Criminal justice involves the process of enforcing laws as well as assigning and carrying out penalties for those who break the law. While undergraduate degrees examine the logistical and procedural side of the criminal justice system, graduate examine issues of crime and justice from a theoretical and methodological perspective. A Ph.D, in criminal justice explores the discipline in depth, with an emphasis on research, analysis, critical thinking, in order to explore theories about why crime happens and how to effectively promote justice.

Why a Ph.D. Degree?

A Ph.D. in criminal justice is a considerable undertaking, as it requires several years of independent research in order to complete the degree. However, it is the degree level for you if you want a career in academic research and teaching in the criminal justice discipline. A master’s degree program also takes an academic approach to the criminal justice system, but is designed to inform your professional career in the field. In order to work in academia, you will need a Ph.D. If you excel academically, have strong attention to detail, and have a desire to research solutions to problems in the criminal justice system, a Ph.D. will provide the knowledge as well as the research and analytical skills to perform at this level.

Getting Into a Ph.D. Degree Program

Admission to Ph.D. programs can be highly competitive. To complete your application to most programs, you will need a variety of materials demonstrating your qualifications, including:

  • Master’s degree in a related subject
  • Passing GRE score
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Academic writing sample

Inside a Criminal Justice Ph.D. Degree Program

A Ph.D. program in criminal justice might include about 30-60 hours of coursework. It can take at least two to three years to complete the coursework requirements before embarking on full-time research for the doctoral thesis. Once the doctoral thesis is complete and approved by the review committee, you will receive your degree. However, the length of time it takes to complete a Ph.D. program depends upon when the doctoral thesis is complete.

The major courses in a criminal justice Ph.D. program are advanced courses that focus mainly on theory and policy analysis, as well as statistical analysis and research methods. Courses might include topics in criminological theory and criminal justice policy. In online PhD degrees in criminal justice, course lectures are often delivered through video conferencing and some programs allow you to complete courses at any time of day for added flexibility.

What’s Next for Criminal Justice Ph.D. Degree Holders?

With an online PhD in criminal justice, you are ready for a career in the academic world, as a researcher and university professor. Many universities require faculty candidates to have a doctoral degree and publishing credits, so a doctoral degree is your best bet if academia is your ultimate goal. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the job outlook for university professors is growing at an average pace. However, please note that academia is a highly competitive field and job opportunities may vary.