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Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ)

US News: Best Online Program in Criminal Justice

​​For additional information contact:

Beth Gilmore, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice
 713-221-2757 or

Kory Kilgore, Assistant Director of Graduate Studies
 713-221-2714 or

For questions about the Graduate Admissions:
Graduate Admissions Office
713-221-2718 (fax)

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Fall 2024 Application Deadline: July 31st, 2024

Application is a two-step process:

  1.    Applications are completed through UHD GRAD Portal;
  2.    Required documentation is submitted to the Office of Admissions.

The degree is designed to prepare graduate students to provide leadership, critical thinking, and knowledge in the areas of criminological theory, program evaluation, and criminal justice administration. The curriculum provides for the development of skills in criminal justice planning, implementation, and evaluation in order to ensure that the management and administration of the criminal justice system is effective, efficient, and responsive to the needs of the community. The degree is particularly beneficial for students already working in a criminal justice occupation and who wish to:
  • increase their professional knowledge and skills or obtain employment in a criminal justice agency
  • teach at the community college level, and
  • pursue a doctoral degree.

Admission is competitive and selective and is designed to identify applicants who have the ability, interest, and qualities necessary to successfully complete the program and the potential to contribute to the field of criminal justice. MSCJ applicants must indicate whether they intend to complete the program through traditional face-to-face courses or fully online. Students must take their coursework in the format they have chosen. Students will be allowed to take up to six hours of credit in the alternative format; exceptions or waivers for additional hours in the alternative format may be granted upon student petition to the MSCJ Coordinator and the Department Chair.

Program Outcomes

Graduates who earn a MS in Criminal Justice will be able to:

  1. Interpret and apply techniques of statistical analysis to the study of crime and justice.
  2. Apply theoretical concepts to the study of crime and justice.
  3. Identify, describe, and communicate current issues in the criminal justice system.
  4. Apply knowledge of the operations of the criminal justice system to develop solutions to the specific problems of criminal justice agencies.
  5. Design a research plan to evaluate criminal justice programs, policies, or issues in the study of crime and justice.


Admission Requirements

To be eligible for admission, an applicant will be required to present the following:

  • Must have earned a baccalaureate degree conferred by a regionally-accredited institution
    • Criminology, Sociology, or Psychology Theory course(s)
    • Statistics or Quantitative Data Analysis
    • Research Methods
    • If an applicant does not have these required prerequisites or functional equivalents, they may be required to complete them prior to full admission and/or may be granted admission on a conditional basis.

  • Official transcripts, submitted to the Office of Admissions, of all academic work previously undertaken, including graduate-level courses or degrees
  • Transcripts should show completion of the following:

  • Major or minor in criminal justice or related field is strongly preferred

  • Cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher (on a 4-point scale)
  • Emphasis is placed on the final 60 credit hours of study

  • Three (3) letters of recommendation that address the applicant's potential for success in graduate school, including written and oral communication skills, professionalism, leadership potential, and critical thinking skills.
    • Applicants who have not been enrolled at a university in the past 5 years may submit letters from employers, but must make an effort to get a letter from at least one former professor
    • Applicants who do not meet the 3.0 minimum GPA requirement are expected to obtain all three letters of recommendation from professors

  • Letters should be from former/current professors who can speak directly to the applicant's academic skills and potential
  • Completion of admission essay that demonstrates strong writing skills, rationale for seeking the MSCJ degree, and commitment to completion
  • For graduates of universities where English is not the native language: minimum TOEFL scores of 550 with section scores of 50 or higher.

Any student accepted into the Master of Science Criminal Justice program may be required to take undergraduate course work in Criminal Justice. Applicants who have earned a graduate degree in a field other than criminal justice at an accredited institution, and who meet all other admission requirements are required to submit all graduate transcripts.


Degree Requirements (36 hours)

The degree requires a minimum of 36 Criminal Justice (CJ) graduate semester hours for either thesis or non-thesis options. Students must complete thirty (30) of these graduate-level Criminal Justice (CJ) hours at the University of Houston-Downtown. The thesis and non-thesis options require completion of the following Criminal Justice (CJ) core for a total of 18 hours.

Credits: 3
Class: 3
Lab: 0
Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing or department approval. An analysis of the current issues facing the criminal justice system.

Credits: 3
Class: 3
Lab: 0

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing or department approval.
Includes the scientific method, basic social science research design and execution, and evaluation of contemporary research in criminal justice. Topics covered include the logic of causal order, the logic of inference, sampling theory, qualitative and quantitative research design, data collection, and model specification. Prepares students to critically appraise reported research, and to design and conduct independent research projects.

Credits: 3
Class: 3
Lab: 0

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing or department approval, an undergraduate statistics course within the last 5 years, and CJ 6320.
The use of descriptive and inferential statistics and computer applications as used in criminal justice research.

Credits: 3
Class: 3
Lab: 0

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing or department approval.
History of criminological thought, etiology of criminal behavior, and analysis and evaluation of contemporary criminological theories.

Credits: 3
Class: 3
Lab: 0

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing or department approval.
Surveys the relationship between worker productivity and personnel/management policies in criminal justice organizations. Examines the workplace application of theories of learning, personality, cognitive processes, group dynamics and communications.

Credits: 3
Class: 3
Lab: 0

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing or department approval.
Explores the techniques used to evaluation criminal justice programs. Focuses on quantitative and qualitative methods and analyses to assess the effectiveness of a programs processes and outcomes related to design, implementation, and impact.

Credits: 3
Class: 3
Lab: 0

Prerequisite(s): Graduate standing or department approval
Examines the policy making process, the interrelated factors that influence it, and the consideration of alternatives. Incorporates policy analysis as a tool for examining sound policy. Highlights the role of stakeholders and issues associated with implementation.


Thesis Option

In addition to the Criminal Justice (CJ) core, students choosing the thesis option must complete 12 hours of graduate-level Criminal Justice (CJ) electives*, 3 hours of Thesis I (CJ 6390), and continuous enrollment in Thesis II (CJ 6391, 3 hours) until completion of the thesis.

Thesis option candidates will be required to focus on a topic, issue, or problem in the areas of criminology or criminal justice to complete the thesis requirements.

Non-Thesis Option

In addition to the Criminal Justice (CJ) core, students choosing the non-thesis option must complete 15 hours of graduate-level Criminal Justice (CJ) electives* and the following course (3 hours):

Non-thesis option candidates will be required to address a criminal justice agency problem or criminal justice system issue and prepare a written document on their topic. MSCJ students may receive only one "In Progress" grade from  CJ 6301 - Criminal Justice Project. Students must complete the project in the subsequent term.


Transfer of Graduate Credits


A maximum of six units of equivalent graduate course work may be transferred from other accredited universities. A minimum grade of B is required in any such courses. Transfer credit is granted by petition to, and approval by, the Graduate Committee. It is the student's responsibility to initiate the petition and justify the acceptance of the courses. The Graduate Committee will determine whether the courses are equivalent. Please keep in mind that transfer credit is by permission only and is not a right of the student.


A minimum GPA of 3.0 for all course work is required. Students with a GPA below a 3.0 will be placed on academic probation and cannot graduate until their GPA reaches a 3.0. Students are allowed a grade of C in two courses as long as their GPA is a 3.0 when degree requirements are completed; however, if a third C is earned, it will result in automatic dismissal from the program.

* Students must complete elective hours in graduate-level Criminal Justice (CJ) courses unless another course from a different discipline is cross-listed with a specific CJ graduate course or the CJ Graduate Director approves a graduate-level course from another discipline.