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Graduate Program

Why get a Master's degree from the Department of Criminal Justice?

Do you want to...

  • Increase your job opportunities and earning potential over the course of your career?

  • Get the opportunity to publish articles with department faculty in national and international journals?

  • Gain the credential you need to ascend to the top of federal agencies, state organizations, and private corporations around the world?

  • Get the instant respect that comes with a graduate degree from The University of Alabama?

  • Learn from expert faculty members about how you can become the expert?

  • Build lasting relationships with other top students who you can count on for the rest of your life?

Our Master's Program graduates have gone on to become the Deputy Director of the United States Secret Service; the Counterterrorism Chief for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Chief of Police for Birmingham, Alabama; the Director of Federal Affairs at the Business Council of Alabama; the Editor-in-Chief of; the Lead Agent & Corporate Security Supervisor at the Georgia Power Company; and highly accomplished working professionals in many other important positions.


In addition, recent graduates who then sought their Ph.D. or J.D. were accepted to some of the highest ranking social science programs and law schools in the nation, including Harvard University and The University of Virginia.

Meet a few of our current students...

Hear about a few of our former students...

The Program  

At the master’s level, our mission is the development of research skills, and expansion of the conceptual and practical knowledge critical for leaders in criminal justice or in the social services. We fulfill this mission in several ways:

  • Low student-faculty ratio allows personal academic and career advising, and ensures enough different courses are offered to meet your needs

  • Diverse research opportunities equip you to pursue specific interests

  • Strong employer network gives you an edge in job searching

  • Thorough preparation for Ph.D. programs

Master’s Program Coursework

Students who enter our master’s program have diverse interests and career plans. Some wish to pursue a career in policing, corrections or legal studies at federal or state agencies and some seek promotion in existing jobs. Other students plan to enroll in law school or a Ph.D. program in the social sciences. Our program caters to all three areas of interest. The following list organizes CJ courses and some non-CJ courses into three separate tracks to give you some idea about how to tailor your degree to meet your goals.

• The CRIMINAL JUSTICE/CRIMINOLOGY TRACK is for students who would like to pursue a career in policing, state/federal agencies, or corrections, and/or are seeking promotion in these fields.

• The LAW TRACK is for students who intend to apply to law school and would like to become an attorney, judge, or legal researcher.

• The SOCIAL SCIENCES TRACK is for students who would like to pursue a doctoral degree in the social sciences, including (but not limited to) sociology, criminology, anthropology, and political science.

Please note that the three-track plan for course electives is entirely optional – you do not have to follow the suggestions presented here. And remember that both the CJ Graduate Director’s and Instructor’s permission must be sought before enrollment in non-CJ electives, which can be selected from the Graduate Catalog. If you need further help in planning your coursework, please contact the Graduate Director Dr. Adam Lankford.

Course Descriptions

CJ 503 Organized Crime. Three hours.
Focus on organized crime in the United States and examination of organized crime groups around the world.

CJ 504 Health and Crime. Three hours.
The health consequences of social deviance and the impact of criminalization for individual and societal wellbeing. Seminar discussions cover the criminalization of mental and physical illness and illnesses arising from criminal behavior and incarceration.

CJ 505 Gender and Crime. Three hours.
This course discusses and analyzes the differential experiences of women in the criminal justice system, focusing mostly on women offenders and victims, but also on hegemonic masculinity as an explanation for men's involvement in crime. Special attention is given to feminist theoretical explanations for women's experiences in the CJ system.

CJ 506 Terrorism. Three hours.
An analysis of terrorism and homeland security, with an emphasis on parallels between terrorism and crime. Topics include the modus operandi of lone wolf terrorists, terrorist operatives, and terrorist leaders; methods of terrorist attack, including suicide terrorism, sniping and shooting, hostage taking, and bombing; social and criminological explanations for terrorism.

CJ 507 Civil and Criminal Trials. Three hours.

This course reviews civil and criminal court procedure, with a special emphasis on how trials are influenced by judicial performance, courtroom dynamics, and non-verbal behavior. Students will apply social-psychological theories and direct methods of observation for the analysis of courtroom behavior.

CJ 510 Seminar in Community Corrections. Three hours.
Development, organization, operation, and evaluation of community corrections systems as intermediate sanctions and alternatives to incarceration.

CJ 520 Seminar in Current Law Enforcement Problems. Three hours.
Analysis of selected areas of law enforcement. Emphasis is on currently developing trends.

CJ 530 Seminar in Criminal Justice Organization and Management. Three hours.
Application of organizational and administrative principles in law enforcement, court, and correctional settings. Assessment of trends and theories.

CJ 540 Seminar in Juvenile Delinquency. Three hours.
The nature and extent of delinquency; competing explanatory models and theories. Evaluation of control and treatment modalities.

CJ 550 Seminar in the Judicial Process and Social Policy. Three hours.
Examination of the American legal system from a political science and socio-legal perspective. Seminar covers the "rights revolution," the process of dispute settlement, judicial decision making, public opinion and the courts, and the United States Supreme Court.

CJ 570 Seminar in Correctional Policy. Three hours.
Examines the historical and contemporary policy trends in institutional and community corrections.

CJ 581 Application of Statistics in Criminal Justice. Three hours.
An evaluation of specific statistical methods for quantitative and nonquantitative analyses, concentrating on proper applications and interpretations in criminal justice settings.
CJ 584 Seminar in Criminological Theory. Three hours.
Examination of classical, neoclassical, positive, and social-defense theories of criminality and their interrelation with the broader problems of crime control. Offered spring semester.

CJ 586 Research in the Criminal Justice Process. Three hours.
Prepares the student to develop and to implement basic research designs. Offered fall semester.

CJ 590 Special Topics in Criminal Justice. Three hours.
Offers an opportunity for faculty and students to explore in depth topics of contemporary interest that are not generally covered in the standard courses. Course content will vary from section to section.

CJ 590 Special Topics: Cyber Security. Three hours.
An examination of current and past cyber security threats, including computer and network intrusions (e.g., hacking, worms, bots, malware), peer-to-peer networks, identity theft, organized criminal activities, and insider threats, as well as the countermeasures taken to prevent these cyber attacks both domestically and internationally.

CJ 590 Special Topics: Cyber Crime. Three hours.

CJ 590 Special Topics: Danger & Disorder Issues in CJ. Three hours.

CJ 590 Special Topics: Drugs, Crime & Policy. Three hours.

CJ 590 Special Topics: Murder in America. Three hours.

CJ 590 Special Topics: Law and Society. Three hours.
Law as an instrument of social control, the functions and limitations of law, and the machinery of law as a part of the larger society.

CJ 592 Independent Study. Three hours.
Research under faculty supervision in any area of interest to the student. Content may not relate to thesis or policy and practice project.

CJ 599 Thesis Research in Criminal Justice. One to six hours. Pass/fail.
Research may be directed by any member of the faculty who accepts responsibility for supervising the thesis.

Program Admission

The GRE test is required for all applicants. **(Free tools for GRE test preparation can be accessed and downloaded here).**

Minimum requirements for Regular Admission: Overall GPA of 3.0 (or 3.0 for the last 60 credit hours) AND GRE of 300 (new scale).

Minimum requirements for Conditional Admission: Overall GPA of 3.0 (or 3.0 for the last 60 credit hours) OR GRE of 300 (new scale).

These are minimum requirements; the Graduate Committee may set higher standards.

A conditionally admitted graduate student must earn an average of "B" or better in his/her first 12 credit hours of graduate-level work. Failure to do so will result in the student being dropped from the program. A student who satisfies this condition automatically gains the status of a regularly admitted graduate student.

Graduate Assistantships

Assistantships come with a financial stipend paid directly to the student and significant tuition and health insurance support. They will be awarded based on the discretion of the Graduate Program Committee, using the following criteria.

Committee's assessment of:

  • The quality of the student's academic performance prior to admission.

  • The quality of the student's academic performance after admission.

  • The quality of the student's professional performance as a departmental employee (if applicable).

University Scholars Program

The University Scholars Program allows outstanding undergraduate students to get an early start on their Master's Degree.  Qualifying undergraduate students will get the opportunity to take a select number of graduate courses, which can then be "double-counted" towards both their Bachelor's and Master's degrees.

Admission to Phase I of the program will be based on the following criteria:

  • Overall GPA of at least 3.3.

  • Completion of at least 61 hours.

  • Demonstrated potential and motivation for graduate work.

  • Demonstrated progress towards timely completion of BS degree in Criminal Justice.

Admission to Phase 2 will be based on criteria as spelled out in the UA Graduate catalog:

  • GPA of at least 3.3 overall and 3.3 in criminal justice/sociology.

  • Completion of at least 91 hours by the end of the junior year.

  • Completion of at least 27 hours out of the 36 required for the BS degree (graduate school track) in CJ by the end of junior year.

  • Completion of all requirements for the core curriculum.

  • Recommendation by the department.

For more information, please contact the Graduate Program Director Dr. Adam Lankford. 

Application deadlines for Standard Graduate Program:

Students whose applications are received before the Early Admission deadline will receive additional consideration for fellowships, assistantships and tuition support. However, all students who apply before the Regular Admission deadline will be considered for financial support.

For students who would like to start in the Fall semester:

      • Early Admission deadline: February 15
      • Regular Admission deadline: June 15

For students who would like to start in the Spring semester:

      • Early Admission deadline: October 1

      • Regular Admission deadline: November 15


How to Apply


The application process is simple:

1. First, visit The University of Alabama’s Graduate School website ( and click on the APPLY NOW button. 

2. The online system will help you complete the basic Graduate Application form and submit your application fee and a few other things that you’ll need:

  • a statement of purpose (tell us about your interest in Criminal Justice and your exciting career plans—no more than one page single-spaced, please!)

  • your undergraduate transcripts

  • your test score from the GRE

  • 3 letters of recommendation

Through the online system, you can submit contact information for the 3 people who have agreed to write letters of recommendation for you.  Or if it’s easier, you can ask them to mail their letters directly to the department at the following address:

Graduate Program Director
Department of Criminal Justice
Box 870320
The University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0320

Departmental Contact Information

Tel: (205) 348-7795; Fax: (205) 348-7178

Degree Requirements

The graduate program in Criminal Justice includes a thesis or a nonthesis option. Under both options, the student has considerable latitude to design a program to fit particular needs. All entering students must specify one of the two options during the second semester of academic work. Both options have core courses, including criminological theory, research in the criminal justice process, and applications of statistics in criminal justice.

Up to 6 hours of approved coursework may be transferred from other universities. Up to 6 hours of approved coursework may be taken in other departments at The University of Alabama and may be applied to the degree when it is consistent with the student's degree plan. The department does not accept 400-level courses toward degree requirements for the Master of Science in Criminal Justice.

All requirements for the master's degree must be completed during the six years (18 fall, spring, and summer semesters) immediately preceding the date on which the degree is to be awarded.


M.S. in Criminal Justice, thesis option. This option requires a total of 30 credit hours including 9 of core requirements, 6 for thesis research, and 15 for elective courses.  CJ 599 should be taken after core requirements have been completed.

Students must pass an oral defense of the thesis. 


M.S. in Criminal Justice, nonthesis option. This option requires a total of 33 credit hours including 9 of core requirements, and 24 for elective courses.  Nonthesis students must also pass a written comprehensive examination based on the content of the degree program (ordinarily done after the completion of 18 hours of coursework).

The application for admission to candidacy for the master's degree should be filed after 12 semester hours of graduate credit have been earned at The University of Alabama. It must be approved by the time of registration for the semester in which requirements for the degree are completed.  Each candidate for a master's degree must apply for graduation through the Office of the Graduate School no later than the registration period for the semester or the first session of the summer term in which requirements for the degree are to be completed.

Summary Degree Requirements:

Thesis Option
Core Course Requirements
CJ 581: Application of Statistics in Criminal Justice3 hours
CJ 584: Seminar in Criminological Theory 3 hours
CJ 586: Research in the Criminal Justice Process 3 hours
CJ 599: Thesis Research in Criminal Justice 6 hours
Thesis Defense 0 hours
Electives 15 hours
Total Hours30

Non-Thesis Option
Core Course Requirements
CJ 581: Application of Statistics in Criminal Justice3 hours
CJ 584: Seminar in Criminological Theory3 hours
CJ 586: Research in the Criminal Justice Process3 hours
Comprehensive Exam0 hours
Electives24 hours
Total Hours33


Graduate Program Links

Graduate Student Handbook - April 2015

Academic Integrity Policy

Comprehensive Examination Procedures

Graduate Catalog

Graduate School Site

**Free tools for GRE test preparation can be accessed and downloaded here.