Knowing which master’s in criminal justice to earn can help you get the criminal justice job you want.

Two people sit in front of a computer.From local police departments to state courts to the U.S. Department of Justice, America’s criminal justice system is expansive. Law enforcement officers, judges, attorneys, forensic scientists, corrections officers, social workers, and policy-makers all have a role to play. If you’re looking to become an important part of this system—either by advancing your criminal justice career or starting a new one—earning a master’s degree can give you the skills you need to reach your goals. Two of the most popular criminal justice degrees are an MS in Criminal Justice and an MS in Criminal Justice Leadership and Executive Management. But which master’s in criminal justice is right for you? Here’s how they differ.

Differences in the Ideal Candidate

Both the MS in Criminal Justice degree and the MS in Criminal Justice Leadership and Executive Management degree are designed for those who are dedicated to serving and protecting their communities. However, where you are in your career may determine which degree is right for you.

An MS in Criminal Justice focuses on preparing you for future opportunities, making this degree a good choice if you’re in your early or mid-career and want to switch careers to criminal justice or advance your career within your current criminal justice organization.

An MS in Criminal Justice Leadership and Executive Management is the better choice if you’re more advanced in your career and are working closely with policy-makers and decision-makers. This degree is particularly useful if you’re planning a second career at another agency or want to become a consultant or educator within the criminal justice field.

Differences in Focus of Study

At their core, both degree programs examine contemporary theory and practices, and address national and international issues impacting criminal justice. Their specific focuses differ as follows:

When you earn an MS in Criminal Justice, you’ll study a blend of subjects including criminology, human services, technology, homeland security, and management. The goal of the degree is to provide you with a base of practical knowledge and skills that you can immediately apply to a wide variety of criminal justice jobs.

In an MS in Criminal Justice Leadership and Executive Management program, you’ll study subjects designed to help you become a senior criminal justice leader capable of influencing policy-makers. The topics of study include management, human resources, finance, budgeting, and oral and written communications.

Differences in Potential Career Options

There is a lot you can do with either an MS in Criminal Justice degree or an MS in Criminal Justice Leadership and Executive Management degree. Below, you’ll find some of the jobs these degrees can help you pursue.*

Potential Jobs With an MS in Criminal Justice:

Ballistics expert Private investigator Sentencing analyst
Border patrol agent Undercover operative Victim restitution professional
Customs agent Background investigator Hearings officer
Deputy sheriff Courthouse security officer Correctional officer
Detective Federal probation officer Parole officer
Gang crimes investigator Federal pretrial service officer Placement officer
Probation officer National Park Service ranger U.S. Forest Service officer
Deputy U.S. marshal Postal inspector Victim-offender specialist
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officer State park ranger Victim assistance provider
Federal Protective Service officer University police officer Fines and restitution specialist

Potential Jobs With an MS in Criminal Justice Leadership and Executive Management:

Arbitrator Judicial assistant
Assistant administrator Corrections and Probation officer
Deputy assistant Administrator/warden
Diversion specialist Domestic relations specialist
Expert witness Public relations officer
Budget analyst Policy analyst

What’s the Best Way to Earn Your Master’s in Criminal Justice?

Whether you want to earn an MS in Criminal Justice or an MS in Criminal Justice Leadership and Executive Management, you can do so through an online university. When you choose online learning, you don’t have to disrupt your career to attend classes. Instead, when you enroll in an online master’s degree program, you can study from home in a flexible format that allows you to continue working full time at your current job.

An online criminal justice degree is often the best choice for professionals who want to advance their knowledge of criminal justice without upending their lives. Earning an MS in Criminal Justice or an MS in Criminal Justice Leadership and Executive Management can be a great way to acquire the skills you need to land the criminal justice job you want.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering both an online MS in Criminal Justice degree program and an online MS in Criminal Justice Leadership and Executive Management degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


*Career options may require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of this degree program.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.