25 Best Criminal Justice Master's Programs 2020

By the GradReports team | Updated April 1, 2020
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The 25 schools on this list offer the top Master's Degrees in Criminal Justice, based on median salary one year out of college. With a median starting salary of $97,900, Curry College outranks the other schools on the list. Salve Regina University offers the lowest median debt on the list, at $20,500. #4 on the list, Columbus State University, has the second lowest median student debt, at $24,869. The schools ranked below boast median starting salaries ranging from $49,400 to $97,900 for students who graduated with a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice.

Tuition, median salaries, and median debt were reported by the U.S. Department of Education. View our methodology for more details about these rankings or read more about the top-ranked schools.

Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Rank School Annual Tuition Median Debt Median Salary
#1 #1 $14,350 $41,000 $97,900
#2 #2 $12,132 $41,000 $72,600
#3 #3 $30,834 $41,000 $70,200
#4 #4 $13,822 $24,869 $69,300
#5 #5 $8,550 Not Reported $66,700
#6 #6 $14,987 $39,500 $65,800
#7 #7 $6,600 $33,863 $65,400
#8 #8 $14,550 $41,000 $63,200
#9 #9 $39,839 Not Reported $58,100
#10 #10 $10,650 $20,500 $57,200
#11 #11 $15,261 $34,638 $56,700
#12 #12 $16,190 Not Reported $55,900
#13 #13 $35,628 $27,816 $54,600
#14 #14 $14,139 $38,687 $54,300
#15 #15 $35,724 $37,250 $54,200
#16 #16 $18,494 $33,054 $54,000
#17 #17 $31,446 $41,000 $54,000
#18 #18 $26,840 $28,468 $52,100
#19 #19 $20,770 $40,125 $51,100
#20 #20 $8,040 $29,838 $50,000
#21 #21 $3,735 $36,397 $49,700
#22 #22 $18,836 $33,836 $49,600
#23 #23 $26,650 $41,124 $49,500
#24 #24 $9,000 $46,357 $49,500
#25 #25 $10,609 $40,944 $49,400

2020 Best Master's Program Highlights

Median Debt
$41,000
Median Salary
$97,900

Curry College offers a 31 credit Master of Arts in Criminal Justice (MACJ) Degree. The program is part-time and takes 21 months to complete. The structure of the program includes ten, eight week terms, and the curriculum includes courses like Criminology: Theory and Application, Methods of Inquiry in Criminal Justice, and Criminal Justice Data Analysis. The MACJ coursework also includes a collaborative and community-based capstone project which focuses on addressing a modern criminal justice issue with a problem-solving approach. 

Optional curriculum includes an internship for students looking to gain experience in a criminal justice agency, or a thesis concept paper for students interested in pursuing further advanced studies in the field. Curry College’s MACJ program focuses on four primary outcomes, which they call The Four Cornerstones: Public Administration, Ethical Leadership, Problem Solving, and Innovation. 

Curry College was founded in 1879, and has campuses in Milton and Plymouth, Massachusetts. Curry’s beautiful Milton campus is just seven miles from downtown Boston, and is housed on 131 acres. 

Visit Curry College’s website.

Median Debt
$41,000
Median Salary
$72,600

The University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) offers an online Management Master’s Degree with Criminal Justice Management Specialization. Though all courses are available online, select curses may be available in a hybrid format. 

The program focuses on helping students apply foundational management principles to work in areas across the criminal justice field like crime prevention, law enforcement, investigative forensics, and crisis management. The Criminal Justice Management specialization prepares students to effectively manage large teams, departments, and bureaus across the field of criminal justice. 

The UMGC’s Management Master’s Degree with Criminal Justice Management Specialization program is a total of 36 credits. Coursework provides students with the opportunity to design a police department and corrections facility, write reports at varying levels of detail, and address ethical situations in the workplace. Graduates can expect to gain the skills needed to analyze threats and assess risks, conduct vulnerability studies, apply legal knowledge to criminal justice management, and to lead and manage organizations. 

The University of Maryland Global Campus is an online state university offering undergraduate and graduate programs. It was founded more than 70 years ago to serve working adults and servicemembers. UMGC has locations in Maryland and at military installations around the world. 

Visit the University of Maryland Global Campus website.

Median Debt
$41,000
Median Salary
$70,200

The George Washington University offers an on-campus Master of Arts in Criminology as a joint program through the Sociology and the Forensic Sciences Departments. It is distinctive in its combined training in traditional criminology, criminal justice, and forensic sciences. The program takes two years of full-time study, and there is a part-time option also available. 

Required curriculum includes courses in research methods, theory, criminology, and criminal law. Elective courses include topics like organized crime, corrections, and gender and criminal justice. In addition to coursework, either a comprehensive examination or a thesis is required. 

The George Washington University’s M.A. in Criminology focuses on the following concepts: the historical development of criminal justice, its evolution into modern legal systems and ongoing problems and reforms in policing, the courts, and corrections. During the program, students have the opportunity to develop an understanding of the causes of criminal behavior and the social conditions that contribute to crime, and to analyze how the criminal justice system operates. 

Graduates of the program may continue on to a Ph.D. program, or they may pursue work at a research organization, government agency, or related positions in the criminal justice field. As the focus of the program is in traditional academic criminology, it’s not designed to train practitioners looking to work directly in criminal justice or security agencies. 

The George Washington University was founded in 1821, and its main campus is located in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C. 

Visit The George Washington University’s website.

Median Debt
$24,869
Median Salary
$69,300

Columbus State University offers a Master of Public Administration (MPA) with a Criminal Justice track. The program is 36 credits and can be completed entirely online or as a hybrid on campus/online. 21 credits of Core Required Hours include content like Policy Analysis, Research Methods for Administration, and Legal and Ethical Environmental Administration. 15 credits of Concentration Required Hours offer coursework including Distributive Justice, Correctional Practices and Problems, Administration and Management in Justice Systems, and Courts and Judicial Administration. 

The program is designed for students looking to work in public service areas like government agencies, healthcare organizations, justice administration/law enforcement, as well as nonprofit organizations and the private sector. The structure of the program supports students currently working in the field, as well as those seeking entry-level positions through it’s evening and online curriculum. 

Graduates of the program can expect to gain competence in leading and managing in public governance, contributing to public policy processes, communicating productively with a diverse and changing workforce and citizenry, and articulating and applying a public service perspective. 

Columbus State University is located in Columbus, Georgia, just 100 miles southwest of Atlanta. Created as a junior college in 1958, it was expanded into a four-year institution in 1965.

Visit Columbus State University’s website.

Median Debt
Not Reported
Median Salary
$66,700

Concordia University, Saint Paul’s (CSP) Master of Arts in Criminal Justice Leadership program is 36 credits, and is completed fully online. The program’s content is designed to enhance students’ professionalism and position them for leadership opportunities in the criminal justice field. Students in this program come from diverse professional backgrounds, including law enforcement, military, social service, and corrections.

CSP’s M.A. in Criminal Justice aims to prepare students for careers as forensic psychologists, criminologists, corrections supervisors, forensic examiners, district attorneys, and much more. Designed to build upon previous experience and study, the program’s curriculum includes content like Research Methods in Criminal Justice, Legal and Legislative Issues, Correctional Design, Applied Ethics in Criminal Justice Leadership, and Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice Leadership. The curriculum also includes a Criminal Justice Capstone project, as well as the opportunity to participate in Graduate Study Abroad in lieu of the Administration of Criminal Justice course. 

Concordia University, Saint Paul was founded in 1893 as a Christian liberal arts university, and is located in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Visit Concordia University - Saint Paul’s website.

Median Debt
$39,500
Median Salary
$65,800
Median Debt
$33,863
Median Salary
$65,400
Median Debt
$41,000
Median Salary
$63,200
Median Debt
Not Reported
Median Salary
$58,100
Median Debt
$20,500
Median Salary
$57,200
Median Debt
$34,638
Median Salary
$56,700
Median Debt
Not Reported
Median Salary
$55,900
Median Debt
$27,816
Median Salary
$54,600
Median Debt
$38,687
Median Salary
$54,300
Median Debt
$37,250
Median Salary
$54,200
Median Debt
$33,054
Median Salary
$54,000
Median Debt
$41,000
Median Salary
$54,000
Median Debt
$28,468
Median Salary
$52,100
Median Debt
$40,125
Median Salary
$51,100
Median Debt
$29,838
Median Salary
$50,000
Median Debt
$36,397
Median Salary
$49,700
Median Debt
$33,836
Median Salary
$49,600
Median Debt
$41,124
Median Salary
$49,500
Median Debt
$46,357
Median Salary
$49,500
Median Debt
$40,944
Median Salary
$49,400