Graduate School for Criminal Justice Majors
Thinking about graduate study? Our program is a pre-professional instructional program, and we provide our students with a foundational background in all areas of criminal justice in order to eventually pursue further, advanced training of some kind depending on the specific field of criminal justice of interest to the student. Training ranges from the military and armed services, to the police academy, to law school, to graduate school whether it be a Master’s or a Doctoral program.
Why Should You Consider Graduate Study?
Regardless of the field of criminal justice you wish to pursue, you will need advanced training of some kind—graduate school is a great place to begin once you have completed your Bachelor of Arts degree. Most fields and branches of criminal justice require a degree beyond the B.A. or B.S. Lawyers are required to completed law school and earn a J.D.; forensic science investigators are required to at least have a Master’s degree in Forensic Science or similarly a hardcore science such as biology or chemistry; police officers looking to move up in rank and be promoted most often are required to have a Master’s degree; forensic and criminal psychologists need a Ph.D. or a Psy.D.; F.B.I. agents are asked to have an advanced degree in the field in which the individual hopes to become a special agent (e.g. a degree in a language, information technology, business, accounting, psychology, etc.).
When Should You Begin Graduate Study?
If your goals are clear and financial resources are available, consider beginning a Master's or Doctoral program shortly after graduation from college. However, if your career goals are not yet well established and resources are insufficient, you should probably wait for a few years and gain some invaluable experience working in a related field.
Where Should You Go to Graduate School?
"Eight key criteria are useful in choosing the right graduate or professional school program:
- Interest in the Field. Your interest in and commitment to your field of study are probably the most important factors. If you're uncertain about what to study, maybe that's a clue to wait.
- Availability of a Degree Program. Do some research to see which universities offer the degree programs that meet your interests. Look beyond the catalog to determine if a program is right for you.
- Career Opportunities. Look down the road a few years. What are the current job prospects in the field? What are future projections? Remember that job markets are bound to change—for better or worse—during any four to five year period.
- Quality. Four key factors in assessing quality are faculty, facilities, student body and reputation. To assess the quality of a program, talk to professors, read between the lines of catalogs and other literature, and talk to professionals in the field.
- Cost. Cost is one of the simplest and best ways of choosing a graduate program. First, determine how much money you have available for graduate education (savings, regular income, tuition support programs, loans, financial aid, parental support). Then seek programs that are affordable.
- Location. Do you prefer urban, suburban or rural locations? Also consider the accessibility of mass transit, commutation time and costs (if you're a commuter) and proximity to museums, other educational institutions, research institutes, and libraries.
- Size. Institutional size provides clues to the overall environment, character, academic resources, class size, and student-faculty ratios and relationships.
- Credit vs. Non-credit. A formal program leading toward a particular degree is often not the best route to follow. An increasing number of non-credit, non-matriculated, and extension-type programs at the post-baccalaureate level might be more appropriate than the traditional programs.
For an extensive list of graduate programs within the field of Criminal Justice head over to the Graduate Programs section of the website. You can also visit www.allcriminaljusticeschools.com to browse through criminal justice graduate programs; the website also has a great search feature to help sort through all of the listings to find schools/programs with your specific parameters.
How Do You Get Admitted?
There are five key aspects to the admissions process for graduate and professional schools:
- Undergraduate Preparation. The trend in graduate admissions is away from requiring specific undergraduate courses and toward more liberalized course requirements. However, be sure you know the specific requirements of the program in which you are interested. For example, in the sciences, calculus, organic chemistry, biology and physics are routinely required. Beyond meeting specific quantitative requirements, it is highly desirable to show some qualitative strengths in your undergraduate major.
- The Application. This form is usually your only contact with an admissions committee and the impression you make is critical. If essays or personal statements are required, make sure you write in a clear, concise, grammatically correct style. Have your statement critiqued by a professor or career counselor.
- Credentials. Graduate and professional schools require three items in support of the application: transcripts of your college work, recommendations and, in some cases, standardized test scores. Transcripts are obtained from the Registrar, who will forward your official transcript to the school to which you are applying. Recommendations should be from professors or professionals in the field who know you and your work well; letters from well-known individuals are a plus.
- Standardized Tests. Standardized tests will not "make or break" your candidacy, and there are resources available to help you prepare for them.
- Interviews. Interviews are rarely required today in the graduate and professional admissions process. However, if an interview can be arranged, you can learn more about the program and provide a clear impression of who you are.
- Deadlines. All schools have deadlines, and they are there for a good reason. Apply as early as possible. Early applications demonstrate your interest and timeliness. Note other deadlines such as portfolio submissions (for studio programs), interviews (if required), and standardized tests.”
Tips for Asking for a Faculty Recommendation
All advanced degree programs require faculty recommendations. When asking a faculty member for a recommendation, consider choosing a faculty member you have a good rapport with and whose class(es) you have taken during your undergraduate career—for which you have earned relatively good grades. For this reason, it is good strategy to start cultivating a relationship with one or two faculty members early on in your undergraduate career. A relationship can be established simply by first taking a faculty member’s class. Speak up in class and answer questions with thoughtful answers. Go to the faculty member’s office hours and get to know your professor. Consider doing an independent study with that professor. Good relationships with your faculty members will help in your quest for good recommendations.
When you approach a faculty member for a recommendation, do so politely and in such a way where you will not be inconveniencing your professor. What does this mean? First and foremost, be aware of deadlines and plan accordingly. Make sure you provide your professor with well-advanced notice and plenty of time to complete the recommendation. If the faculty member agrees to write a recommendation on your behalf, make sure your professor is aware of the deadlines. Absolutely do not hound your professor repeatedly to inquire whether the recommendation was completed, but do check in once or twice with gentle reminders. Make sure you give your faculty member all of the information and all of the materials necessary to write an appropriate recommendation, which includes not only the information of the program you are applying to, but also an addressed and stamped envelope so your professor is able to send the recommendation once completed.
Every faculty member is different in what he/she would like from you when asked to write a recommendation. However, there are also several materials which would always be beneficial to provide your professor with when asking for a recommendation:
- Your statement of purpose or any application essays you submitted
- Your CV or résumé with your education, employment, internships, extracurricular activities, research projects, and skills
- Specific and clear deadlines for all applications
- A stamped and addressed envelope for every recommendation being solicited
- Any cover sheets or forms that must accompany the recommendation
- List 2-3 things you wish the faculty member to highlight in their recommendation about you