Is a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Worth It?

Master's in criminal justice degree student in front of court house

If you have an undergraduate degree in a justice studies field, you may be interested in furthering your education and earning a master’s degree. By choosing to earn a Master of Science in Criminal Justice with an Emphasis in Law Enforcement or Master of Science in Criminal Justice with an Emphasis in Legal Studies, you will equip yourself with the knowledge and skills to help you gain a competitive edge and advance in your career.

What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice?

If you have a master’s in criminal justice with an emphasis in either law enforcement or legal studies, you can choose from many career paths. A master’s degree may qualify you to advance to higher positions and also increase your chances to earn higher pay.

Below are some of the job opportunities available to those with a master’s degree in criminal justice. The emphasis you choose to study will not exclude you from any of these career options. For example, if you want to be a criminal justice teacher, you could pursue a master’s degree in criminal justice with an emphasis in either law enforcement or legal studies.

Careers With a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice With an Emphasis in Law Enforcement

  • Probation officer: Probation officers work with offenders during their probation period. They attempt to help the offenders they supervise make progress toward successful lives after probation. Other tasks that probation officers complete may include filling out reports, evaluating treatment options and investigating backgrounds. 
  • Private investigator: Private investigators have a variety of duties depending on the case they are working on. They may conduct interviews, do research and perform surveillance while they search for the necessary information in their case. 
  • Corrections officer: Corrections officers work within prisons and jails to make sure rules are being followed and conditions are safe. Because corrections officers work so closely with inmates, this career can be dangerous at times. Some tasks that corrections officers may complete include supervising activities, performing inspections and writing reports. 
  • Law clerk: Law clerks aid judges and provide information that can help the judge come to a conclusion about a case. Law clerks often come from different levels of experience after law school. 
  • Criminal justice and law enforcement teacher: Teachers with a master's degree are needed at universities, colleges and government agencies to help train the next generation of law enforcers.

Careers With a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice With an Emphasis in Legal Studies

  • Law librarian: Law librarians specialize in helping legal professionals find information. Law librarians work in an assortment of settings from universities to law firms. On top of the normal responsibilities of a librarian, these professionals also perform legal research. 
  • Lawyer: Lawyers typically work with criminal and/or civil law. Depending on their area of interest, they may work at a law firm, government agency, private company or nonprofit, supporting a variety of clients. 
  • Paralegal: Paralegals work with attorneys to assist them through research, administrative work, interviews and documentation. 
  • Compliance officer: The main job of a compliance officer is to make sure that laws, regulations and rules are being followed. This can take on different forms, depending on the company or organization that the compliance officer is working for. Some tasks that a compliance officer may accomplish include reducing risks, training employees and observing or reviewing practices within a business or organization. 
  • Shift supervisor: Shift supervisors work with employees to make sure everything is running smoothly during the shift and everyone is where they need to be. These individuals can be found leading others in a variety of organizations and businesses.

How Does a Master’s Degree Prepare You for Law School and Beyond?

If you have the desire to go to law school, enrolling in a criminal justice program can put you on the right track. In your coursework, you will learn essential information that will help you succeed as a law school applicant. The knowledge you will gain about legal issues, law enforcement management, criminal activity and prevention and conflict resolution can give you a competitive edge as you apply for law school and careers beyond. 

What Skills Will You Gain With a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice?

By earning a master’s degree in criminal justice, you can become educated about important subjects, such as constitutional issues and rights under the law including due process, freedom of speech and religion and equal protection.

Your courses can also teach you valuable skills in the areas of: 

  • Criminal behavior analysis: Understanding psychology and behavior can help you as you pursue a career in the criminal justice field. Learning how to understand this method of research is extremely beneficial. 
  • Organizational behavior and leadership: If you want to take on a leadership role in your future career, a master’s degree can help you understand what it takes to be successful in a leadership role and behaviors that you can apply in your field to set you apart. 
  • Law and public policy: In order to be successful in criminal justice, you need to understand laws and policies. With this skill, you will be better equipped to administer justice in your career. 
  • Research methods: Research skills can be used in a wide range of careers, but the courses in this program develop research and analysis skills that are particularly applicable for criminal justice.
  • Ethics and decision-making: Ethical thinking is critical in the law enforcement and criminal justice fields because these professionals work with the general public, who represent many different backgrounds and beliefs.

Not only can having this knowledge benefit you personally, but your expertise can also equip you to foster a healthy community and preserve a sense of safety and security, which is important in today’s world.

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Grand Canyon University offers a wide range of degree programs. To learn more about the benefits of getting a master's degree in Criminal Justice with an Emphasis in Law Enforcement or master's degree in Criminal Justice with an Emphasis in Legal Studies from GCU, use the Request Info button at the top of this page.

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.

Loading Form


Scroll back to top