Criminal justice involves the process of enforcing laws as well as assigning and carrying out penalties for those who break the law. While undergraduate degrees examine the logistical and procedural side of the criminal justice system, graduate programs examine issues of crime and justice from a theoretical and methodological perspective. A Ph.D, in particular, explores the discipline in depth, with an emphasis on research, analysis, and critical thinking; ultimately working towards a better understanding of why crime happens and how to effectively promote justice.
Why a Ph.D. Degree?
A Ph.D. in criminal justice is a considerable undertaking, as it requires several years of independent research in order to be completed. However, it is the degree level for you if you want a career in academic research and teaching in the criminal justice discipline. A master’s also takes an academic approach to the criminal justice system, but is designed to inform your professional career in the field. In order to work in academia, you will need a Ph.D. If you excel academically, have strong attention to detail and a desire to research solutions to problems in the criminal justice system, a Ph.D. will provide the knowledge as well as the necessary research and analytical skills.
Inside a Criminal Justice Ph.D. Degree Program
A Ph.D. program in criminal justice includes roughly 30 to 60 hours of coursework. It can take at least two to three years to complete such requirements before embarking on full-time research for the doctoral thesis. Once the doctoral thesis is complete and approved by the review committee, you will receive your degree. However, the length of time it takes, in total, to complete a Ph.D. depends upon when the doctoral thesis is complete.
The major courses in a criminal justice Ph.D. are advanced courses that focus mainly on theory and policy analysis, as well as statistical analysis and research methods. Topics likely covered include criminological theory and criminal justice policy. In online Ph.D. degrees in criminal justice, course lectures are often delivered through video conferencing ― some programs allow you to complete courses at any time of day, dubbed asynchronous learning, for added flexibility.
What’s Next for Criminal Justice Ph.D. Degree Holders?
With an online PhD in criminal justice, you are ready for a career in the academic world as a researcher and university professor. Many universities require faculty candidates to have a doctoral degree and publishing credits, so a doctorate is your best bet if academia is your ultimate goal. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the job outlook for university professors is growing at an average pace. However, please note that academia is a highly competitive field and job opportunities may vary.