MBA in Criminal Justice
Criminal justice and MBA programs aren’t the most obvious combination. Criminal justice management, however, can be a rewarding career teeming with opportunities.
Graduates of an MBA program have a unique set of skills that make them particularly employable. You’ll learn the ins and outs of police, security, and emergency preparedness, sure. But also, the management side—organizational behavior, finance, and decision-making.
At this level, career roles in criminal justice management can include prison wardens, directors of law agencies, police chiefs, and more.
Online MBA programs that offer a criminal justice specification include courses on policy, marketing, criminal justice leadership, and more. If this piques your interest, learn more about this degree and the opportunities it can provide. You can search and learn about the requirements for online degree programs in criminal justice for both campus and online learning colleges here.
Best MBA in Criminal Justice Colleges
La Jolla, CA
|Mount Mercy University||Location
Cedar Rapids, IA
|Southern New Hampshire University||Location
|Union Institute & University||Location
What Can You Do With a Criminal Justice MBA Degree?
There are a lot of options available toCriminal Justice MBA graduates. Most opportunities exist within governmental institutions like court systems, prisons, or federal agencies. It’s also worth noting that certain paths are far more lucrative than others—administrative roles tend to hover around $50-60,000 while going into customs or becoming a financial examiner brings higher earning potential to the table.
Corrections administrators work in state, federal, or private correctional facilities.
Corrections administrators are responsible for keeping correctional facilities safe and secure. Administrators work to direct the activities of correctional officers and their interactions with prisoners. In this role, you’ll function as a leader—handling staffing decisions, budgeting, and more.
Emergency Management Director
Emergency management directors work in hospitals, College Campuses, The Salvation Army, Cities or States, FEMA and other agencies.
The emergency management director is responsible for planning recovery efforts after an emergency. In this role, you’d typically work with a government agency like FEMA. Crises range from terrorist attacks to disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and more.
As such, the right person for the job must be able to think strategically and stay calm when facing down a stressful situation.
This role also involves strategic coordination between various agencies and personnel. As such, you should be a strong communicator—you’re interacting with employees, government officials, law enforcement, and the general public.
Customs officials work with the government—this person typically works at the country’s border.
Customs officials work at the border and work with law enforcement to combat human and drug trafficking, illegal weapons importing, illegal immigration and more. Often this role is to prevent people from entering or leaving the country illegally.
Financial examiners work in banks, securities or other financial institutions, as well as with federal or state governments.
Financial examiners audit corporations and individuals suspected of committing white-collar crime. You’ll work with law enforcement to determine the likelihood a crime was committed—reporting any evidence of fraud or embezzlement.
Court administrators work in district, federal, or municipal courts.
A court administrator handles the flow of cases within the court system. This person handles judges’ schedules, courtroom availability, and ensures that attorneys and mediators have access to conference rooms. This person also functions as a Human Resources manager and may manage budgets or other internal affairs.
Types of Criminal Justice MBA Degrees
Most programs will allow you to choose an area of specialization in line with where you’d most like to work after graduation. With that in mind, here’s a look at the MBA in Criminal Justice, compared with a few alternative paths.
MBA Criminal Justice
Average Salary: $58,000
Length: 2 years
An MBA in Criminal Justice provides opportunities both in public administration and legal institutions. Unlike other MBA programs that tend to unlock doors to professions in finance or marketing, criminal justice prepares you for leadership roles in law enforcement, government, corrections, or security. This degree will cover a broad range of topics like social services, public policy, community advocacy, education, and more.
There’s also an emphasis on leadership and management technology skills. It’s an MBA program, after all.
Average Salary: $241,800
Length: 3 years
Getting your JD, the most common legal degree, is one way to get into law enforcement, though this is a much different path than obtaining an MBA. In most cases, JD grads will pursue a career in law, whereas those with a criminal justice MBA can work on the business side of the legal system.
Master’s of Science Criminal Justice
Average Salary: $71,000
Length: 2 years
Earning a Master’s in Criminal Justice allows you to take a leadership role in police or corrections departments. You can also prepare for positions in forensics, security, criminal investigation, and more. While there’s a considerable amount of overlap between this master’s degree studies and the MBA, the master’s will dive deeper into the research side of things. This is a better fit for someone who wants to work in forensics, cybercrime, criminal psychology, or digital forensics.
Sample Curriculum & Courses for Criminal Justice
Your online MBA in Criminal Justice courses will cover administrative issues like insurance and liability, as well as the operational logistics of criminal justice organizations.
Coursework may include the following, though the curriculum will depend on which institution you choose.
Administration of Criminal Justice Organizations
This course will cover theoretical and practical management perspectives used by the US justice system. You’ll learn about the challenges of managing these organizations by looking at group and individual behavior, internal processes, and criminal justice reform.
Additionally, this course covers the unique role of the criminal justice leader.
- White Collar Crime
This course explores white collar crimes like money laundering, tax evasion, and insider trading, as well as political corruption and fraud. Here, you’ll learn about the legal implications of this class of crimes and the methods for stopping and preventing these criminal acts from happening.
- Criminal Justice System and Policy
This course gives students a critical review of the role of government and private organizations in the prevention, punishment, and control of crime. Here, students analyze various policies and make recommendations for change.
- Criminal Justice Leadership
In this course, students will explore leadership theory and develop their skills. Additionally, students will learn about traditional leadership methods as they fit into a criminal justice context. They’ll study organizational and behavioral strategy—and the various applications required in a correctional setting.
- Global Terrorism
This course will explore how terrorist attacks influence today’s world. They’ll look at historical events and how they’ve changed foreign policy. Here, students will analyze past responses and come up with potential solutions to address terrorism on a global scale.
Who Should Consider Getting this Degree?
You’re interested in working in criminal justice
An MBA in Criminal Justice isn’t for the traditional MBA candidate. Where specific specializations like economics, business strategy, and finance pave the way toward a leadership role in top companies or as consultants, this degree is more about public policy, government, and correctional policies and procedures.
A criminal justice specification is best for students who want to work on the business side of the criminal justice system. This degree opens up several opportunities in correctional management, criminology, forensics, and more.
You’d like to transition into a leadership role
Additionally, this role can also set the stage for a leadership position in public policy or community advocacy. So, while you might not be training to run a startup or head up a financial institution, an MBA in Criminal Justice could give you the background needed to make a real difference at the local, state, or national level.
While this path might not be as common as say, a Master of Science in Criminology, these programs have leadership in mind. The MS is designed for those interested in the research behind criminal investigations, whereas the MBA prepares students for an administrative role.
An online MBA is ideal for parents or working professionals who may not have time to take off for a more traditional MBA experience.
You’re interested in working in law enforcement
The criminal justice field is vast and full of opportunities. Where in the past a bachelor’s degree could land you in a top position, opportunities are increasingly being presented to those who have completed an MBA program.
Positions range from local and state government to private organizations and federal agencies—but the MBA will prepare you to be a strong manager with inside knowledge of the criminal justice system, as well as global management and organizational structure.
You already work in law enforcement and want to level up.
This degree is an excellent choice for people already working in the criminal justice field looking to advance their career. While you could go straight into an MBA program after completing your undergrad, some work experience can be quite beneficial.
How to Choose the Right Program
Do you have the time to go back to school?
Your schedule will play a significant role in where you choose to get your degree. For those juggling a career and a family, adding school into the mix is a difficult road to travel. So, you’ll need to weigh your options. Consider looking at online programs, hybrid MBAs, or attending classes part-time.
Is criminal justice a long-term career path for you?
Unlike getting an MBA in economics or finance, a criminal justice MBA is a specific concentration. Sure, many positions fall under this umbrella, but this is an emotionally – and often physically – demanding field.
Yet, it’s also a rewarding, diverse, and exciting career path, too.
Is there a specific area of criminal justice that interests you?
Within the MBA concentration, there are several different paths to explore. For example, your MBA might focus on prison administration, criminology, or global terrorism. Before applying to MBA programs, look at the course offerings and whether there are further specializations available.
What kind of networking opportunities are available?
Support and networking opportunities can help you land a job after graduation. Look at the networking opportunities available in each program you’re considering–does the program offer career assistance? Is there an active alumni network?
Does getting an MBA in Criminal Justice provide a significant return on investment?
Compare the average salary of your desired role to the cost of your program. For example, if you’re looking to become a correctional officer supervisor, the average income is around $55,000 a year. If that’s your goal, consider that against the debt you take on, as well as the cost of exiting the workforce—if that’s your plan.
On the other hand, police supervisors earn around $75,000, and administrators can earn six-figure incomes. Just do your research and find out whether an MBA will pay off in the form of a higher salary. In some cases, the difference is marginal.
Consider the student outcomes for each program
Many schools provide information on how past students have fared in their program. Look at graduation rates, base salary after graduation, and employment rates. Comparing this data across a few programs will help you figure out which options promise the highest-quality education.
It’s also worth pointing out that while this program offers several career options, pursuing a law degree or even an MS in Criminal Justice will yield higher paying jobs.
Make sure the program is accredited
Accreditation is a formal review process that signifies to students and employers that a program/school meets a minimum academic standard. Employers often will disqualify applicants with degrees from non-accredited schools, so make sure you do your research before applying to a program.
Potential Scholarships to Consider
Whether you apply for a traditional campus experience for your MBA or choose to enroll in an online program, there are plenty of choices and tuition options out there for students who need some extra assistance.
Here’s a look at some of the options available to prospective students.
Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship, $1,000-$10,000
This scholarship is available to any student pursuing an MBA in finance, accounting, or criminal justice who aims to become a fraud examiner.
Academy of Criminal Justice Scholarship, $600
The Academy of Criminal Justice awards funding for two students—a Ph.D. and a Master’s student to attend the annual ACJS conference. Selected students will present a paper at the meeting.
Kush Arora Federal Criminal Justice Reform Scholarship
This scholarship is offered to criminal justice students at all levels pursuing work within the justice system. Applicants must be enrolled in an accredited US institution and have a minimum 3.0 GPA. You’ll also need to submit a 1000-word essay along with academic transcripts.
Regina B. Shearn Scholarship
This $1,500 scholarship is offered to Alpha Phi Sigma member students pursuing a degree in criminal justice at an accredited US college or university. Applicants will need to submit a transcript signed by their chapter advisor and a five-page personal statement outlining educational goals and their perspective. Recipients are chosen based on service, leadership, academic performance, and their moral character.
Women in Federal Law Enforcement Scholarship (WIFLE)
This scholarship is awarded to WIFLE members pursuing a career in law enforcement. Graduate scholars are eligible for a $3000 scholarship and must be enrolled in a criminal justice program or related field. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA, demonstrate financial need, outline career objectives, and provide a letter of recommendation from a community member—preferably someone working in law enforcement.
Criminal Justice is an unlikely MBA concentration, but the criminal justice system covers a wide range of areas beyond lawyers and police offers. This degree can open doors within local and federal governments, as well as in private corporations.
In general, criminal justice careers tend to reward longevity. A relevant MBA can help you jump ahead, rather than waiting for incremental raises.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an MBA in Criminal Justice?
An MBA is a graduate degree that tends to focus on business management, both theories and techniques which can make you a better manager. Those focused on criminal justice will give you the qualities you need to lead a criminal justice department, work on policy recommendations, and more.
What admission requirements can you expect?
Admission requirements are likely to be very different for an MBA than they are for a master’s in criminal justice. Even if your goal is purely to prepare yourself for management of a criminal justice department, you are more likely to need to have completed business courses to get into an MBA (no matter your concentration). You’ll need either a bachelor’s in business or a significant amount of management experience. You may need to have had a competitive GPA in your undergraduate studies. You’ll also need to provide a resume, statement of purpose, and perhaps even a standardized test score.
How much will a graduate from one of these programs make?
The average income earned by MBA graduates sits at around $92,000/year. Those who graduate from a criminal justice specialization may earn less than that when they start their new administrative duties, but they can still expect to earn more than those with bachelor’s or master’s degrees in similar positions and quickly move up through the ranks.