Guide to Getting Your Online Ph.D. in Criminal Justice

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Why a PhD in Criminal Justice?

Are you interested in law and seeing it enforced? If so, then a criminal justice (CJ) degree is definitely for you! Of course, if you are searching for information about getting your online PhD in the field, then you already know that. A good friend of mine just recently graduated from a college in Vermont with his master’s, and when I joked at his graduation about getting his doctorate, he laughed and said, “No Way!”

For many people, a master’s degree in CJ or even a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for their desired jobs; however, many careers offer job advancement and/or job incentive bonuses for pursuing another degree.

Some of the jobs that CJ covers include: ATF agent, criminalist, private security, bailiff, criminologist, police detective, CIA agent, customs agent, police officer, coast guard, DEA agent, probation officer, compliance officer, FBI agent, private investigator, corrections officer, forensic psychologist, secret service, court reporter, forensic science sheriff, court clerk, INS agent, US Marshall, crime scene investigator, and paralegal.

Universities That Offer the Degree

Walden University: Walden’s program requires 134 quarter credit hours. 84 of these credit hours are in core and specialized knowledge areas, and 30 credits are part of your dissertation and oral presentation. There is a minimum of 10 quarters of enrollment. Like all PhD programs, it can take several years to finish (often much longer than a master’s program). For those who do not have their master’s degree in criminal justice, there is the requirement to take an additional 42 credits (9 courses). For the foundation research sequence, you are required to attend 12 hours in person for a meeting. If traveling is difficult for you for any reason, you need to consider this before enrolling.

Capella University: Capella’s doctorate program includes online course work, residencies, and research. From my counting, they require 92 credits (22 courses) including the dissertation. 20 credits (4 courses) are comprised of four quarters of your dissertation. There is also an additional 7 required electives that you must also take as well. You would also need to take three five-day residential colloquia at specific stages in your program. The colloquia are offered in four different regions across the continental US. Before July 1st, the colloquia costs $1,460 per week, and after July 1st it costs $1,495 per week. That is the cost of the events not your plane ticket, so be aware of this when considering enrollment in Capella.

University of the Rockies: The University of the Rockies is a lesser known university, but this does not mean it doesn’t have a worthwhile program! The requirements are 62-68 credits. You must also attend in-residence weekends in Colorado Springs for three courses. You would also complete 180 hours of practicum and defend your dissertation (like all other programs). The school also requires you maintain a 3.0 GPA average, which seems standard for most PhD programs. Besides their in-residence weekends, what also makes them different is that their online courses are accelerated (6 weeks!). If you can make the trips to Colorado Springs, then you might want to check out this university!

What You’ll Take Away

It is virtually impossible to ascertain what your earning potential will be when you add a PhD to your resume. After all, it is completely dependent on your employer and whether s/he gives incentives or opportunities for job advancement. That being said, there are some facts and figures that may help you get an idea of what people can potentially earn with a criminal justice degree, although not necessarily a doctorate. Please keep in mind that salaries will vary depending on where you live and the employer.

Payscale compares the different salaries of jobs that a criminal justice degree will offer you. It does not show you the difference between a bachelor’s, master’s, or a doctorate, however. Here is a list of salaries for some of the criminal justice jobs to give you a sense of the higher paying fields:

  • Police Officer: $45,000
  • Correction Officer: $32,000
  • Director of Security: $63,000
  • Security Manager: $47,000
  • Detective/Criminal Investigator: $60,000
  • Probation Officer: $36,000.