Online PhD in Criminology

Without a thorough understanding of criminal behavior and the effectiveness of various methods of intervention, the criminal justice system would struggle with public policy. Thankfully, programs such as online doctoral degrees in criminology exist to educate future leaders in the psychology behind criminal behavior, the penal system, correctional public policy, and psychotherapy in order to ensure that the public is kept safe and criminals are given the rehabilitation that they need. Online PhD programs in criminology take around four years to complete, during which students take coursework in areas such as ethics, psychology and human services. Once students complete their coursework, they take a comprehensive examination over everything they have learned and then move on to their dissertations, which are thorough research projects on topics relevant to the field of criminology. The result of all of their hard work is an online criminology PhD. Prepared to tackle correctional public policy and the criminal justice system as an organization, graduates go on to become professors, consultants, policymakers and even special agents. As top leaders in the field, criminal justice experts can pave the way for a safer society for everyone.

About Online PhD Programs in Criminology

The main difference between the online doctorate in criminology and its campus counterpart is that all online coursework and research can be completed on the internet, without having to attend a physical classroom. Despite the online component, there is very little difference between online PhD criminology coursework and campus criminology coursework. This is clear from the curriculum provided by Walden University's Criminology PhD program, as exemplified below. Online PhD programs in criminology do not require the utilization of laboratories, nor do they necessitate group work. The only time students will need to leave the comfort of their own homes is when they fulfill residency requirements in order to meet with their mentoring professors to review research. With that exception, online PhDs in criminology provide an opportunity for flexible schedules and independent learning.

Year One:

  • Foundations of Human Services. This course is an introduction to the online criminology PhD, social change, and critical thinking.
  • Organizational Management and Leadership. Criminal justice experts are leaders, and as such must have an understanding of the challenges that affect the function and evolution of human services. This course explores effective leadership theories and methodology.
  • Social Change, Leadership, and Advocacy for Counseling and Human Services Professionals. As an overview of advocacy's role in social change, this course explores the importance of counseling in human services.

Year Two:

  • History and Development of Human Services. In order to prepare for future developments and innovations within human services, students must develop an understanding of how human services have changed over time. This course explores the history behind the human services employed today.
  • Ethics and Social Justice. Using demographic data, this course will prepare students to make ethical decisions when presented with diverse challenges that have the potential to impact global communities.
  • Culture and Psychology. As an overview of cross-cultural psychology, this course explores how culture has come to affect psychology, as well as the world as a whole.

Year Three:

  • Human Services Administration. As an overview of the challenges facing human service programs today, this course explores the qualities of effective administration and problem-solving within the field.
  • Policy Analysis in the Criminal Justice System. By exploring and analyzing policy and past court decisions, this course examines the tension between human rights and public safety efforts.
  • Writing a Quality Prospectus. This course prepares law and policy PhD online students to write their dissertation prospectuses by establishing the preliminary research and plans for paper development.

Year Four:

  • Research Sequence. Online PhD criminology students will take coursework that prepares them for the development, writing and defense of their dissertations.

At the completion of coursework, students take a comprehensive examination over everything that they have learned. These exams cover subjects such as ethics, policy analysis, the penal system, and the psychology behind criminal behavior. Once students have passed the comprehensive examination, they begin work on their dissertations, which are thorough, written research projects about over a contemporary topic in the field of criminology. Past criminal justice dissertations include Procedural Justice During Police-Citizen Encounters by Mengyan Dai and From Prison to Home: Women's Pathways In and Out of Crime by Jennifer Cobbina. Society is always changing, and the criminal justice system needs to stay on top of societal shifts in order to keep the public safe. As a result, new potential research topics are always emerging.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Criminology

Online doctoral programs in criminology are a great choice for individuals with law enforcement, criminal justice, or other related backgrounds who hope to advance their careers into areas of specialization. Individuals that are interested in the penal system, the psychology behind criminal behavior, and effective methods of intervention could also benefit from an online PhD in criminology. Online PhD degrees in criminology are not, however, recommended for individuals that dislike research, sociology or psychology, as the online doctorate in criminology involves all three. Online doctorate degrees in criminology offer a convenient approach to education for students that have careers or other daily obligations, as all coursework can be completed on the internet. However, the online criminology doctorate is more of a hybrid than a purely online degree, as top programs require students to visit the physical campus for residency periods during enrollment. If residency requirements can be met by students, then online doctoral programs in criminology are a viable alternative to on-campus courses and even provide firsthand experience of technology, which is used in the criminal justice field today.

Application & Admission Requirements

Applicants to online doctorate programs in criminology usually have career backgrounds in criminal justice, law enforcement or a related field. As applicants will need to submit their resumes or curricula vitae along with their applications, past experience is an important factor. The completion of a Masters degree is required, preferably in a field such as sociology, psychology or criminology. Accredited programs usually require candidates to have maintained at least a 3.0 grade point average during their graduate programs, and will request the submission of transcripts. Some programs require applicants to take the GRE and report their scores. The best criminology PhD programs online will ask applicants to send in a statement of purpose, which will serve as an example of the candidate's academic writing abilities. As a final step, some programs may request to have an interview with applicants, however not all programs use interviews in the admissions process.

Career Options & Job Market

Criminology PhD online graduates are equipped with the tools necessary to become public safety leaders and criminal justice expects. As a result of such specialized education, there are many career fields open to criminology graduates. Graduates can pave careers as special agents (FBI, CIA, ATF, etc.) a career that has a favorable outlook, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Graduates also have the opportunity to become consultants, which is a well-paying position, or criminal justice professors, which average $65,590 annually. Applicants may also choose to work in law enforcement, which the goal of eventually becoming a deputy or police chief, positions which boast high pay. Other options include public policymaking and political advising, as graduates will have acquired an advanced knowledge of the penal system and correctional policy.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

It is no secret that education can be expensive. With accumulating tuition expenses, fees, and other costs, it is important for students to know what options they have for financial aid. Despite the fact that online education is often viewed as less expensive than on-campus programs, doctorate degrees online can still be a costly venture. For instance, Capella University charges $487 per credit hour for its criminal justice program. Most courses are four or five credit hours, and those fees do not include the cost of residency requirements and books. Financial aid is therefore very important. Luckily, many schools provide funding opportunities for PhD students. There are also a number of outside fellowship and award programs for students that are pursuing an online PhD in criminology. A few are listed below.

Essential Advice

  • Career experience in the human service industry, especially within the field of criminal justice, is a great way to make your resume stand out.
  • Join a professional association to gain access to many professional development opportunities that are only available to members.
  • If possible, contact professors to gain insight into their research interests to see if they will be a good academic match for you.
  • Don't be afraid to call university admission departments. They are there to answer any questions you may have.
  • Financial aid and scholarships are only available to qualifying students.