All across the nation, high school students count on the US News and World Report college rankings to help them consider the best schools in the nation. These rankings can also be used to see the best graduate degree programs in Criminal Justice.
Criminology is a combination of psychology, sociology and law. This is a rigorous program that is designed to not just catch criminals but understand and prevent illegal behavior. Here are the top ten schools for a graduate degree in this program, and some of the positive features each program has.
When choosing a program, it’s important to look past just numbers. All of the programs on this list are excellent, which is why they’re ranked so highly. You should also consider what your interests are within the scope of criminology, whether academia, program design, corrections, law, international affairs, federal enforcement, profiling, organized crime, or something else. Let these interests guide you to the programs that are experts in these fields. A lower ranking that is more closely tied to your interests will take you further than a higher ranked school who focuses on less interesting concepts.
1. University of Maryland- College Park
This school is consistent front-runner in the criminology arena. They have a dedicated terrorism study program, as well as some unique curriculum that focuses on the study of crime throughout a person’s lifetime. They also boast a substance abuse research program, and the ability to complete part of the degree by taking international law classes abroad with the Nanjing University of China. This lends a global perspective to students that is unique in the field of criminal justice. A PhD program is also available. Its close proximity to Washington DC makes it a consistent recruiting pool for the federal agencies based in and around our nation’s capital.
2. University at Albany-SUNY
This exceptional school of criminal justice focuses on patterns in economic and cultural arenas and how they influence crime. They look in other areas as well for the impetus for criminal behavior, such as social and personal influences, and the structure of criminal organizations. They work on looking at interactions with numerous government agencies at local, national, and worldwide levels, and their relationships with a functioning society. This method seems to be successful in many ways, as two of their alumni shared the single most prestigious criminology award, the Stockholm Award, in 2011. Their groundbreaking research focused on the kinds of life-changing events that can turn even career criminals away from a life of crime.
3. University of Cincinnati
This school is unique because it boasts about the ability to get a criminal justice degree online. Just a few years ago, online schools were not very well ranked, but this is clearly not the case for the University of Cincinnati, and as a number of other top ten programs have online choices, this seems to be no longer the case. The program is both a residential as well as an online curriculum. This program is ranked number one for research productivity, and their classes are dedicated to research, teaching, and service. They have been helping Ohio judges determine which criminals are likely to be repeat offenders, and which programs and services would be most beneficial in helping them to stop. This has the potential of saving Ohio taxpayers billions of dollars, which is certainly a noble pursuit.
4. University of Missouri-St. Louis
This program strives to prepare their students for a variety of criminal justice jobs. The school boasts small class sizes, and the opportunity to learn from some of the premier experts in the field. They work to combine knowledge from the fields of social sciences, law, public administration and corrections. Graduates from this program hold criminal justice jobs in national, local and state agencies, academia, and law careers. Many of the faculty hold nationally respected offices in the American Society of Criminology and editorial positions on nationally known journals in the field.
5 (tie). Pennsylvania State University- University Park
Penn State boasts about their unique degree that merges the sociology and criminology departments. This gives students the option to pursue careers in either sociology or criminal justice post-graduation. Like other programs, they possess a highly respected faculty of experts in the field of criminology. They offer unique programs like quantitative criminology for those with a strong interest in statistics. Fields of interest for the faculty include gender, race and age relations in regard to crime, violence’s influence on both victimization and mental disorders, criminal careers and organizations, deterrence, communities and crime, programs and policies and their effectiveness, and juvenile crime. Students enrolled in the program are expected to take coursework not only related to crime but also become well-versed in masters-level sociology concepts. They believe that this creates a more well-rounded approach to considering the societal impacts and influences in regard to criminal behavior.
5 (tie). University of California- Irvine
The school of criminology, law and society is one of only two law and society programs in the nation. The school focuses on society’s way of dealing with crimes, and the impact that this has on the psyche and future behavior of law breakers. Some of the schools areas of study include the psychological and torture impact of solitary confinement, causes and manifestations of criminal behavior, victimology, regulatory issues, and many aspects of law and their impacts on crime and criminal behaviors. The program began as a section of the school of social ecology, and focuses on many aspects of community problem solving in regard to the problem of both crime and punishment, and their impact on society, families, and the individual.
7 (tie). Florida State University
This is another school that offers two graduate programs, an online and a campus based program. Additionally, the school offers a combined masters in criminology and public administration, or criminology and social work. These programs are geared to create experts not only in the field of law enforcement, but as counselors, and designers and leads of programs and services designed to prevent initial and repeat criminal events. Though many of the schools on the list approach this from an academic standpoint, there is a hands-on design to this program that is unique. This is a good choice for those who would like to work on a daily basis with victims and perpetrators, and to help people one program or individual at a time. One of the school’s bragging points is that they are number one in faculty scholarly productivity, meaning that they are publishing more articles and performing more seminars than the average school. There are benefits and drawbacks to this, as professors who are too intent on publishing may not have the time for strong instruction that may be desired.
7 (tie). Michigan State University
Another school with an online and on-campus choice, Michigan State strives to give many different learning opportunities to their students. International study programs are available for graduate student projects, most recently a study in the United Kingdom of organized crime and the ways that they circumvent regulations to illegally export waste. Studies like this may not sound exciting, but they open the door for those interested in international trade, and how it relates to terrorists. The university is also advising on some very exciting international policy, like helping to design the criminal justice system for the Ukraine. This school boasts a much stronger international component than many of the others, and if travel and world affairs are a particular interest of yours, it would be a great choice for study.
7 (tie). Rutgers
This is an interdisciplinary program between liberal arts and criminal justice. The program has its origins in the school of social work, and as such is focused in understanding the origins of crime, instead of the apprehension of criminals. There is a strong sociology component, so group behavior is a strong part of the theories from this school. It’s a great choice for those interested in how well public policy works, and for those wanting to run and change policy programs. This is a campus-only based program, unlike the other two ranked here, as they believe that in-person instruction is an important component in teaching the concepts they want to convey to their students.
10. CUNY- John Jay College
The only top-ten program based in New York City (though Rutgers is close), this is an advantage to those looking for work in the big apple. This is a part of the CUNY (City University of New York) program. This school has a large artistic component, and a number of students and faculty have memoirs, novels, poems, and other creative but crime related products on the market today. This is the only program on the list with a combined fine arts and criminal justice bent. If you are an aspiring crime novelist or playwright, or have an interest in inmate art therapy, there is no better suited program in the nation than John Jay.