CJC MS

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No GRE required with at least 3.0 GPA

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#26 best online CJC master’s degrees

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160+ publications by our expert faculty

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14 top 30 rankings in the last 5 years

What you will study

Take evidence-based graduate courses to build up your knowledge of the criminal justice and criminology discipline. You’ll learn from faculty experts who anchor their lessons with their own extensive professional experience to give you real-world perspectives alongside future-focused academic theory. By the time you graduate with your master’s degree, you’ll have a firm grasp of the core concepts and skills needed for advancement in criminal justice careers, including how to:

  • Articulate national and global issues impacting the criminal justice system and modern social issues.
  • Apply criminal justice theories and understand policy implications.
  • Access studies, conduct your own graduate research and apply research findings to professional problem-solving related to crime and the criminal justice system.
  • Determine the appropriate forms of communication based on the academic or criminal justice setting, such as presenting crime statistics, speaking about your research or even delivering the results of a staff satisfaction survey.

Criminal Justice and Criminology graduate courses to fit your career goals

In addition to core CJC graduate courses in criminal justice philosophy, statistics, advanced criminology and more, you’ll also have a diverse range of electives to choose from and help you focus your graduate degree. Graduate electives include:

  • Administration in Criminal Justice
  • Crime Analysis
  • Custody, Care and Treatment in the Institutional Setting
  • Homeland Security
  • The Juvenile Justice System
  • Race, Class and Crime
  • Women and Crime

With your electives, you can tailor your Criminal Justice and Criminology master’s degree to your post-graduation goals – job growth or doctoral studies. If your goal is to advance in your career in criminal justice as a practitioner or supervisor, you’ll benefit from pursuing electives centered on administration and leadership, as well as those that allow you to dive deeper into your current field. If you want to continue into a doctoral program or teach, you may want to take graduate courses focused on criminological theories and research methods.

The criminal justice and criminology program offers two areas to ensure you are getting the skills and knowledge you need to reach your goals.

Area 1: Theoretical Criminal Justice and Criminology is a criminal justice focused curriculum that includes criminological theory, quantitative analysis, and an applied research component.  This area is ideal for those interested in a career in a research organization or continued education at the Ph.D. level. In area 1, you can work with a faculty mentor complete a thesis in a topic of interest, or fulfill the non-thesis track by taking the Competencies in Criminal Justice course. With your electives, you can tailor your degree to focus on courses that interest you, such as The Juvenile Justice System, Race, Class, and Crime, or Miscarriages of Justice.

Area 2: Criminal Justice Administration and Leadership is an interdisciplinary curriculum that includes ethical leadership, budgeting, and public administration, and a practical grant-writing capstone course.  This area is ideal for working adults in the field who are seeking promotion into higher administrative ranks. In area 2, you can focus on the topics that will help you lead your agency. This track offers a set rotation of courses so you can finish in 18 months.

 

National Rankings

  • Ranked No. 6 for best online criminal justice MS degree, with an extra nod to UCM’s “long-running” program, in 2020 by Intelligent.com.
  • Ranked No. 10 in the country for most affordable online criminal justice master’s in 2019 by SR Education Group.
  • Ranked No. 12 for best online colleges for a criminal justice master’s program in 2018 by SR Education Group.
  • Ranked No. 6 for best affordable criminal justice master’s degree online in 2018 by GetEducated.com.
  • Ranked in the top 10% nationwide — No. 4 in Missouri — as "Best for the Money" in 2019 by College Factual.
  • Ranked No. 13 for best online master’s degree in criminal justice in 2018 by Top-Criminal-Justice-Schools.net.

 

Unique learning opportunities in the Criminal Justice and Criminology master’s program

As a graduate student in UCM’s Criminology and Criminal Justice MS program, you’ll have exciting opportunities outside the classroom to apply the course material to real-life situations. Because of this, you and your fellow graduate students will be prepared to handle any challenge that you may later experience in the field throughout your career. As you work toward your Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology, these experiential learning activities also help you develop stronger relationships with faculty. They get to know you and your strengths, which can help them promote your skills and abilities later in letters of recommendation when you’re applying for criminal justice jobs or doctoral degree programs. Some of the ways you can build these professional relationships and learn by doing include:

  • Research opportunities: Partner with faculty members on their research projects by helping them with survey deployment and data analysis. You can also work with a faculty mentor on your thesis in an area of criminal justice administration. Ten of our faculty’s recent peer-reviewed publications were co-authored with graduate students in the Criminology and Criminal Justice master’s program. 
  • Study abroad: Get a well-rounded, worldly understanding of how criminal justice systems function around the globe. Each year, faculty members lead a 10–14 day immersion trip to international locations such as South Korea, Belize, Italy and more. You’ll not only learn about other cultures and customs but also how they impact global criminal justice issues and processes.
  • Graduate research assistantships: Help faculty members with their research by identifying scholarly articles on a topic and assisting with data collection. You’ll also perform faculty-supervised research of your own, network with other professionals and participate in conferences and academic trips — all while getting help paying for your master’s degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology.
  • Technology and software: Work with SPSS statistical software to learn how you can use data in criminal justice jobs. With industry-leading software, you’ll practice and apply your knowledge and skills of the criminal justice system while analyzing, interpreting and presenting data.

 

What can you do with a master’s degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology?

A Criminal Justice and Criminology master’s degree can create more career opportunities and help you stand out in today’s competitive job market. Whether you’re currently a boots-on-the-ground police officer or a loss prevention specialist, the practical skills and actionable research you’ll learn in our Criminal Justice and Criminology MS program will give you the confidence and marketable abilities to move up in your current job or pursue a new criminal justice career. You can also rely on our faculty members’ connections with leaders in the field to help you find job opportunities as you pursue your career options.

Graduates of our Criminal Justice and Criminology master’s program have earned job promotions or built their careers in criminal justice and criminology at government agencies and private organizations such as:

  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Guarded Exchange
  • Missouri Department of Corrections
  • Missouri Department of Mental Health
  • U.S. Secret Service

You can also find further academic success after earning your master’s degree. Graduates have gone on to study at Oklahoma State University, Sam Houston State University and the University of Nebraska at Omaha to earn doctoral degrees and teach tomorrow’s public servants in the criminal justice system.

Criminal Justice and Criminology master’s degree jobs and opportunities

After you earn your master’s degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology, you’ll be part of an exciting field that’s full of advancement and career growth prospects focused on protecting society and improving public welfare. Use the interactive tool below to explore job opportunities available in criminal justice and criminology.

 

 
 


 

Financial assistance options for your master’s degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology

UCM’s Criminal Justice and Criminology master’s program costs less than many other similar graduate school programs in Kansas City, Missouri and the country. This is one reason the University of Central Missouri consistently ranks among the best Criminal Justice master’s degrees for value and affordability. 

What’s more, we make it easy for you to find ways to pay for graduate school. For example, the UCM Scholarship Finder allows you to fill out one application that gets automatically submitted for consideration in all UCM Alumni Foundation scholarships for which you qualify. 

Some scholarships are even available exclusively to students in UCM’s Criminal Justice and Criminology master’s degree program. These include:

  • Bill P. Colvin Criminal Justice Scholarship
  • Allen Sapp Criminal Justice Graduate Student Scholarship

 

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Take your degree further.

Earn both your bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Criminal Justice and Criminology in just five years through the Accelerated Dual Degree program. You’ll save time and money by starting your graduate coursework while you’re an undergraduate student. Better yet, you’ll still take all of the core undergraduate and graduate courses that help you build a strong foundation of knowledge for your future criminal justice career.

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Make yourself more marketable.

Graduate certificates supplement your MS degree and help you specialize in related fields. Take a deeper dive into a subject area and enhance your Criminal Justice and Criminology master’s degree with one of these graduate certificates: 

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Explore programs related to Criminal Justice and Criminology.

If you’re passionate about the field of law enforcement and criminal justice, you may be interested in learning more about this additional graduate program at UCM.

 

Chart your path with the Schedule of Courses.  This link shows required as well as elective options, so you'll know when classes are offered.

Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission into the program of study for the Criminal Justice & Criminology M.S. degree, the applicant must have earned an undergraduate degree in criminal justice or a related field prior to enrollment in program coursework at UCM and earned a minimum grade point average of 3.00 on all undergraduate course work and 3.00 on all graduate coursework.  Applicants must complete an application through the Office of Graduate Studies and include a personal statement and two letters of recommendation.

A student without a criminal justice degree may be required to complete up to 15 hours of background courses in criminal justice prior to taking graduate level courses. The requirement to take background courses may be waived by the Criminal Justice & Criminology Graduate Coordinator based on previous courses taken and/or relevant professional experience.

Students with a cumulative undergraduate grade point average of 2.75 to below 3.00 may be considered for admission by the Criminal Justice & Criminology Graduate Committee upon submission of an extended application.  The extended application includes:

  • Criminal justice major preferred, but not required
  • Cover letter explaining deficient GPA
  • Writing sample based on these prompts
  • Official scores on the GRE General Test (combined score Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning of 300 points and a minimal score of 4.0 on the Analytic Writing Test).

All applicants must complete an application through the Office of Graduate Studies online. 

Application Dates & Deadlines

To be considered for admission into the Criminal Justice & Criminology M.S. degree program and to ensure available capacity, early submission of application materials is recommended. Priority consideration will be given to students who apply at the beginning of the semester prior to the anticipated enrollment term. To apply later will put students at a distinct disadvantage regarding course availability. The Criminal Justice & Criminology Graduate Committee will meet monthly to review completed applications. All applicants will be notified of their admission status via email and/or the address provided on the application. Admission decisions will be based upon the merit of the application and the available space in the program for the student. 

Graduate Assistantships

A limited number of competitive Graduate Student Worker positions are available, for both teaching and research positions.

These positions provide opportunities for professional development in addition to ta stipend to help cover the costs of your graduate education.

Networking:

GAs in Criminal Justice get a backstage pass to all activities, trips, conferences, and visitors hosted and attended by faculty in the department.  These opportunities help you network with professional organizations and meet influential people while building your resume.

Duties:

Research GA:  The main duty of a research GA is to assist CJ faculty with their research.  GAs are the first students to be introduced to opportunities to get involved in current CJ networking and outreach projects.  Working with your professors can open doors for your career and make you competitive in the job market.

Apply:

Apply for a position as a Graduate Student Worker on the UCM Jobs website:  https://jobs.ucmo.edu/

Students are eligible to serve as a GA in any area, not only Criminal Justice & Criminology.

Thesis Information

Thesis Manuals and Forms

Use the following forms to apply for your thesis committee and declare your prospectus and final defenses. Please be advised that a thesis typically takes two semesters to complete.

UCM Graduate School Thesis Manual

Criminal Justice & Criminology Thesis Manual

Determination of Research Form

Thesis Committee Form

Thesis/Prospectus Defense Declaration Form

Application for External Thesis Committee Member

Thesis Publication Agreement

Thesis Transmittal Form

UCM Thesis and Writing Resources

 

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