Criminology is the study of criminal behavior and its causes. It is considered an area of the sociology discipline, although it is closely associated with the criminal justice field. At the master’s degree level, criminology students research new theories in crime factors and how to prevent crime from happening. This level emphasizes statistical analysis and research skills as well as techniques for observing and examining criminal behavior.

Why a Master’s Degree?

AnĀ online master’s degree in criminology is for you if you’re hoping to advance your current law enforcement career to management or leadership positions in your organization. Most law enforcement agencies require a graduate degree as well as work experience for high-ranking positions. Also, a master’s degree in criminology is necessary if you want to teach criminal justice or criminology courses at the college level. While a bachelor’s degree can take you far in law enforcement, a master’s degree can put you ahead of the rest. A criminology master’s can also help you switch gears if you have an undergraduate degree in a related field — like criminal justice or psychology — and would like to develop a specialty in criminology.

Getting Into a Master’s Degree Program

Admissions requirements for online master’s degrees in criminology are comparable to those of other master’s degree programs. Some master’s programs will require work experience, letters of recommendation, and other materials. However, you will need the following items to be eligible for a master’s program:

Inside a Criminology Master’s Degree Program

A criminology master’s degree program incorporates advanced courses in a variety of disciplines from psychology, sociology, psychiatry, criminal justice, and more. You might take classes like criminological theory, which discusses major themes and constructs in the field, legal issues in criminology, which will address practices and ideologies that protect the perpetrator’s rights, and research methods, a course that develops your skills and techniques for academic research and analysis. These courses are designed to expand your breadth and depth of knowledge in the field, as well as develop your critical thinking and problem solving skills, which will be critical in a successful career in criminology.

Most master’s degree programs will require approximately 30 hours of course credit, which can take one to two years to complete, depending on your enrollment status. If you pursue the degree on a part-time basis, it may take longer to finish the program. Online programs often allow for flexible scheduling and self-pacing, which is beneficial if you are a working professional who cannot afford to put your career on hold. Many programs of this kind also offer video lecture courses that can be viewed at any time of day as well as syllabi, assignments, and projects that can be viewed and submitted via email.

What’s Next for Criminology Master’s Degree Holders?

Criminology master’s degree holders often move into leadership positions with their current law enforcement agency. For example, a master’s degree in criminology could lead to a career as a criminologist at a government agency, like the FBI or DEA. A master’s degree can also lead to a career in academia. Master’s degree holders may be able to earn faculty positions at community colleges or vocational schools.

Some criminology master’s degree holders choose to continue their education at the doctorate level. Ph.D. programs in criminology may be scarce, but a doctoral degree in a related field can be beneficial. The interdisciplinary nature of the study of criminology makes it useful in fields like sociology, psychology, psychiatry, forensics, and more. If you plan to pursue doctoral work, you should choose a criminology master’s program that emphasizes research and requires a master’s thesis.