It’s no secret that criminal justice professionals play a crucial role in our society. There will always be a need for skilled law enforcement officers to keep citizens safe and uphold the law, just as there will always be a need for professionals who advocate for victims of crime and help rehabilitate offenders.

However, given that law enforcement is constantly evolving due to changes in policy, technology and leadership, these professionals must stay up-to-date with the current trends to better serve their communities and develop solutions for the broader challenges facing the criminal justice system. By gaining specialized knowledge and practical skills to help shape the future of law enforcement, professionals can put themselves in an excellent position to pursue leadership roles in the field—and one of the most convenient ways to obtain this knowledge is to earn an online Master of Science in Criminal Justice.

Master’s in criminal justice career paths

Law enforcement

Like in any other profession, police officers want to climb the promotional ladder to higher-paying leadership roles while learning new and better ways to protect and serve their communities. Current law enforcement officers are likely already familiar with the military-style rankings used in most police departments, and they may consider a master’s degree to demonstrate the skills and commitment necessary to achieve promotions to ranks including:

  • Detective
  • Sergeant
  • Lieutenant
  • Captain
  • Chief
  • Commissioner

Victim advocacy

Many criminal justice professionals choose a career in victim advocacy to support victims of crime. Victim advocates often assist victims with filling out paperwork, navigating the court system, finding shelter and transportation and providing referrals for counseling or other services. Advocates may work in police departments, crisis centers, prosecutor’s offices, courts and private organizations, and often have titles such as:

  • Victim advocate
  • Sexual assault advocate
  • Human services advocate
  • Domestic violence liaison
  • Community advocate
  • Case manager
  • Shelter advocate
  • Anti-trafficking advocate


In 2015, approximately 2.7% of adults in the United States—more than 6.7 million people—were under some form of correctional supervision including jail, prison, probation and parole. As such, skilled professionals are needed to supervise and rehabilitate these individuals while they are in prison, and to help them integrate back into society when they are released. Corrections, probation and parole officers who earn a master’s degree will be in an excellent position to move up the ranks to supervisory positions including:

  • Supervisory probation officer
  • Deputy chief probation officer
  • Chief probation officer
  • Correctional officer supervisor
  • Correctional officer II
  • Correctional officer III
  • Assistant warden
  • Warden


Many criminal justice professionals, especially law enforcement veterans, decide to share their knowledge and expertise with students studying criminal justice at the community college level. While most four-year universities require a Ph.D., many community colleges and junior colleges allow qualified individuals with a master’s degree to develop and teach a range of criminal justice courses. This can be an ideal option for both current and retired law enforcement officers who wish to supplement their income by educating the next generation of students who are interested in the field.

Whether you’re currently working in law enforcement and are looking to advance, or you’re interested in transitioning to one of many careers in the field of criminal justice, earning your master’s degree in as little as one year can help set you up for long-term career success.

“Once you have your degree, a whole world that opens up to you because of it. There are jobs that require master’s degrees that you are now eligible for.”

Dr. Karen Casey

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