Advance in Criminal Justice
- $627/credit (36 credits total)
- Transfer up to 12 graduate credits
- Complete in as few as 15 months, or at your own pace
- Learn from criminal justice professionals
- Accredited by NECHE
- 24/7 online accessibility – attend class when and where it's convenient
Online Master's in Criminal Justice Program Overview
Become a leader in public safety with a Master of Science (MS) in Criminal Justice. This online degree program gives you the know-how to apply the latest research, leadership strategies and criminological theories for effective decision-making in the U.S. justice system. Whether you're looking to advance your career in local law enforcement, aiming to work for a federal government agency or want to help set public policy, a master's in criminal justice can help you gain the skills you need to be a leader in today's ever-changing criminal justice field.
Students may either pursue a general track – ideal for those who want to craft their own focus through elective classes – or choose between concentrations in public safety administration or advanced counterterrorism and homeland security.
The master’s in criminal justice online degree is a 36-credit program that focuses on management, leadership, data analysis and budgeting skills. Depending on your electives, your criminal justice program may also touch on business law and ethical business practices.
Through your courses in the master’s in criminal justice online program, you’ll:
- Learn what administrators, managers and other leaders in today’s criminal justice system need to know
- Learn from experts with years of experience in the field, bringing credibility and relevance to your education
- Gain a stronger understanding of finance, accounting and the economic systems in which cyber and financial crimes are growing
Graduates will be prepared for a wide range of careers and advancement opportunities. You'll come away with the skills you need to stand out during the hiring process in both public and private sectors.
You'll learn key skills, including: Resource planning, consensus building, ethical leadership and business management.
Advanced Counterterrorism (MS)
Protect your country and community by earning your Master's in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Advanced Counterterrorism and Homeland Security.
Our advanced counterterrorism concentration will help prepare you for an exciting career where fast and thorough analysis, decision-making and actions can have life-saving consequences. You'll learn intelligence analysis, threat assessment, advanced surveillance and counterterrorism techniques.
Students of the criminal justice master’s online with a concentration in advanced counterterrorism will gain exposure to critical, current skills and strategies applicable to areas such as policing, border patrol and homeland security. Upon completion of your criminal justice master’s online degree, you'll come away with a broad understanding of the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in these growing fields. You'll learn:
- Techniques of threat assessment, intelligence collection and analysis
- Strategic, political and organizational challenges associated with homeland security efforts
- Legal and constitutional implications of homeland security
The master’s in advanced counterterrorism will explore the challenges of counterterrorism and homeland security. By studying criminal justice online with SNHU, you’ll also be prepared for a wide variety of positions, including those in local and federal government, law enforcement, security and corrections. A master’s degree can be a significant advantage in career advancement and promotion to senior responsibility roles in public safety organizations.
The curriculum for this criminal justice master’s online degree provides in-depth knowledge of advanced homeland security tactics designed to help you move ahead in your career. You’ll learn from industry experts who teach the subject matter from a practical, hands-on perspective, adding relevance and credibility to your training.
Courses may include:
- Global Terrorism
- Terrorist Techniques and Counterterrorism
- Threat Assessment
- Intelligence Collection Analysis
In addition to this concentration, we also offer a full master's in cyber security degree program for those who want to take a more technical approach to defense.
Public Safety Administration (MS)
The MS in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Public Safety Administration will help prepare you for career advancement in law enforcement, specifically in leadership positions that address public policy.
A public safety administration master's degree can help you understand the challenges facing society today and learn how policy decisions are made and implemented at the national, state and local levels. Courses are designed with the present and future administrator or leader in mind: All have a direct application to the challenges of managing a criminal justice agency.
The coursework in this criminal justice online program deals with forecasting and public budgeting, police and community behavior, and scenario planning. You'll learn how to navigate the complexities of the American criminal justice system.
Graduates of the public safety administration master's degree program typically work for local, state and federal governments, as well as nonprofit and educational organizations.
Many jobs fall into this category, but among the related occupations most in demand are city managers and county administrators, for which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 4% growth through 2029.1 Earning a criminal justice master's degree online with SNHU could help position you for career advancement or promotion to senior responsibility roles in public safety organizations.
The curriculum for the public safety administration master’s degree combines the core of our criminal justice online program with the theories and analysis needed to take the reins in public safety. Experienced faculty will help you develop into a leader with strategic planning and management skills.
Courses may include:
- Strategic Management in Public Service
- Public Safety Administration
- Data-Driven Decision-Making in Criminal Justice
This master's in criminal justice degree could help prepare you for a number of different roles once you graduate. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 5% job growth for police officers and detectives; 8% growth for private detectives and investigators; 4% growth for emergency management directors and 17% growth for social and community service managers through 2029 – all roughly on pace or faster than the national average for all occupations.1 Demand may vary by location, but a continued need for public safety bodes well for new prospects.
Earning your master's degree can be a significant advantage in career advancement and promotion to senior responsibility roles in the criminal justice field. Graduates of the criminal justice online program will likely find a wide variety of positions available to them, including those in:
- State and local government
- Law enforcement
- Security and corrections
- Community advocacy
- Public policy
Start Your Journey Toward an Online Criminal Justice Degree
Why SNHU for Your Master's in Criminal Justice
With no set class meeting times, you can learn on your schedule and access online course materials 24/7.
Take advantage of some of the lowest online tuition rates in the nation, plus financial aid for those who qualify. We also make it easy to transfer to SNHU by accepting up to 12 credits from your previous institution.
Founded in 1932, Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit institution with over 100,000 graduates across the country. SNHU is institutionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), which advocates for institutional improvement and public assurance of quality.
Recently, Southern New Hampshire University has been nationally recognized for leading the way toward more innovative, affordable and achievable education:
- “Most Innovative” regional university honors from U.S. News & World Report each year since 2015
- A $1 million grant from Google.org to explore soft skills assessments for high-need youth
- Recognition as a 2017 Digital Learning Innovator by the Online Learning Consortium
Built by criminal justice students who wanted a place to talk about their cases, network and learn more about the industry, the Law and Disorder club is a perfect place to supplement your studies. Available on SNHUConnect – the online social platform for SNHU learners – the club also provides access to industry experts who can offer insights and advice on how to break into the field. As co-founder, student and peer mentor Kristine Ducote puts it: "I want these students to go out and succeed, and I want them to go out and have what they need before they graduate. It’s very important to me because we address issues that really need addressing.”
SNHU also hosts a regular criminal justice forum, the Contemporary Justice Series, for both online and campus students. Attendees can network with peers and experts, as well as engage about current debates in criminal justice including bail reform, police-community relations and wrongful convictions.
According to Jeff Czarnec, associate dean of criminal justice and social sciences, these events give students a rare opportunity to open the floor. "It keeps the dialogue going," he said. "That’s really what an institution of higher learning should be about."
96.5% of students would recommend SNHU.2 Discover why SNHU may be right for you.
Part of our mission to expand access to quality higher education means removing the barriers that may stand between you and your degree. That’s why you can apply at any time and get a decision within days of submitting all required materials — with no GRE or GMAT required.
Master's degree candidates must also submit a personal statement. Students with an undergraduate GPA below 2.75 are eligible for provisional acceptance.
To apply, use the online application.
How to Apply
- Completing a graduate application
- Providing undergraduate transcripts
Courses & Curriculum
The curriculum for the master’s in criminal justice online has been designed by working criminal justice professionals and is taught by faculty members with years of practical experience.
Take, for example, Dr. Sheryl Victorian, a police chief and SNHU instructor with nearly a quarter century of law enforcement experience. In 2021, she was named Chief of Police of the Waco, Texas police department, after serving, in various leadership roles, for 28 years with the Houston, TX police department.
Beyond being highly qualified, Victorian brings a fearless commitment to exploring, discussing and actively taking part in some of the most pressing law enforcement issues of our time – specifically, police-community relations.
"In order for us to build trust in our communities, we need to build relationships," Victorian said. "We need their help and their support. I think it's incumbent on the police department to be proactive in building those relationships."
In her local community, that means finding opportunities to engage with the public. One way she did this was through the Houston PD's Positive Interaction Program, which invites city residents to a station house each month to learn about various aspects of the department. This gives residents a chance to meet and build relationships with local law enforcement and start a dialogue addressing specific concerns they have within their neighborhoods.
She is just one of many faculty members who finds a way to leverage their experiences in a meaningful way for students. Others, who have backgrounds in the NYPD or the FBI, add their own lens to critical conversations about criminal justice.
Many courses also include field-authentic assignments with videos, simulations, national data and role-playing exercises. The program’s capstone course allows students to work on relevant research projects with law enforcement or other agencies, ensuring real-world experience prior to graduation.
"I’m really proud of the way SNHU has developed their courses to be more realistic and more helpful," said Mark Evenson, former chief of police in Brentwood, CA, and adjunct faculty member in SNHU's criminal justice program. "They do a much better job preparing people for careers in criminal justice than other schools that I’ve seen.”
|View Full Curriculum in the Catalog|
|MS in Criminal Justice|
|Courses May Include|
|MS in Criminal Justice Online|
|CJ 500||Critical Issues in the Criminal Justice System||This course offers the Criminal Justice graduate student the opportunity to identify, analyze and discuss the most prevalent issues affecting the delivery of criminal justice and public safety services today. Students will examine the civic responsibilities of criminal justice professionals and the challenges facing our contemporary criminal justice system, while also developing an understanding of the key criminal justice theories.|
|CJ 510||Ethical Leadership in Criminal Justice||This course will emphasize the principles of strategic management, ethical leadership, and community involvement as they apply to a public safety organization within the criminal justice system. The course focuses on the student's development of leadership qualities that address the difficult questions, such as risk management and budgetary constraints, faced by public safety leaders.|
|CJ 520||Criminology and Public Policy||This course focuses on the relationship between prevailing criminological theories and the development and implementation of public policy. Students will learn how to evaluate policy recommendations and their effect on a range of public safety organizations.|
|CJ 550||Assessing Organizational Performance||Explore the techniques and methods used to evaluate the performance of a criminal justice organization by examining a real-world scenario. Students assess an organization to identify factors impacting the overall performance including its mission, goals, structure, policies, and processes. Students use applicable methods and data to determine effective resource and communication strategies for continuous improvement within criminal justice organizations.|
|CJ 560||Courts and Judicial Process||Explore the different roles of criminal justice professionals in navigating critical issues and challenges in the judicial process from the initial crime through the appeals phases. Students compare the procedural impact of local, state, and federal court systems through the examination of controversial court cases and inequalities within the judicial process.|
|CJ 675||Data-Driven Decision-Making in Criminal Justice||This course promotes the value of using both quantitative and qualitative research methods in leadership, planning and decision-making. Students learn how to forge data-driven strategies for effective criminal justice problem-solving.|
|CJ 790||Criminal Justice Capstone||This capstone course is the culminating experience for the M.S. in Criminal Justice program. The aim of the capstone is to assess students' ability to synthesize and integrate the knowledge and skills they have developed throughout their coursework, rather than introducing new concepts. This course is structured to support student success in fulfilling program requirements.|
|WCM 610||Introduction to Organizational Conflict Management||This survey course introduces the analysis, interpretation, and management of conflict in contemporary organizational settings. Using interdisciplinary lenses, the course explores systemic, interpersonal, and other causes of conflict; conflict's influence on workplace communication and decision-making; and the relationship between conflict, leadership, and career advancement.|
|Total Credits: 36|
Minimum Hardware Requirements
PC (Windows OS)
Apple (Mac OS)
Currently supported operating system from Microsoft.
Currently supported operating system from Apple.
8GB or higher
8GB or higher
100GB or higher
100GB or higher
Required for campus students. Strongly recommended for online students.
Required for campus students. Strongly recommended for online students.
SNHU Purchase Programs
5 Mbps Download, 1 Mbps Upload and less than 100 ms Latency
5 Mbps Download, 1 Mbps Upload and less than 100 ms Latency
- Laptop or desktop? Whichever you choose depends on your personal preference and work style, though laptops tend to offer more flexibility.
- Note: Chromebooks (Chrome OS) and iPads (iOS) do not meet the minimum requirements for coursework at SNHU. These offer limited functionality and do not work with some course technologies. They are not acceptable as the only device you use for coursework. While these devices are convenient and may be used for some course functions, they cannot be your primary device. SNHU does, however, have an affordable laptop option that it recommends: Dell Latitude 3301 with Windows 10.
- Office 365 Pro Plus is available free of charge to all SNHU students and faculty. The Office suite will remain free while you are a student at SNHU. Upon graduation you may convert to a paid subscription if you wish. Terms subject to change at Microsoft's discretion. Review system requirements for Microsoft 365 plans for business, education and government.
- Antivirus software: Check with your ISP as they may offer antivirus software free of charge to subscribers.
Tuition & Fees
Tuition rates for SNHU's online degree programs are among the lowest in the nation. We offer a 25% tuition discount for U.S. service members, both full and part time, and the spouses of those on active duty.
|Online Graduate Programs||Per Course||Per Credit Hour||Annual Cost for 15 credits|
(U.S. service members, both full and part time, and the spouses of those on active duty)*
Tuition rates are subject to change and are reviewed annually.
*Note: students receiving this rate are not eligible for additional discounts.
$150 Graduation Fee, Course Materials ($ varies by course)
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do with a master's degree in criminal justice?
A criminal justice master’s degree can prepare you to take on leadership roles in law enforcement and public safety. By earning your degree, you’ll be equipped with the critical thinking, data driven decision-making and organizational management skills necessary to succeed in an evolving law enforcement landscape.
While many criminal justice careers don’t require a college degree, law enforcement agencies are increasingly looking for college graduates when hiring. Earning a master’s degree can give you a leg up when applying for top jobs or seeking a promotion and can prepare you to adapt in an evolving field.
"So many things change constantly that it is important to prepare students for the changes that occur on a daily basis," said Dr. Jeff Czarnec, the associate dean of criminal justice and social sciences for SNHU Online and a retired police officer. "What we deal with today is different than 2 years ago, and that's different from 5 years ago. It's about preparing them to think creatively and act nimbly and prepare for the changes."
Depending on your career goals, a master’s degree concentration in advanced counterterrorism or public safety administration could help you enjoy an even wider range of opportunities.
A counterterrorism master’s degree will help you understand how to analyze foreign and domestic terrorism threats, gather, examine and interpret intelligence, and deconstruct biases and mindsets about terrorism.
With a public safety administration master’s degree, you’ll get a firm grasp on the behind-the-scenes workings of criminal justice and public policy, preparing you to guide and implement policy at local, state and federal levels.
How much is a master's degree in criminal justice?
At SNHU, tuition rates for online master’s degree programs are some of the lowest in the country – and, by freezing online tuition every year since 2012, we're doing our best to keep it that way.
It's important to note, though, that the actual cost of your degree will vary based on the specific courses you take, the materials required for each course and your prior educational experience. You may, for example, transfer up to 12 credits of relevant graduate coursework, saving you tuition, as well as time, to complete your program.
Many courses also include additional costs for learning resources. While SNHU’s online college degree programs aim to make use of free resources whenever possible – including e-books, websites and training videos – some courses will require textbooks.
How long does a master's in criminal justice take?
It depends. With an online master’s degree program, you can fit your learning into your current schedule, earning a master’s degree in as few as 15 months.
We like to manage student expectations by saying that most master’s degree programs can be completed in about 2 years. That said, with 5 graduate term starts per year, you have the flexibility to move at a slower pace if you'd like. This can be especially beneficial to those earning their degree while balancing a career and family.
At the end of the day, we want to make your goals more accessible. That means giving you the flexibility to complete your program at whatever pace works best for you.
What can I do with a public safety administration degree?
With a public safety administration master’s degree from SNHU, you’ll be ready to apply your law enforcement experience to leadership positions that address public policy.
Whether you hope to take on a leadership role at the local, state or national level, you’ll be prepared to navigate the complexities of the U.S. criminal justice system across a variety of agencies and in-demand careers.
With a job as an emergency management director, you could prepare for and lead the response to natural disasters and other emergencies for a city, county or state. Emergency management jobs are expected to grow 4% by 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.1
You could also guide the day-to-day workings and long-term growth of a city or county as a county administrator, mayor or city manager. Management jobs like these are projected to grow 4% by 2029, according to BLS data.1
What are the best jobs in criminal justice?
A criminal justice master’s degree will prepare you for a variety of jobs across many industries, including law enforcement, corrections, public safety and administration.
Earning a criminal justice master’s degree can give you the critical thinking and problem solving skills you need to stand out in the evolving law enforcement, corrections and public safety fields.
According to BLS, some of the top criminal justice jobs1 include:
- Police officers and detectives: Protect lives and property, investigate to gather facts and collect evidence of possible crimes.
- Corrections officers: Manage operations and staff at jails, prisons and other parts of the corrections system, overseeing those who are awaiting trial or serving a sentence.
- Forensic science technicians: Aid criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing evidence from crime scenes and testifying about the results in court proceedings.
- Private investigators: Conduct investigations for private citizens about legal, financial and personal matters.
- Probation officers: Assist in the rehabilitation of criminal offenders in custody or on probation or parole.
What is the best online college for criminal justice?
The best online college for criminal justice is one that treats you as an individual and can be tailored to help you reach your personal career goals.
At SNHU, we started offering online classes in 1995 to help active duty military students pursue their degree from anywhere. We've since taken great pride in our ability to evolve our online learning solutions to suit the needs of all learners.
Our online programs are:
- Affordable. As a university built for people, not for profit, we strive to keep our programs as affordable as possible. That's why we've frozen online tuition every year since 2012.
- Flexible. Our graduate degrees are built to fit your busy life. Access your coursework online, on your time – and you can even finish your master's in as few as 15 months.
- Transfer-friendly. We want to make the process of earning your degree as seamless as possible. One way we do that is by accepting up to 12 credits toward your master's – so you can pick up where you left off.
We understand that a career in law enforcement often requires long hours and shift work. In order to help you succeed in the criminal justice master’s degree program, we'll help you find the right balance between work and school, and support you along the way whenever you need it.
Our faculty will also insert real-world examples and experiences into the learning process as a way to ensure you’re able to take your knowledge from the classroom to your career. At SNHU, criminal justice courses are taught by law enforcement and public safety professionals with years of hands-on experience – including many who are still actively working in the field.
Finally, a capstone project required before graduation ensures that you’ll get the chance to apply the skills and knowledge you’ve learned toward a real-life challenge impacting your organization or community.
What is the difference between criminology and criminal justice?
While many may think these terms are interchangeable, there are, in fact, some important differences between criminology and criminal justice.
Criminology is the study of crime, or the "why" behind criminal behavior. As such, criminology involves the research and analysis of all aspects of deviant human behavior, from the causes of crimes to their consequences. By understanding these factors, a criminologist can then use these findings to inform policies to help mitigate crime.
Criminal profiling and forensic psychology are possible careers that fall under the category of criminology.3
Criminal justice, on the other hand, hones in on the practical applications. Criminal justice takes the "why" from criminology and explores the real-life responses to it. This may include any number of complex areas, such as local and federal policies, law enforcement, incarceration, rehabilitation and more.
There are a broad range of criminal justice careers, including police officers, investigators and detectives.3
Our online MS in Criminal Justice explores concepts relevant to both criminal justice and criminology careers – helping prepare you for the role you want.
Is criminal profiler a real job?
Yes and no. There are, in fact, professionals responsible for creating criminal profiles. However, these jobs are typically called "criminal investigative analysts," not "criminal profiler."
Criminal investigative analysts use data to identify likely characteristics of a suspect in a crime. Several resources are used to compile these criminal profiles, such as the testimonies of witnesses or victims as well as forensic crime scene evidence.
According to Indeed, most criminal investigative analysts are employed by the FBI in the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) and work in the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) in Quantico, VA.4 Some analysts may also work for the Bureau of Tobacco and Firearms to identify arsonists and bombers.4
While there may not be as many "criminal profilers" in real life as you see depicted on TV, there are still many fascinating career opportunities that a degree in criminal justice can prepare you for.
Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit institution accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) as well as several other accrediting bodies.
Sources & Citations (1, 2, 3, 4)
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, on the Internet, at
- https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm (viewed online August 3, 2021)
- https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/emergency-management-directors.htm (viewed online August 3, 2021)
- https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/top-executives (viewed online August 3, 2021)
- https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm (viewed online August 3, 2021)
Cited projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth.
2 According to a survey responses from over 9,200 SNHU online students conducted in the fall of 2019.
3 The Balance Careers, The Difference Between Careers in Criminology and Criminal Justice, on the internet, at https://www.thebalancecareers.com/difference-between-criminology-and-criminal-justice-3975265 (viewed Aug. 3, 2021)
4 Indeed, What Is A Criminal Profiler?, on the internet, at https://www.indeed.com/hire/c/info/what-is-a-profiler (viewed Aug. 3, 2021)