Master of Science in Criminal Justice (M.S.)

A Westfield State University alumnus in his state police uniform talks to a current student.

Advance your career with a master’s in criminal justice.

Explore significant issues in crime and criminal justice administration and develop your critical thinking skills about criminal justice with a Master of Science in Criminal Justice. This program will expand your understanding of criminal justice and its current challenges—whether you’re already working in the field or looking to start your career. 

You’ll benefit from classes that offer a blend of theory, research, and practical knowledge as you develop an understanding of the realities of crime, criminal justice institutions, and crime control/prevention. Gain in-depth and diverse knowledge through courses in criminal justice administration, criminal justice research, criminal justice policy, criminology, and terrorism/homeland security.  

All program courses are taught by full-time expert professors, many with experience in the field. Plus, you’ll have opportunities to develop original research, produce a capstone project, and take specialized courses that enhance your knowledge.

Program Highlights

  • On campus, online, or remote synchronous learning 
  • 33 credits plus thesis, capstone, or comprehensive exams 
  • Complete in as little as 2 years 

Deepen your knowledge of the criminal justice system.

A Master of Science in Criminal Justice opens new opportunities for you.

Make an impact in all fields of criminal justice

  • Student at Criminal Justice Fair speaking with an employer.

    Highly respected program 

    Westfield State is ranked among the best universities in the Northeast and one of the best master’s in criminal justice programs in Massachusetts. Our reputation for excellence gives you access to many opportunities, including an invitation to the largest criminal justice career fair in New England each year. 

  • Class of 2024 President, Kaitlyn Egan, sitting on a red chair by a window. She has long blond hair. She wears a gray sweatshirt that says "Westfield State" on it and smiles.

    Convenient classes 

    Our master’s in criminal justice classes are designed to fit your life and are offered in person, hybrid, and online. In-person classes are offered at night and evenings to accommodate your work schedule. You can complete the program at your own pace.

  • Graduate Criminal Justice Student at Commencement wearing cap and gown turned around smiling at event.

    Board of Higher Education Approved 

    Westfield State University’s master’s in criminal justice program is a Quinn Bill (PCIPP) approved program by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. Since Westfield launched the first criminal justice program in New England in 1968, we have focused on providing affordable and accessible education.

Program Details

Program Mission

The Criminal Justice graduate program’s mission is to provide students with an affordable, accessible, and outstanding graduate education in criminal justice for those working in the field, those entering the field, and those exploring graduate study. Our program teaches students the concepts, theories, and methods rooted in the social sciences and legal inquiry necessary for conducting and consuming research in criminal justice, criminal justice administration, criminology, criminal justice policy, and terrorism/homeland security.

Program Vision

Provide affordable, accessible, and outstanding graduate-level criminal justice and criminology education for those working in criminal justice agencies, those seeking to enter the criminal justice profession, and those exploring graduate-level study in criminal justice.

Learning Outcomes
  • Theoretical thinking: the ability to interpret problems and solutions using comprehensive theoretical knowledge.  
  • Productive thinking: analysis and application of management and administrative techniques related to criminal justice.  
  • Analytical thinking: the ability to critically think in terms of research and evaluation.  
  • Practical thinking: to consider what should be done and synthesize ideas to generate different solutions to criminal justice issues.  
  • Comprehension: the ability to understand and evaluate the interrelationship of research, ideas, and theories presented throughout your course work and to apply your knowledge to unique situations and settings. 

Explore the option of pursuing a graduate certificate in Homeland Security, which can be completed concurrently with your master’s program or independently.

Deepen your knowledge with our Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security, developed in collaboration with the Institute of Homeland Security and the Center for the Study of Criminal Justice. Equip yourself to navigate today's security landscape and apply your knowledge across various fields. Gain insights into legal aspects of terrorism, intelligence utilization, and more. Explore a curriculum providing intensive insights with real-world applications.  

Learn more and take the next step in advancing your career.

What can you do with a master’s in criminal justice?

The Master of Science in Criminal Justice is designed to help you advance your career in criminal justice agencies. For those entering the field, you’ll be prepared for a job in: 

  • Law enforcement
  • Corrections
  • Probation and parole
  • Victim’s assistance office 
  • The court system
  • Advocacy organizations
  • And many others
 A Westfield State University alumnus in police uniform engages in conversation.

Course Requirements

Program Description

The graduate program in Criminal Justice focuses on theoretical and applied issues in law enforcement, corrections, administration, and public law. Its goal is to further critical thinking about significant issues in crime and criminal justice. All program courses are taught by full-time expert professors, many with experience in the field.

Program Objectives

The primary purpose of this Master's Degree program is to further develop the following:

  • Theoretical thinking- the ability to interpret problems and solutions using comprehensive theoretical knowledge
  • Productive thinking-analysis and application of management and administrative techniques related to criminal justice
  • Analytical thinking-the ability to critically think in terms of research and evaluation.
  • Practical thinking- to consider what should be done and to synthesize ideas to generate different solutions to criminal justice issues.
  • Comprehension- the ability to understand and evaluate the interrelationship of research, ideas, and theories presented throughout their coursework and to apply their knowledge to unique situations and settings.

Graduate students are required to complete 33 graduate credit hours and a comprehensive examination, or 30 credits and a capstone, or 27 graduate credit hours and a six-hour thesis. For all three tracks, there are four required courses: Criminological Theory I, Research Methods, Administrative Theory of Criminal Justice, and Statistics. Each student is assigned an advisor who will assist in selecting courses and, if undertaking a thesis, a thesis advisor. Thesis advisors are members of the graduate faculty.

Admissions Requirements

In order to be considered for admission to the program, a complete application must be presented for review, including:

  1. Official transcripts indicating a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university.
  2. Bachelor's degree with a major or minor in any of the social sciences with a 2.7 GPA or a 3.0 for the last two years of undergraduate studies, class ranking will also be considered;
  3. Three professional or academic letters of reference;
  4. While not required, GRE or MAT scores can strengthen a candidate's application.
  5. A narrative statement about your professional goals, academic experience, factors which support your future endeavors.

Criminal Justice 4+1

Westfield State University offers our undergraduate criminal justice students an accelerated pathway to complete their bachelor's and master's degrees in just 5 years. These students will have the opportunity to enroll in graduate-level criminal justice courses in their senior year and 6-credits will count towards both the bachelor's and master's degrees in criminal justice. This 4+1 program allows students enrolled in this option to obtain their bachelor's and master's degrees in criminal justice in less time than it would be to take them separately.

Program Requirements

Matriculation Requirements:

Matriculated students are those who have been admitted to a graduate program at Westfield State University. If you intend to work toward a degree, you must apply as soon as possible. A maximum of six (6) Westfield State University credits taken prior to acceptance may be applied toward your degree program. Advising is recommended.

Once matriculated, students must see the graduate advisor and work out a Program of Study in accordance with the requirements for a degree in their major program. The Program of Study will include the following:

  1. required courses
  2. completion courses
  3. elective courses

The Program of Study form must be signed by the student and approved by the graduate advisor, the chair of the department, and the Dean. A copy of this form will be sent to the student and to the graduate advisor. The original will be kept in the student's file.

Specific Degree Requirements

Required Courses - 12 Credits

Elective Courses - 21 Credits

Completion of 21 recommended graduate semester hours in Criminal Justice

Requirements for Master’s Degree - 33 Credits

Program Completion Options: MS in Criminal Justice

A. Comprehensive Examination Option

This option is intended for individuals seeking a terminal degree or wishing to continue their education beyond the master’s degree. In this option, candidates must complete a total of 33 credit hours of coursework. Students are also required to successfully complete a comprehensive exam to demonstrate knowledge gained in coursework and to relate concepts across the curriculum. The exam may be taken only after completing all required courses and a minimum of 27 credits within the Master’s program.

B. Capstone Experience Option

The capstone experience option is intended for individuals seeking a terminal degree. After completing 30 credit hours, the student will enroll in a three credit capstone experience. The capstone experience is a focused study and applied research under the direction of a faculty advisor. The student must submit an abstract for approval to the faculty advisor before undertaking the project. The Capstone must demonstrate a student's ability to apply the knowledge and skills acquired in their academic program to real world issues and problems. The work will include an abstract of approximately 150 words and an annotated bibliography. It is expected that the paper will be approximately twenty-five pages in length. The final work is evaluated by the faculty advisor and the graduate coordinator or department chairperson. Students are required to present their Capstone in a public forum. Students completing the Homeland Security Certificate concurrently with their Masters of Criminal Justice must complete a Homeland Security related capstone.

C. Master’s Thesis Option

This option is intended for students who wish to continue their education beyond the master’s degree. The student is required to complete 27 hours in addition to the six credit hour thesis. However, the student may register for the thesis after completing 24 credits of graduate program coursework with a B or better GPA. With the approval of a thesis advisor, the student develops a significant problem for research and study. The work is to be of publishable quality and is evaluated by a thesis committee. After the work is complete, it is to be defended in a public forum. The student is also required to provide bound copies of the thesis to the Department of Criminal Justice, Westfield State University Library, and the Dean of Graduate and Continuing Education.

Get big school features with small school advantages.  

We offer high-quality academics, unique learning opportunities, and a gorgeous campus—and we have small classes, accessible faculty, and one-on-one support. 

You'll join fellow motivated graduate students ready to make the most of the college experience through active participation. Become part of a caring and committed community that understands and embraces the bridge between academic study and civic responsibility.

  • 87%

    of students receive financial aid 

  • Options for

    Capstone, thesis, or comprehensive exam

  • Certified

    Massachusetts Quinn Bill (PCIPP) Program

Personalized attention from experienced professionals.

Our master’s in criminal justice faculty are dedicated to excellence in teaching, advising, and working one-on-one with graduate students. All of our faculty have doctorates and have published books and articles in their field of expertise. Many have worked in criminal justice agencies, including law enforcement, corrections, probation and parole, the DA’s office, and Homeland Security. 

A professor teaching students in a classroom setting.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will it take me to complete the master’s degree?

The duration for completion varies, with most students finishing in approximately two years, depending on their chosen course load per semester. Whether attending part-time or full-time and utilizing courses offered in fall, spring, and summer terms, flexibility is key. It's essential to note that students must fulfill degree requirements within a maximum timeframe of six years.

What are the application requirements?

Prospective students should access the graduate application online at connect.westfield.ma.edu/apply/

The following material must be received for an application to be reviewed:

  1. Completed graduate application and $50 application fee
  2. Official transcripts from all accredited colleges and universities previously attended.
  3. Three professional or academic letters of reference.
  4. A narrative statement about your professional goals, academic experience, factors which support your future endeavors.

While not required, GRE or MAT scores can strengthen a candidate's application.

What is the program modality?

We offer the following program options:

On-Campus Program at Westfield State

Students attend evening classes in person at Westfield State along with coursework online (Hybrid model). Some courses are fully asynchronous and online.

Online Program

Students attend evening classes on Zoom, along with asynchronous coursework. Some courses are fully asynchronous and online. 

Do I have to submit GRE/MAT scores when I apply? 

While not required, GRE or MAT scores can strengthen a candidate's application.

Is graduate housing available?

Discover graduate living at Welch Hall Apartments – your gateway to a vibrant community and tailored amenities. Choose from four-person apartments featuring single and premium single rooms, all inclusive of utilities and internet. Make connections by signing up as a group or embark on an individual adventure with like-minded roommates. Revel in the comfort of fully furnished apartments, boasting a well-equipped kitchen with a breakfast bar, cozy bathrooms, and inviting shared living spaces.

Your convenience is our priority – enjoy free laundry facilities on campus and parking at an affordable rate. Immerse yourself in academic pursuits with easy access to the campus library or prioritize your well-being at our fitness centers.

Whether you prefer cooking with your roommates or opting for a meal plan, relish access to an array of campus dining options, including late-night and takeaway choices. Elevate your graduate experience with Welch Hall Apartments – where living meets exceptional comfort and convenience.

For more information contact housing@westfield.ma.edu or 413-572-5402.

How much does Westfield State University cost?

Westfield State University offers a comprehensive university experience at an affordable cost—with many options for financial aid. Visit our Cost and Aid page to learn more. 

Do you offer graduate assistantships?

Yes, a limited number of graduate assistantships are available each year for graduate students. These opportunities are competitive and are awarded to students with excellent academic records who are enrolled in a graduate degree program.

This valuable opportunity can enhance your academic journey and provide valuable experience. Don't miss out on the chance to be part of this enriching program!

Learn more about graduate assistantships 

Will I receive academic support?

Yes, students have a dedicated advisor – your compass through class choices and beyond. Beyond academics, your advisor becomes a mentor, guiding you on further education and career paths. We're not just about classes; we connect you to resources like the Banacos Center and the Reading & Writing Center. At every step, we're here to ensure your success is our priority.

What are some of the electives I can take?

Explore a variety of compelling electives in our program, including Multinational Crime, Hate Crimes, Terrorism, Victimology, and Police Policy Development. These recent highlights showcase our commitment to offering diverse and relevant courses that align with the evolving landscape of criminal justice.

Can I take a course without enrolling into the program?

Yes, students can take up to two courses (six credits) non-matriculated prior to matriculating into the program. Financial aid is not available for non-matriculated courses and cost can be found on our tuition and fees page. If you are interested in taking non-matriculated courses please contact the Registrar at registrar@westfield.ma.edu or 413-579-3200 for assistance.

For students interested in taking more than six credits non-matriculated and will not be applying the credits to a degree additional credits may be taken by completing the professional development waiver.

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Master of Science in Criminal Justice (M.S.)