Corrections is a sub-field within the discipline and practice of criminal justice. Corrections usually refers to interactions and institutions involved in the punishment and treatment of people who have been accused or convicted of committing crimes. At the master’s degree level, corrections theory and analysis examines how to effectively and safely interact with incarcerated individuals. Some programs will also focus on issues related to juvenile corrections and rehabilitating youth offenders. Overall, graduate studies in corrections analyze methods and programs with the goal of reducing crime committed by repeat offenders.
Why a Master’s Degree?
An online master’s degree in corrections is ideal for career advancement or a career change. If you have experience in corrections and would like to be eligible for a high-level position, a master’s degree may help you get there. Advanced studies in corrections may help you move into program management or policy development. It can also facilitate a career move if your educational background is in another field. A master’s degree may help you move into a mid-level corrections position as a probation treatment specialist, or if you would like to focus on a specific area of corrections, such as juvenile corrections.
Getting Into a Master’s Degree Program
Admissions requirements can vary from one program to the next. Some may require extra materials, such as letters of recommendation or writing samples. However, most programs will require the following items:
- A bachelor’s degree in a related field from an accredited institution
- A passing score on the GRE
- Experience in criminal justice or corrections
Inside a Corrections Master’s Degree Program
Online master’s degree programs in corrections are less common than undergraduate programs. Some master’s corrections programs are offered as specializations with a degree in sociology, criminal justice, social psychology, social work, or other related fields. As a result, the major coursework can vary considerably. However, the specialization coursework will focus on topics in criminology, penology, family violence, substance abuse, and counseling techniques. In general, you can expect intermediate to advanced coursework at the master’s degree level, so you will benefit from previous work or educational experience in the field.
The length of a master’s program varies from one institution to the next. However, most programs will require between 30 and 60 hours of coursework and take two to three years of full-time study to complete. Programs that require a thesis might include fewer required course hours to allow time for thesis research or capstone credits. If you choose to waive the thesis option, you will be required to take a comprehensive exam at the end of the program. Many programs will also require a corrections internship where you will gain on-the-job experience.
What’s Next for Corrections Master’s Degree Holders?
A master’s degree in corrections prepares you for a career in management, program design, policy development, or rehabilitation. With a master’s degree, you may be eligible for case management positions in adult or juvenile correctional facilities or with a correctional rehabilitation organization that are closely aligned with social work. Some high-level probation treatment specialist positions may also require a master’s degree. These positions often involve developing programs and procedures that reduce the likelihood that offender will commit a new crime or violate their probation and working closely with offenders and their families.
Degrees in corrections are rare beyond the master’s degree level. However, the field of corrections is also relevant to studies in social work, psychology, and criminal justice. Some master’s degree holders pursue further studies with PhDs in disciplines that inform their backgrounds in corrections.