What Types of Courses are Required in a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice Program?

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Updated April 24, 2021

Anyone who is planning to study for a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice should first take time to review what courses they will be required to complete their doctorate. Doctoral degree programs within the vast discipline will help to prepare professionals who currently work in the field and would like a higher-level position where research is the main focus. Many students wind up becoming CIA Analysts, Crime Analysts, Criminal Investigators, and FBI Agents with their doctoral degrees. Here are the courses that all doctoral students must complete to successfully earn a degree:

Courses That Are Commonly Required for a Doctorate

In a Bachelor's degree program, students will learn introductory skills so they are ready to enter into the law enforcement world with at least some knowledge. A Bachelor's degree isn't always needed, but it will always hold value in the recruiting process. Those who love the field of law, justice, and social challenges may move on to study for a Master's.

The Master's degree will dive deeper into subject areas that were already reviewed in the major curriculum as an undergrad. Once a student possesses a Master's degree, they can then decide if earning a Ph.D. is the right next step. Doctoral programs are most focused on practice-oriented curriculum. Other coursework will be dedicated to research and advanced policy.

Coursework That Is Commonly Required for a Doctorate

Once a student has their Master's degree, it takes approximately 4 years for all full-time students to earn their doctorate. Students with a Bachelor's degree may be able to find bridge programs to earn their doctorate, however, it will still take 5 to 6 years at a full-time status to graduate. Traditional doctoral programs will require students to take the following curriculum to meet the curriculum requirements:

  • Public Safety Leadership
  • Leadership Theory
  • Justice Leadership and Management Theory
  • Philosophy of Justice, Law and Social Control
  • Forecasting and Data Interpretation
  • Racial and Ethnic Considerations in Law Enforcement
  • Advanced Research and Evaluation
  • Quantitative Public Service Research Methods
  • Qualitative Public Service Research Methods

Completion Requirements May Vary

When prospective doctoral students are looking for the right program to enter, they should always focus on accredited programs that are evaluated and approved by certifying agencies like ACJS. To earn accreditation, a program must meet certain requirements. These typically include:

  • Minimal number of foundation coursework
  • 25 credits of core coursework
  • 15 credits of specialization coursework
  • 15 credits of foundation research
  • 5 credits of advanced research
  • 20 credits for the dissertation

Anyone who is an aspiring criminologist should consider first returning to school to earn their doctorate degree. There are a variety of research positions and other positions in policy development that require this level of academic attainment. Since there is so much competition in the field, having a doctorate when it is not required can give candidates a leg up in the recruitment process. Compare different Ph.D. programs focused on criminal justice curriculum and start preparing for a professional change.

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