Graduate Program

The Division of Criminology and Criminal Justice offers a program of study designed to provide students a broad-based understanding of the criminal justice system and society’s response to crime. A major goal of the program is to develop understanding of the applied and theoretical aspects of crime and criminal justice.

The program provides students with a high degree of flexibility and allows students to tailor the program to match their own career interests. Core coursework consists of classes in the theoretical foundations of criminology and criminal justice, methodology, and criminal justice policy analysis.

Students are required to develop a specialization in a substantive area outside of the Division of Criminology and Criminal Justice. In consultation with an adviser, students identify and complete a minimum of four classes, thereby creating a specialty that is unique for each student. Potential specialization fields include public management, political science, urban studies, and geographic information systems.

Criminology and criminal justice graduate courses also support other PSU degree programs, such as the Master of Public Administration, Master of Public Policy, Master of Urban Studies, Ph.D. in Urban Studies, and Ph.D. in Public Affairs and Policy.

Admission Requirements

Criminology and Criminal Justice M.S

Criminology and Criminal Justice M.S

Degree requirements

All candidates for a master’s degree must complete 50-54 graduate credits distributed as follows:

  1. 20 credit hours must be taken in the substantive core.
  2. A minimum of four classes totaling 12-16 credit hours in a specialization field.
  3. 6 credit hours of thesis or research project work.
  4. 12 credits of elective courses.

Substantive Core


CCJ 515Theories of Crime and Justice


CCJ 520Analysis of Crime and Justice Data


CCJ 525Criminal Justice Theory


CCJ 530Criminal Justice Research


CCJ 535Criminal Justice Policy


Specialization Field

In consultation with an adviser, students will be required to develop and complete a specialization field as a part of their degree requirements. A minimum of four classes, totaling 12-16 credits must be completed in the specialization field. Students are encouraged to complete this requirement by taking courses in other academic units such as public administration, computer science, political science, or sociology. Courses may be selected from several academic units so long as they comprise a coherent field of study that will contribute to the academic development of the student.

Thesis and Portfolio

Candidates must complete either a thesis or portfolio. Both options require a final oral examination. A thesis is a scholarly work that demonstrates substantial capacity on the part of the student to engage in independent investigation. Students must submit a letter of interest and thesis prospective to the CCJ Graduate Committee for approval before proceeding with the thesis option. In order to satisfy thesis requirements, students must pose an original research question and apply appropriate methods of scholarship and methodology to that question in order to generate new knowledge. All CCJ Masters students will complete a portfolio unless they opt to be approved for a thesis. Students will create an electronic portfolio (e-portfolio) to document, evaluate, integrate, and reflect upon their learning experiences. The purposes of the portfolio are to facilitate students' learning and intellectual development, document accomplishments, and assess students' specialized skills and professional knowledge. Successful completion of the portfolio is a graduation requirement and is a public document that can be shared with members of our academic and professional community.

Elective Courses

Students must satisfactorily complete 12 credit hours of elective courses, half of which must be taken in the Division of Criminology and Criminal Justice.