According to data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, graduate student enrollment in online programs increased about 30% from 2004-2016.
Enrollment in online education programs continues to increase at an impressive rate. In recent years, one-third of all college students took at least one online course. This trend includes master's-level learners, who can benefit as much from online education programs as from on-campus ones. According to data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, graduate student enrollment in online programs increased about 30% from 2004-2016.
By exploring the outcomes and advantages of distance education, this page offers several reasons to consider pursuing an online master's in criminal justice.
Interview With an Expert
Danny White is a detective with the Des Moines Police Department. He has been with the department for 19 years and was promoted to robbery/homicide detective over six years ago. Danny has served in the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army, and is now retired from the military.
Danny decided to earn his master's in criminal justice from Simpson College because of the professional advancement opportunities it provides. After obtaining his master's degree from Simpson College, Danny was promoted to the local FBI task force. In the future, Danny plans to use his knowledge and life experience as an adjunct professor at a local university.
What made you decide to pursue a career as a detective and in criminal justice? Was it something that always interested you?
I became a police officer in 2000, not long after getting off active duty military status. I had always been interested in becoming a police officer, but at the time of graduating high school, I knew I did not have the maturity, grades, or motivation to get a degree and become an officer. I joined the military in 1989, which gave me the maturity and self-motivation I was lacking.
After becoming a police officer with Des Moines, I was assigned to the patrol division, where I stayed for nine years. In my seventh year on patrol, I knew I was ready for a new challenge. I wanted to try and become a detective, but I did not have the education required to make that transition within the department.
I went back to school and received my undergrad from Upper Iowa University. After graduating, I was sad it was over (this was a new feeling for me because I wasn't the best student in high school), so I looked into getting a master's degree. I went to Simpson College and absolutely loved it. The classes were interesting and enjoyable, and my fellow students were a lot of fun.
Graduating with my master's degree from Simpson was one of my proudest days. I was picked up by the Des Moines Police Department Crimes Against Persons Detective Unit (robbery/homicide). The detectives in that unit are incredible, and it was an honor to be a part of such a hardworking unit.
How important is a college degree for individuals considering a career as a detective or in criminal justice?
A college degree is required to become a detective with the Des Moines Police Department. As someone who earned a bachelor's and a master's degree late in life, I learned that buckling down and studying prepared me for studying cases and preparing for trials. I also learned that writing college papers prepared me for the long reports I would have to write about cases I was working.
I also learned that professors scrutinizing my papers would prepare me for the scrutinization I'd receive from attorneys and judges over search and arrest warrants. The "training" I received while earning my master's degree shows in the attention to detail and the hard work I am able to give to each case that I work.
How has your master's degree in criminal justice helped you meet your career goals?
In addition to the above rewards I gained from my master's degree, I have been selected as one of the newest members of an FBI task force. I have no doubt that my willingness to expand my knowledge base and my dedication to myself and my craft did not go unnoticed when they were making selections for that position.
What are some of the most rewarding aspects of working as a detective and in criminal justice?
I would say the biggest reward of working as a detective is that I have the ability to become incredibly invested in the cases that I work. As a patrol officer, I did not have the opportunity (most of the time) to work a case to fruition. But now, I am able to work my cases, know all of the players, and figure out how everything fits together -- not unlike a puzzle. It is incredibly rewarding to see the hard work I put into the case pay off in a court of law.
What are some of the challenging aspects?
I would say that the most challenging aspect that faces detectives are the witnesses and victims of violent crimes who refuse to talk to detectives about what they saw, experienced, and know. This occurs a lot while investigating homicides, shootings, and stabbings. In these situations -- when no one wants to tell -- the detective uses all of the tools on his/her "tool belt" to figure out what happened.
What advice would you give to students aspiring to work in the field of criminal justice?
Take advantage of the unintentional lessons you learn while in college: the ability to write a legible, intelligent, and thorough paper (police report); the ability to research all that needs to go into your homework (detective work); and the feedback you receive on your papers and reports (attorney and judges). All of these lessons will pay off and be noticed by fellow officers and supervisors when you are ready to become a police officer.
Any last thoughts for us?
I would not change anything about how my life has gone. I am happy, educated, and good at what I do because of the military, my family, and my time at Upper Iowa University and Simpson College.
Why Pursue a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice?
Learners working to obtain an online criminal justice master's degree earn benefits and advantages not available to those without degrees. Graduate-level education consistently correlates with higher pay and increased earning power across the labor force. Working professionals with a master's degree also tend to qualify for a wider range of career options. The table below explores a few of the benefits of earning a master's degree in criminal justice.
Benefits of Earning a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice
|Higher Median Salary||According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), working professionals with a master's degree earn nearly 20% more than those holding only bachelor's degrees.|
|Career Growth Opportunities||Most management-level jobs in criminal justice require a master's. This credential verifies working professionals' qualifications and allows them to pursue specializations easily transferable to other fields and industries.|
|Lower Unemployment Rate with a Master's||Educational attainment typically translates into a lower unemployment rate. This means that graduate-level degree seekers in criminal justice find more employment opportunities as they work through their programs.|
|Better Job Outlook||Master's degree holders can pursue more specialized jobs with positive career outlooks. For example, careers in social work, law enforcement, and substance abuse or mental counseling are all projected to increase as fast or faster than average.|
Get an Education Around Your Schedule
Pursuing higher education of any kind can be challenging, especially at the graduate level. Many advanced degree seekers need options that fit their demanding schedules. As such, many online master's programs in criminal justice design their courses to accommodate the needs of busy working professionals. They typically do not require students to travel to a campus, and they provide all coursework completely online.
Although online programs may be convenient and flexible, they require initiative and careful planning.
Most online programs use synchronous or asynchronous delivery methods, or some combination of the two. Synchronous delivery means that learners access and engage with course materials on a set schedule. Asynchronous delivery is more adaptable; learners can access course materials at a time and place that is convenient for them. Hybrid programs use a mix of both approaches.
Although online programs may be convenient and flexible, they require initiative and careful planning. Self-motivated, independent, and enthusiastic learners are the most successful in this environment.
Cost of an Online Education
Online learning can significantly reduce the cost of higher education. Online programs do not require geographical relocation, but they still provide convenient access to industry experts and quality programming. They often use similar or even cheaper tuition rates as traditional on-campus programs. For example, online students often receive the same reduced tuition rates enjoyed by in-state students.
Degree seekers can also choose economical enrollment paths. Many online master's programs in criminal justice offer part-time or accelerated paths to completion. While part-time paths can cost more over time, they offer lower quarterly costs that can be offset by continuing gainful employment. Similarly, accelerated courses usually cost more per semester, but the overall cost ends up being lower because of the shortened time frame.
Online Programs Have the Same Accreditation
The best online criminal justice master's programs receive the same accreditation credentials as their on-campus counterparts. Accreditation acts as a quality assurance measure designed to hold schools to the highest standards of excellence. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) assist in this process by providing guidelines and resources, but they do not directly grant accreditation.
Accreditation generally comes in one of two forms, both conferred by independent agencies recognized by the ED and CHEA.
Accreditation generally comes in one of two forms, both conferred by independent agencies recognized by the ED and CHEA. Regional accreditation -- the more popular and prestigious form -- validates the programming of academically oriented institutions, like state colleges and nonprofit universities. Vocational, technical, and for-profit schools typically receive national accreditation, also administered by independent agencies.
Specialized programs housed within an already accredited school sometimes receive additional, programmatic accreditation. This supplementary credential verifies the capabilities of a given program for a particular field. Organizations like the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences grant programmatic accreditation in criminal justice.
Explore a Master's in Criminal Justice
All schools granting a master's in criminal justice provide learners with a foundational level of education necessary to succeed in the field. However, each individual program differs, and these differences often correspond with unique traits and characteristics. This page provides a list of available programs designed to help learners choose a program that meets their individual needs.
Review Our Graduate Application Guide
While application protocols vary by school, most online master's programs in criminal justice follow a similar process. Prospective learners should familiarize themselves with some basic requirements. This handy guide outlines typical admissions procedures and will help you navigate the process.