How to Get a Masters in Criminology Degree + No GRE Options

Many professionals who are interested in a career in law enforcement, policy making or the government choose to earn a master’s degree in criminology. This advanced degree will teach you about the methods, statistics, theories and societal problems that are related to crime today, as well as the US justice system, and how to reduce and control criminal activity.

Most graduate programs in criminology are highly interdisciplinary, and integrate concepts from sociology, history, psychology, political science and statistics. Students who earn their master’s degree in criminology often are interested in learning about violence and mental disorders, peer influence on crime, juvenile delinquency and how the justice system makes decisions.

With this advanced degree, you can enjoy a rewarding career in a law enforcement-related career in these areas:

  • Police and detectives: People who earn a master’s in criminology often become police officers and detectives. They dedicate themselves to enforcing the law, patrolling assigned areas, obtaining warrants and arresting suspects, and more. Detectives will spend much of their time doing important investigative duties such as gathering evidence and background information on possible suspects.
  • Correctional officers: These law enforcement workers are responsible for managing and overseeing people who have been arrested and convicted, or are awaiting trial for alleged crimes. They must enforce rules and keep order in state and federal prisons. Also they need to supervise inmates at all times and search inmates for illegal items. Some correctional officers may also become bailiffs, who are law enforcement officers who keep order and safety in court.
  • Probation and correctional treatment specialists: These law enforcement workers work with and monitor those who are on probation and prevent them from doing any more crimes. A probation officer may be referred to as a community supervision officer. The most important job this professional has is to ensure that the person gets the help he needs in his rehabilitation and becomes a productive member of society.

Why Earn a Master’s Degree in Criminology?

Deciding to earn a master’s degree is a serious matter because earning a graduate degree takes plenty of time and money. It will take you at least two years and thousands of dollars to earn your criminology degree. So it really needs to be a good investment.

For most people interested in an advanced law enforcement career, earning a master’s degree in this field is worth it. Specifically, you should strongly consider earning your master’s degree if you are thinking of a career as a:

  • Criminologist
  • Forensic psychologist
  • Criminal profiler
  • Upper management or administration in law enforcement

If you are considering a career in these areas, there are important reasons to earn your master’s:

  • Advance your career: For professionals in law enforcement that intend to advance beyond the entry level position, you will greatly enhance your resume if you have a master’s degree in criminology.
  • Teaching: If you want to teach at a technical college or university later on, you will need to have your advanced degree. Many people who have years of law enforcement experience eventually decide to teach, so having your master’s degree could really come in handy.
  • Public policy positions: Some law enforcement professionals with many years of experience eventually transition into public policy positions in government or the nonprofit sector and need an advanced degree.

Admission Requirements

To qualify for admission for your master’s degree in criminology, you should expect these type of requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or the liberal arts
  • GRE scores
  • 0 GPA required in all upper level coursework at bachelor’s level
  • Writing samples
  • Statement of purpose
  • Updated resume

Curriculum and Courses

For an excellent Master of Science in Criminology, we recommend the program at the University of Pennsylvania. This program is designed for people who want to spend their career in law enforcement as a major agent of change, and apply advanced criminological research in both public and nonprofit organizations.

Also, it is made for students who want to conduct a high level of criminology research for an upcoming doctoral program, and for those who want to explore a criminology career and earn their master’s in only one year.

Penn is the only Ivy League school that offers a Master of Science in Criminology. You will develop skills in analyzing crime data, how to map patterns of crime, and how to use modern research to make the best decisions on how to fight crime.

Further, Penn has a strong scientific grounding and deep, intellectual atmosphere that serves as an excellent environment for students who want to conduct research to earn their Ph.D.

After graduation, most students work in criminology related jobs in local, state and federal law enforcement. Others work in Washington DC think tanks, or in state and local corrections.

Required courses include:

  • Evidence Based Crime Prevention
  • Proseminar in Criminology
  • Quantitative Methods for Policy Analysis
  • Research Methods and Crime Analysis
  • Proseminar in Criminal Justice
  • Criminal Justice Data Analytics
  • City and Regional Planning
  • Policy Development
  • Race and Criminal Justice

Career Outcomes and Job Titles

Earning your master’s in this field will afford you many exciting career choices:

  • Drug enforcement officer
  • Private investigator
  • Law enforcement officer
  • Prison warden
  • Deputy sheriff
  • Correctional officer
  • Sheriff
  • Field probation officer
  • Detective
  • Court officer
  • Bailiff

Job and Salary Outlook

  • Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists — Employment in this field will only increase by 4% by 2024. It is possible that job growth could be faster in some areas of the country. In some areas, the belief that community corrections is better than incarcerating people who are non violent offenders, it is possible that job demand could also be higher. Median pay in this field was $49,300 in 2015. You could need to work overtime in this field, so job earnings could be higher.
  • Police and Detectives — Employment in this field overall will grow by 4% by 2024, which is slower than average. The growth of police related jobs depends largely on the local budget that is allocated for law enforcement. Cities that are seeing rapid growth could have more demand for police, such as in large cities in the southern US. Median pay for police officers is $60,000 per year.
  • Correctional Officers — Job demand in this career field will increase by 4%, which is slower than average. While most states are projecting they will have more criminals in their systems in the near future, there could be more people being paroled, so the total numbers being held in prisons could be lower. Median pay in this career is $41,600 per year.

Scholarships and Grants

  • Florida State University: This university offers master’s programs in criminology and criminal justice. It also has several grants and scholarships for students in these fields. There also are fellowships and assistantships available for eligible students.
  • University of Nebraska: The criminology program at this university offers the Jeff Marshall Scholarship Fund for eligible bachelor’s and master’s students in criminology and criminal justice.


  • High Technology Crime Investigation Association: If you are interested in high tech and cyber crime, you may want to learn more about it at this association.
  • National Crime Prevention Association: This is the largest crime prevention association in the US, and it receives extensive funding from the US Department of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Assistance. It is an excellent source of training, education, conferences and resources for criminology students.

Additional Resources