Top 10 reasons to get a master's degree in criminal justice

People come to the field of criminal justice with all different backgrounds, but their goal is the same: to protect the welfare of the public and promote justice in their communities. Whether you have undergraduate experience, are a working professional in the field or are looking to make a career change, you may be thinking that it’s time to put nose to the grindstone and see what you’re capable of in criminal justice.

Here are the top 10 reasons to get a master’s degree in criminal justice:

1. Develops you to be a leader

Criminal justice needs leaders—those individuals who can rally others to a cause and inspire every member of their team to do their best work. That’s what police commissioners, corrections facility directors, lead investigators, prison wardens and other managerial and high-level professionals do every day on the job. A master’s degree helps provide you with the education and perspective needed to rise through the ranks and go from associate and officer-level positions to executive roles, as well as those that influence criminal justice policy and legislation.

2. Teaches you to be a creative problem solver

One problem can have multiple solutions—and the solution can depend upon many different factors. A rural community may have different policing needs than an urban one, and rehabilitation methods that work with one age group may not be as effective with another. That is where critical thinking and creative problem-solving is needed. A master’s degree program in criminal justice takes you beyond basic knowledge and technical skills to teach you how to evaluate different viewpoints, weigh your options and develop solutions that work, even if they’re unconventional.

3. Gives you an interdisciplinary perspective

A master of criminal justice degree also helps you cultivate a perspective that acknowledges and incorporates the input of the various disciplines of criminal justice, such as the judicial system, policing, counseling and rehabilitation. No area of criminal justice has ever existed in a vacuum, and especially not in the 21st century, where advances in technology have enabled different departments to collaborate and share information more productively than ever before. For example, those working in prisons increasingly require knowledge of psychological principles and best practices for convict rehabilitation.

4. Provides the research backing you need

There are no clear-cut answers in life—and especially in the field of criminal justice. Every day, professionals dig through evidence, consider complex ethical situations and weigh the pros and cons of certain courses of actions. One decision can impact an entire society or nation in big ways, and that is why criminal justice professionals need extensive knowledge within the field. And even on a micro level, conflicts of interest and other ethical dilemmas can impact the protection of the welfare of the public. A master’s degree program in criminal justice exposes you to a range of theories and case studies that help you develop the mindset and knowledge needed to make tough calls on the job.

5. Prepares you to deal with modern issues

That said, criminal justice cannot exist in the past—it needs to acknowledge current issues and controversies. The field of criminal justice today is very different from the one of just 10 years ago. Through studying for your master’s, you learn about the pressing problems facing peace and justice in the 21st century, from terrorism to privacy issues. Cybersecurity, for example, is one major area that professionals will need to be familiar with. Individuals with data security and digital forensics experience are in high demand, especially as organizations and individuals become more globally connected and deal with larger amounts of information than ever before.

6. Increases your salary

While your career opportunities and expertise grow, so does your salary. Having a master’s degree can help you make more money over your lifetime—an estimated $400,000 more compared to just having a bachelor’s degree alone, according to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau. You can also be a more competitive candidate for criminal justice positions with a higher salary with a master’s degree. For example, wages for data security positions, in particular, are expected to rise, with information security analysts already receiving a median salary of $90,120, and cybersecurity engineers earning a median salary of $96,759, according to data from PayScale. Police chiefs can command salaries exceeding $100,000, primarily if they have extensive experience and a master’s degree.

7. Helps you specialize

Through focusing on a specific concentration of study in a master’s program, you can help get the preparation needed to develop a fruitful career in a specialization. Forensic psychologist, victims advocate, youth correctional counselor, emergency management director and crime lab analyst are just a sample of the many rewarding paths that CJ professionals can take.

8. Fits into your life

When you choose to complete a master’s degree program in criminal justice online, you can complete coursework when it is convenient for you, giving you ultimate flexibility. And if you are a currently working professional or have family or other obligations, you can continue to pursue your education and advance your career without sacrificing other duties.

9. Connects you with rewarding networks

You are not just undertaking the master’s degree journey alone—you are joining an inspiring network of fellow students, faculty and industry professionals who can empower your career development. With access to accomplished professors, successful alumni, honor societies and partnerships with local and federal criminal justice agencies, an advanced education makes you part of an inspiring community dedicated to success.

10. Boosts your confidence

A healthy, happy society depends on the experience and skills of those protecting peace and justice. Rise to the occasion with the knowledge and preparation gained from a master’s degree, and excel in your position with the confidence that you know your stuff.

There are many reasons to get your master’s in criminal justice – and they all can help you reach your true potential in the field.