Administration of Justice Degrees: Master, PhD & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in an administration of justice degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's and doctoral degree and potential careers.
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Studying Administration of Justice: Degrees at a Glance

An administration of justice degree program examines the structure of the criminal justice system and how its procedures and processes work to provide an honest and fair judicial system. These programs present a general overview of government, while seeking to improve your skills in problem solving, critical thinking and management. Graduates can take up careers in administration, law enforcement, academia or research within either the government or private sector.

Those working in law enforcement typically have an undergraduate degree, along with on-the-job training. A master's degree program is designed for working professionals who want to develop ethical, research and theoretical skills for more advanced positions, while those seeking a doctorate may be interested in teaching or administrative roles.

Master's Doctorate
Who Is This Degree For? Experienced criminal justice professionals interested in senior-level, teaching or research positions Master's degree holders seeking careers in academia, research or management
Common Career Paths (with approximate annual salary) - Junior college criminal justice and law enforcement teacher ($56,000)*
- Criminal investigator ($76,000)*
- Criminologist ($36,000-$59,000)**
- University criminal justice and law enforcement teacher ($58,000)*
- Forensic lab director (salary unavailable)
Time to Completion Two years, full-time Three years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Master's comprehensive exam
- Thesis or project
- Dissertation
- Comprehensive exam
- Qualifying exam
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree Bachelor's and master's degree
Online Availability Yes Some courses may be available online

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 mean figures), ** (10th-90th percentile salary range, October 2012).

Master's in Administration of Justice

Through this degree program, you'll acquire the knowledge and skills needed to perform in a management or an academic role within the criminal justice field. You'll gain an advanced understanding of criminal justice, crime and associated processes, as well as hone your research, personnel management and crisis management skills. A thesis or research project may be required in order to graduate.

You may be able to select an area of concentration, such as leadership. Graduates can proceed to doctoral studies, teach at the college level or take on mid- or upper-level positions of leadership.

Pros and Cons


  • Online learning is available in most master's degree programs
  • Graduates can pursue several law enforcement and criminal justice careers
  • Aside from fundamental legal information, the course offerings blend contemporary legal issues, such as cyber crime and homeland security


  • Most law enforcement positions only require a bachelor's degree
  • Admission may rely heavily on your undergraduate GPA and grades
  • Prior work experience may be required for admission

Courses and Requirements

Students enrolled in a master's program in administration of justice take core courses in criminal justice, along with various electives chosen to align with the student's career or professional goals. In addition, programs may include a research or internship component. Other related topics may include juvenile delinquency, violent crime and corrections. Specific required courses vary depending on the program, but may be similar to the following:

  • Criminal justice ethics
  • Criminal justice management and administration
  • Criminology
  • Terrorism

Online Class Info

Online administration of justice classes are widely available through degree programs. This option is used to accommodate the schedules of practicing criminal justice professionals. Hybrid, evening, weekend and online options vary among programs, but the curriculum remains the same as one held on campus. In some instances, distance learning is allowed after the completion of core classes.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Since you could enter into a management role with this degree, certain coursework could offer the training that you need. To transition into these types of roles, you could focus on courses that address human resources management, organizational theory and leadership. The completion of a research paper could help you narrow down an area of interest that would be helpful in your employment search. An internship is another way to stand out against other graduates. This supervised fieldwork is conducted in a criminal justice site where you'll monitor basic agency operations.

Doctorate in Administration of Justice

Doctoral degree programs specifically in administration of justice aren't widely available. Applicants are often asked to submit their resume, GRE scores and a statement of professional goals. You may have needed to complete certain graduate prerequisite coursework like research methods. Unlike master's degree programs, doctorate work can't typically be completed online. These campus-based programs prepare you for leadership, academic or research careers. Students will learn the theory and history of justice administration, along with research methods used in the administration of justice.

Pros and Cons


  • Graduate assistantships may be available to offset doctorate program costs
  • Some programs allow part-time and full-time enrollment
  • Given the small number of core classes, you can conduct specialized research in an area of interest


  • There are few administration of justice doctorate degree programs available
  • The scope of employment opportunities may be limited to teaching or research
  • You may be competing for career options with master's degree holders

Courses and Requirements

An administration of justice doctorate program usually contains less than ten core classes and a variety of criminal justice-related electives. The remainder of the program is spent working on the research dissertation, which needs to be approved, presented orally and submitted in writing. A comprehensive exam could be required along with a dissertation. The following class topics may be covered in a doctorate in administration of justice program:

  • Criminal justice seminar
  • Criminal theory
  • Criminal justice research methods
  • Dissertation research

Online Class Info

Online standalone administration of justice courses with doctorate content is rare. Most online courses are through undergraduate or master's degree programs. You may be able to complete an introductory administration of justice course through a schools' adult education division. Alternatively, free online graduate classes in the scope of justice, public policy and crime may be found through a university's OpenCourseWare System, which publishes campus-based course materials for public use.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Criminal justice and law enforcement are vast fields, so specializing in a related field may help direct your employment search and attract certain employers. Doctorate degree holders often enter into research or postsecondary teaching careers. Choosing an area of concentration can be conducted through the program's required dissertation. In consulting with your advisor and meeting with the program's dissertation committee, you can cement an area of interest that can carry into the work field.

Other Degrees to Consider

Given the lack of program availability in the administration of justice major at the doctorate level, you may want to consider a public policy and administration or criminal justice program. Both of these degree programs are commonly available at 4-year universities. These doctorate degree options provide similar, if not the same, coursework as an administration of justice program. With a criminal justice or public policy degree, you could still pursue careers in criminal justice administration, academia, upper management or research.

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