Jul 15, 2024  
2024-2025 Catalog 
2024-2025 Catalog

Criminal Justice, M.A.

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The Criminal Justice MA program in the College of Arts and Sciences  at Governors State University provides individuals working in justice-related areas (or interested in doing so) with the skills, knowledge, and abilities to work effectively in their respective organizations and positions, and to effectively develop, implement, and evaluate system and organization change and reform initiatives. The Criminal Justice MA program also provides graduate students with a broad perspective on the criminal and juvenile justice systems, and prepares them for further graduate studies. The curriculum includes a series of classes, seminars, and workshops that impart specific skills in the areas of research, evaluation, data analysis, comparative analysis, and organizational leadership. Persons completing their master’s degree in Criminal Justice at Governors State University will be equipped to attain advancement in the criminal and juvenile justice fields, participate skillfully and effectively in planned change at the organization and system levels, work more effectively in their respective positions, and pursue further graduate studies.

Program Expected Student Outcomes

After successfully completing the program, students are able to: 

1. Understanding of team-building techniques for justice-related projects; 

2. Familiarity with historical and current theoretical approaches to explaining criminal behavior and organizational theory pertaining to public organizations, particularly justice-related organizations;  

3. Apply planning, analysis, and problem-solving techniques to justice-related problems and challenges; 

4. Understanding of community-based, multi-agency approaches to solving crime problems; 

5. Utilize research-based, strategic approaches to solving crime problems; 

6. Utilization of leadership skills to develop consensus around crime- and justice-related issues; 

7. Demonstrate and apply research and statistical techniques for planning and forecasting in the justice arena; 

8. Integrate and demonstrate the skills to develop project and organizational budgets for planning and development purposes. 

Admissions Requirements and Recommended Preparation

In addition to the university admissions requirements, students applying to the Criminal Justice MA program must:

  • have a cumulative undergraduate grade point average of 2.75 (out of a possible 4.0) calculated from the last 60 credit hours earned in the undergraduate degree;
  • submit a letter of application explaining a statement of personal interest in pursuing a master’s degree in criminal justice;
  • submit three professional or academic letters of reference; and
  • Completed applications must be submitted by May 15 for a fall, September 15 for spring, and January 15 for summer session admission.

Students seeking admission to the GSU Criminal Justice MA Program with a GPA lower than 2.75 may petition to the graduate program admissions committee for admission.

As criminal justice is an interdisciplinary field of study, students may apply for the MA in Criminal Justice at Governors State University with a baccalaureate degree in any field from an accredited university. We recommend undergraduate courses in the following areas: criminal or juvenile justice, general social science or criminal justice research methods, introductory statistical analysis, survey courses in the criminal justice system, juvenile justice, policing, court and judicial systems, race and gender studies, policy issues, and policy analysis. Strongly recommended undergraduate courses include: theories of deviance and criminal or delinquent behavior, international criminal justice systems, restorative justice, community-based justice, research methods, criminology, the criminal justice system, and constitutional issues pertaining to the justice system. The Criminal Justice MA program will admit students conditionally if they do not meet the undergraduate prerequisites for the graduate core courses, pending successful completion of 12 Criminal Justice MA program credits.

Transfer Credits

Providing that university policies regarding transfer of graduate credits are met, transfer credit will only be allowed for courses taken in graduate criminal justice or related graduate programs at accredited institutions. A limit of nine hours of transferable credits can be awarded for the Criminal Justice master’s degree program.

Statement of Expectations

The Criminal Justice MA seeks to develop students who are well prepared to work effectively and ethically in diverse professional settings. In order to fulfill this responsibility, program faculty must evaluate students based on their academic, professional, and personal/behavioral qualities. A student’s progress in the program may be interrupted for failure to comply with academic standards, or if a student’s interpersonal or emotional behavior interferes and/or demonstrates an inability to work humanely, effectively, and ethically in a variety of work settings, including one-on-one and group interactions. For example, in order to demonstrate sound behavioral qualities, a criminal justice graduate student must abide by relevant ethical codes, demonstrate professional and technical knowledge, and demonstrate positive, pro-social interpersonal skills, professional attitudes, and professional character. Criminal Justice program faculty evaluate these factors based on a student’s academic performance and ability to convey warmth, respect, honesty, and empathy in interactions with the public, classmates, staff, and faculty. Student should demonstrate the ability to accept and integrate critical feedback, be aware of their impact on others, accept personal responsibility, and be able to express feelings effectively and appropriately.

Remediation Plan

Those students who do not continuously meet professional ethics and academic honesty standards, academic requirements and/or variables outlined in the statement of expectations may be required to have a remediation plan. In order to graduate, such a student must complete the remediation plan in a timely manner. Failure to successfully complete a remediation plan may result in suspension or expulsion from the MA Criminal Justice program.

Admission to Candidacy

Criminal Justice MA students must apply for candidacy upon completion of 18 credit hours (9 of these credit hours must be in the required courses). Students applying for candidacy to graduate with the MA in Criminal Justice must meet the following requirements:

  1. Complete a minimum of 9 hours in the required courses, except for the thesis, directed readings, or problem-solving practicum, with a grade of “B” or better in each course;
  2. Complete a minimum of 9 hours of elective course work with a grade average of “B” or better;
  3. Successfully demonstrate the skills and abilities outlined under “Statement of Expectations” above (students working on a remediation plan will not be admitted to candidacy); and
  4. Establish a Graduate Committee. The Graduate Committee must include a project advisor (must be a member of the Criminal Justice Faculty) and two other graduate faculty members (one of which must be another Criminal Justice faculty member, a faculty member from a graduate program in a related discipline, or a faculty member from another graduate program at Governors State University). A Graduate Committee may contain one outside member, who must be a tenured or tenure-track professor from a graduate program at an accredited university. Students apply for candidacy by completing a “Criminal Justice MA Program Application for Candidacy” form, including a list of the student’s courses and grades to date, intended graduation project option (thesis, directed readings, or practicum), and a statement from the student’s advisor regarding the student’s prospects for completion within 4 years. The Criminal Justice MA Program Coordinator will review the application and indicate whether the student is admitted to candidacy, if additional coursework is required, or if the student will not be admitted to candidacy. Students denied admission to candidacy may appeal this decision to the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office.

Graduation Requirement

Criminal Justice MA students must complete their approved graduate project (with a “Pass” grade) during the term they intend to graduate. They must demonstrate the expected behavioral qualities outlined under “Statement of Expectations” above, and they must not have an active remediation plan at the time of graduation. Students may opt for one of the three possible graduate projects:

  1. Master’s Thesis - a traditional master’s thesis including thesis statement, theory and hypotheses, literature review, research design, data collection and analysis, findings, conclusions, limitations, and bibliography; or
  2. Directed Readings - selection of two specific areas of interest (each completed in a separate 3-credit course), development of readings lists in each, a semester-long dialogue with the lead professor, and a 72-hour take-home examination based on the readings; students must complete two independent directed readings projects, with two different lead professors; or
  3. Problem-Solving Practicum - the student selects an issue or problem in the community or workplace, organizes individuals and stakeholders, conducts a needs assessment, develops and implements solutions to the problem, measures the early outcomes of the problem-solving initiative, and prepares a practicum report explaining the development, implementation, and outcomes of the project.

In addition to the requirements for candidacy outlined above, Criminal Justice MA students must complete the following requirement in order to attain the Master’s degree:

  1. the remaining required courses, with a “B” or better;
  2. the remaining elective courses such that the grade average for all elective courses is a “B” or better; and
  3. their graduate project with a Pass (“P”) grade, which is determined by a vote of the three-member graduate project committee.


The Criminal Justice MA curriculum contains a core (required) sequence of classes comprising 16 credit hours covering a broad range of topics. This provides the leadership, analysis, and management foundation upon which students will build the remainder of their graduate studies. The curriculum provides for 15 elective credits, permitting students to specialize in particular areas of criminal or juvenile justice. Students complete the curriculum with a 6-credit graduation project - a two-course sequence involving a master’s graduate research course and thesis, directed reading examinations in two subject areas, or a problem-solving practicum (implementation of a problem-solving initiative in the justice arena) covering two terms.

Curriculum listing

Students must meet all university requirements for a master’s degree.

Electives (12 Hours)

Students must also complete 12 hours of electives in any of the following areas. Students may also take courses in the different areas with program coordinators’ approval.

Thesis/Directed Readings/Practicum (6 Hours)

Select one of the following options:

A. Master’s Thesis Option (6 Hours)

The Master’s Thesis requires the student to develop an original research idea resulting in a research project entailing a description of the topic, issue, or problem, a literature review, development of a research hypothesis and questions, data collection and analysis, findings, conclusions, and limitations. The thesis must be approved by three faculty members, one of which is the thesis director. The students normally completes the thesis over two semesters; the first semester CJUS-8700 will complete a full proposal for the thesis, the second semester CJUS-8990 will complete the research project.

B. Directed Readings Option (6 Hours)

The directed readings option requires the student to take two directed readings courses (each directed readings includes a 3-credit hour course). The first directed readings emphasizes content from the required core curriculum. The second directed reading emphasizes content form the elective curriculum.

C. Problem-Solving Practicum (6 Hours)

Working with a committee of three faculty members (the practicum director must be a Criminal Justice faculty member, and one member may be from another faculty), the student selects an issue or problem in the community or workplace, develops a plan to resolve or reduce the problem, and prepares a practicum report explaining the development, implementation, and outcomes of the project.

Total with Thesis/Project - 36 Hours

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