The master’s degree in criminology and criminal justice prepares students for professional and research careers in criminal justice, criminology and related fields by applying multidisciplinary and comparative social science to understand, predict, and explain crime. The curriculum teaches theoretical principles and effective practices for developing and implementing evidence-based public policy.

The program consists of four required courses and four electives, totaling 32 credit hours, which can be completed online, on campus, or in a combination of both modalities. Full-time students can complete the requirements for graduation in one year. The optional cooperative education experience adds six months of work experience and a two credit-hour course for a total of 34 credit hours.

Students may explore specialized interests by selecting up to two electives in other graduate programs at Northeastern. Taking more classes outside of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice requires approval from the graduate program director.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Demonstrate foundational knowledge of criminology and criminal justice theories
  • Develop an understanding for the causes of crime from an interdisciplinary perspective
  • Identify the criminal justice process and important issues confronting the administration of justice
  • Demonstrate an understanding of social research methods
  • Explain the use of quantitative techniques in social science for academic and public-sector applications
  • Understand the role of systemic racism and intersecting dimensions of oppression in the development of policies and practices across the criminal justice system, as well as in crime and justice theory and research

Required Courses (16 Credit Hours)

All required courses are also offered online. Research Methods in the Social Sciences and Statistical Analysis are offered online every semester, while Criminology and The Criminal Justice Process are offered online in opposite semesters.

Provides an overview of the current understanding of the causes of crime from an interdisciplinary perspective. Focuses on the major theories of crime and causation developed over the past two hundred years. Emphasis is on integrating criminological theory and research, assessing the implications of this knowledge base for policies relating to crime control and prevention. Also presents and discusses the most current data regarding the nature and extent of crime in the United States.
Introduces graduate students to the criminal justice process. Identifies important issues confronting the administration of justice. Offers an overview of the empirical research addressing these challenges. Through engagement with the course materials, exposes students to a variety of theories that explain the functioning of the justice system and predict its outcomes. Offers students an opportunity to identify and consider changes in institutional responses to crime and justice issues that have occurred over time and across cultural contexts.
Surveys methods of social research, including field study and participant observation techniques, survey techniques, interviewing and questionnaire construction, sampling procedures, experimental design, content analysis, and use of available data.
Studies the use of social science quantitative techniques, emphasizing applications of value to public-sector analysts and scholars alike. Introduces probability and statistical analysis. Topics include measures of central tendency and dispersion, probability and probability distributions, sampling distributions and hypothesis testing, bivariate correlation, regression, and forecasting. Examines how to generate and interpret statistical analyses.

Available Electives – On Campus (16 Credit Hours)

Examines societal security concerns by drawing upon current work in the social sciences, humanities, and physical sciences, as well as research and policy initiatives.
Introduces students to the evidence-based paradigm in crime policy. Presents the theory and methods of the evidence-based paradigm, which places systematic research at the center of the policymaking process. Offers students an opportunity to further develop skills in critically assessing leading research findings and policy initiatives in the field of criminology and criminal justice.
Studies the historical and contemporary issues regarding the purpose and function of police in U.S. communities. Focuses on understanding variation in crime-control strategies across ecological settings, which complicates police leaders’ efforts to reach balance between appropriately responding to citizen calls for service and proactive policing. Highlights effective policing efforts, which routinely involve bringing officers and community residents together in the hope of solving problems. Critically assesses the role of systemic racism and contemporary police practices that impact police-community relationships.
Examines how the processes of globalization influence crime and criminal justice around the globe. Analyzes globalization and recent developments in global crime, including global trends in policing and security. Explores the global applicability of dominant criminological theories and transferability of crime control policies. Offers students an opportunity to develop an understanding of international criminal justice, particularly as it pertains to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the global protection of human rights.
Examines ways in which criminology, the criminal justice system, and the law contribute to the social construction of gender. Investigates the process through which biological females are encouraged to become girls and women by cultural assumptions about female deviance, discourses on female crime, the criminal justice system, and legal assumptions about the meaning of equality. Focuses on feminist approaches to criminal justice that parallel the new feminist jurisprudence.
Reviews the history of our correctional system, said by many to have 4 central themes (revenge, restraint, reformation, and rehabilitation/reintegration). Defines the role and working relationship of corrections in the greater spectrum of criminal justice, identifies and discusses the issues and problems facing the system today, and evaluates its intended purpose vs. how it actually functions. Explores prison operations, from designing and staffing a prison to responsible reintegration. Discussions regarding the political, social, and economic issues that have impacted correction operations, such as sentencing reform, overcrowding, boot camps, and so on, are taken from the classroom to actual prison settings. Provides an overview of corrections through a blend of theory, practice, and firsthand observations.
Investigates and analyzes aggression and violence as forms of individual, group, and societal behavior. Includes an assessment of anthropological, biological, philosophical, political, and sociological theories. Combines student presentations and projects with lectures and tutorials.
Examines the legal relationship between the juvenile offender and the state. Covers case and statutory law as well as constitutional due process standards in juvenile proceedings. Topics include jurisdiction, prejudicial process, waiver of jurisdiction adjudication, disposition and postdispositional issues, as well as the right to treatment.
Offers a sociohistorical analysis of the effects of race and ethnicity on legitimate social opportunities, criminal behavior, victimization, and differential judicial processing. Analyzes the impact of assimilation and acculturation on criminal behavior, victimization, and criminal justice processes. Discusses issues resulting from increasing diversity of both the criminal justice workforce and society in general.
Involves a scientific study of crime victims and public policy responses to them. Focuses on the nature and extent of criminal victimization, the dynamics of victim-offender relationships (e.g., incest and domestic violence), theories of victimization, a historical analysis of the victim’s role in the criminal justice process, the restorative justice model, and the contemporary victim rights and victim services movement.
Provides an overview of crime in the context of communities. Covers major theoretical perspectives and introduces students to both major quantitative and ethnographic work on communities. Examines sociological aspects of community context and contrasts aspects of community processes that are implicated in either the generation or the prevention of crime. Considers current criminal justice practices and crime prevention approaches intended to address crime within communities—especially as they interact with neighborhood social processes in ways that deter or facilitate community crime.
Opens with the philosophy of punishment. Discusses at length the purpose of punishment and the most common justifications for sanctioning, or imposing harm, on other citizens. Reviews the history of punishment and social control, with a particular focus on the birth and development of the prison. Although the focus is on the United States, the U.S. experience is contrasted with the European experience. The middle of the course is devoted to punishment and social theory (Foucault, Marx, Weber, Elias, Garland, etc.). The latter portion of the course focuses on contemporary issues in punishment and social control (e.g., the increased use of surveillance, the death penalty, the problem of mass incarceration, and the related problem of prisoner reentry).
Studies the process of mapping. Employs a holistic approach to learning how to create and interpret maps, which seeks to provide a much deeper understanding of crime mapping and leave students with a solid foundation of skills that are transferable and scalable. Although this course represents an introduction to crime mapping, the goal is that students completing the course are successful in future mapping endeavors. Focuses on how to create effective maps (start to finish) rather than focusing largely on the various mapping capabilities currently available to researchers.

Available Electives – Online (16 Credit Hours)

Examines how the processes of globalization influence crime and criminal justice around the globe. Analyzes globalization and recent developments in global crime, including global trends in policing and security. Explores the global applicability of dominant criminological theories and transferability of crime control policies. Offers students an opportunity to develop an understanding of international criminal justice, particularly as it pertains to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the global protection of human rights.
Focuses on crime and deviance (or lack thereof) among immigrant populations in the United States. Offers students an opportunity to develop an understanding of the historical relationship between patterns of immigration and patterns of crime, to examine the nature and extent of contemporary immigrant crime and victimization, and to assess the social and health consequences associated with crime among immigrant populations and within immigrant communities.
Provides an in-depth review of the extent, nature, causes and control of the problem of financial crimes. Through readings, group discussion, and research assignments, familiarizes students with financial crimes such as terrorism financing, money laundering, fraud, corruption, and banking scandals. Examines the nature and extent of offenses committed by corporations, professionals and public officials in the course of their occupations. Investigates the social, economic and physical costs of such misconduct. Proposes challenges, techniques and approaches to effective prevention, detection, investigation, regulation, and sanctioning of financial crimes.
Provides an in-depth review of the relationship between the characteristics of and social processes in communities and criminal behavior within those communities. Explores the nature of communities and crime through research-policy collaborations. Examines the complementary roles of “communities” and the “places” therein (i.e., individual properties) in shaping crime patterns. Examines how public safety agencies do their job through conversations with local practitioners. Investigates the design and execution of a research study on how community organizations and public agencies interface in addressing “problem properties.”
Introduces the systematic use of visualization techniques for supporting the discovery of new information as well as the effective presentation of known facts. Based on principles from art, graphic design, perceptual psychology, and rhetoric, offers students an opportunity to learn how to successfully choose appropriate visual languages for representing various kinds of data to support insights relevant to the user’s goals. Covers visual data mining techniques and algorithms for supporting the knowledge-discovery process; principles of visual perception and color theory for revealing patterns in data, semiotics, and the epistemology of visual representation; narrative strategies for communicating and presenting information and evidence; and the critical evaluation and critique of data visualizations. Requires proficiency in R.
Investigates the city and its spatial, social, and economic dynamics through the lens of data and visual analytics. Utilizes large public datasets to develop knowledge about visual methods for analyzing data and communicating results. Offers students an opportunity to develop a critical understanding of data structures, collection methodologies, and their inherent biases.
Studies basic skills in spatial analytic methods. Introduces students to some of the urban social scientific and policy questions that have been answered with these methods. Covers introductory concepts and tools in geographic information systems (GIS). Offers students an opportunity to obtain the skills to develop and write an original policy-oriented spatial research project with an urban social science focus.
Examines the characteristics of resilient cities, especially those located in coastal regions. Investigates the capacity of cities to respond to major disruptions to their social and ecological systems. Includes extensive use of case studies, such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as well as readings on cities and social systems. Offers students an opportunity to analyze an urban area and provide recommendations for improving its resilience. POLS 7346 and PPUA 7346 are cross-listed.
Examines the post-9/11 evolution of security and the new emphasis on bolstering societal, infrastructure, system, and network resilience. Emphasizes the complex organizational; jurisdictional (international, federal, state, and local); private-sector; and civil-society issues associated with managing the risk of terrorism, cyber-attacks, and naturally occurring disasters. Topics include policy development and implementation of critical infrastructure protection, cybersecurity, supply chain security, disaster management, and community resilience.
Examines the most important empirical and theoretical debates on counterterrorism. Analyzes the motives and strategies of key actors in the development of approaches to counterterrorism.
Examines key problems in international security that are faced by nation-states and international and nongovernment organizations. Examples include armed violence, terrorism, organized crime, nuclear proliferation, poverty, and energy security. Explores responses that include international cooperation and the establishment of international norms. Analyzes related literature and theoretical perspectives.
Studies how to build large-scale information repositories of different types of information objects so that they can be selected, retrieved, and transformed for analytics and discovery, including statistical analysis. Analyzes how traditional approaches to data storage can be applied alongside modern approaches that use nonrelational data structures. Through case studies, readings on background theory, and hands-on experimentation, offers students an opportunity to learn how to select, plan, and implement storage, search, and retrieval components of large-scale structured and unstructured information repositories. Emphasizes how to assess and recommend efficient and effective large-scale information storage and retrieval components that provide data scientists with properly structured, accurate, and reliable access to information needed for investigation.
Introduces the fundamental techniques for data mining, combining elements from CS 6140 and CS 6220. Discusses several basic learning algorithms, such as regression and decision trees, along with popular data types, implementation and execution, and analysis of results. Lays the data analytics program foundation of how learning models from data work, both algorithmically and practically. The coding can be done in R, Matlab or Python. Students must demonstrate ability to set up data for learning, training, testing, and evaluating.
Covers issues of justice and the public good in relation to the creation, collection, storage, analysis, processing, dissemination, and use of information. Discusses theories of justice and human rights, as well as ethical theories such as utilitarianism and principlism. Topics include intellectual and cultural property, freedom of expression, access to information, fair representation, and information privacy. Discusses how to create and use information technologies that promote individual flourishing and the public good while avoiding bias, exploitation, and manipulation.
Discusses artificial intelligence and the host of ethical issues it raises: decisions turned over to machine-learning algorithms can be opaque and unfair; autonomous vehicles promise to increase safety but raise challenges for assigning responsibility for accidents; diffusion of AI is likely to transform the labor market in unpredictable ways; and the data that powers machine-learning algorithms raise questions about privacy and security. In order to realize the benefits of AI while responsibly developing and implementing it, it is necessary to identify the ethical issues at stake and work to resolve them. This course takes up the philosophical and ethical questions essential to this project.

*Course numbers and descriptions are updated regularly, however please refer to the course catalog for the most current information.

Cooperative Education (Co-op)

Northeastern has been ranked the best American university for experiential learning by U.S. News & World Report. Criminology and criminal justice students can take advantage of the connections and opportunities available from a widely recognized institution to advance their careers. The co-op experience consists of six months’ full-time employment (minimum 32 hours per week) in a role related to criminal justice or criminology. A required online integration course accompanies the co-op.

Northeastern partners with local organizations in Boston as well as national and global employers to help students find placements in fields like law, courts, corrections, human services, investigations, loss prevention, and social services. Some of the organizations are students have worked for include the Boston Police Department, George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security, LLC, Office of the Inspector General of MA, Department of Justice-Interpol Washington, Rwanda National Commission for the Fight against Genocide, The New England Innocence Project LLC, and the Children’s Advocacy Center of Suffolk County.

During their second semester in the master’s program, students have the opportunity to meet with a co-op coordinator to begin preparing for their experience. Mandatory information sessions cover topics like résumé building and job interviews. The program director goes on to evaluate students’ performance in the integration course based on a review of their written work, their supervisor’s evaluation, and their timely completion of online assignments.

Cybersecurity Concentration

MSCJ students may use their elective credits to complete the 12-credit hour Cybersecurity concentration. This curriculum introduces the multidisciplinary skills that criminal justice master’s students need to analyze security risks, prevent intrusions in information systems, and become leaders in a rapidly growing field.

Courses from the world-renowned Khoury College of Computer Sciences equip professionals with the technical grounding so they can address challenges like identity theft and data breaches with a holistic, ethical approach. By integrating concepts from criminal justice, criminology, and computer science, graduates can go on to pursue careers in setting digital information security policies, analyzing emerging threats, and strengthening law enforcement responses to cybercrime.

Required Course (4 Credit Hours)

Seeks to provide a systematic understanding of cyberspace technology and applications deployed in the global digital infrastructure. Covers topics in computer networks, server architectures, operating systems, and scripting. All the techniques and tools included in the course are oriented to serve as instruments of security administrators and cybersecurity professionals. Uses practical hands-on labs running on virtual machines and containers hosted in the cloud computing environment to train students. For that reason, a practical overview of virtualization technologies, containerization, and cloud computing models is provided.

Electives (8 Credit Hours)

Introduces students to the evidence-based paradigm in crime policy. Presents the theory and methods of the evidence-based paradigm, which places systematic research at the center of the policymaking process. Offers students an opportunity to further develop skills in critically assessing leading research findings and policy initiatives in the field of criminology and criminal justice.
Describes the legal and ethical issues associated with information security including access, use, and dissemination. Emphasizes legal infrastructure relating to information assurance, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Telecommunications Decency Act, and emerging technologies for management of digital rights. Examines the role of information security in various domains such as healthcare, scientific research, and personal communications such as email. Examines criminal activities such as computer fraud and abuse, desktop forgery, embezzlement, child pornography, computer trespass, and computer piracy.
Offers an intensive study of a topic related to criminal justice selected by the instructor. May be repeated up to four times.
Presents an overview of basic principles and security concepts related to information systems, including operating system security, communications and network security, and software security. Introduces information security via concepts of confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Discusses ethical, legal, and privacy ramifications while reviewing various laws such as the Patriot Act, GLBA, and Global Data Privacy regulation. Covers security methods, controls, procedures, economics of cybercrime, criminal procedure, and forensics. Describes the use of cryptography as a tool, software development processes, and protection. Seeks to build a common cross-disciplinary understanding in the foundations of information assurance and cybersecurity.
Creates the opportunity for competency in the development of information security policies and plans including controls for physical, software, and networks. Discusses different malicious attacks, such as viruses and Trojan horses, detection strategies, countermeasures, damage assessment, and control. Covers information system risk analysis and management, audits, and log files. Uses case studies, site visits, and works with commercial products.
Designed to allow students to explore the techniques used in computer forensic examinations. Examines computer hardware, physical and logical disk structure, and computer forensic techniques. Conducts hands-on experiences on DOS, Windows operating systems, Macintosh, Novell, and Unix/Linux platforms. Builds on basic computer skills and affords hands-on experience with the tools and techniques to investigate, seize, and analyze computer-based evidence using a variety of specialized forensic software in an IBM-PC environment.
Focuses on the art and science of security program management leadership in the context of critical infrastructure protection programs. Includes selected readings, review of decision-making models in crisis, lectures and insights from accomplished leaders in infrastructure protection, and examination of the students’ own unique background and experiences. Trains students on the interaction of vulnerabilities, threats, and countermeasures and how to apply this knowledge to the protection of critical infrastructure using research and analysis of national and global strategies, historical and current legislation, and policies. Also seeks to give students a working knowledge of federal, state, and private-sector critical infrastructure protection resources and programs.

Directed Study

Students may choose to pursue up to two directed studies (8 credit hours). In a directed study, students work under the close supervision of a faculty member to explore an area of literature in depth or to conduct a research project.

Offers the student the opportunity to bring individual, concentrated attention to a particular topic as arranged and agreed upon in advance by a faculty member and the student. This option is generally recommended when the student desires a more intensive analysis of a particular subject. May be repeated without limit.
Offers independent work under the direction of members of the department on a chosen topic. Course content depends on instructor. May be repeated without limit.

Graduate Certificates

With the graduate program director’s authorization, a student may pursue a graduate certificate in the following areas:

  • Public Policy Analysis
  • Nonprofit Sector, Philanthropy, and Social Change
  • Urban Analytics
  • Urban Studies
  • Data Analytics
  • Information Ethics (on campus only)
  • Security and Resilience Studies
  • Sustainability and Climate Change Policy
  • Computational Social Science

See our certificates page for details.

MS in Criminology and Criminal Justice

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