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

TROY's Master's in Criminal Justice degree can help you rise to senior and leadership roles in this challenging but highly rewarding field.

TROY's Master's in Criminal Justice degree can help you rise to senior and leadership roles in this challenging but highly rewarding field.

The American criminal justice system is a vast network of public agencies and private organizations, which, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS), employs nearly 3.5 million people across its ranks. Criminal justice jobs offer ambitious individuals a range of opportunities across many areas, including law enforcement, corrections, forensic science, homeland security, private security, academia and legal services.

For those looking to advance in their careers, a master’s degree in criminal justice helps them rise to senior and leadership roles in this challenging but highly rewarding field.

To help you better understand what you can do with a master’s in criminal justice degree, we spoke with Dr. Halil Akbas, Associate Chair of Anthropology, Sociology, and Criminology at Troy University. Dr. Akbas is also an Associate Professor of Criminology at TROY and teaches graduate courses in law enforcement, criminal justice policy and homeland security.

Understanding America’s Complex Criminal Justice System

Dr. Akbas’s academic interests in criminal justice were forged on the frontline of the system. Before coming to the United States to study for his master’s degree in justice administration from the University of Louisville and his Ph.D. in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati, he served as a police Major and Superintendent in Turkey. In this role, he managed national and international projects relating to policing strategies, immigration, human trafficking and border security.

Dr. Akbas’s motivation for exchanging a career in law enforcement for an academic path was simple.

“My professional background is in law enforcement,” says Dr. Akbas. “It’s my field of expertise and my passion. As such, I wanted to extend my understanding of the criminal justice system and share that knowledge with like-minded individuals.”

Throughout his professional and academic career, Dr. Akbas has been able to compare and contrast criminal justice systems across Europe and the United States.

“Compared to Turkey, the policing system is more localized here in the United States,” says Dr. Akbas. “There is only one centralized police agency in Turkey. There are literally thousands of police agencies here. Every county and city has its own police department. Every university even has its own police department.”

The United States system is fragmented further by three different levels of law enforcement agencies.

“There are federal, state and local law enforcement agencies,” says Dr. Akbas. “They all have different roles and responsibilities. It’s also more politicized here when compared to countries like Turkey where there is a centralized system.”

Understanding how police departments and law enforcement agencies work together is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the more comprehensive criminal justice system. Those looking to enter advanced roles in the field will need to develop problem-solving, leadership and critical thinking skills to succeed in their roles.

A master’s degree in criminal justice helps you develop those skills and expertise in the field. Should you pursue a master’s degree in criminal justice at TROY, you’ll also explore forensics, law, corrections and homeland security.

Criminal Justice Jobs You Can Get with a Master’s Degree 

While a bachelor’s degree qualifies you for work as a police, security or corrections officer, a master’s degree in criminal justice can help you progress in your career, gain fast-track promotions and access higher pay grades.

Such advanced roles include police supervisor, detective supervisor, correctional officer supervisor, prison warden, forensic psychologist, FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) agent, DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) agent, and U.S. Marshal.

How a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Prepares You for Advanced Careers 

A master’s degree in criminal justice builds on the experience and knowledge you gained with your bachelor’s degree. In a master’s program, you will develop a deep understanding of the ever-evolving landscape of criminal justice, honing essential skills in analysis, administration, research and communication that are highly relevant to a wide range of advanced careers.

“The program works on skills like problem-solving, leadership and critical thinking, which will help our graduates fulfill the roles of professional law enforcement personnel and competent criminal justice administrators,” says Dr. Akbas. “There’s a lot more critical thinking than in the bachelor’s program. We want our master’s students to be more argumentative, reflect on their arguments and perspectives and be more analytical.”

This analytical approach prepares you to take the next step in your career in the criminal justice system and beyond.

“The program equips students with the skills and knowledge they need to advance in local, regional, or national law enforcement and criminal justice,” says Dr. Akbas. “But it also enables them to pursue a career in college-level teaching or excel in various high-level positions within the field.”

Manswell Peterson earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice from TROY and is now an author and retired from the U.S. Navy. He also teaches college-level criminal justice courses and served as Criminal Justice Chair for Darton State College.

Peterson says that TROY’s master’s in criminal justice program prepared him with the skills he needed to succeed in a wide variety of careers, including book publishing. 

He shares, “TROY prepared me for various career paths by improving my writing and researching skills, which made my transition to an author later in my career very easy. My professors also challenged me to do my best academic work, being very meticulous when it came to assignments and other responsibilities in my graduate courses.”

Peterson cites the rigor as one of the biggest advantages that TROY’s master’s in criminal justice provides. “Criminal justice is a rainbow of paths that can lead to many different careers. If a student wants to be challenged and receive an outstanding education, they choose TROY.”

He concludes, “I’ve traveled all over the country, and I often get asked about my education. When I mention my master’s degree from TROY, I receive a lot of respect because TROY is a reputable institution. I would recommend choosing TROY over any institution in the country.”

Tailoring Your Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice to Fit Your Career Goals

TROY’s criminal justice master’s program gives you the opportunity to choose a specialization that fits your interests and goals, further broadening your career options.

The general concentration offers a comprehensive overview of the facets of the criminal justice field, encompassing subjects like court management, juvenile justice, law enforcement, ethics, civil liberties, corrections and beyond. This focus prepares you for various career paths in criminal justice, including roles such as probation or correctional officer, first-line supervisor of correctional officers, public safety officer, emergency management director and numerous other opportunities.

The security studies concentration allows you to develop expertise in specialized fields such as homeland security, intelligence analysis, border security, crime analysis, terrorism,

transnational crime and other security-related domains. This concentration readies you for leadership positions in criminal investigation, customs and border protection, private security and various security-focused roles.

Who Should Pursue a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice?

Both recent bachelor’s program graduates and returning students can pursue a master’s in criminal justice. However, many of TROY’s master’s program students already work in criminal justice jobs.

“We have a wide variety of students in our program,” says Dr. Akbas. “We have some younger students who have just finished their bachelor’s degree and move directly onto the master’s program. We also have practitioners looking for professional career advancement. Many working professionals are supported by their various departments or agencies and are in receipt of financial aid to pay for their studies.”

According to Dr. Akbas, the master’s degree enables working professionals to move from physically demanding and potentially dangerous jobs in law enforcement and other areas to careers in leadership. A master’s degree allows them to stay in the field by advancing their careers and sharing their knowledge and experience with recruits.

The master’s program also attracts a lot of military students.

“Some of these students will already be working in law enforcement fields in the military,” explains Dr. Akbas. “But not always. Many of them are interested in developing a second career after they retire from the military.”

According to Dr. Akbas, a master’s degree in criminal justice enables veterans to put down roots and settle into a career with a more stable work/life balance after years of military service.

An Online Master’s Degree with Internships and Study Abroad Opportunities 

The opportunity to study for a master’s degree in criminal justice online is particularly attractive to working professionals, military students and their spouses.

“The online program enables students to balance their study around their work and family lives,” says Dr. Akbas. “We have students from all over the United States and overseas who can log on and participate in this program at a time that suits their needs.”

TROY’s master’s program in criminal justice also presents a valuable opportunity for real-world experiences. With two internship courses, TROY’s program allows you to apply classroom teachings to real-world scenarios, even in an online program. Internships can include placements within law enforcement agencies, governmental bodies and public service organizations.

Moreover, you’ll have the chance to broaden your horizons by participating in international studies, allowing you to compare and contrast the U.S. criminal justice system with that of your selected foreign nation. This unique experience will expose you to distinctive challenges in foreign crime and introduce you to diverse problem-solving approaches employed by other countries.

Referencing his international experience, Dr. Akbas believes in the opportunity to learn how the various global law enforcement and criminal systems work together.

“Law enforcement and criminal justice systems around the world are all very different, but there are also many similarities,” says Dr. Akbas. “Organized crime and terrorism are international problems. Only by learning more about our colleagues overseas and cooperating with them will we be able to tackle these global problems that threaten us all.”

Learn More About the TROY Master’s in Criminal Justice Program

Whether you want to climb the ranks in law enforcement, homeland security or other branches of criminal justice, a master’s degree in criminal justice from TROY gives you the advantage you need for criminal justice jobs. To learn more about advancing in your career and what you can do with a master’s in criminal justice, visit the M.S. in criminal justice program page.