Master's of Justice Administration: a versatile degree

By Ysobel Croix

Master's programs in justice administration may include criminal justice but are not limited to the criminal branch of the justice system. These versatile graduate degrees can prepare students for careers ranging from government work to social advocacy, and the program and coursework tend to vary widely by educational institution.

Some justice degree programs focus on international justice systems, which differ from the U.S. system. Another possible path is public administration, with specializations such as law enforcement administration, public safety, corrections administration and more. Other programs may focus on social justice and ethics, with studies in conflict resolution and social inquiry. Related programs in justice studies typically include a broader range of coursework than for criminal justice degrees and tend to be interdisciplinary.

Graduate degrees in justice administration

Though justice administration is a much broader field than criminal justice, some master's degree programs include criminal justice, which can cover topics such as forensic psychology and crime prevention. Some schools combine justice studies with other disciplines, allowing students great variety when choosing a school and master's program. Courses for interdisciplinary justice degrees include these:

  1. Arbitration and mediation
  2. Conflict transformation, resolution and management
  3. Human security
  4. Peace and peace-building
  5. Public service

Some schools may offer a joint degree program, coupling a master's in justice study with a master's degree in anthropology or another social science. Justice studies graduate programs with a peace-building or mediation focus are sometimes offered.

Online graduate studies in justice administration

Partially or wholly online master's degrees are available in justice administration or related fields such as justice studies. Distance learning is a good option for working adults or students who do not wish to relocate from their communities. Some online programs keep a non-traditional calendar, which might allow graduate students to complete their degrees more quickly than they would with a traditional, two-semester calendar.

Coursework for justice administration master's degrees

Campus and online master's degrees in justice studies may range from 35 to 45 semester hours. Courses vary significantly by school depending on the blend of interdisciplinary studies. These classes are examples of graduate-level justice studies courses:

  • The challenge of peace
  • Ethical issues in human services leadership
  • Research methodology
  • Social justice
  • Theories of justice
  • Qualitative data analysis
  • Victimization and justice

Like students researching any graduate programs, prospective students of justice administration master's degrees programs may want to research a school's faculty and their areas of research to find a matching area of interest. The list of research opportunities is vast, given ongoing social, political and economic changes; these areas of research are a small sample of topics being pursued by justice studies professors:

  • Human rights
  • Migration and immigration
  • Sex offenders' behavior and life course
  • Violence against immigrants
  • Violence against women

Justice administration careers and salaries

People who earn a master's degree in justice-related studies can seek employment within the justice system, in advocacy organizations and nonprofits, in government agencies and many other organizations. Careers that are possible with this master's degree include the following:

  • Mediator
  • Arbitrator
  • Politician
  • Immigration officer
  • Legal or human rights advocate

Graduates of justice studies programs may look for careers with the Justice Department of the Federal government. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment in the Federal government to grow by 10 percent between 2008 and 2018. Federal employees earned an estimated mean annual salary of $72,000 in 2010.

Earnings for graduates of justice degree programs vary widely, starting with an annual salary of approximately $31,000 for non-supervisory advocacy workers. As another example, arbitrators, mediators and conciliators--who resolve conflicts outside the courts--earned a mean annual salary of more than $64,000 in 2010.

Justice administration is more than the study of an ideal or abstract concept; it's an often-intense field that impacts local communities and society as a whole. This versatile master's degree could prepare graduates for a variety of career paths.

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