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Master’s Degree Programs in Law Enforcement Overview

Majors Overview October 6, 2015

Those with an interest in law enforcement should look into Master of Science in Criminal Justice (M.S.C.J.) programs. These programs are the primary graduate level degree programs. This article talks about master’s degree programs in law enforcement and their education requirements, coursework, job and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

Master’s Programs in Law Enforcement

Students enrolled in Master of Science in Criminal Justice (M.S.C.J.) degree programs normally complete 36 credits of coursework, often within two years. Coursework covers broad subject areas such as social control, criminology, juvenile justice, corrections, and the analyzation of criminal behavior. Enrollees will develop their knowledge and skills in sociological, conceptual, practical and theoretical studies of law enforcement and crime. Both a non-thesis and a thesis option are available in some programs. Most master’s degree programs in law enforcement and criminal justice are available in online, classroom, and hybrid formats.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or related academic discipline from an accredited school. In some schools, students are expected to have some professional experience related to criminal justice or law enforcement.


The number of credit hours required for both non-thesis and thesis options is exactly the same. However, three professional paper credit hours can be completed in place of a thesis by those who choose the non-thesis option. Common core coursework includes topic areas such as:

•Advanced criminology theory
•History and philosophy of justice
•Current legal Issues in law enforcement
•Administration of criminal justice
•Management principles in criminal justice

Job and Wage Outlook

Over the 2012 – 2022 decade, a job growth of five percent has been predicted for police and detectives (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2012, police and sheriff’s patrol officers brought in an average annual wage of $55,270.

Continuing Education Choices

Program graduates who seek continuing education may enroll in a doctorate program in criminal justice or a related subject. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the U.S. Secret Service also offer advanced training and professional development in specific areas of law enforcement.

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