Are there Doctoral Level Degrees in Criminal Justice?

Though it may not be mentioned as often as four-year or graduate degrees in the field, a criminal justice doctoral degree is actually highly useful to criminal justice experts who wish to maximize their career potential or enter into a position in academia. The doctoral program in criminal justice is starkly different from both the Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree programs in the same field. Unlike those programs, which value job experience and hands-on, practical learning experiences in a laboratory setting, the doctoral degree is centered much more on criminal justice philosophy, psychology, and research into the profession that will bode well for academics. Before considering criminal justice, or a doctoral degree in the field, consider the quirks and benefits of the doctorate in this content area.

A Focus on Criminal Justice Theory and Psychology

Doctoral students in a criminal justice program focus on the theory of crime itself, the psychology of criminals and repeat offenders, and the best ways to enact criminal justice policies. This means that many doctoral students will leave hands-on learning behind in favor of a theoretical, research-based curriculum. They will spend much of their time reading cases from past criminal justice research or professional incidents and discuss how those cases affected the profession.  They will also study how the research can be used to reform existing criminal justice policies.

Research is Another Central Focus of the Doctoral Program

Because the criminal justice doctorate is designed as a “theory” degree and revolves heavily around research, students will be expected to conduct their own research in a niche area during their time in the program. All students who take part in a Ph.D. program must choose a thesis and conduct coordinated research with one of their university’s professors, focusing on an area where criminal justice could benefit from increased focus or change. Many students research things like the impact of drug policy on criminal justice, the relationship between criminal justice departments and certain minority groups, and the relationship between crime and the laws that designate it as such.

At the conclusion of this research, students will compose a lengthy, scholarly dissertation that will be presented to a faculty panel. Most students will not be able to choose the panel to whom they present their dissertation, but they should take comfort knowing that the panel will be comprised of professors in the doctoral program. This helps to calm most students’ nerves.

Preparation for Work in Academia

The doctoral program in criminal justice is typically not pursued by professionals in the workplace, though that’s certainly not unheard of. While any advanced education can lead to easier career advancement on the job, most students who earn their Ph.D. are doing so because they wish to teach students who are enrolled in undergraduate or graduate programs. To that end, graduates from the program will be fully qualified for teaching criminal justice at major universities, and many will go on to pursue a tenure-track role at a school with a strong criminal justice program.

An Exciting Doctorate for Criminal Justice Enthusiasts

There is perhaps no degree more exciting than the Ph.D. in criminal justice for those students who love learning about the nature, psychology, and prosecution of crime and criminals. With a strong research focus, an emphasis on the theory of criminal justice, and excellent prospects for future teaching roles, the criminal justice doctoral degree is a great choice for many seasoned professionals in the field.