Program goal

The M.S. degree program in criminal justice assists in broadening and refining the understanding of criminal justice and criminological issues to facilitate career success and advancement. The goal of the program is to develop critical-thinking skills among the students through the use of current criminal justice and criminological topics, reports and research findings.

Student learning outcomes

  1. Students will communicate effectively about criminal justice issues/policies using well-reasoned evidence from empirical studies to support their arguments and/or positions. 
  2. Students will demonstrate critical thinking and articulation of major issues related to the field in a diverse socio-cultural context while also understanding the diversity of lived experiences.
  3. Students will integrate their knowledge of existing theoretical and methodological frameworks to evaluate policy issues related to criminal justice and to be able to communicate to community stakeholders about the consequences of policy implementation.
  4. Students will make impactful contributions to their fields, surrounding community and public policy through ethically responsible active participation and leadership in their careers.

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university. These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on academic regulations for graduate students.

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on degree candidacy requirements.

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on graduation requirements.

Apply online today.

Admission requirements

Admission requirements
Degree:Semester(s) of entry:Deadline dates:Test requirements:
M.S.FallApr 1 (Mar 1 for financial aid)GRE, LSAT or GMAT
SpringOct 1

Special requirements

  • These deadlines are designed to allow sufficient time for application review and admission processing. Applications may be submitted after the deadline; however, there is no guarantee of sufficient time for processing. Any application submitted too late for current semester processing will be considered for the following semester. Please contact the program chair with specific application questions.

In addition to the general admission requirements of the VCU Graduate School, admission to the Master of Science in Criminal Justice also will be based on:

  1. An undergraduate GPA that exceeds 2.7 overall
  2. A satisfactory score on the graduate standardized test (GRE, LSAT or GMAT)
  3. Previous evidence of ability to perform graduate-level work (where applicable)
  4. Professional experience in criminal justice (where applicable)

The courses in the post-baccalaureate graduate Certificate in Criminal Justice program are the same as the master’s courses. With minimum grades of B and, upon acceptance into the master’s degree program, courses from the certificate program are fully transferable to the Master of Science in Criminal Justice degree program.

Degree requirements

In addition to the general VCU Graduate School graduation requirements, the Master of Science in Criminal Justice requires a minimum of 30 graduate credit hours of course work, with a minimum overall grade-point average of 3.0. Students who do not have at least one year of professional-level experience are encouraged to take a three-credit-hour internship as part of the 30 semester hours.

To complete the M.S. curriculum, students must submit a portfolio of their work before they graduate. Contact the program director for format and submission details.

A maximum of nine semester hours of graduate credit from an accredited institution may be transferred and applied toward the master’s degree. All transfer requests require the approval of the graduate program coordinator and the Graduate School and may not have been counted toward another degree.

Curriculum requirements

Core courses
CRJS 501Principles of Criminal Justice3
CRJS 550Professional Ethics and Liability3
CRJS 617Law and Criminal Justice Policy3
CRJS 620Seminar in Criminology3
CRJS/GVPA/PADM/URSP 623Research Methods for Government and Public Affairs3
CRJS 690Criminal Justice Policy Analysis3
Electives 1
Select 12 credits in consultation with an adviser.12
Total Hours30

Any additional CRJS, GVPA, HSEP, URSP, PADM or PPAD course may be used as an elective. Other course(s) may be selected with permission of the criminal justice graduate coordinator.

The minimum total of graduate credit hours required for this degree is 30.

Amy Cook, Ph.D.
Program chair and graduate program director

Additional contacts
Christina Mancini, Ph.D.
Assistant program chair

Graduate Student Services and Advising
(804) 828-6837

Program website: