CRIMJ student

Master of Professional Studies in
Criminal Justice Policy and Administration

Program summary

Learn to evaluate criminal justice policies and build your knowledge of the criminal justice system and criminal behavior. This online master's degree program can help you stand out among your peers in a field where educated professionals are in increasingly high demand.

Application deadline

Apply by July 31 to start August 21

Credits and costs

30 Credits $1,007 per credit

Prepare for Your Future in Criminal Justice Administration and Leadership

Criminal justice organizations are becoming increasingly evidence-based in their practices and administration. This shift creates a growing need to hire educated professionals with sound, in-depth knowledge of the criminal justice system and criminal behavior, coupled with an understanding of the research methods necessary to evaluate criminal justice policies and practices at the local, state, and national levels. 

Penn State's Online Master of Criminal Justice Policy and Administration

In this program, you will study with highly regarded faculty from the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts' Department of Sociology and Criminology and the Penn State Harrisburg School of Public Affairs. Your diploma will look no different than those earned by students on our physical campus. And you will be part of a Penn State community that includes the largest dues-paying alumni network in the world.  

What You Can Expect to Learn

Upon graduation from this program, you should be able to:

  • describe and summarize crime rates, trends, and patterns, and apply foundational knowledge of criminological theories devoted to explaining crime   
  • discuss organizational structure, processes, and challenges of criminal justice institutions, and analyze past and current criminal justice policies and evidence-based practices
  • apply the foundations of contemporary ethical practices and effective leadership in the criminal justice profession
  • employ advanced knowledge in social science research and applied statistical methods, specifically focused on criminal justice issues
  • demonstrate advanced knowledge of criminal procedure

Who Should Apply for the Criminal Justice Master's Degree Online?

If you're looking for advancement in your current criminal justice career or a change to an altogether new field, a highly respected Master of Professional Studies in Criminal Justice Policy and Administration could not only provide you with the skills and knowledge you need but also help you stand out among your peers.

This master's degree is also part of an Integrated Undergraduate/Graduate program (IUG) that provides undergraduate criminology students the opportunity to earn both a bachelor's degree and master's degree in approximately five years. Academically strong students who are pursuing their B.S. or B.A. in Criminology (CRIM) at University Park would typically apply to the online graduate program during the semester in which they will complete 60 credits. Current undergraduate students interested in the IUG pathway can email the program office for more details.

Information for Military and Veterans

Are you a member of the military, a veteran, or a military spouse? Please visit our military website for additional information regarding financial aid, transfer credits, or application instructions. 


Penn State's 30-credit online Master of Professional Studies in Criminal Justice Policy and Administration program emphasizes social science perspectives in the study of criminal justice. The degree consists of 18 credits of core courses and allows you to choose from a number of electives to customize your learning to your interests and career goals. You will finish your education with a capstone course, the opportunity to apply your newfound knowledge to a project selected by you and your faculty adviser.

Required Courses (18 credits)

  • 3

    The course presents an overview of key issues in theory and research on each major sector of the criminal justice system — policing, prosecution, criminal defense, courts, and corrections.

  • 3

    This course provides a survey of social science theories of criminal behavior at the individual and group levels.

  • 3

    This course provides a survey of social science research methods, applied to the study of criminal justice topics and the evaluation of criminal justice policies.

  • 3

    This course provides a survey of criminal procedure and related constitutional law.

  • 3

    This course provides a survey of ethical systems and theories.

  • 3

    The purpose of this course is to teach the student the theory behind a particular statistical technique and its appropriate use.

Electives (select 9 credits)

You will have the opportunity to tailor your program of study to your interests by choosing from a list of elective courses. The elective courses will be chosen in consultation with your adviser.

  • 3

    This course focuses on the significance of race, class, and ethnicity to criminal justice processing and criminal offending.

  • 3

    Relates organizational and public policy management approaches to police, courts, and correctional institutions.

  • 3

    Principles of administration as they relate to a police organization and policy development.

  • 3

    Control and treatment of offenders in the community, probation and parole organizations, diversion programs, innovative sentences, supervision techniques.

  • 3

    This course studies how police organizations from different countries communicate, cooperate, and collaborate with each other in order to respond to global crime threats.

  • 3

    This course is about transnational crime activities happening around the world.

  • 3

    This course aims to understand the role of law enforcement in counterterrorism by analyzing the challenges, issues, and difficulties in policing global terrorism.

  • 3

    This course is an examination of theory, research, and policy involving courts and their sentencing decisions.

  • 3

    Introduction to the analysis of public policy within its organizational and political contexts, including an emphasis on an economic perspective.

  • 3

    Development of basic concepts and issues in public administration; administrative theory and public policy processes.

  • 3

    The origins of judicial review, landmark decisions of the Supreme Court, and their impact on the American form of government.

  • 3

    Analysis of the roles, procedures, and policies characterizing the American legal system.

  • 3

    Advanced analysis of public policy, emphasizing policy evaluation and the factors that determine policy success and failure.

  • 3

    Students will examine the social and psychological processes underlying leadership in organizations.

Culminating Experience (3 credits)

The culminating capstone experience provides you with an opportunity to apply your course knowledge to a project. You will work with your faculty adviser to mutually determine the choice of project topic and its exact form. For example, the capstone experience could be an academic research project, an evidence-based policy evaluation, or the development of a program.

You will be expected to utilize theories, literature, and methods acquired during other courses in the online criminal justice policy and administration degree program. The report will be formally presented to peers in the program and faculty members at the end of the semester (i.e., final presentation via videoconference). The capstone report must be approved by the faculty adviser to meet course requirements. 

  • 3

    During their final semester the student will work closely with a faculty adviser (selected to match the student on substantive and/or methodological expertise) on a self-selected criminal justice and policy administration-related project.

Course Availability

If you're ready to see when your courses will be offered, visit our public LionPATH course search (opens in new window) to start planning ahead.

Costs and Financial Aid

Graduate Tuition

Graduate tuition is calculated based on the number of credits for which you register. Tuition is due shortly after each semester begins and rates are assessed every semester of enrollment.

2022–23 Academic Year Rates

How many credits do you plan to take per semester? Cost
11 or fewer $1,007 per credit
12 or more $12,082 per semester

Financial Aid and Military Benefits

Some students may qualify for financial aid. Take the time to research financial aid, scholarships, and payment options as you prepare to apply. Military service members, veterans, and their spouses or dependents should explore these potential military education benefits and financial aid opportunities, as well.

How to Apply

Deadlines and Important Dates

We must receive your completed degree application, including all application materials, by the following deadlines:

  • Fall DeadlineApply by July 31 to start August 21
  • Spring DeadlineApply by October 31 to start January 8
  • Summer DeadlineApply by March 31, 2024, to start May 13, 2024

Decisions will follow shortly after these semester deadlines.

Admissions Help

For Integrated Undergraduate/Graduate (IUG) Program Candidates: Academically superior undergraduate criminology students who want to be considered for the IUG program will need to apply and be accepted to both the Graduate School and IUG program. Please contact the program office to better understand the special admissions requirements associated with the program. 

Admission Requirements 

For admission to the Graduate School, an applicant must hold either (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.

What You Need

Applications are submitted electronically and include a nonrefundable application fee.

You will need to upload the following items as part of your application:

A copy of an official transcript from each institution attended, regardless of the number of credits or semesters completed. Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. Penn State alumni do not need to request transcripts for credits earned at Penn State, but must list Penn State as part of your academic history. Upon admission and your acceptance of admission, you will be asked to send an additional official transcript. You will receive instructions at that time.

Statement of Purpose — A two- to three-page essay articulating career and educational goals that demonstrate the student's written communication skills and basic statistical knowledge.

Résumé — a current curriculum vitae (vita) or résumé.

References (3) — You will need to initiate the process through the online application by entering names, email addresses, and mailing addresses of references. Upon submission of your application, an email will be sent to each recommender requesting they complete a brief online recommendation regarding your commitment for success in an online program. Please inform all recommenders that they must submit the form in order for your application to be complete.  

GRE test scores are not required.

English Proficiency — The language of instruction at Penn State is English. With some exceptions, international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Minimum test scores and exceptions are found in the English Proficiency section on the Graduate School's "Requirements for Graduate Admission" page. Visit the TOEFL website for testing information. Penn State's institutional code is 2660.

Start Your Application

You can begin your online application at any time. Your progress within the online application system will be saved as you go, allowing you to return at any point as you gather additional information and required materials.

Begin the graduate school application

  • Select "Degree Admission" as the enrollment type
  • Choose "World Campus" as the campus
  • Select "Criminal Justice Policy and Administration" as the major

Checking Your Status

You can check the status of your application by using the same login information established for the online application form.

Technical Requirements 

Review the technical requirements for this degree program.

Ready to Learn More?

Get the resources you need to make informed decisions about your education. Request information on this program and other programs of interest by completing this form.

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Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State master's degree?

Apply by July 31 to start August 21. How to Apply

Advance Your Career

A woman in a suit holding documents outside of a court building

You can use the knowledge gained from this program and the support of Penn State career resources to pursue careers in a variety of fields, depending on your goals.

Job Titles Related to This Degree

The following roles are often held by people with this type of degree:

  • Correctional Counselor
  • Criminalist
  • Probation and Parole Officer
  • Public Safety Director

Employment Outlook for Occupational Fields Related to This Degree

Estimates of employment growth and total employment are provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and are subject to change. While these occupations are often pursued by graduates with this degree, individual outcomes may vary depending on a variety of factors. Penn State World Campus cannot guarantee employment in a given occupation.

Emergency Management Directors

employment growth (10 years)
total employment

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

employment growth (10 years)
total employment

Detectives and Criminal Investigators

employment growth (10 years)
total employment

Excel as a Criminal Justice Professional

As a graduate of this program, you can be qualified to bring about change in any number of criminal justice or legal organizations in the public sector, including:

  • state departments of corrections
  • state sentencing commissions and parole boards
  • local, county, and state law enforcement, especially in the administration sector
  • local court administration, especially drug, DUI, and restorative justice courts
  • local, probation, parole, and community corrections agencies
  • public and private offender treatment agencies
  • state policy agencies focused on criminal justice (e.g., the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and similar agencies in other states)

Career Services to Set You Up for Success

Student having a virtual meeting on a laptop with a career counselor

From the day you're accepted as a student, you can access resources and tools provided by Penn State World Campus Career Services to further your career. These resources are beneficial whether you're searching for a job or advancing in an established career.

  • Opportunities to connect with employers
  • Career counselor/coach support
  • Occupation and salary information
  • Internships
  • Graduate school resources 

Earn a Valuable Credential along the Way

A figure walking on a path that includes a certificate part of the way through their progress

Show mastery of specific subjects before your degree is complete. Thanks to shared courses across programs, students can often earn a certificate along with their degree in less time than if they earned them separately.

Certificate Program Related to This Degree

The following certificate can be earned while completing this degree program:

Build the knowledge and skill base needed to succeed in the international security field. Courses from the 9-credit Graduate Certificate in Global Justice and Security can be applied to a Master of Professional Studies in Criminal Justice Policy and Administration.

Learn more about the Graduate Certificate in Global Justice and Security  

Contact Us

To learn more about the Master of Professional Studies in Criminal Justice Policy and Administration, offered in partnership with Penn State's College of the Liberal Arts
— Department of Sociology and Criminology, and the Penn State Harrisburg School of Public Affairs, please contact:

World Campus Admissions Counselors
Phone: 814-863-5386
Email: [email protected]


  • Eileen M. Ahlin

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Maryland, College Park
    • Degree
      M.A., Sociology, George Mason University
    • Degree
      B.A., Administration of Justice and Sociology, Penn State

    Dr. Eileen M. Ahlin is an associate professor of criminal justice in the School of Public Affairs at Penn State Harrisburg. She joined the faculty in 2013 after 15 years with a private corporation, where she conducted criminal justice research at the federal, state, and local levels. Her teaching and research interests include violence, neighborhood effects, corrections, research methods, and criminological theory.

  • Jennifer Gibbs

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Maryland, College Park
    • Degree
      Certificate, University Teaching and Learning, University of Maryland, College Park
    • Degree
      M.S., Criminal Justice Administration, Niagara University
    • Degree
      B.A., Psychology, Keuka College

    Dr. Jennifer Gibbs' research interests focus on policing topics, including violence against police, public attitudes toward police, diversity in recruitment and retention, and terrorism. Her work on social distance and attitudes toward police, co-authored with Dr. Jonathan Lee, received recognition in the 2016 Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence. At Penn State World Campus, Dr. Gibbs typically teaches courses on policing (CRIMJ 210: Policing in America; CRIMJ 408: Police Administration) and ethics (CRIMJ 465: Ethics in Criminal Justice).

  • Ahmet Guler

    Ph.D., Public Administration and Policy, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, University at Albany

    Dr. Ahmet Guler, associate teaching professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at Penn State, is director of graduate studies in criminal justice policy and administration. His research focuses on criminal justice policy, policing, terrorism, criminal justice reform, information technology in criminal justice, and transnational crime.

  • Don Hummer

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Social Science-Criminal Justice, Michigan State University
    • Degree
      M.S., Criminal Justice, Shippensburg University
    • Degree
      B.S., Sociology/Anthropology, Elizabethtown College

    Dr. Don Hummer is co-author/editor of The Culture of Prison ViolenceHandbook of Police Administration, and the forthcoming The Technology Revolution in Criminal Justice. His work, focused primarily on offender treatment and control, has appeared in peer-reviewed outlets such as Aggression and Violent BehaviorProbation Journal, Law & Policy, and The Prison Journal.

  • Jonathan Lee

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Criminology, Sam Houston State University
    • Degree
      M.A., Criminal Justice, Penn State
    • Degree
      B.A., Economics, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

    Dr. Jonathan Lee is an associate professor of criminal justice at Penn State Harrisburg's School of Public Affairs. He specializes in quantitative research on sociology and psychology of deviance, police-public relations, and police decision-making. He is associate editor of International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, a consultant to Dauphin County DA's Office and police agencies, and principal investigator of criminal justice projects funded by U.S. Department of Justice.

  • Siyu Liu

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Criminal Justice, University at Albany (SUNY)
    • Degree
      M.A., Criminal Justice, University at Albany (SUNY)
    • Degree
      B.A., Biomedical English, Peking University Health Science Center
    • Degree
      B.S., Psychology, Peking University

    Dr. Siyu Liu specializes in quantitative research on the topic of criminal desistance, police legitimacy and the Forth Amendment process, and the death penalty in China. Dr. Liu is an active member of the Association of Chinese Criminology and Criminal Justice based in the U.S. and has been presenting her research projects in more than eight prestigious universities in China.

  • Jennifer L. Schally

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Sociology, University of Tennessee
    • Degree
      M.A., Community Psychology and Social Change, Penn State
    • Degree
      B.S., Sociology, Penn State

    Dr. Jennifer L. Schally joined the faculty at Penn State Harrisburg in 2014 after earning her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Tennessee. Her research interests are mainly in green criminology and crimes by the powerful, including harms to nonhuman animals. She regularly teaches courses in criminology and race and crime. Dr. Schally’s work has appeared in the Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, the American Journal of Community Psychology, and the Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Her book, Legitimizing Corporate Harm: The Discourse of Agribusiness, was published by Palgrave in 2018.

  • Emily R. Strohacker

    Ph.D., Sociology, University of Central Florida

    Dr. Emily Strohacker joined the School of Public Affairs at Penn State Harrisburg in August 2017 as an assistant professor of criminal justice. Her areas of research interest include criminology, deviance, and victimology, specifically in the areas of cyber victimization and sexual victimization. She regularly teaches courses in victimology, research methods, and criminology. Her published works have appeared in Crime & Delinquency, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, and Police Quarterly.

  • Jeffrey T. Ulmer

    Ph.D., Sociology, Penn State

    Dr. Jeffery T. Ulmer is a professor of sociology and criminology at Penn State, and serves as associate department head. His work spans such topics as courts, criminal case processing, sentencing, and corrections, as well as criminological theory, religion and crime, and violent crime. 

Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State master's degree?

Apply by July 31 to start August 21. How to Apply