Masters Degree in Criminal Justice

The criminal justice masters program at MSU provides students with analytic skills, an interdisciplinary knowledge base, and both classroom and practical understanding of the settings where correctional, law enforcement, and security policies are implemented.  The program integrates theory and application through case materials and classroom guest speakers, as well as internship opportunities.

Individuals who wish to pursue a career in criminal justice research and teaching will have a strong foundation for advanced graduate studies based on the program’s combined emphasis on research, critical issues, and interdisciplinary theory.

The School of Criminal Justice was established in 1935 as an academic program providing courses for those seeking careers in law enforcement. Graduate studies in the School of Criminal Justice began in 1956 with the Masters of Science degree, followed by the Interdisciplinary Doctoral program in 1968 and the Doctorate in Criminal Justice in 2001. In 1970, the school’s name was changed from the School of Police Administration and Public Safety to the School of Criminal Justice to reflect the new emphasis on the entire system of justice in the United States.

Housed in the College of Social Science, the School of Criminal Justice has evolved to provide exemplary undergraduate and graduate programs in which students and faculty apply the theories and methods of science to understanding and solving critical policy issues in both the criminal justice and private security fields.

For further information regarding graduate programs, contact Melissa Christle at or 517-353-7133.

Application Information

Applications for the Criminal Justice Masters program are screened for fall semester entry only. All application material must be received before February 1 for consideration. Applicants are typically notified of admission decisions within 6-8 weeks of the deadline. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed.

Application materials that may be uploaded include:

  • Application for Graduate Study at Michigan State University. May be submitted online here. The major code for the Criminal Justice Masters program is 4318.  After you begin your application, you will receive an email with a login and password.  Before paying your application fee, go to Grad Portal and log in.  You will be prompted to upload the following documents and request Letters of Recommendation.  Please note: If the application fee is paid before you visit the Grad Portal, you will be unable to upload supporting documents or request letters of recommendation.
  • A statement of your academic and professional goals. This should include information about your motivation to study criminal justice, a description of relevant research and/or work experience, and any other information that you would like the admissions committee to know. The Application for Graduate Study has fields for an academic statement and a personal statement, and you may either submit statements there or upload a single combined essay to the Grad Portal.
  • Three letters of recommendation from tenure-track faculty who can comment on your ability to perform graduate work. Please request letters of recommendation through the Grad Portal. You will click on Letters of Recommendation (right side of screen) and then Register Recommender (bottom left side of screen). After you submit the names and email addresses, an email will be automatically generated and sent to them, requesting a letter of recommendation on your behalf and including instructions on uploading the letter.

Additional required materials include:

  • ONE set of official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended. A transcript of work at MSU is not required, unless you attended MSU College of Law. Transcripts from US institutions may be sent electronically, and will be considered official if they are sent directly from the institutions attended to the graduate secretary at If they are mailed by the institution attended, they should be sent to the address that follows.International students must submit official transcripts in both the original language and English translation of transcript and diploma. Please have transcripts mailed directly from the institutions attended to:Criminal Justice Masters Program
    Michigan State University
    Baker Hall
    655 Auditorium Road Room 557
    East Lansing, MI 48824

    • Note for applicants submitting transcripts from Chinese institutions: Certified copies (sealed and stamped by institutions) of all post-secondary transcripts, graduation certificates and degrees must be mailed to our department. MSU requires these documents in the original language (Chinese) as well as an official English translation. Effective Spring 2015, Michigan State University will require all incoming ADMITTED students pursuing degrees or who have earned degrees from universities in China to submit a verification report (English version) through the China Academic Degrees and Graduate Education Development Center (CDGDC) for their final bachelor degree transcripts and bachelor degree. All verification reports need to be sent to the MSU Office of Admissions directly by CDGDC. If you are admitted to the Criminal Justice program while completing your last semester of study, you will need to repeat the process and resubmit the materials once your degree has been conferred.
  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) general scores from an exam taken within the last five years. The GRE exam is waived for candidates with a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.2 or higher or for applicants with a completed graduate degree. Please note that your overall GPA will be determined by combining the credits and quality points earned throughout your undergraduate studies. Test preparation material and information about test dates can be found at Please note when scheduling your exam that it may take 4-6 weeks for your scores to be forwarded to the university and this department. The institution code for MSU is 1465. Admission requires scores at or above the 50th percentile.
  • International students must submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam scores from a test taken within the past two years. MSU's score requirement is a minimum average score of 80, with no subscores below 19 for Reading, Listening and Speaking, and no subscore below 22 for Writing. The institution code for MSU is 1465. Students from countries where the primary language is English may have the TOEFL requirement waived with the approval of the department, college, and Graduate School. Please contact the graduate secretary at to determine whether the requirement may be waived.

Please note while a criminal justice undergraduate degree is not required for admission to the program, applicants must have a background of education and occupational experience appropriate to the successful pursuit of graduate work in the School of Criminal Justice. Applicants that aren’t sufficiently prepared for graduate studies in criminal justice may be required to complete collateral coursework or pursue individualized study.

Questions? Please contact graduate secretary Melissa Christle at or 517-353-7133.


Program Requirements

To obtain a master’s in criminal justice, a student must complete a minimum of 30 credits of course work and research as follows.

Additional requirements (choose Plan A or Plan B)

Plan A

Plan B
Responsible Conduct of Research Activities

Students must participate in 16 hours of RCR activities their first year, and three hours for each subsequent year. Information about applicable workshops, classes, activities, and reporting can be found at the RCR Requirements link under the Documents tab above.