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 and Criminal Justice 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 and Criminal Justice 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 and Criminal Justice 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 and Criminal Justice 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 and Criminal Justice 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.


Adler University’s online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Criminology and Criminal Justice 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 and Criminal Justice M.A. is offered in the following sequence of classes, including a final capstone (divided into two courses):

Criminology and Criminal Justice
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.


The Master of Arts (M.A.) in Criminology and Criminal Justice 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.

Rachel Johnston

Rachel Johnston, Ph.D.
Program Director


  • Ph.D., Criminology, Law, and Justice, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • M.U.P.P., Urban Planning and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • B.S.S., American Studies, Cornell College


  • Director, Chicago Youth Shooting Review Project, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago
  • Director of Research and Development, Chicago Police Department
  • Senior Manager, Maximus Inc.
  • Project Manager, LR Development Company LLC

Professional memberships

  • American Society of Criminality
  • Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences
  • International Association of Chiefs of Police
  • IRB Chair, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority

What experience do you bring to what you teach? How do you incorporate it into the Criminology and Criminal Justice program?

My areas of expertise are in law enforcement, police management, surveillance, and violence prevention. I have worked as a practitioner, a convener of public agencies, and a researcher. I worked in the Chicago Police Department’s Research and Development Division for over a decade, and was recently involved with a multiagency collaboration of public agencies in Cook County and the City of Chicago. I have conducted research in violence prevention, policing strategies, and surveillance. My varied experiences allow me to bring multiple perspectives of the criminal justice system to the classroom.

My background as a student is probably just as important as my professional experience. I think about that student experience and my students when I design curriculum and courses, and when I teach particular classes. I want to make things easily understood, intuitive, and fun.

The Research Methods course that I teach has a cumulative final project. It involves creating a mock response to a solicitation from the federal government, related to justice or advocacy. It directly reflects what I did all the time creating grant applications.

How does this program differ from programs offered by other schools?

Our program is tied to the philosophy of one individual, Alfred Adler, who had very specific ideas about community psychology and the impact of communities on the health of the individual. This philosophy can be applied to professional work in criminology or within the criminal justice system. When individuals are trained to think Adlerian, in given interactions, they are thinking about the health of the individual and how the actions of the institutions they represent impact an individual’s health.

We are not looking for people who just want a master’s degree to qualify for promotion. We want people who are passionate about the need for social change and have a strong desire to work toward change in their professional and personal lives. Our students leave this program with a different perspective that they then take with them into the field.

How are social justice, social responsibility, and Adlerian ideals part of criminology and criminal justice?

Social justice and social responsibility are relevant to every aspect of criminology and criminal justice. The criminal justice system affects so many individuals—not just people who are arrested and processed by police, but also victims, victims’ families, whole communities, and the multitude of people who work directly or indirectly with the system. There are many, many opportunities to advance justice on an individual level.

For example, the policing profession is currently “under a microscope” given a number of questionable incidents involving police-citizen contact, such as Freddy Gray in Baltimore; Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; and Laquan McDonald in Chicago. A significant outcry from the public about the perceived unfair handling of these cases has had an impact on how many communities view the police, which has, in turn, had an impact on the way police view the communities they serve. Police-community relations in many parts of the country were already strained, and these types of developments have only served to increase the divide. Without community support, police are less effective, and without police support, communities suffer from crime and disorder.

Training current or aspiring police officers in the concepts of social justice and social responsibility could have an impact on the field more generally.

  • An officer who is taught to understand their profession from a viewpoint outside of the police community can be much more effective than an officer who sees the community as the enemy.
  • An officer who believes in working for the good of the community can impact their departments from within, by modeling positive community relations and starting conversations with their colleagues.

Similarly, police are residents in the communities they serve, and by being part of the community outside of their profession, they can help work toward mending relations on both sides.

How do program faculty support students?

One of the ways we support students is through the availability and responsiveness of our faculty. Students often find that faculty members are more responsive than they had anticipated. Faculty members focus on recognizing and seizing opportunities to help students expand their thinking, and work directly with students to address any questions or concepts students may be struggling with.

We recruit faculty from diverse backgrounds that are directly relevant to criminology or the criminal justice system. Students receive support from individuals who may have things in common with them or who may be from completely different backgrounds. Interaction with our diverse and experienced faculty allows students to learn about subjects beyond the course work.

What excites you about what you teach?

It’s exciting to contribute to and witness my students’ “ah-ha” moments. Having previously designed traditionally structured curriculum, I’m thrilled by the opportunity to be more creative with online teaching. There are so many new ways to approach students with different learning styles, and new ways students can contribute to a class.

Is there a specific course you’re most excited about?

I’m excited about a course we recently developed on concepts of justice. It not only exposes students to the theories of justice, but it also gives them an opportunity to demonstrate how to apply those concepts to advocacy. The early feedback from students is that, while the material may be a bit challenging, it has opened them up to thinking about “justice” in ways they had not previously considered. Bringing something entirely new to the curriculum is rewarding not only for me as an administrator and a teacher, but also to the students, most of whom have not had this type of course material in any of their previous educational experiences.

Eddie Gordon, Ph.D.


  • Ph.D., Criminal Justice, Capella University
  • M.P.A., Government Administration, Columbus State University
  • B.S., Criminal Justice, Columbus State University


  • Deputy Sheriff, Fulton County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office
  • Adjunct Faculty, Ashford University
  • Department Chair, Atlanta Metropolitan State College
  • Area Chair, Criminal Justice, University of Phoenix at Atlanta
  • Investigator, Georgia Department of Human Services/Division of Family & Children Services (DFCS)
  • Assistant to DFCS Social Services Director, Georgia Department of Human Services

Jon Ross, Ph.D.


  • Ph.D., Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis in Public Policy, Union Institute & University
  • M.A., Legislative Affairs, George Washington University
  • B.A., Political Science, University of Florida at Gainesville


  • Adjunct Faculty, Chicago School of Professional Psychology
  • Adjunct Faculty, Adler University
  • Adjunct Faculty, Aurora University
  • Visiting Instructor, Aurora University
  • Adjunct Faculty, City Colleges of Chicago, Harold Washington College
  • Principal, Ross Consulting and Communications

Micah Cardiel, Ph.D.


  • Ph.D., Criminology, Law, and Justice, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • M.A., Criminology, Law, and Justice, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • B.A., Justice Studies, Northeastern Illinois University


  • Adjunct Faculty, Adler University
  • Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Assistant Coordinator of Student Conduct, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Innovation and Policy Intern, Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), Chicago

Omar Jamil, Ph.D.


  • Ph.D., Clinical-Community Psychology, DePaul University
  • M.A., Clinical-Community Psychology, DePaul University
  • B.A., Psychology, Saint Louis University
  • B.A., Art History/Studio Art, Saint Louis University


  • Youth Justice Community Researcher, Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice, Adler University
  • Adjunct Faculty, DePaul University
  • Adjunct Faculty, Lake Forest College
  • Adjunct Faculty, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Project Director, Critical Consciousness-Based HIV Prevention for Young Black Gay/Bi/MSM Male Adolescents research study, DePaul University
  • Consultant, Male Initiative Project, DePaul University
  • Consultant, Project VIDA Inc., Chicago
  • Graduate Research Assistant, DePaul University
  • Psychology Intern, Ethan Allen School, Department of Corrections
  • Psychology Extern, Adult Neuropsychology Program, University of Chicago Medicine
  • Staff Therapist, University Counseling Services, DePaul University
  • Mental Health Professional, Community Mental Health Center, DePaul University
  • Intake Clinician, SSM Health Behavioral Health, St. Louis
  • Telephone Crisis Counselor, Life Crisis Center, St. Louis

Valerie Werner, Ph.D.


  • Ph.D., Public Administration, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • M.A., Psychology and Education with an emphasis in Marriage, Family, and Children’s Counseling, University of San Francisco
  • B.A., Sociology, Goshen College


  • Director, Public Policy and Administration, Adler University
  • Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Student Affairs, College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Director, College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Private Practice
  • Instructor, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Principal Investigator, Education and Training Program, Chicago Commons, Chicago
  • Principal Investigator, Division of Specialized Care for Children, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Research Assistant, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Supervisor and Counselor, Erie Teen and Young Adult Health Center, Chicago
  • Supervisor and Counselor, United Cerebral Palsy, Chicago
  • Senior Social Worker and Crises Counselor, Santa Cruz County Family and Children’s Services Division, Santa Cruz, California