What are the racial, economic, and gender disparities of the U.S. criminal justice system? How do psychological trauma, drug abuse, and mental illness influence criminal behavior and the criminal justice system? Relevant issues including punitive versus rehabilitative approaches, family involvement, and victim advocacy are complex and constantly evolving.

Adler University’s fully online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Criminology combines a rigorous academic study of the root causes and nature of crime with a deep commitment to the fair and equitable application of criminal justice and community-focused solutions.

All of our online programs are delivered with the academic rigor and personal attention that has distinguished Adler University for more than 60 years. Our online Criminology master’s program is led by professionals with years of experience in the field.

This degree uniquely prepares candidates as socially responsible practitioners and leaders. Coursework explores the intersection of criminology, psychology, and social justice. This approach means Adler graduates are equipped to make an immediate impact by bringing together law enforcement, social services, and community leaders to develop effective, sustainable solutions to challenges.

Adler’s online Criminology program is ideal for law enforcement and corrections personnel, probation/parole officers, victim-advocate counselors, active-duty and veteran military members, and anyone else with an abiding interest in helping improve their communities and the justice system.

This leadership-focused master’s program can help graduates advance their professional standing in the field; our fully online approach means students can balance existing professional and personal responsibilities and complete this degree program around even the busiest schedules. Earn your Criminology master’s degree fully online from an institution that shares your values of social justice and community-based solutions.

Program Outcomes

Graduates of Adler University’s Master of Arts (M.A.) in Criminology online degree program are equipped with the tools and knowledge to successfully navigate the labyrinth of the U.S. criminal justice system, and advocate for safer and stronger communities. Upon completing the program, students will exhibit the following skills and competencies:

  • Comprehend the theories of the causes and consequences of criminal behavior.
  • Demonstrate critical thinking skills and analysis from a social justice perspective.
  • Master the complexities of modern day criminal justice systems.
  • Apply research methodology and analytical thinking skills to lawmaking and law-breaking.
  • Analyze behavior from a social psychology perspective as it relates to crime and justice.
  • Integrate skills, cultural competencies, and critical thinking to evaluate the criminal justice system.

Courses

Adler University’s online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Criminology is a 36 credit-hour program. Courses are eight weeks in length, and this program can be completed in two years with scheduled breaks.

The Criminology M.A. is offered in the following sequence of classes, including a final capstone (divided into two courses):

Criminology
36 credits
CRIM 001 (0)
Student Orientation
Student orientation provides new students with an overview of Adler University policies and procedures, systems, personnel, resources, and organizations. Newly admitted students are expected to complete this mandatory orientation prior to enrollment. Failure to complete orientation prior to the 10th day of their first course may result in dismissal from the program.
CRIM 500 (3)
Criminological Theory
Theoretical underpinnings of criminology are vital to understanding and developing solutions to contemporary crime problems. This course will introduce students to the major theories, patterns, and typologies of criminology. Students will examine historical and influential perspectives, including classical criminology, biological and psychological explanations, ecological theories, social disorganization, strain, control, conflict, labeling, and critical criminology. Analytical comparisons of basic components of all theories will be used to develop an understanding of theory construction. Emerging critical issues, including the impact of forensics and technology on criminal investigation and prosecution, will be introduced. Additionally, students will apply theoretical perspectives to current criminal justice problems.
CRIM 507 (3)
Research Methods
It is impossible to truly understand the wealth of empirical research that exists in the fields of Criminology and Criminal Justice without understanding the basics of social science research methods. Furthermore, it is not possible to complete a significant work of scholarship without knowing how to apply these methods. This course introduces students to the basics of social science research methodology. Students are exposed to philosophical debates about ethical and culturally relevant strategies for studying human behavior, and will have guided opportunities to critique current research by identifying the research method and design, explaining design limitations, and making recommendations for improvement.
CRIM 514 (3)
Concepts of Justice
There is no correct or incorrect answer to the question “what is justice?” However, developing a personal understanding of what justice means will provide students with an important guide in their careers as a student and beyond. This course will introduce students to the concept of justice and how it is relevant to developing an understanding of the criminal justice system. Topics will include crime and social control; the development and objectives of criminal law; and how the criminal justice system achieves or fails to deliver “justice.” In addition, special attention will be devoted to the conduct of basic criminal justice research, writing, and critical thinking.
CRIM 509 (3)
Criminal Justice Processes and Institutions
Millions of people each year come into contact with the U.S. criminal justice system as victims, offenders, witnesses, and loved ones of those involved. The criminal justice system is composed of law enforcement, courts, corrections, re-entry, prosecution, probation, and public defense, among others. This course will contribute to the development of an understanding of the system as a whole and how the individual pieces work together—or do not. Students will explore the organizational theory behind the design of criminal justice agencies and critically assess their potential based on organizational design. Students will analyze the guaranteed protections for individuals within the system and how case law and technology are influencing those protections.
CRIM 506 (3)
Public Policy Issues in Criminal Justice
During the last 50 years, crime in the United States increased, then decreased significantly, and a number of theories have been posited to explain changing crime patterns. How are crime and public policy related to one another? The focus of this course is on teaching the policy process, including formulation, implementation, analysis, and the social and economic costs of criminal justice policy. Students will also consider the role of research in shaping criminal justice policy and discuss various research methods that are used to evaluate policies. Discussion will consider the relative influence of various perspectives on the policymaking process, from those of academics to lobbyists, and how justice professionals might affect the inclusion of those most impacted by crime and justice policy.
CRIM 515 (3)
Community and Social Psychology
The consideration of individual differences is necessary to develop an understanding of criminal behavior and responses to crime. Furthermore, the interaction among individuals, the community, and criminal justice institutions has a substantial impact on health and well-being. Community Psychology studies a wide variety of forces and structures in the community that affect the positive growth, development, and functioning of its members. This course examines, from a diversity perspective, the theories and concepts of social psychology, and focuses on strategies that facilitate and promote constructive social change within communities as it relates to the criminal justice system. Factors related to individual and group identity are examined to facilitate an understanding of the nature of human behavior in groups, institutions, and police and civilian organizations in the criminal justice field. Students will consider the roles of society and dominant culture in the construction and evolution of the self. The course also takes an ecological approach to human functioning, locating health and well-being in the interaction between individuals and the larger systems in which they live and interact. Students will evaluate social, political, and environmental factors that play a role in criminal behavior.
CRIM 501 (3)
Juvenile Justice
Young people are disproportionately impacted by criminal behavior whether they are victimized, acting as offenders, or witnessing violence or other criminal activities. The systemic responses to their experiences will shape not only their future interactions with the system, but also the trajectory of their lives. This course will provide a detailed overview of the issues, policies, and procedures of the U.S. juvenile justice system, from its inception to its current state. Historical precedents for treating juveniles differently, including the types of crimes and processes to which they are subjected by adults in the criminal justice system, will be explored. Students will analyze current knowledge about how the biological, psychological, and social development of children influences policy and practice. During the course, the influence of individual, family, and community factors (both risk and protective) on delinquency and victimization will be considered. Tested practices for reducing delinquency and victimization such as mentoring, therapy, and the D.A.R.E. program will be debated.
CRIM 508 (3)
Comparative Criminal Justice Systems
Nations worldwide vary in their definitions and systemic response to crime, and technology has contributed to increasingly interconnected cultures. This course compares criminal justice systems operating throughout the world in order for students to develop a critical perspective of the contemporary U.S. system. Students will learn about the basic worldwide philosophies of criminal justice and will compare their respective approaches to lawmaking, policing, courts, corrections, crime prevention, sentencing, and correctional procedures. In addition, students will discuss pressing contemporary issues related to the impact of globalization on crime, including terrorism, human trafficking, and the drug trade.
CRIM 504 (3)
Mental Health Intersections in Criminal Justice
Research has demonstrated a prevalence of mental health disorders among criminal defendants, but the criminal justice system does not have adequate resources to recognize and effectively address mental health issues. The objective of this course is to provide the student with an overview of the intersection of mental health and crime and violence, as well as policies and programs intended to address mental illness in the justice system. The impact of mental health programs implemented in the system will be discussed, as will the expectation that the system house and manage the mentally ill. Topics will include the nature and prevalence of mental illness among criminal offenders and its co-morbidity with substance abuse, competency issues, re-entry and recidivism, and tested treatment strategies. The course will also explore the co-existence of societal inequalities and individuals with mental illness who have contact with the criminal justice system.
CRIM 516 (3)
Special Topics in Criminology and Criminal Justice
Criminology is impacted by contemporary issues and advances in science and technology. As such, new issues are often emerging within the discipline. The ability to critically evaluate the complexities and consequences, both intended and unintended, of a contemporary policy and practice and societal attitudes is an essential skill for a socially responsible criminal justice professional. Issues relevant to criminal justice and criminology are in the news every day; perspectives and research on highly relevant topics in this arena are continuously updated. In order to provide students with information about the most relevant topics in the field, this course will offer changing topics based on the most contemporary and pressing issues. For example, the course may focus on drug policy, incarceration, terrorism, trafficking, or global crime. It will provide an introduction to the issue, policy implications, the impacts on individual behavior and attitudes, and the collective impact on society.
CRIM 512 (3)
Capstone in Criminology / Criminal Justice Part 1
During this first course in their Capstone Paper, students work closely with faculty to select and refine an issue defined by their personal and professional interests for research and exploration. Students will develop a problem statement, craft a comprehensive literature review, and connect social justice issues to potential solutions. Additionally, the concept of peer review will be examined, and students will engage in peer review of pieces of each other’s capstone papers.
CRIM 513 (3)
Capstone in Criminology / Criminal Justice Part 2
Continuing the work started during CRIM 512, students will use their literature review to identify gaps in knowledge, engage in additional peer reviews, develop an original proposal to improve justice as it relates to their chosen topic, complete and submit a capstone paper, and create a multimedia presentation for their peers.

Capstone Paper
A “capstone paper” is the final product produced by a student in the master’s degree program. The paper is a significant work of scholarship. It demonstrates the student’s cumulative knowledge and offers an original contribution to the discipline. Using both a theoretical and practical framework, this project will allow the student to demonstrate mastery of a subject that may serve as a catalyst for future work and study. In line with the University’s mission, students will be expected to connect topics to social justice and socially responsible practice, ultimately resulting in proposals designed to improve justice. The substance of the paper is such that the creation of this project takes place in two parts.

Careers

The Master of Arts (M.A.) in Criminology from Adler University prepares our graduates for rewarding and impactful careers in a broad spectrum of professions, including law enforcement, corrections, victim advocacy, crime prevention, and community programming. Career options include:

  • U.S. Marshal
  • Researcher
  • FBI Agent
  • Victim Advocate
  • Law Enforcement Agent
  • Corrections Officer
  • Crime Prevention Policy Analyst
  • Probation Officer
  • Warden
  • Community Crime Prevention Program Developer

Please note that additional training requirements may apply. Students are encouraged to check their specific state and federal licensing requirements.