CRIMINAL JUSTICE MASTER’S DEGREE
While a bachelor’s degree may open a door, a master’s degree could help offer up new opportunities for advancement within the field of criminal justice.
These days, more and more employers want people they hire to have a bachelor’s degree. But with the competition being fierce among those who hold a four-year degree, it can often make it harder to advance your career to the next level. This may be particularly true if you are working with agencies attached to the government, as they hold strict hiring policies that might not allow much consideration toward experience alone. Voters and legislators want to know that taxpayer dollars are going toward hiring the most-qualified professionals available, and academic credentials are an easily quantifiable measure.
So while a bachelor’s degree may open a door, a postgraduate degree could help offer up new opportunities for advancement within the field of criminal justice. You could also reach new pay grades and find new status and esteem among your colleagues. Therefore, once you have your bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, you might want to consider moving on to the postgraduate level of education.
Careers for Those with a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice
In the past, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice was a perfectly acceptable and desirable degree. However, the field has seen an increased need for specialization. Defense attorneys and the public at large are pressing for better and better evidence, and technology has advanced to a level that requires people with specialized skills. As a society, we are also becoming adept at recognizing how individual cases require specific treatment. Thus, there is demand for professionals who are experts at administering the needed technologies or procedures. When you attain a masters-level degree you will be prepared to handle specific sorts of cases, whether they be homicides, narcotics cases, or human trafficking.
Federal level law enforcement jobs, such as those at the FBI, DEA or ATF have always been rather an elite force. As such, you will help yourself stand out if you can post a master’s degree on your resume and the specialized area in which you earned your master’s, such as cybersecurity or crime scene analysis and forensics. In an interview, you might then discuss how your investigative findings in your specialized master’s thesis could add a nuanced approach to your investigative team.
Areas of Specialty with a Criminal Justice Master’s
A master’s degree in criminal justice builds on the general education you learned in your bachelor’s program and helps you gain a higher level of expertise in a specialized area of the field. Each of these areas is liable to be further subdivided as academic and practical work proceeds.
Here are some of the areas in which you can focus your master’s degree:
Forensic Psychology: This specialty will enable you to assess the criminally insane, or to determine whether claims of mental incompetence are indeed valid. You might also work with civil cases to determine suitability of a parent for child custody, or to determine whether a person is competent to manage her own affairs.
Criminal Profiling: A profiler is a professional who assists an investigation by compiling a profile of an unknown criminal in hopes of narrowing down a list of suspects. A profiler might use advanced software to analyze linked crimes to try to determine where a suspect might live, or where they may be likely to strike in the future.
Forensic Science: This is an increasingly vital part of criminal investigations. You will implement the tools and practices of science to determine the veracity and efficacy of evidence for use in investigations and courtroom prosecutions. From blood analyses to the marks a zipper left on a victim, your scientific acumen will need to be honed through the rigors of a master’s level program.
Forensic Accounting: In cases involving white collar crime, a forensic accountant may be called to investigate a corporation’s books to determine whether criminally culpable behavior was in play. Sometimes, the only way to put a bad guy in jail is through his financial malfeasance. The case of Al Capone demonstrated how someone could literally get away with murder, but not avoid income tax laws.
Computer Forensics: Cyber crimes can destroy the lives of people, and if the wrong database is breached, an entire corporation can be brought to its knees. Sometimes, hackers will encrypt an organization’s databases and hold them hostage. With a Master of Computer Forensics, you can assess the digital crime scene and help investigators track the criminals.
Intelligence Analysis: This is a growing field that is in demand, particularly at the federal level. The FBI and CIA both need analysts to assess collected data so that they can thwart international terrorists, as well as bad guys who operate on U.S soil. An advanced degree in Criminal Justice that shows a specialty in intelligence gathering or analysis will help your credentials rise above the pack. For this specialty, you may also want to do significant work in computer forensics or accounting.
Curriculum for a Master’s in Criminal Justice
While there are many varied specialty areas for work in this general field, there are certain core classes that you may need to take before heading off to study your true passion. You might need to take courses such as these:
- Theories of Criminal Behavior
- Research Methods
- Ethics in Criminal Justice
- Technical Writing for Law Enforcement
After you take the requisite courses, you can dive into your true passion and become a master of your field.
Prepare to Apply
Before you get started looking at postgraduate programs, make sure that you are well prepared. First, determine what your graduating grade point average (GPA) was from your alma mater. This will be helpful, as graduate programs have requirements for GPAs. You will also likely need to take the graduate admissions GRE General Test and a specialty area test, but hold off until you know precisely what program you are applying to so that you can be sure to take the right test. However, you might take the general GRE to see how your scores match up against admission requirements.
It is also important to make sure that your undergraduate program was fully accredited to the level accepted by your master’s program. You can find this out by calling your college registrar office. You might also request an unofficial transcript so that you can assess how your specific coursework meets the requirements of your targeted graduate programs. When it is time to apply to any postgraduate program, you will need to send the official documents.
Now that you understand why a postgraduate degree in criminal justice is fast becoming the norm, isn’t it time you get started researching programs that will put you on the path to fulfilling your career goals?