Online Criminology Master’s Degree


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Criminology is the study of criminal behavior. Criminologists may explore topics such as the link between spirituality and crime, the effect of foot patrols in violent crime hot spots or society’s response to serial killers.

Although similar to criminal justice, which is the study of crime and the criminal justice system in general, criminology examines the psychological and sociological aspects of crime. Criminologists ask questions about how and why crimes are committed in an effort to prevent and reduce illegal activities.

Students in an online master’s in criminology program study all aspects of crime, including patterns, statistics and policy. The program is not just for aspiring criminologists – graduates can also work in law enforcement, government and higher education. Many online programs are targeted at professionals already working in the field who are looking to advance to leadership positions.

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Course Work

Example courses
Legal institutions and society
Police, courts and corrections
Correctional theory and practice
Crime and justice policy
Organizational perspectives on the legal system
Justice administration

Core course work includes legal institutions, public policy, criminal justice, research methods, analysis, leadership, statistics, criminal and deviant behavior and social problems.

Students can take elective courses in neighborhoods and crime, white-collar and corporate crime, and hate crimes, among others. Most schools require students to complete a thesis or capstone project.

Job Outlook

Median salaries*
Corrections officer $36,000
Deputy sheriff $41,000
Police or sheriff’s patrol officer $45,000
Postsecondary instructor $47,000
Manager of correctional officers $47,000
Criminologist $47,500
Private detective or investigator $52,000
Police detective $55,000
Deputy chief, police department $79,000


Many graduates with an online master’s in criminology find employment in local, state or federal law enforcement. Some work in public policy or higher education or go on to pursue doctoral studies.

A career as a private detective or investigator is another career path for graduates of an online master’s in criminology program. Employment growth of private detectives and investigators is faster than the national average at 21 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Private detectives or investigators make a median salary of $52,000, according to PayScale, an online salary database.

Median salaries range from about $36,000 for a corrections officer to about $55,000 for a police detective. A deputy chief of a police department makes about $79,000 annually, according to PayScale.

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