Criminal justice is the study and practice of how legal justice is enacted through the interconnected workings of law enforcement, corrections, forensic science, and criminal law on local, state, federal, and international levels. With a recent focus on cooperation between the branches of criminal justice and communication between state and federal level programs, there is a growing need for criminal justice professionals who have the ability to see the issues, protocols, and ethics of these systems with greater breadth, depth, and understanding.
An MBA in criminal justice can provide business professionals with the opportunity to advance their knowledge and skills into the managerial arena. It can also make an entry-level candidate more attractive to prospective employers, or help someone who is transitioning careers to break into the field. Because criminal justice is a huge field, those who earn an MBA may enjoy various career paths, including work as correctional officer supervisors, police and detective supervisors, criminal profilers, criminologists, district attorney/attorney general investigators, supervisory criminal investigators, forensic examiners, emergency management directors, and security managers.
Overall, these specialized MBAs are designed for students looking to approach criminal justice through the lens of business operations. As a result, these programs aren’t as common as a master’s of science (MS) in criminal justice, and those interested in the research underpinning criminal justice investigations may consider the MS instead of the business-focused MBA.
For those looking to improve their skills, become a more competitive applicant, or transition careers, there are MBA programs in CJ available online. An online MBA may be appropriate for parents, working professionals, or the students living in more rural areas who are unable to attend campus sessions regularly.
Read on to learn about online MBAs in criminal justice, including what to expect from a program and discussions of three outstanding educators in the field.
MBA in Criminal Justice, Lamar University
Providing a combination of graduate-level business and criminal coursework, Lamar University’s MBA in criminal justice trains students in high-level decision making, positive leadership skills, and in-depth understanding of crime prevention, control, and punishment. Graduates of Lamar University’s MBA program are prepared to manage people from a wide variety of backgrounds, engage in effective decision-making in stressful and delicate situations, and help teams to navigate policy and/or legislative changes.
Examples of coursework in the Lamar MBA program include managerial decision-making, international business, criminal justice system and policy, and the theoretical foundations of crime control. Students with business undergraduate degrees can expect to complete 36 credit-hours, and students with non-business backgrounds may be expected to take additional leveling coursework. Campus visits are not required for admission, and the MBA program is open to residents of all states and territories except for Puerto Rico.
MBA in Criminal Justice, Southern New Hampshire University
One of the most affordable MBAs in the nation, the Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) MBA in criminal justice prepares professionals for a variety of positions in the public and private arenas. Students who complete SNHU’s MBA program develop business skills in management, leadership, data analysis, and budgeting. In criminal justice, students deepen their understanding and earn practical skills related to criminological theory, management practice, and issues and trends in current criminal justice systems.
Examples of coursework in SNHU’s MBA program include global terrorism, leading in an organization, critical issues in the criminal justice system, and ethics, corporate culture, and social responsibility. The number of course units required for completion ranges from 36 to 51, depending on whether or not the prospective student completed business-related coursework as an undergraduate. Campus visits are not required to apply, and the program is available to students in all states.
MBA, Specialized in Criminal Justice, Northcentral University
Boasting a 100 percent doctoral-trained faculty and a fully flexible schedule structure, students completing the Northcentral University online MBA in criminal justice are prepared for management and leadership in correctional institutions, law enforcement, and within the court system. Students in this program are challenged to look at the interconnected way in which distinct local and global legal traditions connect to criminal activity, law enforcement response, ethics, and the legal system.
Students enrolled in the MBA program at NCU are expected to complete 30 credits of coursework, nine of which are specifically related to criminal justice. Students without bachelor’s or master’s degrees in business are also expected to complete evaluation track coursework or successfully test out of pre-master’s coursework. Examples of courses include managerial decision-making, innovation and marketing, organized crime, and drugs, values, and society. Campus visits are not required to apply, and the program is available to people residing in all states.
MBA with Cognate in Criminal Justice, Liberty University
Emphasizing building up “Champions for Christ,” Liberty University’s MBA program is designed for those looking to improve upon foundational entrepreneurial, business, and management skills. Awarded as a college best for veterans in 2017 by the Military Times, Liberty offers deep discounts for active service members, veterans, spouses, and Department of Defense employees.
In addition to the core MBA courses, students who choose the criminal justice administration cognate learn research methods, organizational administration, and criminal law. The MBA program at Liberty is 45 total credit-hours, 12 of which will are criminal justice. Examples of coursework include global economic environment, policy & strategy in global competition, topics & trends in criminal justice, and administration of justice organizations. Admission is available to residents of all states, and no campus visits are necessary.
Each online MBA program has slightly different application requirements, so it’s important that prospective students take the time to read and understand what is required for admittance into each university. Requirements for online programs are often the same or similar to admission requirements for traditional programs, and admission can also be similarly competitive. The following are common requirements for online MBA in criminal justice applications:
*While this is a requirement across most programs, there are different ways in which pre-MBA coursework is built into programs. Depending on the program, students must complete course prerequisites either before they apply; as an evaluation before being admitted into the core MBA courses; or as an expected part of program completion, to be taken before core coursework.
Accreditation is the process by which universities agree to hold their programming to high standards as determined by an accrediting body. Accreditation for universities can occur at an institutional level and at the level of individualized programs. Because it is voluntary, accreditation is a helpful tool for prospective students to understand whether a program has been proven to meet standards for quality and integrity in learning outcomes, teaching excellence, and/or continuous improvement. In addition, if a student plans to transfer credits from one institution to another, applying to new schools with the same or similar accreditation can make that process simpler.
On the level of programming, the two major accrediting bodies for business schools are the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Since 1988, the ACBSP accreditation process is student-centered, and focuses on ensuring that programs are involved in continuous improvement. The AASCB was established in 1918, and works on an international scale to ensure business schools programs are increasingly focused on global prosperity.
There are no major accreditation bodies for criminal justice programs, so it is also in the student’s best interest to ensure that their university is accredited by regional or national accreditation bodies. According to the Council for Higher Education, the following are six reputable, regional accreditation agencies:
In order for an online university to operate within state boundaries, the university is required to gain authorization from (and adhere to the regulations within) that state. In addition, if a distance or online program established in one state advertises to the program of citizens of another state, it is expected their program will adhere to the regulations of that state as well. For this reason, it is important for prospective online students to ensure that online programming is offered in their state of residence.
The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) works to provide a single set of standards by which states can extend programming across state lines. Instead of having to modify educational programming being offered to out-of-state students to fit each individual state’s set of regulations, those states or institutions who opt in to the NC-SARA program can offer their degree programs across state lines by ensuring their programming meets universal standards as set by SARA.
As a final note, a program’s authorization status can typically be found on program websites (e.g., Southern New Hampshire University). For those which don’t, prospective students are encouraged to reach out to program administrators.
Dr. Lucy Tsado is an assistant professor of criminal justice at Lamar University, teaching courses in correctional systems & practices, cybercrime, and criminal justice system and policy. With a PhD in administrative justice from Texas Southern University, Dr. Tsado’s research interests are in cyberbullying and evidence-based prisoner reentry programs with low recidivism rates. A renowned scholar with works published in evidence-based, peer-reviewed academic journals, Dr. Tsado is also interested in exploring how to overcome the pipeline deficiency resulting from cybersecurity skills gaps in the United States.
Southern New Hampshire University
Patrick Cullen has three different roles within the Department of Justice Studies at Southern New Hampshire University: professor, department chair, and program director. Professor Cullen teaches courses in criminal law, criminal procedure, evidence, legal traditions, judicial administration, and business law. Professor Cullen is the founder and director of the Institute for Justice & Human Rights; has presented many scholarly papers; and has served as a reviewer for esteemed academic journals and textbooks. In addition, Professor Cullen has years of practical legal experience in the sectors of juvenile law, mental health law, and insurance subrogation.
Lawrence Presley is an assistant professor of criminal justice in the Helms School of Government at Liberty University, teaching courses in criminal investigations, forensic science, and terrorism. Professor Presley brings 21 years of experience working in teams and leadership positions in forensics, DNA analysis, and laboratory units for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Most notably, Professor Presley received an FBI commendation for his part in the successful investigation of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Professor Presley is also an active member within the field of forensic research and science, and has published numerous peer-reviewed academic articles about topics within forensics.