Benefits of a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice

a gavel with an open book

If you have an undergraduate criminal justice degree or a degree in a similar topic, you’ve probably considered the benefits of getting your master’s degree in criminal justice as well. While doing research, you also may have noticed that a master’s degree isn’t always vital to starting your career in criminal justice, so why should you earn a master’s in criminal justice? 

There are many benefits to pursuing a graduate degree in criminal justice, including gaining a competitive edge in the workforce or any other studies you pursue. Keep reading to learn about the benefits you can gain by earning a master’s in criminal justice.

Criminal Justice Specialization Opportunities

When considering a career in the criminal justice field, most people tend to gravitate toward a general bachelor’s degree in criminal justice studies to begin. A bachelor’s degree can teach you all the basics of the justice system, including all aspects of the law and how it affects communities and individuals. 

While it’s important to be grounded in the basics of your field, earning a master’s degree in criminal justice allows you to choose a specialization and gain expertise in the topics you’re interested in pursuing.

For example, earning a master’s in criminal justice and law enforcement will prepare you for a high-level law enforcement position, such as becoming a chief of police, commander or shift supervisor. It would also prepare you for related careers including becoming a probation officer, corrections officer or law clerk. This degree explores topics surrounding crime analysis and prevention as well as ethical decision-making and leadership in a law enforcement setting. 

Another specialization option for criminal justice is a master’s in legal studies. This degree focuses less on crime prevention and more on legal research and communication, including the relationship between public policy and criminal behavior. This type of master’s degree can prepare you for a legal career, such as becoming a paralegal, lawyer, mediator or government relations officer. 

Preparation for Law School

Because law school applications are competitive, it may be beneficial to earn a master’s degree in criminal justice for an advantage over other applicants but also to better prepare for law school and beyond. Learning about the court systems, legal research and more in advance will strengthen your law school application in addition to the other skills you will gain while earning your master’s.

Many Career and Advancement Opportunities in the Field of Criminal Justice

Earning a master’s degree in criminal justice can reveal many opportunities that weren’t previously available. Having this degree often sets people up for a career promotion or gives them a leg up in their applications. Even immediately after graduating you could be seen as having experience in the field and may receive a job offer above an entry-level position as a result.

Some careers in criminal justice require or are simplified by a master’s in criminal justice. Many federal agencies prefer candidates who have a master’s degree rather than those who only have a bachelor’s.1 A master’s program gives students transferable and specific skills that can be translated into work experience for the field.

If you’re looking into criminal justice careers, make sure to check the requirements for each job but keep in mind that, even if not required, a master’s could elevate you as a candidate and help you land a top-level position more quickly.

Potential for Increased Salary

Along with the potential for career advancement, earning a master’s degree in criminal justice might entitle you to a higher paycheck. Many police departments offer initiatives to attract potential officers who have college degrees.

For instance, police officers in Massachusetts receive considerable pay incentives above their regular salaries for having master’s degrees, and the Chicago Police Department not only provides tuition reimbursement for college courses but also incentive pay after the degree is completed.2

Rewarding Leadership and Recognition

As you are promoted into higher leadership-level positions in the criminal justice system, you may find that you’re making a difference in your community. Being awarded a leadership position in your field will not only give you a sense of personal accomplishment but will also start to earn you recognition as a prominent person in your work and the community, depending on your career choice.

You might find yourself gaining recognition for your work in the field or a law office. Being able to develop and reach goals and earning positive feedback after completing them will help you turn your career into something you truly enjoy. Professional accomplishment can be extremely rewarding, especially if you’re simultaneously bettering your community.

Understanding the Role of Important Topics in Society

In the criminal justice field, you will encounter a variety of important issues daily, so you must understand constitutional issues and rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion and equal protection. Earning your master’s degree in criminal justice will allow you to learn about these topics in-depth in a way that will benefit you and equip you to foster a healthy community with a sense of safety and security.

You will be filling an important role in society by working in the field of criminal justice and interacting with different people daily. Earning your master’s in criminal justice can prepare you to fill this role to the best of your ability.

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Grand Canyon University offers both a master’s in criminal justice and law enforcement and a master’s in legal studies in addition to a bachelor’s degree in justice studies. To learn more about the degree programs at GCU, click the Request Info button at the top of the page.


Retrieved from: 

1U.S. News, Criminal Justice Master’s Jobs in August 2021 

2U.S. News, Defund the Police? Actually, Police Salaries Are Rising in Departments Across the U.S. in August 2021

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.