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Master’s Degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice

Criminology and Criminal Justice


Program Description: 

The Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice’s campus-based Master of Science degree program provides students with a unique opportunity to study crime and the criminal justice system in a vibrant urban setting. Working closely with CCJ’s core faculty, students develop a tailored program to meet their individual academic needs and career goals. The degree is optimized for students to complete in six academic quarters (two years), but the program is flexible enough to allow for a longer timeline if needed. Classes are usually taught Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the day with combination of day and early evening classes. However, students, especially those receiving funding through the department, should expect to be available for campus meetings throughout the week. At a minimum, students should be prepared to complete most of their coursework during normal business hours. The department does not offer night or online graduate courses.

Through coursework, collaboration with faculty, peer interactions, and community-based learning experiences, students graduating from the program are prepared to:

  • Identify organizational, political, economic, demographic, and cultural factors that shape criminal justice policies and people’s perceptions of the U.S. justice system;
  • Critically evaluate and apply criminal justice and criminological theories;
  • Analyze and interpret patterns in criminal justice data;
  • Conduct research synthesizing information on criminology and criminal justice topics;
  • Communicate effectively through written reports and oral presentations;
  • Articulate career goals and document evidence of professional growth.

Degree Requirements:

Students in the MS program complete courses in four distinct categories:

Required Courses (24 credit hours)

Students complete 6 core courses for a total of 24 credits. These courses are offered every year. Students must complete CCJ 520 and 530 during their first two terms of residency. The core courses provide students with advanced knowledge and skills needed for higher level positions in the Criminology & Criminal Justice field. The courses also serve as a strong foundation for doctoral level work in Criminology & Criminal Justice or related social science degrees.

  • CCJ 515 Theories of Crime
  • CCJ 520 Analysis of Crime and Justice Data
  • CCJ 525 Criminal Justice Theory
  • CCJ 530 Criminal Justice Research
  • CCJ 535 Criminal Justice Policy
  • CCJ 545 Advanced Topics in Research Methods

Elective Course (12 credit hours)

The Criminology & Criminal Justice Department offers seven graduate electives on a rotational basis over a two-year periods giving students choices. These courses allow students to tailor their degree to address particular academic interests and career goals. Elective Courses cover topics like law, policing, corrections, white-collar crime, juvenile justice, crime mapping, and research methods, along with other topics on a rotating basis.

Specialization Field (9–12 credit hours)

Students consult with the Graduate Coordinator and/or their faculty adviser to develop a specialization field consisting of 3 or more classes and 9 to 12 credit hours. Courses may be taken in CCJ or from another PSU graduate program so long as they comprise a coherent field of study. In some cases students are able to apply their specialization courses to a secondary certificate.

Thesis/Portfolio/Field Project (6–9 credit hours)

Students have three options for the culminating experience to the graduate program. All students are assumed to complete a Portfolio unless they elect to complete a Thesis of Field Project. A Portfolio is an online demonstration and assessment of the work completed while in graduate school. A Thesis requires the proposal of an original research question and the use of social science research methods to generate original empirical research project. For the Field Project a student must produce a written research report or generate a related product that directly addresses the applied needs of a criminal justice agency. Students choosing this option work closely with a faculty adviser to apply graduate level skills and knowledge. All three options for the culminating experience require a formal defense with a committee comprised of faculty from the Criminology & Criminal Justice Department.