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How do I get a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice?

Kevin P. Hanson
Kevin P. Hanson

A master's degree in criminal justice is awarded to those who complete the required number of graduate-level semester units or credits, normally through an institute of higher learning. There are several steps to complete before getting to this point. One of the initial steps is to decide whether you are going to be a full-time or part-time student. Once that's decided, you will likely want to begin researching colleges and universities to find a program that best fits your personal needs. After making those two decisions, you are probably ready to apply to a master's degree in criminal justice program.

Admission to a master's degree in criminal justice program can be competitive, depending on the school and the program, so it pays to plan accordingly. One way to begin is to find out your selected institute's graduate school admission requirements. These are mostly academic qualifications, which usually need to be fulfilled prior to applying to the school. Common prerequisites often include a minimum grade point average (GPA), minimum test scores on the ACT and SAT or similar exams, and successful completion of a bachelor's degree program.

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Another hurdle that often needs to be cleared before attending graduate school is the successful completion of an undergraduate degree program. In many cases, this degree doesn't necessarily need to be in criminal justice. Most graduate-level criminal justice degree programs will accept students with a bachelor's degree in a related social science field, such as criminology, sociology, or psychology.

Once you've reached this step in the process, meaning you've been accepted to an institute of higher learning as a master's degree in criminal justice student, you still need to make some important decisions. When registering for classes, you might be given the option of completing the course online, on campus, or a hybrid of both of these. There are inherent benefits to each type of class, so it's important to decide which will work best for you. Perhaps the last academic decision to make before you've earned your master's degree in criminal justice is the topic of your thesis, which some but not all graduate programs require for graduation.

The length of time it will take you to earn your master's degree in criminal justice will primarily depend on whether you decide to become a full-time or part-time student. The majority of criminal justice graduate degree programs require completion of about 40 semester credits. Students traditionally take approximately six core courses and a pre-determined number of elective courses. A full-time Master's of Science in Criminal Justice student can usually graduate from the program in about two years.

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