“Online programs seem to work for people who can sit down and teach themselves their assigned material without having a professor explain each main idea. If a student has trouble with that, then I would suggest they enroll in a traditional program.”
Why did you choose to pursue an online masters degree in criminal justice from Washburn University?
The first reason I chose to pursue an online masters degree in criminal justice at Washburn University is because I love studying at Washburn. I earned my bachelors degree there and had a great experience with the criminal justice department and my advisors. When I was applying to graduate school, I considered 2 other schools besides Washburn, but I felt more comfortable continuing my education at Washburn.
Criminal justice is a field that attempts to understand and prevent criminal behavior. It is a field that I grew up with, since both of my parents work within it, so it seemed like a natural choice for me. This field interests me because it is always changing. As an undergraduate student, I was actually an accounting major for 3 years before I switched to the criminal justice major.
I chose to study online because Washburn University is located in Topeka, Kansas, and I don't live there. As an undergraduate student at Washburn University, I took a lot of my classes online to accommodate my full-time job. I knew what the online classes would be like and knew that I could complete my assignments on time.
How did you prepare yourself for going to graduate school online?
When I decided to return to school for a masters degree in criminal justice, I didn't have very much time to prepare and submit an application. I hadn't planned on enrolling in a masters degree program immediately after earning my bachelors degree, but I had trouble finding a job, so I inquired about going back to school.
As an undergraduate student at Washburn University, I had a great relationship with my advisor and the faculty in the criminal justice department. Because of our good relationship, the department agreed to accept my graduate school application late, and within a month I started the graduate program.
For my application, I submitted an application form and a short personal statement. The personal statement included why I thought I should be admitted to the program and what criminal justice means to me. I didn't have to take the GRE because I met the minimum GPA requirement. It took me about 2 days to complete the application.
Because I had already taken a number of my undergraduate classes online, I didn't have to buy a computer or any of the software the school requires. The only things I had to buy were books.
What tips do you have for a student who is applying to study criminal justice online at Washburn University?
My biggest tip for a student who is applying for Washburn University's online criminal justice graduate program is to make sure they can handle their time appropriately. Students in online programs need to be diligent about scheduling their time and not waiting until a deadline is a week away before starting a project or essay.
Online programs seem to work for people who can sit down and teach themselves their assigned material without having a professor explain each main idea. If a student has trouble with that, then I would suggest they enroll in a traditional program.
Can you describe your online criminal masters program?
The online criminal justice masters program at Washburn University takes between 2 and 3 years to complete. The completion time depends on whether or not an individual takes a full load of courses each term and if they choose to complete a thesis.
The classes I have taken so far teach students different theories of criminal justice and how to manage the system. The most useful class I took is required for both undergraduate and graduate students and is about the various research methods used in criminal justice. I think this class will be especially helpful when I begin my thesis.
The least useful class I have taken is forensic science, but that is only because it is not the area in which I will focus. Each term, there are a variety of elective courses that focus on different areas of specialization. I would recommend that students take as many of these as possible.
The faculty in the criminal justice department is the program's biggest strength. They have professional experience working in the criminal justice field and are very good about letting you know where you can improve. Professors are reliable and available for any questions you might have about the class or the program. The only weakness I have found in the program is the lack of face-to-face interaction, but that is a weakness for most online programs.
How is your masters degree curriculum in criminal justice presented?
The masters degree curriculum for criminal justice is presented through reading assignments, PowerPoint presentations, and instructors' notes. After you complete the readings and watch the PowerPoint presentation, you have to respond to discussion questions online. These responses are graded as assignments.
Most of the classes we take in the masters program present theories on criminal justice and methods of managing the sub-systems that make up the criminal justice field. The elective classes available usually represent special areas within criminal justice such as forensic science. I would suggest that students take any classes associated with research and methods of research.
Does your program have an internship or residency requirement? If yes, can you describe your experience?
The masters in criminal justice program does not have a residency requirement, nor does it offer the chance for students to intern. However, the bachelors degree program had a 240-hour internship requirement. My internship experience was great because it gave me a lot of hands-on experience, which can be more beneficial than the information you find in a textbook.
What kinds of resources does Washburn University provide to support you as an online masters student?
Washburn University provides a lot of resources to their online masters degree students, but I think the best resource is the faculty. They provide each student with individual attention and are always prepared to answer students' questions. The school also provides their online masters students with online databases that are helpful when students are writing research papers.
What is a typical day like for you as an online masters student?
A typical day for me as an online student involves 2 to 3 hours of reading, writing papers, and completing assignments. So far, most of my assignments have been reading assignments and discussion question responses. I am enrolled full time in the masters program and I also work, but I still have quite a bit of free time.
Do you have any study tips that would help other online students to succeed?
The best study tip that I can give to online students to help them succeed is to make sure they understand their reading assignments. It isn't enough to complete a reading assignment. Students have to understand what the assignment is about. I suggest students take notes and highlight important ideas when they are reading. I would also suggest that students try to exercise good time-management skills. If you schedule your time carefully and are aware of your deadlines, you will accomplish a lot more.
How much does your online masters degree in criminal justice cost?
The tuition for an online masters degree program at Washburn University is calculated based on the number of credits you take. I think it is about $350 per credit. The number of credits you take depends on whether you choose the thesis or non-thesis option.
I have to pay for the books assigned in the masters degree classes, but I don't have to pay for the research costs of my thesis. The criminal justice department at Washburn University helps their graduate students with the costs of research because they know it can become expensive.
How are you funding your graduate degree at Washburn University?
I am funding my graduate studies through financial aid and out of my pocket. I work as well as attend school full time so I have an income. Washburn University offers financial aid, scholarships, and perhaps 1 or 2 teaching assistantships. The university is small, so I don't think they employ as many graduate teaching assistants as do larger schools.
How do you intend to use your online masters degree in criminal justice in your career?
I am earning an online masters degree in criminal justice for job security more than anything else. I don't think a bachelors degree is as competitive as it used to be, so I am earning a masters degree to stand out from other job candidates. I know I want to work in the criminal justice field, so a masters degree is worth the investment.
There are several professions that someone with a criminal justice degree could enter, including probation, law enforcement, corrections, and security. In Kansas, I think a good starting salary in criminal justice is $32,000 per year. It might be less for law enforcement. The job prospects are fair in criminal justice, but they are better in law enforcement than in the government.
If someone wanted to move on from earning a masters degree and earn a PhD in criminal justice, they could probably find employment teaching at a university. As far as working within the criminal justice system, I don't know how much good a PhD would do for someone.
Do you think that earning your masters degree online will have an effect on your career options?
I think that earning my masters degree online will have a positive effect on my career options. The masters degree will prove that I put in the extra effort to earn an advanced degree. Earning a degree online shows how independent and disciplined I am.
If you could begin your program again, is there anything you would do differently about pursuing your online masters degree at Washburn University?
If I could begin the program again, I wouldn't change anything about earning my degree online or earning it at Washburn University. I knew what online learning was like when I enrolled and I knew that the school provided a good education, so I had a good understanding of what the masters degree program would be like when I signed up for it.
What should a student know about getting a masters degree in criminal justice online?
Students should know that earning a masters degree in criminal justice online involves a lot of reading and an understanding of several theories that are difficult to grasp. If students are given the opportunity to participate in an internship, they should absolutely take it.