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.

Student 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.

Required Courses (16 Credit Hours)

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.
OR (by advisement only)
Introduces the fundamental techniques of quantitative data analysis, ranging from foundational skills—such as data description and visualization, probability, and statistics—to the workhorse of data analysis and regression, to more advanced topics—such as machine learning and networks. Emphasizes real-world data and applications using the R statistical computing language. Analyzing and understanding complex data has become an essential component of numerous fields: business and economics, health and medicine, marketing, public policy, computer science, engineering, and many more. Offers students an opportunity to finish the course ready to apply a wide variety of analytic methods to data problems, present their results to non-experts, and progress to more advanced course work delving into the many topics introduced here.

Electives (16 Credit Hours)

Offers an intensive study of a topic related to criminal justice selected by the instructor. May be repeated up to four times.
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.
Offers a seminar on conceptual, empirical, historical, and professional aspects of selected topics in forensic psychology including such areas as law and psychology, competence to stand trial, criminal responsibility, and the insanity defense. Topics include jury selection, reliability and validity of eyewitness testimony, truth detection methods, and post-conviction pleadings.
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.
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.
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.
Deals in detail with all aspects of evaluation research. Includes both process and outcomes evaluation models and a discussion of experimental and quasi-experimental designs. Students review both qualitative and quantitative approaches to evaluation design and discuss financial issues in program evaluation. Exposes students to methods to develop an evaluation research proposal.
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.
Offers elective credit for courses taken at other academic institutions. May be repeated without limit.

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)

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.

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.
Offers students an opportunity to obtain a systematic understanding of cyberspace programming languages and methods. Trains students in Python, C, and assembly languages using command-line-interface-based editors and compilers; integrated development environments, with industry-standard operating systems running on virtual machines; and the implementation of programming principles and methods spanning the evolution of computer systems. Instructor approval required.
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. Instructor approval required.
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. Instructor approval required.
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)
  • Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (on campus only)
  • Security and Resilience Studies

See our certificates page for details.


MS in Criminology and Criminal Justice

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