What Are the Prerequisites for a Master’s in Criminal Justice?

Many master’s in criminal justice degrees come with certain prerequisite requirements and academic expectations. Most of these degree programs expect students to have an undergraduate degree or possess professional experience in a related field.

criminal justice prerequisites

The Most Common Prerequisite

Anyone who hasn’t taken criminal justice prerequisites will still be encouraged to apply and be admitted to the degree program. These students may need to take some of the prerequisite courses before they start graduate courses or during the summer before they begin graduate study.

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The most common prerequisite class will be something like Introduction to Criminal Justice or Criminal Justice 101. This course will introduce the basics of criminology and criminal justice in the United States. Some colleges allow students to waive this prerequisite requirement by taking a qualifying exam to demonstrate their understanding of the criminal justice system. Some degree programs may require students to have taken classes related to law, communication, the legal system or law enforcement.

Other Common Program Prerequisites

Some graduate-level criminal justice programs may require students to take an undergraduate-level course in theoretical criminology before they can study advanced criminological theory. Criminology research and statistics classes may sometimes only be taken if the student has already completed the equivalent undergraduate-level coursework. These are usually a social scientific course in fields like sociology, psychology or political science.

Not all undergraduate courses may be accepted for certain criminal justice classes. While an advanced statistics class from a math teacher does teach important knowledge, it lacks the crucial elements found in criminology research. Some graduate-level criminal justice programs expect students to have an accredited bachelor’s degree in a related social science field. They may also expect students to submit GRE or GMAT scores.

Criminal Justice Admissions Requirements

Most degree programs will require a minimum GPA of 2.5 to 3.0 for admission into their graduate programs. Selective universities with strong reputations will most likely only accept students who have earned a GPA of 3.0 or higher. These universities may conditionally admit students with lower GPAs into their master’s program, but they must first pass an admissions committee interview and submit strong evidence that they will succeed in the graduate program. Most graduate degree programs require students to submit two letters of recommendation from former professors or supervisors who can discuss the student’s writing, research and analytical skills. Resumes should succinctly describe academic achievements, such as honors and awards, as well as extracurricular activities, such as internships and volunteer experiences.

Letters of Intent

Almost all graduate programs require students to submit a letter of intent that answers certain academic questions and establishes certain academic goals. These include the motivation to apply for a graduate degree in criminal justice and the expected career outcomes after the degree is completed. Most letters of intent require the student to expound on what relevant research and practical experiences qualify them for admission. Students should include their areas of interest related to criminal justice, such as a family member who is a law enforcement or personal experience as a service member of the U.S. military.

When submitting a letter of intent for a Master’s in Criminal Justice program, be sure to include evidence of research potential. This could include writing samples where applicants synthesize scholarly research or examine literature reviews.

Bambi Majumdar

Melissa Anderson

Julie McCaulley