Applied Sciences Unveils Online Master of Criminal Justice Option

New flexible course delivery method improves accessibility to advanced degree for working adults

The university’s new online Master of Criminal Justice degree program is aimed at working professionals who are seeking promotions to positions that require decision-making skills and leadership. The 30-credit-hour program can be completed in as little as one year. Adobe Stock photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The Department of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies at the University of Mississippi is offering its Master of Criminal Justice degree program as a fully online option.

In as little as one year, students can complete the 30-credit hour program through accelerated, eight-week classes in the Homeland Security and Emergency Management emphasis or the Criminal Justice Leadership emphasis. The program admits students based on holistic admissions and does not require the GRE to apply, considering applications on a rolling basis throughout the year.

“There has never been a more important and timely need for experts and leaders in criminal justice and related fields,” said Wesley Jennings, professor and chair of the department. “We’re excited to offer the opportunity to become the next generation of criminal justice experts and leaders to an even wider audience.”

Jennings, who has been recognized as the No. 1 criminologist in the world in terms of peer-reviewed scholarly publications, explained that many candidates who are best suited for these leadership positions face obstacles to pursuing an advanced degree because of their busy schedules. Providing an online, accelerated option offers them flexibility to complete the program.

“The areas of emphasis in Homeland Security and Emergency Management or Criminal Justice Leadership are unique aspects of the program relative to others nationally and are areas with documented growth in future employment opportunities and career mobility and advancement possibilities,” Jennings said.

Prospective students interested in the Homeland Security and Emergency Management emphasis will have opportunities to advance their knowledge in the areas of disaster preparedness, emergency response policy and planning, terrorism, and public safety, he said. Those interested in the Criminal Justice Leadership emphasis can learn about evidence-based decision-making, principles of leadership, personnel management, budgeting and finance, among other topics.

Wesley Jennings

“Even better yet, students can take electives in Homeland Security and Emergency Management if their chosen area of emphasis is Criminal Justice Leadership, or vice versa,” Jennings said. “In this vein, students have some degree of flexibility to customize their own degree program.”

Market research revealed a need for a nationally competitive online master’s program to increase accessibility to people working full-time in the field who are seeking promotions to positions that require decision-making skills and leadership, said Kimberly Kaiser, program director and assistant professor.

“A master’s program in criminal justice will give students the tools they need to apply evidence-based policy and practice in their work, particularly in the areas of homeland security and emergency management or in criminal justice leadership positions,” Kaiser said. “The degree can help them land promotions they are seeking within their organization or serve as an entry point for a competitive job, like a role in a federal agency.”

Sgt. Joshua Shipp, a graduate of the MCJ program who co-directs the SWAT team for the Oxford Police Department, was named OPD’s 2020 Officer of the Year. He said that the program broadened his critical thinking skills by requiring in-depth discussion and knowledge that he applies to daily work duties.

“This position has really evolved within the last decade,” Shipp said. “Possessing a bachelor’s degree had already set me a little further than most, but receiving my master’s degree really broadened more opportunities, such as a higher pay grade when entering the federal system.

“I would consider the MCJ curriculum an extra tool in my tool belt that gives me everything I need to be more effective than before. I feel more equipped and credible to take on a leading role within my law enforcement agency.”

Qualified candidates for the program will have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university with at least a 3.0 GPA on the last 60 hours of coursework. Applicants must submit three letters of professional recommendation, a 400-500-word personal statement of interest concerning their interest in pursuing the degree and a sample of recent written work that showcases their skills as a writer and critical thinker.

Students who prefer a more traditional classroom setting can still enjoy the existing in-person master’s program, with an emphasis in Criminal Justice Policy and Practice. This two-year program gives students a chance to learn applied research skills to promote evidence-based policy and practice in fields of criminal justice from nationally recognized experts.

Clay Taylor, of Saltillo, is in his second year of the traditional master’s program and hopes to pursue a doctoral degree when it is approved by IHL.

“The MCJ program has taught me to think completely differently about the criminal justice system,” Taylor said. “Now I’m thinking about criminal justice issues from a research standpoint and basing my opinions from research.”

For more information, visit the Department of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies website at