Master in Criminology: Top 5 universities in the US
Postgraduate qualification in criminology comes with a whole world of opportunities that can even open up new career paths that do not even exist yet. Source: ULISES RUIZ / AFP

For many, an interest in crime is confined to the realms of Netflix or true crime podcasts.  For some with more of a passion, it does not have to be so. There is a whole field of study devoted to this passion and it is called criminology, the scientific study of crime from a nonlegal perspective — this includes its causes, correction, and prevention. Viewpoints of other disciplines are incorporated, such as anthropology, biology, psychology and psychiatry, economics, sociology, and statistics. The study is a branch of sociology and a Master in Criminology traditionally examines human behaviour, interaction and organisation. 

What do criminologists do? They try to understand why some people are more or less likely to engage in crimes. They analyse differences in crime rates, criminal codes between societies, as well as changes in rates and laws over time. They play the role of neutral public policy experts, either in the private or public sectors, gathering facts for government officials or corporations to draw policy conclusions.

While a bachelor’s degree is the more popular option among students who seek entry-level career options in the field, an MA or MS in criminology enhances a student’s understanding of the discipline. An MA is generally more social-focused, whereas an MSc would tend to be more theoretical and research-oriented. With this in-depth understanding, comes additional career advancement opportunities. It also serves as a stepping stone into postgraduate and doctorate-level studies in various areas such as law and forensics.

A Master in Criminology is a qualification that comes with many benefits. Apart from a demand that will never die down, specialising in the field can be an incredibly rewarding decision for those already in law enforcement, public policy or are currently thinking about joining these fields. According to US News, these are the top universities in the US for a Master in Criminology:

University of Maryland

The university’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice offers a master’s programme which was designed to give students a strong foundation in criminology and criminal justice research. Coursework covers criminological theory, the criminal justice system, research methods, and statistical methodologies. Students will have to complete a master’s thesis, completing a project from formulating the problem to designing the research, to drawing conclusions. This qualification enables graduates to pursue research positions in government and private non-profit agencies or research institutes.

University at Albany, State University of New York

SUNY’s School of Criminal Justice offers a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice programme which prepares individuals for a leadership role in the criminal justice system. Here, students gain an advanced understanding of the system and criminology. Students have the option to pursue a general track or focus your studies with a concentration in: Information Technology; Crime Causation, Prevention, and Intervention; Justice Systems; Problem Solving and Analysis. Whether prospective students wish to further their role in law enforcement or become active in public policy, this programme will allow them to acquire the knowledge they need for a successful career in areas such as policing, law, crime analysis and research. 

University of California, Irvine

UCI’s Department of Criminology, Law and Society’s online Master of Advanced Study in Criminology, Law and Society prepares professionals for leadership positions in criminal justice and legal professions. The curriculum emphasises theoretical and practical application central to crime and its control, social policy and law. 

Graduates are positioned for both career advancement and further academic endeavours. The success of this programme shows in its list of alumni, who now hold prominent positions in the FBI, Homeland Security, the DA’s office, police departments, crime units, probation and parole agencies, clerks of courts, appellate law, criminal defense law, psychology, education and social work. 

University of Cincinnati

This top-ranking university’s School of Criminal Justice offers an on-campus Master of Science in Criminal Justice programme designed to be completed in just one calendar year, if studied full-time. The programme approaches the study of crime and criminal justice from an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing insights from sociology, law, public administration and criminal justice. In addition to providing students with advanced coursework in the field, the programme emphasises the development of analytical, administrative, leadership and research skills.

Arizona State University 

The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice’s MS in Criminology and Criminal Justice is a research degree programme designed to provide students with a high level of theoretical and empirical knowledge about crime and criminal justice. This programme equips students with the advanced research skills needed for careers as criminal justice researchers, leadership roles in criminal justice and related agencies and organisations. Graduates will also be able to further their education with a doctoral programme.