Is a Masters in Criminal Justice Degree Worth It?

Even people with a passion for topics related to criminal justice might find that the cost and time that are required for earning a criminal justice master’s degree would not be worth it. As media outlets continue to report on the rising costs of education, it’s important to note that choosing the field for your master’s degree is no easy feat. However, the evidence suggests that people with high end degrees are typically better equipped to apply for higher-paying and more satisfactory jobs than those who don’t have such degrees.

The truth is that a master’s degree in criminal justice is definitely worth it in the right circumstances. All you need to do to decide is figure out whether you’re willing to put the time and effort required for completing the degree

What Is a Masters in Criminal Justice Degree?

A masters in criminal justice is an educational program designed for people who want to enter or advance in the criminal justice area, as well as those who would like to obtain a deeper understanding of justice and crime for application in related fields like law or social work. Masters of criminal justice degrees give students a competitive edge when they’re hoping to expand their career, apply to law school, teach, or pursue a doctorate in their chosen profession. Degree candidates will need to take courses in which they analyze criminal behavior, apply principles of leadership to organizational settings, and gain an informed perspective of the judicial system and law enforcement.

Making the Decision

Deciding to earn an advanced degree is often something that’s based primarily on return on investments. It’s worth remembering that it will usually take around two years and potentially thousands of dollars to earn a master’s degree, so serious consideration must be made on whether to pursue the degree or not. And because it requires a lot of time and monetary investment, it would be wise to make sure that you can count on a good pay off in the end.

Perhaps the easiest way to decide whether or not a master’s degree will be worth it for your circumstances is to consider your career plan. Some careers in criminology and criminal justice will reward advanced degrees, while others do not. For instance, these jobs in the world of criminology require at least a master’s degree or higher:

  • criminologist
  • forensic psychologist
  • college or university professor
  • criminal profiler
  • upper administration or management

Alternatively, if you plan to become a police officer, a criminal investigator, a forensic science technician, or a loss prevention specialist, then you may not need a master’s degree.

Why Earn a Criminal Justice Master’s Degree?

There are many reasons why people might consider expanding their education in the world of criminal justice. For instance, one particularly good benefit of earning such a master’s degree in criminal justice is that it gives you an opportunity to further advance your career and open up opportunities for promotion. If you want to move up the ranks into a high level or executive position, a master’s degree could be exactly what you need to gain that competitive edge. Although many careers in criminal justice won’t require an advanced degree as a mandatory way to get a job, some will place more value on this than others. For instance, if your goal is to become a police officer, then there’s no need for a master’s degree. However, if you’d like to be hired by the FBI, such a degree could help to put you ahead of other candidates.

However, it’s worth remembering that extra experience in your chosen area can also be useful when it comes to moving up the ranks. Additionally, if you have any plans to teach at the university level, then an advanced degree will definitely be a necessary part of your plans. In fact, instructing at a university level will often need a doctorate. In this case, if you would like to become any kind of teacher or instructor, you will need to consider the ways that you can build your education through a master’s degree.

If you’re interested in a job in public policy advisory positions, then you’ll know that every legislative body in the world comes with an army of staffers that back it up. Researching and advising lawmakers on matters that range from education to fiscal policy and even criminal justice can be essential. This job can be very financially lucrative, as criminal justice issues are often very important. However, to get your hands on a job like this you will need at least a master’s degree or higher so you can be deemed to have the credibility in advising others.

Criminal Justice Master’s Degree Options

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts positive job growth for most careers within the criminal justice system. Job growth for detectives and police officers, who generally make an average of around $60,720 per year is predicted to grow at a rate of at least 4% between 2014 and 2024. This is in part due to revised guidelines for sentencing and a greater focus on solutions for rehabilitation over incarceration. Additionally, correctional treatment officers and probation officers with a salary on average of $48,360 per year will also be in demand with a similar growth projection of 4% over the same time period.

Those who have criminal justice degrees who aren’t limited to working specifically for agencies of law enforcement will find that there are various areas that have great potential for those with a master’s degree. This might include access to jobs as a legal assistant or paralegal who make average annual salaries of around $48,810 and have an expected job growth rate of around 8% from 2014 to 2024. Additionally, forensic science technicians are expected to see a growth of around 27% for the same time period.

When you choose a career in criminal justice, you can focus your masters degree on various areas, including:

  • Law enforcement
  • Law and legal growth
  • Teaching and policy changing
  • Rehabilitation
  • Corrections
  • Forensic science

Where you choose to focus your education with your masters degree will depend almost exclusively on your skills within your chosen area, and your preference in terms of jobs and career opportunities. However, those with an interest in teaching, forensic science, and law, will almost always benefit from a higher education.


  • Is a Criminal Justice Degree Worth It? (n.d.) Retrieved from
  • Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2015 – Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary. (2016, Mar. 30) Retrieved from
  • If I Already Have a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice, is Getting a Master’s in Criminal Justice Worth It? (n.d.) Retrieved from