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Degree Overview

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Vida Simonaitis receiving her diploma at the South University Criminal Justice graduation 2022
Vida Simonaitis at the Criminal Justice Graduation 2022

With a master’s in criminal justice, those who wish to further their education in criminal justice can immerse within a community of professionals utilizing their knowledge within the field. South University’s Master of Science in Criminal Justice program* at the Richmond campus is designed for professionals interested in law enforcement and/or correctional, political, and legal arenas. Prerequisites for the master’s program are limited so qualified students with bachelor’s degrees in related fields such as criminology, psychology, business or public administration, anthropology, political science, sociology or related social sciences may enroll, along with students who have undergraduate degrees in criminal justice.

Please note: While you may be able to take some general education courses at the campus, all other courses, including specialized courses, will be taken online.

*South University does not promise or guarantee employment.

South University, Richmond, and South University, Virginia Beach, are certified to operate in the Commonwealth of Virginia pursuant to Title 23, Chapter 21.1, §23-276.4 of the Code of Virginia by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (James Monroe Building, 101 North 14th St; Richmond, VA 23219; 804-225-2600;


Admission Requirements

Admissions criteria for the Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ) Program

Graduate Admissions - Masters level

Prospective students are required to submit the following:

  • Completion of application for admission
  • Official transcripts for bachelor or graduate degree within 5 weeks of the class start date (refer to Conditional Acceptance). (All credentials earned outside the United States must be evaluated by a NACES or AICE-member credential evaluation service). Please speak with an admissions representative for more information.

Note: See program notes and specific requirements below for each graduate - masters level degree program

Specific requirements for admission to classified graduate status are:

  • A bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university.
  • Completion of application for admission.
  • A 2.7 overall grade point average or higher on completed requirements for the baccalaureate degree, or an earned graduate degree from an accredited institution with a CGPA of 3.0 or higher.

Foundational Undergraduate Courses for the Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Completion of an undergraduate statistics course (with a grade of C or better) is required for the Master of Science in Criminal Justice. If the student does not have the course as part of their undergraduate degree, the course needs to be completed in the first two quarters of the program. Foundation undergraduate course credits do not count towards the total number of credits for graduation, nor do they count in the Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA); however, they do count in determining the maximum time frame (MTF) and the Incremental Completion Rate (ICR). MSCJ students enrolled in foundation undergraduate course must successfully complete the course within their first three attempts or the student will be academically dismissed from the University.

For additional admissions information please see the admissions section here.

Provisional Admission:

Applicants with an undergraduate degree CGPA of less than a 2.7, but not lower than a 2.3, or a graduate degree CGPA of less than 3.0, but not lower than a 2.7, will be considered for provisional admission. Students who do not attain a 3.0 GPA in the first quarter will be dismissed. Students cannot appeal the dismissal from the university as a result of failure to meet the conditions of provisional admission.

Course Requirements

Master of Science in Criminal Justice: 48 credits

The student will choose four courses (16 credits) from the remaining graduate level criminal justice curriculum listed below or from other graduate offerings with the guidance and approval of the Program Director in Criminal Justice or appropriate Program Chair and with the advice of the related Program Director if courses from other programs are desired. The student should plan to take at least 50% of this part of the degree program in criminal justice courses. Students may construct an area of emphasis with the guidance of the Program Director or Chair or pursue a more general set of elective course courses. Students may emphasize a traditional area of the field such as Corrections or Homeland Security, but elective choices may also reflect the particular professional goals and aspirations of the student. Thus, courses in areas such as Public Administration, Business, or Clinical Mental Health Counseling may be included as desired and approved and if the student completes the required prerequisites for such courses. Please note that Financial Aid may not cover prerequisite courses. Please see the Coursework Taken Outside a Student's Degree Program Policy found in the Academic Affairs section of this catalog.

Capstone: 4 Credits

Acceptance into a South University Criminal Justice program or its completion does not imply or guarantee that a student will be able to obtain employment in law enforcement, corrections, probation/parole, or related fields. The student should contact the national, state, or local agency/institution in which the perspective student intends to gain employment for specific requirements and the application process.


Offered at Austin, Columbia, Online Programs, Richmond, Savannah, Tampa, Virginia Beach, and West Palm Beach.

Note: Not all Online Program offerings are available to residents of all U.S. states. Please contact an admissions representative for further information.

The South University Master of Science in Criminal Justice degree program is designed for individuals employed in the criminal justice system, as well as those in other careers, both public and private, who wish to acquire further education in criminal justice. Prerequisites are limited so that qualified students with bachelor's degrees in related fields such as criminology, psychology, business or public administration, anthropology, political science, sociology or related social sciences may enroll along with students who have undergraduate degrees in criminal justice.

The program is primarily designed to foster a learning community of criminal justice professionals who will use their knowledge within law enforcement, correctional, political, and legal arenas. Program graduates will be prepared to seek admission to doctoral programs in criminal justice, criminology, and related fields, as well as to seek advancement within law enforcement, correctional, local and state government, and legal institutions.

The goals of the Master of Science in Criminal Justice degree program are to provide students with:

  1. Professional skills necessary to assume leadership positions in the administration of criminal justice agencies.
  2. Advanced knowledge and understanding of criminal justice institutions and processes, and current criminal justice policy.
  3. Advanced knowledge and understanding of research methods and program evaluation techniques to effectively conduct and/or evaluate social policy research.

Program Student Learning Outcomes

Graduates will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate mastery of skills in the areas of theoretical and applied criminal justice as well as in managerial principles and practices to effectively solve a variety of real-life problems within a complex organization.
  2. Understand the relationship between crime theory, crime policy, and professional practice.
  3. Demonstrate interactive skills and learn behavioral strategies for improving systemic communication within and between criminal justice agencies.
  4. Demonstrate the ability to effectively interpret and make use of research methodology by completing a final research project prospectus on a topic related to professional practice in an actual criminal justice agency.

Career Outlook

Graduates of the MS in Criminal Justice program are prepared to seek management, administrative, research, and teaching positions. Program graduates will also be prepared for admission to doctoral programs in criminal justice, criminology and other related fields as well as for promotions within existing law enforcement, correctional, local and state government, and legal institutions.

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Campuses offer flexible learning formats* including: on-campus, virtual instructions, and online courses.

*Clinical, practicum, and externship requirements exist in certain programs and require field experiences. Learning formats may not be flexible.

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Success STories

Outstanding Education for Remarkable Careers

We're committed to helping our graduates make an impact in their professional and personal lives. We applaud our alumni and the difference they make. Check out what some of our Criminal Justice & Legal Studies graduates have to say.

Christopher Butler 2010
Christopher Butler Grad Alumni
Class of '10
Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice-South University, West Palm Beach

“I started my studies in Criminal Justice prior to my military service and needed to complete my degree. Criminal Justice allowed me to be of service to the community and this nation. South University gave me the educational credentials I needed to get the job advancements and opportunities that have gotten me where I am today in my career field.”

Vicki Tucci 1997
Vicki Tucci Grad Alumni
Class of '96
Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies-South University, West Palm Beach

“Ultimately, I would like to use my experience and law degree to become a judge. As a young, single mom still fleshing out a career, I felt so clueless about many things. It was that hunger for knowledge that led me to South University’s program in paralegal studies. I got so much more than a classroom education. I found friends, professional contacts, and a world of inspiration from being around people who wanted to see me at my best.”

Linda Hunter 2010
Linda Hunter Grad Alumni
Class of '10
Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies-South University, Savannah

“I can go just about anywhere and say I have a bachelor's degree in Legal Studies from a university whose program is approved by the ABA, and professionals know what that means. I know my hard work and the degree will be noticed.”

Alicia Parler 2010
Alicia Parler Grad Alumni
Class of '10
Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies-South University, Columbia

“The comradery among service men and women exists due to hardships and discipline soldiers confront together on a regular basis. More than anything, military life has taught me to appreciate my freedom as an American, something I took for granted before I joined. I learned self-discipline, which made me a better student, and ultimately, helped me realize my career aspirations. As soon as I stepped foot onto campus, and started contacting professors like Carolyn Horner, the whole experience from start-to-finish has been welcoming and encouraging.”

blue cap and gown graduate icon
Peter Gross Grad Alumni
Class of '10
Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies-South University, West Palm Beach

“My classes at South University were inspiring, not just informative; a thorough curriculum absolutely gave me the background I needed to be hired immediately at my law office.”