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This article provides a description of the PhD in Criminal Justice degree program, some of the subjects and courses that are covered as part of the degree, and why you may want to consider this degree to advance your career. It also presents an online PhD in criminal justice program that you may want enroll in.
What Is a PhD in Criminal Justice?
A PhD in criminal justice is a degree designed to prepare students to perform research and to teach at the academic level. This is achieved through a curriculum in areas, such as psychology, organizational behavior, public policy analysis, criminal law, criminal procedure, and criminology theory. Students are also expected to complete a dissertation, which is a piece of original research relating to the field of criminal justice.
Different schools set different requirements for admission to their programs, although a bachelor’s degree is generally a minimum requirement. Many schools expect a graduate degree, in fact. Additionally, students have to demonstrate exceptional aptitude in areas, such as statistics, computers, or psychology.
Why Earn a PhD in Criminal Justice?
The field of criminal justice affects all elements of society. Understanding why crimes are committed, how they are responded to, and whether or not these responses lead to an overall reduction in crime, is the role of someone who has completed a PhD in criminal justice, and there is significant demand for this. This is particularly true because crime is global, particularly with frequent terrorist attacks and online identity theft.
The majority of people who complete a PhD in criminal justice become college professors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, these professionals have a median salary of $75,430 per year as of May 2016. They have also reported that there will be a 13% increase in demand for people with these skills from 2014 to 2024, which will translate into some 177,000 new jobs. Hence, there is a significant demand for those with this type of degree.
Online Option for PhD in Criminal Justice
One online option for those interested in a PhD in Criminal Justice is offered by American University Online. This program has very stringent admission requirements, including GRE test scores and a minimum GPA of 3.2. The degree has between 36 and 54 credit hours, depending on past experience. Those with a relevant graduate degree only have to complete 36 credits. Hence, it is possible to enter the program with a bachelor’s degree only, but that will require the completion of a total of 54 credits.
The school offers two different concentration areas for the degree: one is Law and Society, and the other is Justice. In the second semester, students must pass a written examination. If they pass, they can advance to candidacy. Two examinations must be completed, one of which has to be in the area of concentration. The second field they must focus on can be any within the School of International Service or the School of Public Affairs. They then have to pass an oral examination as well, which will enable them to move on to a dissertation proposal, if they are successful.
The degree focuses strongly on research. Hence, students learn about scientific inquiry and how to properly use research techniques first. In fact, three courses are dedicated specifically to this, showing students the master tools of research and the nature of science. They then choose their specialization in which they can conduct an original piece of research. They will be fully supported by faculty to do so. Students must seek agreement with the School of Public Health and identify a tenure-track or full-time tenured faculty member to be the dissertation committee’s chair.
In order for the dissertation to be accepted, it has to be of high-quality and it must be a piece of original research. It also has to be relevant to the doctoral program and chosen area of concentration. If the dissertation does not meet these specifications, it may be rejected. There must, therefore, be a clear link to either law and society, or to justice. Additionally, students must show they use the appropriate methodology for research. Uniquely, students have to work almost independently, as there is no faculty available that is academically competent enough for supervision. Hence, graduates are known for their ability to work independently.
Students must take part in a pro-seminar in either justice or in law or society, depending on their chosen concentration. They then have to complete between six and 12 credit hours in a secondary major field, on which they must consult with the department. Students also have to complete research and design methodology. This requires them to undertake two courses in the conduct of inquiry, and also in research design. They must also attend a seminar in policy analysis and advanced quantitative methods.
Students then have to complete between zero and 24 credit hours of elective courses. These must be agreed upon with the department. The number of credit hours they have to undertake will vary depending on how many credit hours they intend to finish in their secondary field, as well as on their past education. This is all highlighted in the individual Program of Study that must be completed before enrollment.
Finally, students must be successful with their dissertation. This is a 12 credit hour segment of the degree. It is a highly intensive program that is highly acclaimed, not in the least because of the strong reputation of American University. With its headquarters in Washington, DC, the school is believed to be at the heart of policy development, including in criminal law.
Those who complete the PhD in Criminal Justice often become faculty leaders, teaching the next generation of criminal justice professionals. Others go on to perform further research, thereby advancing the profession as a whole. Other professions available to these degree holders include:
- Probation department leader
- Forensic scientist
- Chief of police
- Prison warden
- Private detective
- Ecology warden
- Crime scene investigator
- FBI agent
- CIA agent
- Fraud investigator
- DEA agent
- Secret Service agent
Most graduates who do not move into academics or research but prefer to remain involved in direct criminal justice work, tend to focus their career on their chosen area of specialization at graduate level or, if appropriate, at the doctorate degree level.
Clearly, earning a PhD in criminal justice is a great way to advance a career in the field of criminal justice, or to become an educator of the next generation of criminal justice students. There are many different employment opportunities available, and graduates are known and respected for their extensive skills and knowledge in the field of leadership. Completing such a degree is incredibly intensive, and if you do complete it, you can enjoy highly deserved personal and professional pride.
- Postsecondary Teachers. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm
- PhD in Justice, Law & Criminology. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.american.edu/spa/jlc/degrees/PHD-JLCR.cfm