Online Master’s In Criminology: Admission, Courses And Careers

An online master’s in criminology is an exciting step on the career ladder for many professionals seeking to advance into leadership positions in criminology or a related field. If you currently hold an undergraduate degree in criminology, pursuing a master’s in the field allows you to further develop your expertise.

If your undergraduate degree is in a different subject area but you have coursework and work experience relevant to criminology, pursuing a master’s in the field can give you the fundamentals necessary for a successful career in criminology or a related discipline.

If you’re wondering what you can do with a master’s in criminology and whether you should complete your degree online, this article covers everything you need to know to help you decide. Read on to learn about the admission requirements, courses and career options.

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What Is an Online Master’s in Criminology?

An online master’s degree in criminology allows you to expand your knowledge and comprehension of criminology theories, research methods, cyber criminology, intelligence analysis, law enforcement and corrections.

Earning an online master’s degree in criminology is beneficial if you want to increase your knowledge and prepare for more advanced career opportunities, such as leadership positions and roles that require specialized expertise.

An online master’s degree covers the same material as an in-person program for the same degree. The online degree provides flexibility to pursue higher education while accommodating personal and professional commitments.

Most online master’s in criminology programs typically require 30 to 36 credits of coursework and take about one to two years to complete. Program durations vary based on whether you pursue a full- or part-time degree. In addition, program length may differ among schools, as each school sets its own requirements.

Admission Requirements

Below are typical admission requirements for online master’s in criminology programs:

  • Admissions application
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Official transcripts
  • Minimum GPA
  • GRE score
  • Résumé
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal essay or goal statement

Criminology vs. Criminal Justice

While there are similarities between the criminology and criminal justice fields, they are distinct disciplines with unique areas of focus and study.

Criminology focuses on the underlying motivations that drive people to commit crimes. Students study research techniques and data analysis to understand criminal patterns. Criminology aims to understand why people commit crimes and how to prevent the same crime patterns.

Criminal justice involves learning about criminal investigation, criminal law and law enforcement. Additionally, it focuses on understanding the various components of the criminal justice system, such as enforcing laws, protecting our communities and ensuring that individuals who commit crimes face appropriate consequences.

Common Courses in a Master’s in Criminology Program

Criminology coursework may vary slightly by program. However, below are typical courses in online master’s in criminology programs.

Crime and Gender Around the World

This course explores literature surrounding women’s experiences with crime and justice. The course analyzes the influence of gendered relationships on criminal activities and outcomes of the criminal justice system.


This course examines the causes of criminal activity, the nature of crime in the U.S. and criminology theories and research methods. The course explores how these concepts and methods play a role in assessing crime control and prevention policies.

Cyber Forensics

This course focuses on identifying, collecting and preserving electronic evidence. Students also learn about the appropriate responses to cybersecurity threats in various contexts.

International Human Rights

This course uses political, historical and global perspectives to understand the concept of human rights. Students discuss human rights violations and examine the theories and approaches to protecting those rights.

The Criminal Justice Process

This course covers the theories, functions and outcomes of the criminal justice process. The course also explores empirical research, responses to criminal activity and cross-cultural contexts that apply to criminal justice issues.

What Can You Do With a Master’s in Criminology?

We sourced the below salary data comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Glassdoor and Payscale.

Criminal Profiler

Median Annual Salary: Around $54,000
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree in a related field
Job Overview: Criminal profilers use techniques to identify perpetrators who have committed crimes. They study human behavior to help them understand the motivation for criminal activity. Criminal profilers may work with law enforcement officers as part of a forensics team to study evidence and solve cases.


Median Annual Salary: Around $56,000
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree in a related field; master’s degree often required
Job Overview: Criminologists study criminal behavior and crime patterns to understand the motivation behind criminal behavior and determine how to prevent crimes from happening. They gather and use statistical data and other research to develop ideas for improvement in crime prevention activities.


Median Annual Salary: $86,280
Required Education: High school diploma or GED certificate and completion of an agency’s training academy; bachelor’s degree in a related field sometimes required
Job Overview: Detectives are law enforcement officers who investigate serious crimes, such as homicides, robberies and assaults. Detectives may interview people involved in crimes, monitor perpetrators, gather evidence and other information and aid in making arrests.

Forensic Psychologist

Average Annual Salary: Approximately $77,100
Required Education: Doctoral degree
Job Overview: Forensic psychologists are licensed psychologists who work in forensics. They work in mental health facilities, prisons, courts or government agencies. They often interact with suspects in criminal trials to evaluate their competency to stand trial, diagnose mental health disorders and make sentencing recommendations. Their duties include interviewing people, writing reports and collaborating with other professionals.

Private Investigator

Median Annual Salary: $52,120
Required Education: High school diploma or GED certificate; associate or bachelor’s degree in a related field sometimes required
Job Overview: Private investigators gather information for clients, including individuals, business owners and attorneys. They perform background checks, investigate accusations of infidelity in divorce cases, investigate theft or fraud in a company or find missing people. They may conduct surveillance, interview individuals and research the online activity and records.

Social Worker

Median Annual Salary: $50,390
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree for entry-level, nonclinical positions; most positions require a master’s degree
Job Overview: Social workers assist individuals, families and other groups with various needs, such as finding community services and support, adjusting to life challenges and responding to mental health crises or child abuse incidents. Some social workers work in the criminal justice system with juveniles or adults who are incarcerated, on probation or participating in rehabilitation programs within their communities.

Should You Get Your Master’s in Criminology Online?

Once you’ve decided to pursue a master’s degree in criminology, the next step is to choose between an online or in-person program. Online learning has become more popular over time, with more than half of graduate-level students in the U.S. exclusively enrolled in online classes during the 2020-21 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

To help you decide if an online degree is right for you, here are some key factors to consider as you weigh your options.

Program Quality

It’s essential to find a program that provides high-quality education. One way to achieve this is by choosing a program at an accredited educational institution.

Accreditation proves that a university, program or educational institution meets high-quality education standards. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation provides a searchable online directory allowing you to verify the accreditation status of the schools you’re considering.


One advantage of online learning online is saving on transportation costs. Studying online eliminates the need to travel to a campus for your classes. This can make a tremendous difference if you live several miles away from your school or choose a program in a different state.

Learning Preferences and Expectations

Online learning is not suitable for everyone. If you thrive in a traditional classroom setting and value face-to-face interaction with professors and peers, then you may want to choose an in-person program.

If you possess self-discipline, the ability to stay focused, and the motivation to complete your work independently, then choosing an online program may be a better option.

Schedule Flexibility

An online program provides the flexibility to earn your degree while working around your schedule. If you need schedule flexibility, consider an asynchronous program where course materials are available online at any time. This format allows you to complete your coursework without adhering to specific live online class schedules.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Master’s in Criminology Degrees

Is criminology worth a degree?

Yes, it is worth it to get a criminology degree. Criminology is a specialized field encompassing complex subjects beyond the scope of high school. Even though some positions may not require a degree, most criminology careers typically require a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, pursuing a master’s degree is beneficial if you aspire to advance into a leadership role.

What career can I have with a master’s in criminology?

Earning a master’s in criminology opens numerous career possibilities. Career options such as criminal profiler, criminologist and social worker are examples of the careers available to those with a master’s degree.


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