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Online PhD in Criminal Justice
Criminal justice is an interdisciplinary field including the disciplines of law, sociology, political science, and psychology. An online PhD in Criminal Justice Program uses a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the behavior of crime, the nature of law and social control, the organization and management of criminal justice agencies, and the use of research and evaluation for planned change in criminal justice. Required coursework varies in subject area from basic law to advanced psychology. An online doctorate in criminal justice provides students with the tools to enter this growing and exciting field.

Online PhD in Criminal Justice Requirements

Students pursuing an online criminal justice PhD should have motivation, determination, and a solid work ethic. Online doctoral program students in criminal justice must have a passion for the law and understanding of human and deviant behavior. Confidence and leadership skills in stressful or crisis situations are also essential personal requirements for online criminal justice PhD candidates.

Most graduate students pursuing an online doctorate degree in criminal justice hold a master’s degree prior to application. Master’s degrees can vary by subject, although most are linked to the criminal justice field. Some examples of master’s degrees held by students pursuing a PhD in criminal justice from a top online college include:

  • Master of Arts, Criminal Justice
  • Master of Arts, Psychology
  • Master of Arts, Behavioral Psychology
  • Master of Business Arts, Organizational Leadership
  • Master of Applied Statistics, Criminal Justice

Many students pursuing an online PhD in criminal justice have extensive career training in addition to a master’s degree. Related work experience gives graduates a strong competitive edge in pursuing employment. These career choices include many facets of society, including police officers, probation officers, sociology researchers and lawyers.


A typical online PhD program in criminal justice takes 3-4 years to complete. During this time, students will attend lectures, work in groups with real-world case studies, and research policy and local law. The program culminates in an extensive, specialized thesis paper, which is then defended. An online PhD in criminal justice provides a wide breadth of skills and knowledge to develop educated, skilled professionals in this competitive field.

Course Information

Earning an online PhD in criminal justice requires dedication, hard work, excellent writing and communication skills and a passion for the field of criminal justice. While specialties are recommended within the program, core classes are typically required. Prerequisites may be required for statistics classes. Some common core courses include:

  • Statistics in Criminal justice: Principles of statistical techniques with emphasis upon their application in the Criminal Justice are investigated in this course.
  • Contemporary Criminal Justice Policy: This course provides an overview of the theory and research on the criminal justice system, including the police, courts, prosecution, and corrections. Special attention is given to the structural and organizational aspects of the criminal justice system and their interactions
  • Critical Issues in Law Enforcement: As a constantly changing profession, law enforcement officials are under pressure to respond appropriately in the field. Issues investigated include organizational values, recommendations for change and differing public policies.
  • Managing Public Organizations: Issues and practices in public management are examined including personnel and union labor agreements.
  • Adult Corrections: Issues affecting adult corrections, including social, economic and organizational factors are discussed in this course. An overview of best practices in relation to corrections will be investigated.

Specializations and Concentrations

As an online PhD program in criminal justice involves a variety of disciplines, students may decide to specialize in a specific field. Some specializations include:

  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Forensic Investigation
  • Applied Statistics, Criminal Justice
  • Organizational Leadership
  • Corrections
  • Fish and Game
  • Drug and Firearm Agency
  • International Security
  • Deviance Theory
  • Social Cognition
  • Institutional Process


Online PhD programs in criminal justice allow students to pursue a specialized area in which they feel passionate. Upon completion, students of online PhD in Criminal Justice programs can pursue a wide range of possible careers. Some common careers include:

  • Criminologist: Primarily involved in research and teaching, criminologists supply a great deal of knowledge to the study of policing, police administration and policy, juvenile justice, corrections, drug addiction, criminal ethnography, and victimology. Criminologists earn an average of $69,500 per year. Job growth is expected at an average rate, but far higher for those candidates with a PhD in criminal justice.
  • Supervisory Special Agent: Special agents work in the field under the direction of the FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security. Supervisory special agents oversee the work of special agents. A supervisory special agent earns an average of $78,500 per year. Job growth is expected at an average rate, and competition is keen.
  • Researcher: Research into various arms of the criminal justice field is important for researchers to make solid, informed decisions on policy and individual issues. Researchers earn an average of $52,300 per year. Job growth is expected at an average rate.
  • Sociologist, Criminal Justice Policy: A sociologist researches social issues and assists in issuing policy that affects a target population. Sociologists earn between $51,000 and $59,000 per year. Job growth is expected at a faster than average rate.
  • Educator: PhD graduates can become secondary educators, usually at a college or university, teaching undergraduates or field officers. Educators earn an average of $52,000 per year. Job growth is expected at an average rate.

Criminal justice is a highly diverse, exciting and fulfilling career field. A PhD in criminal justice from a top online school provides the practical skill and theory to pursue professional opportunities in advanced criminal justice positions.