Master's Degree in 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.

Graduate Student Learning Outcomes and Competencies

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 color 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 (e.g., GIS certificate, Certificate in Addictions Counseling)

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.

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The Department’s Graduate Coordinator, Dr. Mark Leymon, formally advises all new students during their first year in the program.

Mark (Harmon) LeymonMark (Harmon) Leymon

Assistant Professor & Graduate Coordinator

506 SW Mill St, Portland OR 97207

Students are assigned a faculty advisor for their second year based on their interests and the faculty member’s expertise. The faculty adviser usually serves as the chair of the student’s Thesis/Portfolio/Field Project committee and works closely with the student to prepare for the defense. The website for PSU’s Office of Graduate Studies provides additional guidance on policies and procedures governing graduate education.


The curriculum is delivered via traditional in-person classes on PSU’s campus. 

Be sure to visit the CCJ Campus Graduate Courses page for information about course description and term offerings.

Funding Opportunities

The CCJ Department offers several internal funding options to graduate students. While the number of funded positions varies from year-to-year, a number of our students receive some form of assistance to help offset the costs of their graduate degree. The current internal funding options available to our graduate students are described below:

College of Urban & Public Affairs Partial Remission

The partial remission consists of a total of $6,000 to be distributed over a period of two years, with $1000 distributed each fall, winter, and spring term across the two year period. Students are required to maintain a GPA of 3.5 or greater.

Campus Graduate Assistantship (GA)

GAs assigned to work in our campus program hold a .30 FTE position that requires they work roughly 13 hours a week assisting a faculty member. This could involve grading assistance, leading discussion groups, facilitating a computer lab, or collaboration on a research project. GAs receive both a tuition remission and a stipend. For the 9-month 2019/20 academic year the remission covers the first 9 credits of tuition and university fees. Students are responsible for covering 40% of student fees (approximately $150 a year). Stipends for the 2019/20 academic year start at $800 per month (see the Office of Graduate Studies for more details). All GAs must register for and complete at least 9 credit-hours per term and remain in good academic standing to retain their funding. The position is renewable for one additional year contingent on available funding and satisfactory performance.

Online Graduate Assistantship (GA)

GAs assigned to work in our fully online undergraduate program work as online course Facilitators. This position is a .45 FTE, meaning they work about 20 hours a week assisting a faculty member in their online course. GAs receive both a tuition remission and a stipend. For the 9-month 2019/20 academic year the remission covers the first 9 credits of tuition and university fees. Students are responsible for covering 40% of student fees (approximately $150 a year). Stipends for the 2019/20 academic year start at $1,200 per month (see the Office of Graduate Studies for more details). All GAs must register for and complete at least 9 credit-hours per term and remain in good academic standing to retain their funding. The position is renewable for one additional year contingent on available funding and satisfactory performance.

Other (external) options for graduate tuition funding include the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP) and Federal Financial Aid. Additional information about funding your graduate education can be found at the Office of Graduate Studies.

Prospective students wishing to be considered for one any of Department’s internally funded positions (e.g., Dean’s Award, Graduate Assistantship) must answer the following questions and submit them with their online application: 1) Why are you interested in an assistantship?, 2) What work experience do you have that might be applicable to the graduate program?, 3) Do you have any teaching experience (if yes, describe), and 4) Do you have any prior research experience (if yes, describe)?

Admission Requirements

The Criminology & Criminal Justice Department encourages students from a variety of backgrounds to apply. We regularly admit students with undergraduate degree from other disciplines and people who are returning to school after being away for a period of time. Prospective students should submit their application through PSU’s online graduate admissions portal. The minimum requirements for admission to the Criminology & Criminal Justice Department’s Master of Science program include all of the following:

Bachelor's Degree from an Accredited College or University

The degree does not need to be completed at the time of application, but there must be evidence that you will be done before your first term of graduate enrollment.

Undergraduate GPA of 3.2 or higher

This criterion can be substituted with a graduate GPA of 3.2 or higher for a minimum of 9 credit hours. The admissions committee may consider applicants with a graduate or undergraduate GPA below 3.2. Only on very rare occasions will the committee consider an applicant with a GPA under 3.0.

Letters of Recommendation

A minimum of two letters of recommendation from faculty members at colleges or universities previously attended, or from others in a position to comment on the student’s academic and professional background and experience. Three letters are encouraged and will increase consideration. Students who may not be able to secure two academic letters are encouraged to ask non-academic letter writers to discuss the skills that you possess that will help make you successful in graduate school.


At the time of application, at least, unofficial transcripts from all universities and colleges attended must be submitted. Scanned copies of your official transcripts from each post-secondary institution attended are required prior to being allowed to register for graduate courses.

TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE-Academic exam scores

Proof of English Language Proficiency through the submission of TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE-Academic exam scores for applicants who have not earned a degree from a qualifying institution for all non-native English speaking applicants. This requirement cannot be waived by the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Understanding of Criminology & Criminal Justice as a Discipline

Prospective students must demonstrate a clear understanding of this field and their educational goals need to be a good fit our program. Students must submit 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 additional information pertinent to the applicant's qualifications.


A resume/C.V. outlining previous work and educational experience.


Students are not required to take the GRE to apply to the program but students who do take the exam and submit their scores will be given priority for admissions and funding.

A Complete Application

All prospective students must complete an online application to the program though the graduate school admission portal (LINK). A $65 non-refundable application fee and a $2 processing fee will be assessed and cannot be waived for financial reasons. The fees are good for one year. Questions about the online graduate application process should be directed to the Office of Graduate Studies.

Application Review Criteria

It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that all application materials are received by the deadline, including transcripts, test scores (if applicable), and letters of recommendation. The Department 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.

The Department’s Graduate Studies Committee evaluates applicants based on a combination of criteria including: past academic achievement as indicated by the applicants' transcripts, test scores (where applicable), and letters of recommendation; potential for success and timely completion of the program’s degree requirements; extracurricular achievements and experiences; educational and career goals; and the availability of CCJ faculty who are well-matched to help the applicant achieve their goals.

The program admits new students once a year for the fall quarter (term starts late September). Having a single-entry term helps to ensure that our first-year students enter as a cohort. This facilitates collaborative relationships among the students and increases their commitment to the program. Approximately 15-20 students are admitted per academic year and not all students who meet the minimum requirements for the program will be admitted.

Application Deadline

Our program will begin accepting applications for admission starting on October 1st. Our priority application deadline, when we will start reviewing applications, will be February 1st. The final application deadline is June 1st. Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit their application prior to priority deadline. Students who submit their completed application by the priority deadline will be given priority in admission and funding decisions. Students meeting the final deadline will be considered for any remaining positions. Applicants can expect to be informed of our admission decision 3 to 4 weeks after the applicable application deadline. Applications submitted after June 1st will not be reviewed.

Frequently Asked Questions

When will I know if I have been accepted?

You should receive an electronic notification from the Office of Graduate Studies within 3 to 4 weeks of the application deadlines (either February 1st for priority or June 1st for final deadline). The final decision to admit, however, is contingent on the receipt and verification of application materials by PSU's Office of Admissions and the Office of Graduate Studies.

Can I defer my admission?

Yes. If you are admitted to the Criminology & Criminal Justice 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 Department to request that your admission be updated to another term. If you do not request a deferral, PSU will cancel your admission and you will have to reapply the following year.

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 Criminology & Criminal Justice, including courses taken at PSU or another institution. "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 Department’s Graduate Coordinator prior to June 15th of the year of their admission into the program.

How much and what type of work does a GA do?

Graduate Assistants (GAs) perform academic duties such as research assistance and teaching assistance. They may also be asked to assist in data collection, data analysis, perform outreach activities, or other administrative tasks. Many of our GAs serve as teaching assistants or facilitators. A GA appointment is some fraction of an FTE (full-time employee), which determines the hours of work required per week and the amount of money offered through a tuition remission and stipend. For example, .15 FTE appointments require 6.5 hours of work each week; .30 FTE appointments, 13 hours; and .45 FTE appointments, 20 hours.

Can I work a job in addition to my GA?

Yes. 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 Department recommends that this same limit be observed. Being a full-time graduate student (9 credit-hours) combined with a GA position is a commitment in both time and energy. Students are encouraged to seriously consider the time constraints of taking on too much when considering additional work.

Can I lose my Graduate Assistantship?

Yes. GA positions are contingent on satisfactory progress toward the degree as well as satisfactory job performance. Because GAs must be registered for, and satisfactorily complete, at least 9 credits of coursework during each term of their appointment, incomplete coursework or low grades may jeopardize the student's eligibility for an assistantship. The loss of a GA appointment does not, in itself, affect the student's standing in the degree program though poor academic standing can also affect a student’s ability to continue in the program.

Are there special considerations regarding GAs 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 Criminology & Criminal Justice 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.

Is there a graduate student orientation?

Yes. A mandatory orientation session, for all newly admitted graduate students, is typically held the Tuesday before the Fall Term begins. Students will receive more information about the orientation from the Department’s Graduate Coordinator.

How long will it take to complete my degree?

If students maintain full-time enrollment, taking 9 or more credit hours per term, the Master's degree 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?

The Department’s Graduate Coordinator and our faculty advisors will help steer you to courses that fit your interests, meet the degree requirements, and provide a good understanding of the discipline. The Office of Graduate Studies provides an online tool called DARS to assist you in tracking your progress toward the degree.

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 Criminology & Criminal Justice 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, field project, or portfolio.

What happens if my grades are 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.

Should I complete a Portfolio, Thesis or a Field Project?

The final requirement for the degree is to complete a Master’s Thesis, Field Project, or Portfolio. All three options require the demonstration of graduate-level knowledge and skills acquired during your time at PSU. All three require a formal defense in front of a Department faculty committee. A key deciding factor for students is their future career plans. Students who are interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in Criminology & Criminal Justice or a related field often benefit from doing the more formal Thesis. Students who will immediately transition from the Master program into a job in the criminal justice field often prefer the Portfolio or Field Project. You will have plenty of time to discuss your options with your faculty adviser.

Where should I get advice?

The Graduate Coordinator initially advises all new students. Students are assigned a faculty advisor after the completion of their first year in the program. Faculty advisors normally serve as the main source of information about the requirements of the program, how best to achieve your educational goals, and will serve as advisor for their final project (either a Portfolio, Field Project, or Thesis). New students receive additional guidance from other faculty as well as they proceed through the program.