Criminology and Criminal Justice Master of Science
The Division of Criminology and Criminal Justice offers a graduate curriculum leading to the Masters of Science (MS) degree. Criminology and Criminal Justice is also one of five concentrations in the Public Administration and Policy (PAP) doctoral degree program.
The Division of Criminology and Criminal Justice offers a program of study designed to provide students a broad-based understanding of the criminal justice system and society’s response to crime. A major goal of the program is to develop understanding of the applied and theoretical aspects of crime and criminal justice. The program provides a high degree of flexibility and allows students to tailor the program to match their own career interests. Core coursework consists of classes in the theoretical foundations of criminology and criminal justice, methodology, and criminal justice policy analysis.
This handbook attempts to answer some common questions that people have about the graduate program. It provides a general overview of the policies and procedures governing graduate study in CCJ. The official policies governing graduate education at PSU can be found in the PSU Bulletin. Students should also consult the Office of Graduate Studies for more information.
- How do I apply?
Portland State University requires that an applicant submit two different application packets, one to the PSU Office of Admissions and the other directly to the Division of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Application instructions, including the required forms, can be obtained from the Office of Graduate Studies, 184 XSB. The application forms provide detailed information about what is required by the university to apply. The CCJ Division requires that applicants provide some additional documents, as explained below.
- What are the application deadlines?
Although Portland State University admits students for post-baccalaureate study four times per year, the Division of Criminology and Criminal Justice admits students only once a year in the fall.
Applications are due April 1 for fall admission. Approximately 20 students are admitted to the CCJ masters' degree annually.
- What do I submit to the Admissions Office?
The university requires applicants to submit the following four items to the Office of Admissions to be considered for a graduate program:
- What do I submit to the Criminology and Criminal Justice Division?
For an application to be considered by the CCJ Division, the prospective student must submit the following documents:
A 500-word statement of purpose describing academic and professional career goals, including subfields of primary interest. The statement may also be used to provide any other additional information pertinent to the applicant's qualifications.
Applicants required to submit TOEFL scores to the Office of Admissions should also submit them to the Division.
A resume or curriculum vita is optional.
Students interested in a Graduate Assistantship should include a completed application form.
It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that all application materials are received by the deadline, including transcripts, test scores, and letters of recommendation. The CCJ Division does not review application files until they are complete. If an application file is incomplete and the deadline passes, the applicant may request that the file be reactivated and considered for the next admission term. Unless such a request is made, the application will receive no further attention.
- What does the Graduate Studies Committee consider when reviewing applications?
The CCJ Graduate Studies Committee evaluates applications based on a combination of criteria including: past academic achievement as indicated by the applicants' transcripts, test scores, and letters of recommendation; potential for success and timely completion of degree requirements; extracurricular achievements and experiences; educational and career goals; and the availability of CCJ faculty who can help students achieve their goals.
All applications are reviewed at once and ranked by members of the Graduate Studies Committee. The Division admits approximately 15 students to the Master of Science program per academic year.
There are certain minimum requirements that applicants normally must meet:
It is important to remember that students who meet the minimum requirements in these areas are not guaranteed admission into the program.
- When will I know if I have been accepted?
Applicants can anticipate notification for fall admission by late April. A letter from the Division Chair or the Director of the Hatfield School will inform the applicant of the Graduate Committee’s recommendation for admission. The final decision to admit, however, is contingent on the receipt and verification of application materials by the university's Office of Admissions.
- Can I defer my admission?
Yes. If you are admitted to the CCJ graduate program but cannot attend during the term of admission, you may defer your admission for up to one year. It is critical, however, that you contact the Office of Admissions and the CCJ Division and request that your admission be updated to another term. If you do not request a deferral and do not register and pay for at least one credit hour during the term you were admitted for, your admission will be cancelled.
- Can I transfer course credits from other programs?
A limited number of previous graduate course credits can be considered for transfer. "Pre-admission credits" are those received for coursework taken prior to admission to the CCJ Division, including courses taken at another institution and those taken at PSU. "Transfer credits" are those received for course work taken at any institution at any time. The limit on pre-admission credits and transfer credits is 16, which is normally four courses.
Students who would like to transfer credits from other programs are encouraged to meet with the CCJ Graduate Coordinator or their advisor. In addition, students will need to complete and submit form GO-21.
Financial Aid and Assistantships
- Are there student loans for graduate students?
Yes. Applicants interested in financial aid should submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Student Financial Aid) when they submit their applications to the Office of Admissions. All universities require the FAFSA before determining eligibility for loans, scholarships, and grants. Information is available from PSU's Office of Financial Aid.
Two types of student loans are most common for graduate students: Federal Subsidized Stafford Loans and Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loans. Interest on subsidized loans is paid by the Federal Government as long as the student is enrolled at least half time. Interest on unsubsidized loans accrues from the time of disbursement and become part of the student's repayment obligation. International students are not eligible for these loans.
- Are Graduate Assistantships available?
Prospective and returning students are encouraged to complete the Application for the Graduate Assistantship. Graduate Assistants (GAs) work with faculty members and receive other benefits—in particular, a tuition remission and modest stipend. GAs must be registered for, and compete, at least 9 credits of coursework during each term of their appointment. More information, including tuition remission and stipend rates, as well as assistantships not supervised within the Division of Criminology and Criminal Justice, is available from the Graduate Studies office.
The deadline for applying for a GA position in the CCJ program is April 1. GA appointments are not automatically renewed at the start of a new academic year. Current GAs wishing to be considered for a continuing appointment must submit a new application.
- How much and what type of work do I do as a GA?
GAs perform academic duties: research, teaching classes, grading, and student peer advising. They may also be asked to assist in convening conferences or seminars, draft correspondence, perform outreach activities, or other administrative tasks. GAs do not undertake personal errands for faculty members.
In the Criminology and Criminal Justice program, many of our GAs serve as teaching assistants and course facilitators in our online program. GA appointment is some fraction of an FTE (full-time employee), which determines the hours of work required per week. For example, .15 FTE appointments require 7.5 hours of work each week; .30 FTE appointments, 15 hours. Virtually all assistantships are .15 or .30 FTE positions.
Students holding graduate assistantships may also be employed elsewhere within the university, provided the total number of hours worked do not exceed 20 hours per week (.49 FTE). For those working outside the university, the Division recommends that this same limit be observed.
- Can I lose my Graduate Assistantship?
Yes. Graduate Assistantships are contingent on satisfactory progress toward the degree as well as satisfactory performance as a faculty assistant. Because GAs must be registered for, and complete, at least 9 credits of coursework during each term of their appointment, incomplete coursework may jeopardize the student's eligibility for an assistantship. At the discretion of the Graduate Committee, a GA may be reassigned to a different faculty member, normally at the start of a new term. The loss of a GA appointment does not, in itself, affect the student's standing in the degree program.
- Are there special considerations for international students?
All graduate students are eligible to apply for Graduate Assistantships. The type of work and the hours of work required by GA appointments in CCJ are within the limits established for foreign students by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS).
Some scholarships have nationality requirements. If no such requirement is specified, then international students can apply. International Student and Scholar Services administers a limited number of scholarship opportunities exclusively for international students.
Entering The Program
- What do I need to do before classes begin?
Before classes begin, new students will need to submit any outstanding paperwork, obtain a student ID and take care of other tasks. The New Graduate Student Checklist provides a convenient list to help you get established at PSU. More information for new students can be found at www.pdx.edu/prospects.
- Is there a graduate student orientation?
Yes. A mandatory orientation session, for all newly admitted graduate students, is held the first Friday before the Fall Term begins. Students will receive more information about the orientation from the Graduate Coordinator.
- Where should I get advice?
The Graduate Coordinator and Division Chair initially advise all new students. Students are assigned a more permanent faculty advisor after they have completed their first term of study. Faculty advisors and the Division's administrative staff normally serve as the main source of information about the requirements of the program and how best to achieve your educational goals. The website for the PSU graduate studies office is another good source of information about policies and requirements governing graduate education.
New students invariably receive advice, solicited or unsolicited, from other students further along in the program. This may be a source of valuable information as well, but it is no substitute for faculty advice regarding what is expected of your coursework, master's thesis, or project.
By assigning a faculty advisor, the Graduate Committee gives new students a place to go for information. Often an assigned faculty advisor will become the student’s permanent advisor and will chair the thesis committee or final project. Some students come to realize that their intellectual interests more closely correspond with those of another faculty member, to whom they increasingly turn for intellectual guidance and, ultimately, supervision of the master’s thesis or final project.
Students are assigned to advisors by the Graduate Studies Committee based on an assessment of their main interests, the student's preference, and the existing distribution of advisees among the faculty. Advisor assignments are made at the beginning of students' second term of study.
- What are the degree requirements?
All candidates for a master's degree in CCJ must complete 50-54 graduate credits distributed as follows:
- What courses are required?
Graduate students are required to complete 20 credit hours of course work in the substantive core. This includes:
|Course Number||Course Title||Credit Hours|
|CCJ 515||Theories of Crime||4|
|CCJ 520||Analysis of Crime and Justice Data||4|
|CCJ 525||Criminal Justice Theory||4|
|CCJ 530||Criminal Justice Research||4|
|CCJ 535||Criminal Justice Policy||4|
Check the Course Planning Guide for information about when required courses are offered. This is a useful tool to use when planning your schedule.
- What is a specialization?
The CCJ program provides students with a high degree of flexibility and allows them to tailor the program to match their own career interests. In addition to the core coursework, students develop and complete a specialization consisting of a minimum of four classes (12-16 credits). Courses may be selected from several academic units so long as they comprise a coherent field of study that contributes to the academic development of the student. Students may also pursue a graduate certificate as part of their specialization. Students should consult their faculty advisor for help developing a specialization early in the second term of their study. Organizing the specialization courses often requires planning ahead to obtain permissions, determine when courses are offered, and meet prerequisites.
- How long will it take to complete my degree?
If students maintain full-time enrollment (taking 9 or more credit hours per term), the degree requirements can be comfortably completed in two years. If you attend part-time, it is important to enroll in and pay for at least one credit hour per academic year (three-terms) in order to maintain your enrollment status. Students should also keep in mind that after seven years, credits are considered out-of-date and cannot be applied toward the master's degree unless they are revalidated, a process that involves paying a fee and passing an exam.
- How do I know what courses to take?
Faculty advisors help steer students to courses that fit their interests, meet the degree requirements, and provide a good understanding of the discipline. You can track your own progress toward the degree by completing the M.S. Degree Progress Checklist.
- How many classes should I take per term?
To maintain full-time status, graduate students should enroll in 9 or more credit hours per term. Most graduate classes in CCJ are 4 credits. Therefore, students should plan to take between 3 and 4 courses per term Students must enroll in at least 1 credit hour in the term that they defend their thesis or final project.
- What happens if my grades are too low?
Graduate students must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 and a term GPA of at least 2.7 in order to remain in good academic standing. A student failing to meet these GPA requirements is placed on “academic probation” and must meet the minimum requirements after the next 9 credits of coursework taken. Students on academic probation may not hold graduate assistantships.
- I need to take a leave of absence from school. What should I do?
If it is necessary to leave school for a period of time it is very important to discuss your plans with the Graduate Coordinator or Division Chair and apply for a leave of absence. With approval, students may receive a one-year leave of absence, which may be extended to two years under some circumstances. When returning to school, it is necessary to submit a reenrollment form, available on the graduate studies website. Failure to obtain an approved leave of absence can result in a loss of admission status.
- I would like to complete an internship. What do I need to do?
Graduate students who would like to complete an internship should schedule an appointment with the Divisions’ undergraduate internship coordinator for help identifying an appropriate placement. In addition, students need to identify a faculty member who is willing to supervise the internship and should discuss their plans with their faculty advisor. There is a limit on the number of internship credit hours that will count toward the degree.
- Should I complete a thesis or a project? What is the difference?
The final requirement for the degree is to complete a master’s thesis or final project. Both require students to demonstrate their ability to integrate specialized knowledge of criminology and criminal justice and create an original work that contributes to our understanding of crime and justice. The master's thesis is a more structured document and specifically addresses an original research question using an appropriate scientific methodology. Completing a thesis is typically considered more academically rigorous and prestigious; students considering doctoral study are strongly encouraged to complete the thesis option. In addition, it is sometimes easier for students to write a thesis because it follows a highly standardized and structured format.
The master's project provides students with an alternative to the traditional thesis. Students have more discretion in designing and writing a master's project, which may be tailored to students' professional and academic interests. Master's projects often have a strong applied focus and address a specific professional need. Graduate project requirements may be satisfied by demonstrating mastery of a particular field of literature and its application to a policy issue or need. Examples of master's theses and projects completed by former CCJ students are available in the Division’s office.
- What are thesis credits and project credits?
While working on a thesis, students enroll in CCJ 503 to receive thesis credits and students working on a project enroll in CCJ 506. Students are required to take a minimum of 6 credit hours of thesis or project credits; up to 9 credits of thesis and project hours may be applied toward the degree requirements. You must be enrolled for at least one thesis or project credit during the term in which you expect to defend your master’s thesis or project. To enroll in thesis and project credits, students should submit a “Credit by Arrangement” form, available from the Division Office Coordinator. Thesis and project credits are supervised by your thesis or project director and may be taken for 1 to 6 credit hours.
- I feel overwhelmed and do not know how to start/finish my thesis or project. Where should I get help?
It is very common for graduate students to feel intimidated by the thought of completing a thesis or final project. Students will gain important skills and confidence as they complete their coursework. In addition, students should work closely with their faculty advisers to develop their theses and projects and finish successfully. The Division also offers two research practicums specifically designed to provide students with hands-on help developing a thesis or project topic and research strategy. In addition, the university has many resources available to support graduate students; information is available on the Graduate Studies webpage.
- How do I defend the thesis or project?
Once the student's faculty advisor indicates that the thesis or project is ready to defend, a meeting is scheduled to hold a defense, which is an oral examination. The thesis or project is defended before a committee that consists of the student’s advisor and two readers for the thesis and one reader for the project. After the student makes a presentation and answers questions posed by the committee, the committee will make a decision about whether the student has passed, conditionally passed, or failed. A conditional pass means that the student must make additional changes to the final draft of the thesis or project. Good communication with the faculty committee members before the defense will ensure that the defense is successful.
A final draft of the thesis or project must be submitted to the Division. Formatting requirements and deadlines for submission are available on the Graduate Studies webpage. Internal, departmental deadlines are announced each term and are also available from the Graduate Coordinator and CCJ administrative staff.
- What do I need to do in order to graduate?
There are two important forms that students must complete before they can graduate. First, students must apply to graduate. Second, they must submit form GO-12.
Deadlines, instructions and copies of the required forms are available on the PSU Graduate Studies webpage at: http://www.pdx.edu/ogs